back to article You did what? The trials of supporting remote users

IT support, as we know, is that job function in the technical ecosystem that takes the flack for any problem affecting a user. These can range from the straightforward if annoying forgotten password requests and slightly cryptic ‘my-laptop-isn't-working-anymore’ complaints, through to the more serious ‘accidentally deleted’ …


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  1. Tony
    Thumb Up

    Works both ways...

    I once had a support guy come to set me up with some comms software on my laptop.

    After a few attempts to get the software to talk to the remote server he gave up.

    It was at that point I told him he had plugged the modem into my ethernet port.

  2. Smiler

    Ah, the memories!

    Many years ago I was supporting a small office remotely, five PCs and a Mac. Requests for help were usually along the lines of not understanding how to do something in Word or Excel, deleted files needing recovery and so on.

    The best call I ever had from them was a straightforward, "Hi, Lorraine's computer is on fire. What should we do about it? There are flames and smoke coming out of the back of it."

    I very quickly suggested an alternative, 3-digit telephone number which ought to be dialled before IT support and they lived through their technical issue. I stopped supporting them shortly after that incident, they were more trouble than they were worth.

  3. Steven

    Many a tail...

    By far the most frustrating was when connectivity on one of our remote sites went down completely. After spending hours on the phone to a less then tech savy individual we eventually got to the route of the problem. She had unplugged the servers router to plug in a desk fan because she was hot...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disappearing System

    Almost 12 years ago I helped to implement a new system this was based at a remote office and required a server with limited number of clients and some associated hardware for data recording.

    A call one morning resulted in there appearing to be an issue with the data on the network. The installed application would not process any data, would not return any reports and refused to allow logins.

    After trying various simple remote diagnosis of the client application, we arrived at the fact that the server had actually failed or the network had failed as we couldn't see it. We sent the user off to reboot the server, when they arrived in the office where the server had been located we were phoned by them to explain that the server had in fact gone, and that the window panel (which extended to the floor) had been removed, putty and all, and the server pulled back through the opening!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Help desk?

    "Service Desk" if you're ITIL (TM) compliant

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and become the very conduit of business service

    Yeah, good idea. Then you can dumb the job down even more, cut wages and call it customer services

    (hey Reg, you need a sarcasm icon).

  7. Tom

    MD troubles

    Showing an aged MD how to use the new orders and booking system, I said, 'click on the xxxx' he said 'how?' Now slightly pertubed at what was unravelling, i said he should use the mouse (how the hell are you supposed to tell someone this? here's me thinking i've just not understood him properly), after he hesitated, i gave him a subtle hint by gesticulating in a general mousey maner,

    He then picked up the mouse, gave it a scruitenous glower, then proceded to jab it at the monitor, asking 'how does it work, i can't make it go'

    Thankfully, he gave up at this point, i didn't have to open my mouth, which is a good job, as i'm not sure what noise would have been emitted.

    Another nice one was for national grid was asking a tech to diagnose a problem with his toughbook optial drive, after asking him to describe the state of the drive (which 'wouldn't go in anymore') I was stumped, i asked him to remove the drive again and asked him if any of the connections looked damaged at all, he said 'I can't see any conections, oh, hang on, do you mean all of these wires? I don't think I can attach them again"

    The idiot had pulled the tray out of the drive body along with optical array and motor and subsequent ribon looms.

  8. Liam

    ive seen loads but...

    the one that springs to mind was when a guy was trying to get onto the token ring network. he was using a pcmcia token ring nic on his laptop. after ages on the phone we couldnt figure out why it wasnt working, so he came up to us.

    it turned out he tad taken the cat5 end of the cable and inserted it into his ethernet port. trying to make some kind of aerial?!?!?! and these guys always get paid much more than you did... luckily moved quickly away from IT support to development

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical Windows Users

    They are clueless and make my job fun. Here is a small sample of what I have had:

    Faulty CD drive - user was putting disc in upside down. This happened to several people. When I asked someone who had disc problems if they were putting the disc in the right way (explaining why I had to ask) they got the huff and didn't talk to me for 2 weeks. Nevermind as there was nothing wrong with their CD drive.

    Faulty printer 1 - Got the call that the printer for a new employee wasn't working. I went over, put paper in the printer and watched it print. I didn't mind this call or helping this person as she is pretty (but taken!).

    Faulty printer 2 - Call that a network printer is not working. Go over to it, press Start and voila - it works. Turns out the user had selected custom paper but did not bother going to the printer to check.

    Computer doesn't work - I get lots of these calls, all the same result. First, check there is power going there and the easiest way is to turn on the monitor. Problem solved - user turns machine on, doesn't realise monitor is off so presumes computer is broken.

    Then there are the viruses. Lots of fun with cleaning up viruses. All machines have one thing in common: Limewire!

    etc etc.

  10. polossatik

    talking to a "dba"....

    Doing remote debugging of an Oracle db problem, ct told me he was on windows ...

    no matter what we checked, it was all fine according to him, but he could not connect locally (and claimed to not be able to test remote),seen he was next to the server and this was a dev system I asked him to check the oracle service and restart this. Suddenly everything went TO quiet at the other side.

    Asked what he did, he cut the power of the box. - So I asked to start the system again.

    Then he asked with what login he needed to use, so I suggested an domain admin login.

    After more confusion it turned out he was not on a windows box but a sun box...

    Finally got someone else on phone, who logged in with a user acount that had the correct permissions to make local connections, after commenting out the windows authentication adapter again in the NET8 config........

  11. Anonymous John

    @ Works both ways...

    I saw something similar at work a few years back.

    A PC's modem had stopped working, so a support bod had been called out. By the time I happened to walk past, he had been on-site nearly an hour. He'd changed all the settings, both before and after replacing the modem. All to no avail, as he still got the "No dial tone detected" error message.

  12. Mark York
    Paris Hilton

    Remote Access

    I had a call drop into my support teams group late one evening & I took the call as it was one of my less clued up (despite enough letters for two whole alphabets after her name) users in one of my supported building.

    The call read as follows:

    "Ya**in is in Spain on a audit, every time she tries to dial in for remote access, she hears the "engaged" tone. Please contact on her mobile phone & assist user with connecting via Remote Access".

    I sent her an e-mail (typical BOFH attitude), stating that if she was hearing the "engaged" tone,

    that perhaps she might want to :

    1 - Wait until other remote users dropped their connection.

    2 - Identify who she wanted me to kick off the remote access server so she could take their place (I didn't have those powers, but no harm in letting her think that).

    3 Check that she was in fact dialling the right number.

    I closed the call with a note that Level one support should have stopped this one at the first hurdle.

    She never followed up my e-mail, on her return to site, though she did log other classic calls such as this classic Remedy Request & subsequent phone call:

    "My printer isn't printing out"

    Are the lights on & any flashing error lights?

    Yes & No

    Have you checked the printer cable between the docking station & printer?


    Have you reseated the laptop & docking station.


    So I walked down to 225 (in the pouring rain on a winters afternoon IIRC) & strolled into PQA (nice bunch of ladies, aways trying to poison me with weird& exotic chocolates from their jollies.....I mean overseas QA trips, their sole male manager had his own office with shutable door inside the department seperating him from this gaggle of 5 women & understandably rarely came out, except for meetings, bog breaks, his own jollies overseas or to go home).

    A quick examination discovered an "air gap" of some 3 feet from the end of the printer cable & the printer itself, moving the printer closer & reconnecting the cable resolved the problem.

    Cable was disconnected love, thought you said you checked the cable

    "But it was connected"

    No it wasn't

    "Yes... but no... but yes.... but no.. but yes" in true Vicky Pollard (she was oblivious to the character) style only in a Indian accent, before conceding defeat..

    PH because we have all been there.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Whiteout fun

    Many many moons ago, I was a junior IT Tech. One of my users was the most wonderful secretary/PA to a chairman. Knew the company back to front, had a typing speed of 100wpm+, had a secret stash of cookies for her "little helpers" etc etc .

    We had a task to upgrade all the Secretary/PA pool from typewriters to Compaq Desktops. They had some variety of DOS and Word Perfect.

    Most of the staff picked it up quite well, some of course had encountered computers before, some had an open & willing mind.

    Then we got to the chaiman's PA, lets call her Eileen.

    For one thing Eilieen had a habit of really pounding the keys on her typewriter. Not a major problem on Manual or Electric models, but we'd already lost one Electronic model to heavy handed typing.

    The other problem was that Eileen did like to have things explained "by metaphor". So we had to explain filenames and folders by way of files & hanging folders and filing cabinets. Unfortunately while explaining Word Perfect I made a really unfortunate choice in metaphor.

    I'd already had to explain that you didn't need to put carbon sheets between the sheets of paper for the HP Laserjet III printer.

    I was explaining Backspace/Delete and equated it, quite logically with using "whiteout" (snopake/tippex etc).

    The whole thing seemed to go down quite well, so I left Eileen to her typing and went back to the IT lab.

    Ten minutes later I get a phone call which went along the lines of

    "My corrections aren't moving with the text on the tv-thingy"

    Puzzled I went round to see what had happened.


    Do you know how difficutl it is to get Whiteout off of a old CRT monitor screen?

    I do ...

  14. Justin Cottrell

    Daft Problem

    I once had a user call our helpdesk, who spoke to a junior on the desk. He spent about 20 mins trying to sort a problem out with someones laptop, which wouldnt accept any new passwords that he reset from our end.

    After about 2 mins i realised that something strange was going on with his keyboard. I asked him to read out the keys from left to right. It turned out one of his colleagues had popped off the keys and changed the order of them on the keyboard, so it wasnt qwerty any more. I Found it totally Hilarious!!!!!!!

    Another time, one of the companies engineers called me whilst he was Driving. He phoned to complain the gprs wasnt working on the laptop. Whilst on the phone, i told him to pull over so i could help him with the problem. He swore at me, threw the laptop onto the passenger seat in the van. The passenger window was open. Next thing i heard was oh F***!!!!. I asked him what happened. He replied it bounced on the seat, and went straight out the van window!!!! (must have thrown it extremely hard!!!!)) He was suspended for 2 weeks. Luckily enough for him, the laptops were Panasonic Toughbooks. It survived the falling out the window, and just ended up with a few scrapes and scuffs. Luckily there was nothing behind when he was driving!!

  15. Dan

    Works both ways part 2...

    I was working on a helpdesk, and received a call from a hardware engineer who was at a user's desk on a remote site. The PC wouldn't boot up, showing a "SCSI ID 5" error, and asking me what to do. (The fact that he was supposed to be a hardware engineer was bad enough, but...) He insisted nothing about the config had been changed, so I figured that first port of call had to be to eliminate the obvious by simply rebooting to check that the problem occurred a second time. He objected (quite strongly) and told me that he thought it was because the user's password on an AS400 at the other end of a WAN was out of sync! Anyway, he hung up on me, then called back 5 minutes later to say that he had gotten someone more helpful to reset the password, and this had resolved the problem, which demonstrated (apparently) that I didn't have a clue about what I was doing...

  16. jhwker

    What's that noise

    Happened last Sunday. Customer called me complaining that for the last two weeks she had been hearing a constant ticking noise coming from her desktop and smelling something electrical overheating every once in a while. I suspected a fan giving up the ghost and told her to shut the computer down and to bring it to the shop in the morning. She powered down the system and announced the sound was still there even without the computer running and with that she insisted I come out and find the problem.

    I arrived at the customers home, walked into the living room where the computer was located, walked to her desk reached up, took a battery operated clock off the wall, walked to the opposite end of the room and asked her if she could still hear the noise. She turned beet red and said, you are going to tell everyone about this aren't you? Please do me a favor and do not tell them it was me. Then she said I could go now... The overheating electrical item? A power transformer laying on a heater outlet, Oh, she had bought the clock at a tag sale two weeks before...

  17. Nursing A Semi

    Server issues

    We once sent a remote engineer to a site in Scotland to install a server with satellite uplink for a major chain of car dealerships.

    He arrived on site to find a parcelforce van parked in the middle of a field with the driver wondering who to hand the collection of bexes to.

    It transpired that the dealership was not scheduled to be built for another 6 months and the project manager had got his gant chart slightly wrong.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 Spring to mind...

    Two that I personally dealt with spring to mind, both from the days of dialup:

    1) The company I worked for had put in an 0800 dialup service, which was sized by the previous ammount that users were using the pay-for-and-claim-back dialup service, plus a bit. Because it was free, people weren't very good at disconnecting so it turned out to be a nightmare to connect to, as it was always in use. This resulted in users complaining left right and centre, this resulted in users connecting and staying connected. Incuding one user who connected, left the laptop logged in and running, then went on holiday for two weeks... A few words were had when he got back to work...

    (nb: There was a disconnect, but if your email software is polling for new mail every few minutes, you won't be disconnecting.)

    2) At the same company I had to deal with a user who had taken his broken laptop to a local barnch to get it rebuild and all the data re-synced back onto it. He waited for the laptop to get re-bulid but not re-synced before he picked it up. He called me up, from holiday overseas, asking where all his email and personal data was, we chatted for a bit and worked out what had happened. He decided that he wanted to get at least his email, I did a few calculations and worked out that it would take a three day international call to re-sync his mail - that was if the link didn't fail. He gave it a bit of thought and said he'd give it a go... It worked as well, but cost a bit...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Exterior Forces

    I once had a user who complained that her monitor was faulty, but every time an engineer turned up he could find no problems .. until he actually sat there in their office in the railway arches when a tube train passed overhead .. and watched the monitor warp as the train passed ..

    And i was present when one engineer followed the process of fault-finding perfectly for over 15 minutes .. then finally asked the user if she could see any lights at the back of the machine .. only to be told she couldnt see the back of the machine because it was too dark .. because the power had failed about 20 minutes before .. And he was very polite to her too ..

    Paris because I think she would improve Paul Mcartneys song-writing ..

  20. Jason Harvey

    best one I remember

    or worst one... depending on your POV.

    I was working in a call center... that lasted 3 weeks. The users weren't the problem though. but I digress.

    I didn't actually get this call. But it did happen on my shift. we got many laughs out of this one. we were providing support for some knockoff brand sold on QVC or HSN to people that generally didn't even know what a computer was, much less how to use it. anyhow...

    guy calls and says his computer won't turn on. this is actually a normal call. seems the motherboards liked to be reset after shipping and sometimes needed the power button to be held in for 30 seconds to get them to work. no biggy... go down the list.

    Support: is the power cord securely in the computer?

    User: yes.

    Support: what's the power cord plugged into?

    user: power strip.

    support: what the power strip plugged into?

    user: power strip?

    support: another power strip?

    user: no.

    support: ...

    support: sir, the power strip does not generate power and needs to be plugged into a wall outlet.

    user: *plugs strip into wall and tries power button again* ok... that's got it. it turned on now. thanks. *click*

    we got many many laughs out of this one.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    not a "remote" support issue but....

    Several years ago I found my (supposedly IT-literate) boss looking dumbfoundedly at one of several test PCs, so I asked him if there was a problem. He told me he was trying to switch on one of the machines, but it didn't work.

    I checked the mains socket. All okay.

    I checked the cables at the back. All present and plugged in correctly.

    I checked that the monitor was connected and switched on. All fine.

    I asked him to try again to switch it on, at which point I discovered what the problem was.


    He was pushing the floppy eject button.

  22. Squits
    Gates Horns

    Hell desk with actual customers

    My favourite one when I read through the system we used to use for call logging:

    Customer had bought a pc from PCW, worked fine for a while.

    After about 2 months of having it, it wouldn't go on the 'net anymore, apparently his base unit was talking to him and it was scaring him, then it stopped working altogether.

    The agent had tried to get the pc up and running again but failed, so he sent out an engineer.

    The engineer arrived to find a house with windows covered with silver foil, when he looked at the pc he saw that the guy had drilled a hole in the top of the base unit and filled it with expanding foam 'To stop the voices' the engineer promptly left before he got turned into a stew or something.

    The only thing we could think of that would cause the base unit to speak to him was his isp phone number being wrong and the loudspeaker on the dialup modem telling him to 'please replace the handset and try again'

    His warranty was nullified and I think he got placed on a watchlist.

    I vaguely remember another customer threatening to kill his mother if we didn't send him an engineer, I think his call records were about 500 pages long.

    The devil is in these guys.

  23. Matthew Weekes

    Gateway Support

    Back when Gateway were actually selling computers worth owning their support was in meltdown so they started doing a kind of group support call where people with similar problems were allowed to listen to the calls before them in the queue. I guess the idea is that you magically find your solution from the last guy without the support monkey even needing to speak to you.

    So I'm trying to get a replacement mobo going and I'm listening to the guy a few places before me in the queue trying to get an additional harddisk installed. The operator had spent 20 mins or so taking him through opening the case,, moving the cdrom cage out of the way, fitting the drive, screwing it in etc. He moved onto IDE cables and jumper settings;

    Gateway: So with the IDE cable in place on both the motherboard and in the back of the drive, place the jumper on the back of the hard drive on the leftmost set of pins, marked "slave".

    User: OK

    Gateway: Now replace the lid, do up the large screw at the rear of the case and turn on the PC!

    User: It's already turned on.

    Gateway: ...

    Everyone else listening to the call: PMSL

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ghost in the machine

    A secretary called the helpdesk, saying there was a ghost in her computer. She said lettres were getting typed randomly in Word as she was using it.

    Remotly watching the user's screen, she attempted to duplicate the issue, but was unable to do so, as the ghost was obviously scared of me. Virus and spyware scans turned off negative, so I told the user I would ask someone to go on site to investigate.

    As I started to fill my ticket, I did not close the remote window. As I am typing, the user starts to work again and a few seconds later, I see giperish appearing on the text she is typing. I immediatly call her back to tell her I saw it happen. I still have no idea what caused it, but now the user is felling safe she is not crazy and is very happy.

    The next day, the technician goes there and can find nothing wrong with the PC and is himself unable to duplicate the issue.

    Out of curiousity, he asks the secretary to continue her work and he will stay to watch and see if it happens.

    It is when the rather well rounded secretary leans forward to turn the page of the document she is re-writing that the technician finally realises what is causing the random characters to appear. It was apparently very ackward to explain to her.

  25. Pete

    I wasn't getting any

    service calls after improving my application to the point that it practically ran itself and nothing was going wrong.

    This led to questions about my service charge. The next upgrade had a couple of 'non-standard' procedures, designed to result in service calls. Our clients were more satisfied with their service charges after that.

    Not sure what the lesson is here.

  26. Jacqui

    Double click

    This happened recently.

    A complaint that every time someone used the printer they get two copies instead of one. After watching I found outthe user was double clicking *everything* including the Ooo print icon. He still cannot grasp why some things are one click and others require two clicks....


  27. Andy Enderby

    not me, my boss....

    My boss was always a decent guy, didn't take idiocy well, but a picture of competence, personally I found him a fun guy to work for. Not everyone shared my view however....

    He got a somewhat tetchy call from a supported council IT department famous for it's Friday afternoon liquid lunches and for their clueless post pub support calls. Clearly as always it's our fault, as always the customer is always right and as always we know nothing. Problem : "unix commands don't work". Our chap who has a newborn daughter, busily supporting his wife when he could, putting up with a 4 hour daily total round trip commute each day, no sleep for days, guides him through all manner of diagnostics, knowing in any event what the problems are (ie PEBKAC enhanced by booze), and that engineer concerned was drunk finishes up with......

    (overheard over the partition), "ok, what does the prompt look like ?", a pause......"C:\> ? Oh for F*cks sake, get a grip man !"

    There followed a brief and robust exchange of views when it was suggested that whomever was administering the organisations Unix servers either gain substantial competence or jettison the booze at Friday lunchtime and that a favour was being done in not informing his superiors of his inebriated state.

    Having dealt with the guy in question, on a Friday afternoon it was a miracle he rembered to breath at times.

  28. Kristian Durvin

    Oh the tales I could tell...

    I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth... Back in the days of doing help desk we had a user from a warehouse site, located 3 hours away call and complain he could not print to the network printer there. So we ran through the usual troubleshooting steps of checking print ques, drivers, configurations and check that the printer was plugged in to power and the network, and had toner, etc... From his descriptions everything was in perfect order. So we dispatched a tech to drive up and see if he could get it working as the boss at the site was getting angry we could not sort it out over the phone. About 3 hours later our tech called us back to let us know the results of his visit. Seems the network printer had been moved in to the warehouse area and a forklift had taken a wide turn near the printer. The forklift prong had gone through the middle of the printer and pinned it in to the steel wall behind it. But sure enough it had toner and all the plugs were connected still, just as the user verified....

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Support helping Support

    I myself being the IT Admin at my company at 100 users was having an issue with my ISP modem at home. After trouble shooting the issue and discovering the NIC on the modem was faulty I placed a call into Support. I explained all the actions I had taken to troubleshoot the problem and how I came to my conclusion. The support person felt that I needed to redo everything again as it couldn't the modem since he could see the modem on his end. He felt I should reinstall Windows and my NIC drives. I tried to explain to him that using my router (for testing only) and received and IPaddress from my router but if I removed the router and plugged into the modem I received no IPaddress. His comment was I'm wrong as he's being doing his job for a few months now and he knows better than me. When I was able to reach a supervisor and explained everything to him he confirmed that it was a bad NIC on the Modem. I believe the first tech I was talking to no longer has a job. (This is what I was told)

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Website Support

    The company I work for creates and hosts web applications; we also host email. I can't tell you the number of clients that have called complaining that they can't get to their website and/or email because of this "Page cannot be found error". Question 1: Can you get to any other websites? Answer: No. Argh!

  31. Garry Mills

    Few years ago...

    I was working with a local PC shop, who had a customer come in complaining that their newly purchased PC was freezing intermittently.

    All the required tests where performed, soak test, running every program on the system to the max, full system check, the works. Nothing found, so customer goes home happy it's been "sorted out"

    Next day they are back. Started to ask about the environment, near to power station, lones overhead, anything that could cause this. Nothing. Another soak test, customer out of door...

    Third time in, one of the guys decide to to the owners house to find out what exactly was going on. Silently, he stood there watching as the machine was plugged in, connected to the phone line etc, then dozens of fridge magnets where placed all over the case to "make it look pretty"

  32. Loki

    God help us

    So many good times but one really sticks in my mind even though not related to users directly. Me and my Muslim colleague had been rounded up to deal with a priority one problem which left quite a few people without access to the network along with a top director, so it was a bit rush rush.

    However, the timing was bad because as we were in the comms room checking things out my friend decided it must be time to pray to Mecca so unrolls his prayer mat (carried it in his laptop case) and proceeds to pray.

    User sticks his head into the comms room to see if we are making progress and sees me with wires thrown all over the place and my colleague on the floor praying.

    No prizes for guessing what he thought about this and probably went back to tell his manager that the network was likely to be down for some time.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tales From The Tech Support Trenches

    Two from my early years on a support desk:

    Monday morning, first call of the day - "Hello, IT Support? I've turned my PC on and it just comes up with 301 on screen and stops" ,"301?" says I, "that usually indicates a problem with your keyboard", "MY KEYBOARD!" says screams, "IT'S GONE!!!" with that the line went dead...

    Another day, another call (from about 15 years ago) - "Errr, hello, can you please tell me if these new compaq PCs are water cooled, cos I think mine's sprung a leak..." "Pardon?" I replied. "Well, there's water dripping off the bottom of my screen and onto my keyboard..." I told her to move away from the desk, not touch anything and call her building maintenance people, urgently! It turns out the ceiling aircon unit was leaking and the water had found it's way down the supporting column positioned next to her desk; down the network cable that was plugged into a socket on the column; and was then trickling down the side of her monitor as the cable ran over the top of it, on it's way to her colleagues PC.

    A new definition of "wetware error"?

  34. Anonymous Coward

    (L)users - they're a pain....

    I had a UNIX server that kept crashing (complete hang). Our first line kept rebooting it without getting a crash dump for me to look at. I called the user, who was getting rather irate (which I could understand) and rude (which I could not). As it happens, the following day after our 'conversation', I was actually about when the system crashed again. I quickly dived in, took a system dump, and brought the server back up. I looked at the crash dump and found that the user has spawned *thousands* of processes and caused the crash. I told him - he argued. I presented the facts - he argued it wasn't his code at fault. So I left it. 3 crashes later, he finally comes back and claims that 'it was bad data that caused his code to fail'.

    I politely pointed out that perhaps his code should have been written with data validation in mind....

  35. M E H

    IT Iliterates

    Not sure if this is quite in the spirit of the article as it doesn't really concern remote users, although I did have to support users while I was working at home, through a 56k dial up connection. In 2004.

    The hospital where I was on the Servicedesk had a high proportion of Nigerian and Filipino nurses. They might have been great nurses but they sure weren't IT literate. I think we take it for granted that people in this country will have grown up with them. Not so in developing countries.

    Anyway - one evening I take a call. They can't log on. So I reset their password. They still can't log on. Their PC wasn't accepting remote viewing so I reset the password again. "Now you are putting in jsmith as a username aren't you?", they assured me they were. Still no joy. I again checked that he was sure he knew what his username was and he was using that. Oh yes, he knew that and he was using it like he always did.

    It was the end of my shift so I said I would go around to the ward and see what was going on. This was totally outside my remit as we had desktop guys for that. So I go around there and he was using john.smith as a username. D'oh!

    The name has been changed to protect the guilty.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @tom - MD troubles

    Wait a mo' You were right there watching this poor befuddled guy trying to work something he had never seen before and you couldn't take 10 seconds to put your hand on the mouse, move it around to show him the pointer moving, and then click the frikkin' button?

    please don't bother to explain how "helpful" you are...

  37. Jonathan McColl

    A neighbour

    A neighbour called to explain that the online help from PC World was no use, he'd spent hours with them on a premium line, and they blamed Microsoft and Windows needed reloading, and the software support number blamed the hardware and they all put off his important problem to everyone else, but he knew I was something to do with computers ...

    Whassa matter? A loud annoying buzzzzzzzzzzzz every day about 10am, absolutely definitely from the computer, and even after he'd unplugged all the kit following one support guy's recommendation to pack it all up for return. (If you can't see what's coming ask jhwker above).

    It took me ages to convince him it might be that alarm clock on the bookshelf on the other side of the room.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice trip up North - not.....

    Had a call from a customer who was unable to contact the office via his modem to download stock data for his produce (eggs). I couldn't work out what was wrong remotely, so I had to take the company car (beat up old Diesel Orion that was on its last legs) and drive over 120 miles to go and sort out the problem. It was so remote, I ended up almost grounding out on a dirt track. Having finally found the place, I could see no problem with the computer. Traced the wire from the modem round to the phone point - and found a mass of wires. Apparently he had knocked it off the wall and 'put it back as best he could remember'.......

  39. blackworx


    I had a payroll deputy manager ask me: "is there any way I can multiply these figures together in Excel so they come up automatically instead of having to use a calculator?" ... For the innumerable years he had been using spreadsheets he had been filling in his calculations by hand. The guy takes home almost twice what I do. I love going to work, me.

  40. J.R. Bloodsworth
    Paris Hilton

    Latest ROFLcoper

    Too many to tell in one post, but I think this one rates right near the top and occured just last week.

    Client calls complaining their boss can't receive emails on his brand-new Blackberry. He's in Aruba (you should already know where this is going).

    Not knowing how things were configured, I remoted into the client's PC to see if he's using the Blackberry Desktop manager. It's installed, but noticed there isn't a PIN assocated with it. Then I realized that they don't use Exchange, just POP accounts hosted off of customer prem.

    Then it dawned on me that his phone provider must be doing POP for him. So I ask:

    "Can he access the Internet on his phone?"

    "I dunno, we're trying to call him back, but his cell-phone isn't working."

    I'm still trying to figure out how he called his office (Had to be from a hotel phone).

    PH cause even SHE knows how cell-phones work.

  41. vincent himpe

    How win95 hacked Solaris

    These were the early days of window95. For those who don;t remeber : in win95 or 98 ( with network logon ) you can just create a new logon by entering a name and password on the welcome screen. if the name is not registered it will create an account.

    I had a brand new win95 box and jokingly created an account called 'root' with 'user' as password. and proceded to map the drive shared out using a samba session on a solaris fileserver.

    I copied some stuff over to the server. all was well... until poepl on the Sun network tried accessing those files.. permission denied ... hmmm. a quick ls later : owner is root ? wtf ? i ran back to the win95 and using a single drag and drop just moved entire directory structures around. whoa. Talk about a mayor bug in samba... Samba must have 'trusted' me since i was apparently successfully logged on as 'root' on the pc. This was flagged and took weeks to fix...

  42. Colin

    You did WHAT?

    Had a call from the US one day. The woman on the other end of the phone complained that she was unable to start an Oracle database that contained a lot of critical company data. Going through the logs, it appeared that the database files were missing. My first thought was filesystems not mounted. Nope - they were good. Went through the directory structure and found..... nothing.

    In a small voice, the woman then admitted that the filesystem had become quite full, and that she'd cleared down some 'large files'. Worked out that these just happened to be the database files!

    She asked if I could 'undelete them'.

    I told her to restore the last good backup.

    She told me that that was three weeks ago........

  43. Eddie

    One more from the archive...

    I used to (1994-6) work for a charity giving computer training to special needs groups. I was meant to be a tutor-befriender, but having arrived and found a pile of not working machines, I redesignated myself as a technician. We had some students who were on Outreach - we supplied a computer, a modem, training manuals, and support. One day one of the outreach students rang in and said that her floppy drive wasn't working, and she couldn't save her work, and so she couldn't send it in. We were a little short staffed so I couldn't get out to her, and so I asked our driver to collect it and bring it to me. I opened it up, and detached the floppy drive. Lifting it out, I noticed it was somewhat heavier than it should be, and it rattled. Very loudly. Opening up the drive I found it was filled with pennies and tuppences (two pences). Her toddler son had been given a money box, and had since gone round filling any slot like orifice with his pocket money. I replaced the drive, and phoned the lass, she had sounded very distressed, and they were a lovely bunch to support, always very grateful for your efforts, but I couldn't resist saying as she answered the call "I've had a look at your machine, but I'm afraid that there's no change yet....."

    Mine's the one with the screwdrivers in the pocket....

  44. Pooka

    Taking the glasses one step further....

    Before I moved off the helpdesk I took one phonecall from a blind customer who could not connect to the network. Everything seemed fine, and everyone else on the same site was able to connect. In the end I saw no option except to log the call across to a mobile engineer for further investigation. That afternoon I checked the status of the call to find the following message from the network engineer in the call log:-

    "Call closed. Users' guide dog bit through network cable."

  45. Chris Strnad


    Back in the dial-up days just as the 56k "war" started, I worked helpdesk for a local ISP.

    Our process for new accounts was to first get vital information (name & address), ask for a username (and check for its availability), generate a password, take credit card info if necessary, then hand the lot off to the sysadmin for account creation.

    I had just done all this for a keen & green new customer signing up and paying for a full year service ($140 at the time), and offered to walk him through Windows95 DUN settings. I got as far as the modem selection, but no further since one wasn't installed. After a brief explanation that one was required, he exclaimed, "I need a modem to do this?!? Well f--- that!" and promptly hung up on me.

  46. Kevin Bailey

    Golf game or company?

    Took this one myself.

    Unix server running a very large bakery - fleets of delivery trucks, dozens of branches etc etc.

    Boss gets a free golf game off the front of a magazine - wanders around office to see where it will play - unlocks and pulls out SCSI drive caddy on companies main Unix box - can't insert CD - shoves drive back in.

    We then get a call that unix box is not responding - and we can't dial in.

    Just about to book a flight from London to Ireland when I managed to extract confession!

  47. Joe H.

    Can you dial in and check my multiplexor?

    I worked remote WAN support a few years back and will never forget this call.

    A maintenance customer calls in and needs me to dial into his AAC, a multiplexor that will take T-1s in and send them out to various serial and high speed sync devices, and check it out for him. So I connect to it at 2400 baud over the PSTN. I notice immediately that there are 2 honking red alarms on both T-1s the AAC is configured to use.

    So I ask him if he has called his T-1 circuit provider about this problem. He says that they are on site. I ask him what they are doing, and he says they are down in a trench in front of his building.<boggle>

    So I ask him why he wanted me to dial into the AAC. He said to check it to see if it was OK. I said it was fine and would be even better when the T-1 provider sends it T-1 signal.

    Some calls are just unforgettable....

  48. nae


    a visiting engineer pooped into the help desk to request a mouse for a server as it hadnt come with one, I opened a new mouse box , removed the mouse and handed it over, 20 minutes latter he returned complaining that it must be a faulty mouse.

    i turned it over to check the ball was free, only to see the little plastic shipment holder still in place

    how we laughed, well me mostly

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Roaming profiles

    I remember some person in Singapore who needed help to do something with an application and, as I was making little progress in getting her to understand what was to be done (heck, she was only an auditor working for onE companY of the Big Four), I connected to her desktop in an attempt to help.

    The first thing I noticed was the desktop; every slot on the grid was filled with a file of some description - files not shortcuts. Resolution was high enough that this was adding 4Gb to the profile....the roaming profile.

    "It is slow to login?" I asked....


    I managed to not laugh and gave her instructions on how to resolve that issue - she declined!!

    And this was nothing to do with what I was trying to help her with....

    I could go on but would prefer to keep that area of my mind closed!!

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want to support

    ...That well-rounded secretary. I'll help her type her gibberish any day.

    That was the story that got my guffaw and gets my vote!

    Our man who never made the support call was a very important executive from Japan, who insisted on a top-of-the range brand-new PC. We never noticed him using it, so one day, we unplugged the keyboard. It was months before he noticed.

    The thing that drives me wildest, after patiently explaining all the symptoms of a problem, over a long and detailed telephone call, is to be asked to put it all in an email!

    And I do recall the first time I was asked by support, only I don't think they called it support then, and I had never used a computer so did not know the lingo, to "power up" my computerised photo-typesetting machine. It took some verbal tooing and froing before I realised that the guy wanted me to switch it on :)


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