back to article Sysadmin figures out dating agency worker lied in his profile

Thank the Galactic Spirit it's Friday: your correspondent is beat! But not so beat I can't dip into the On-Call mailbag to dredge up another story in which your fellow Reg readers explain how they've rescued clients and colleagues from chronologically-inconvenient computational cock-ups. This week, meet “Hal”, who tells us …

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  1. David Shaw

    the day that we found out. . .

    that our top boss, as in the very highest boss, who we shall pseudonymously call "Barry", bought his doctorate online from Pacific West University for $50 (allegedly)

    he was coincidentally downgraded to minister in charge of counting fish the next week, (allegedly), (how many more allegedly's do I need?)

    1. wayne 8

      Re: the day that we found out. . .

      Pacific Western University (Louisiana)

      "It was reported in the [newspaper redacted] in late 2005 that the Chief Science Adviser to the government of [nation redacted], ["Barry's" name redacted], had advanced his career using a degree obtained from Pacific Western University." - wikipedia

      [Note that the state of Louisiana is located in the middle of the USA on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Quite some distance from the Pacific Ocean and the Western states of the USA.]

    2. Lotaresco Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: the day that we found out. . .

      ". . . that our top boss, as in the very highest boss, who we shall pseudonymously call "Barry", bought his doctorate online from Pacific West University for $50 (allegedly) he was coincidentally downgraded to minister in charge of counting fish the next week,"

      In which case he'd have done better to buy his doctorate online from John West University.

    3. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: the day that we found out. . .

      "he was coincidentally downgraded to minister in charge of counting fish the next week, (allegedly), (how many more allegedly's do I need?)"

      I just worked out who you mean. How bizarre, he was technically my boss around 2000-2002 when I worked in Italy.

  2. 9Rune5

    Enter == submit

    ...but wasn't there, back in the 80s, some systems where the Enter key worked like Tab usually works today? I.e. skip to the next entry field? I think I recall some windows applications working like this, adhering to legacy guidelines of systems past.

    OTOH, if one is familiar with one of those systems, one would probably be expected to have learned touch typing and thus would have caught the big error message hitting the computer screen like a blind bird flying into a house wall.

    1. Caltharian

      Re: Enter == submit

      I think what you are thinking about is the RETURN key which i believe meant carriage return, however these days we just have 2 ENTER keys instead of 1 of each

      1. TitterYeNot

        Re: Enter == submit

        "I think what you are thinking about is the RETURN key"

        The RETURN key on some early systems simply returned the cursor to the beginning of the current line (from CARRIAGE RETURN, where the carriage holds a print head.) It's LINE FEED key that used to move the cursor to the next line or field (named after the the action of feeding one line height's worth of paper through the print feed mechanism.).

        The ENTER key on slightly less antiquated systems that aren't using a teletype console (a printer with a keyboard) produces CR and LF characters (Microsoft), a LF character (Unix) or a CR character (older Apple OS's.)

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Enter == submit

        Certainly on a command line system you would press enter after both username and password prompt responses. Perhaps they learned their IT skills from watching "Wargames"?

        1. Phil W

          Re: Enter == submit

          Hello my name is Joshua, my sense of humour is very logical, my interests include chess and global thermonuclear war, my dislikes include tic-tac-toe which is a very strange game.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Enter == submit

            I also have the ability to destroy the world at a single command, can calculate every conceivable outcome of any strategic position and have the initiative and intelligence to search databases of pension records and phone records in order to track down my creator, yet I am unable to learn the futility of war through the certitude of an enforced stalemate or equality of losses without first being prompted to do so.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Enter == submit

      It really isn't "legacy guidelines of systems past". For an inexperienced user, the Carriage Return key is the natural one to use to move between fields (and if there isn't a submit button, that's usually what it does). It's the key you use to finish a line on a typewriter. The use of Tab to move to the next field is very unintuitive, as the typewriter tab key was almost exclusively used to indent text or type stuff in columns.

      Most login forms consist of two text boxes, a submit button, and possibly a cancel button. By default, the submit button usually responds to the CR key wherever in the form it's pressed. So the CR in the username field would submit the form, then the CR in the password field would acknowledge the error message resulting from the blank password.

      When you've created one or two login forms that keep catching people out, you add code to check if both fields have been filled before submitting the form. Clearly the login form in this story didn't have that.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Enter == submit

        "The use of Tab to move to the next field is very unintuitive, as the typewriter tab key was almost exclusively used to indent text or type stuff in columns."

        This must be one of those age-related pieces of intuition. Most people have only ever used GUIs and mostly the Windows flavour thereof. Certainly since Win3 and quite possibly since Win1, Windows has used TAB to walk round a dialog box and mapped ENTER to the default button. To fall into the trap described by the article you would need to be amongst the small fraction of the population who have data entry experience from 25 or more years ago and no subsequent experience with "ordinary" (ie, Windows) PCs.

        Oh, and what's a typewriter?

        1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Enter == submit

          Young punks. Get off my lawn!

      2. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

        Re: Enter == submit

        The faceplant is that the employee, having failed once to login, did not look at the screen during any subsequent attempt.

        1. Lotaresco Silver badge

          Re: Enter == submit

          Neither did the über (in his own mind) tech support nerd.

    3. Julian Bradfield

      Re: Enter == submit

      Until the Windows-ization of Unix got to it, the sequence of keystrokes described was the standard way of logging in to both text and graphical login screens. On our work desktops, it stopped working that way about a year ago (when we moved "up" one version of Scientific Linux, and got all the Gnome3 crap), and I still haven't got used to not being able to type username ENTER password ENTER

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Enter == submit

      I STILL have users that ask to map the "enter" key to tab (next field) and the right control key to enter... specifically in green screen iseries applications.

    5. TeeCee Gold badge
      Meh

      Re: Enter == submit

      In a word (or three) IBM. The Return (or Field Exit) key does just that and the Enter key is where Right-CTRL is found on the majority of keyboards these days.

      As the new way does seem to be a GUI thing, if we're going to play the blame game what was the recommendation from Xerox PARC and what did crapple implement.......?

    6. waldo kitty
      Boffin

      Re: Enter == submit

      where the Enter key worked like Tab usually works today? I.e. skip to the next entry field?

      you are correct but web coders today don't think about things like that so they default the selected button to the [SUBMIT] button or such... you can find some web pages that don't act like that but they are few and far between... granted, i speak of "web pages" here but the result is the same elsewhere, too... especially with so many things, today, being little more than HTML pages hiding in plain sight... the perils of coders who don't understand users and user interfaces...

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Enter == submit

        web coders today don't think about things like that so they default the selected button to the [SUBMIT] button

        Probably the result of oversight or ignorance. I'm fairly sure that both <input type="submit"> and <input type="button"> result in a default button. The more recent <button /> tag doesn't.

    7. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: Enter == submit

      If the user had learned touch typing, he wouldn't have been looking at the keyboard. (I can mostly touch-type, and have learned to do it on AZERTY as well as QWERTY keyboards. My late wife learned it at school, and tested one time at nearly 100 wpm. She could accurately transcribe documents while looking only at the document, and not at either the screen OR the keyboard.)

      And yes, I remember back in the day using an IBM 3278 terminal, with the Return key going to the next field and the Enter key submitting the screen.

    8. swm Bronze badge

      Re: Enter == submit

      In the early days of time sharing (in the 1960's) I would see users type in their user number and wait. No one told them they had to press the CR key on the teletype. These are not dumb users - they just expected the computer to see their user number and proceed.

      There are no dumb questions unless you ask it twice.

    9. druck

      Re: Enter == submit

      RISC OS used the far superior and logical method of Enter/Return moving to the next text entry field, rather than prematurely closing the dialog without all the fields being entered. If you did want to exit immediately, that's what the OK button is for.

      Oh and while we are here, the buttons in a dialog box didn't always have to be OK and Cancel, leading to ridiculous Windows dialogs with great big explanations "Press OK to do this action or Cancel to do the other action", Where as on RISC OS you named the buttons "Do This" and "Do The Other".

  3. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Well...

    I just entered my credentials to log in to my Linux box.

    username <enter>

    password <enter>

    It worked. In fact it's the only way to do it when logging in via SSH.

    I do find the Windows way of doing it to be stupid. Having to tab from username to password is daft.

    1. RIBrsiq

      Re: Well...

      It's the same, BTW, when entering credentials on a Windows command line, just FYI.

      The story is referring to entering them using what sounds like a GUI of some sort, where the SOP has been "tab to move to next field" for as far as I can recall. It also sounds that some form of error was thrown but not noticed. So I cannot really blame the UI designer(s), based on what's reported here.

      1. DaLo

        Re: Well...

        The error that was thrown would have been along the lines of "Failed to login - incorrect username or password", as at that stage there would be no password when the form was submitted.

        He would then be typing a password into a modal error box or new page, so producing nothing before pressing enter to dismiss the modal box leaving a blank form to start over again.

      2. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

        Re: Well...

        Here's an alternative scenario. Training Session: "Enter the data in the field, then use the tab key to move around between fields" (end of training session). Employee: A-D-O-L-F-<Enter>-<Tab>-z-&-7-U-w<Enter>

        Same result as in the story.

    2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Well...

      "I do find the Windows way of doing it to be stupid. Having to tab from username to password is daft."

      It is when you're having to watch a user do it ,like in the story, and they dont know what the tab key does , or dont know that it can be used at logon - so they use the mouse.

      This is the longest 8.5 seconds of your life:

      they raise eyes from kbd to screen, check name is present ( unlike the idiot in the story) (500ms)

      then they start looking about the desk for the mouse (1000ms)

      then they move hand from keyboard to mouse (1000ms)

      then eyes return to the screen (500ms)

      then the hunt for the mouse pointer (1500ms)

      then the agility test of guiding the pointer into the password box 1000ms

      then eyes back down to keyboard (500ms)

      then the type password, even though its not appearing test 2000ms

      all the time a voice inside your head is screaming "JUST USE THE TAB KEY FFS!!!!!"

      that would cut out all but the last pwd typing bit.

      you weigh up wether the user is qualified for a lesson in pressing tab,

      decide user probably not technologically advanced , or receptive enough

      just bite tongue and remain calm and professional,

      It might not seem a long time , but i work fast , and if the job repeatedly requires swapping between admin and user's login , waiting for the user is like slow motion.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        For the love of Azathoth, we are talking about a mere eight and a half seconds here. Four rounds of meditative deep breathing should cover it.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Well...

          its just the sheer waste of timeness of it - a good proprotion of the rest of the time is going to be spent waiting for slow login processes , or watching progress bars , the least you can do is be speedy on the bits where the computer is waiting for you rather than vice versa.

          i ddint even couint the time taken to get the users attention , or wait for user to return.

        2. heyrick Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Well...

          "For the love of Azathoth, we are talking about a mere eight and a half seconds here."

          Exactly. I've put up with people taking much longer to find each key, and then going full on panic when they get something wrong, leading to them deleting everything and starting again from the beginning because they aren't capable of understanding deleting only the incorrect letter.

          Icon, because although I smile and remain patient, that's what I'm thinking.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: Well...

            ..and theres the thing where ,say , printer isnt working. They will demo thi sto you by beginning their day from scratch , up to the point the printer wasnt there.

            ..first , the dinosaurs came ...

      2. usbac

        Re: Well...

        Using TAB is fine and great until you get to a web form like my banks. Somehow, some idiot web designer laid out the form such that you have to press TAB FIVE f**ing times to get from the username to the password box!!

        I somehow think their web designer is the reach for the mouse type.

  4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Bless....

    Sounds like the sort of thing my Dad would've done (about 10 years ago)... he at least mostly looks at the screen now when he's typing.

    Suddenly makes me feel very consious over the fact that I don't look at my keyboard (I can touch type why would i need to look at it?)

    1. A K Stiles
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Bless....

      Was asked the other day, as part of a Display Screen Equipment assessment, whether the keys on my keyboard were all legibly marked. My immediate response was 'yes', followed by actually looking and realising some of the home row, a shift key and the arrow keys are somewhat worn. It was suggested that I should get the keyboard swapped for a nice new one with clear markings on it (which won't be a 'nice' keyboard like my current one). I persuaded them it wasn't necessary for now, but I may need to break out the letraset transfers to preserve my otherwise perfectly functional keyboard from the office 'elfensaftee patrol...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Bless....

        "but I may need to break out the letraset transfers"

        Can you still get them?

        1. Dog11
          Holmes

          Re: Bless....

          Sure you can still get Letraset, though it's a bit harder to find these days. How else to make a front panel with lettering that looks silkscreened? A little polyurethane varnish on top will make it just about indestructible.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: Bless....

            @Dog11 - "How else to make a front panel with lettering that looks silkscreened?"

            Mirror-image print on acetate sheet?

            1. The First Dave

              Re: Bless....

              Printable water-slide decals?

              Printable vinyl decals?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bless....

        I use stuff that we can't give out to users because they would moan. I have a HP Z600 Workstation with a dual CPU that was left over from an upgrade - too big to give to a "normal" user. It has a dual screen setup.both monitors are held up by bits of cardboard. One monitor has a intermittent fault where a horizontal line appears, but I know where to thump it to make it go away! (Fun too!)

        1. W4YBO

          Re: Bless....

          "...but I know where to thump it to make it go away!"

          Percussive maintenance can be very therapeutic!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bless....

          One monitor has a intermittent fault where a horizontal line appears, but I know where to thump it to make it go away!

          Oh, come on, that;s just a poor (dry) solder joint. Fix it properly before the next thump causes enough of a zap to take out a driver transistor.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bless....

        My H&S bod tried to confiscate my keyboard, which is completely devoid of any markings except two LEDs marked Qwerty and Dvorak. I pointed out that I have to use it because my RSI is aggravated by using Qwerty keyboards. This put H&S bod in the WG tic-tac-toe dilemma because he both had to confiscate it and allow me to use it. Several minutes passed before he decided the safest approach was not to have seen anything.

        1. Robert Moore
          Coat

          Re: Bless....

          My H&S bod tried to confiscate my keyboard.

          Anyone who tries to take away my IBM Model M keyboard will be hit with it.

          If they are still alive I will hit them a second time.

          1. mstreet

            Re: Bless....

            If that keyboard is the one I think it is, don't worry. You won't have to hit them a second time.

      4. Michael Thibault

        Re: Bless....

        "Don't fix what ain't broke." ~= 'Fix that which is broken, and only that which is broken.'

        IOW, replace the keycaps. Iff the user asks, or agrees to the change. The issue is the caps.

        And it isn't really necessary to evacuate the premises and scorch the technological earth when it's found that there's a slight mismatch between the keyboard resource in use and the (still-visible) keycap markings.

        At what point does this kind of (H&S) nannying became a threat to happiness and sanity?

      5. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Bless....

        I treated myself to a Das Keyboard mechanical keyboard a couple of years back, and made the mistake of trying to clean the keycaps a little over-zealously. Poor thing looked it had aged several years in a matter of seconds, and Das don't sell full replacement keycap kits.

        I ended up buying a generic set of Cherry MX keycaps from Amazon, and they were laser-etched PBT rather than ABS - they feel a little bit rougher, but they're a lot more durable too. Double-shot PBT should last even longer.

        (Oh, and Das have a nasty habit of gluing in some of the stabilisers for the bigger keys, so budget for replacements)

      6. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Bless....

        "I may need to break out the letraset transfers to preserve my otherwise perfectly functional keyboard from the office 'elfensaftee patrol..."

        Bless indeed. I simply don't look at a keyboard unless I've just swapped from one international layout to another.

      7. Fr. Ted Crilly

        Re: Bless.... Sorry Gunny Hartmann

        This is my Keyboard. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

        My Keyboard is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

        Without me, my Keyboard is useless.

        Without my Keyboard, I am useless.

        I must type on my Keyboard true.

        I must type straighter than my users who are trying to kill me.

        I will keep my Keyboard clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other.

        Thus, I will learn it as a brother.

        I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories.

        I will keep my Keyboard clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other.

        Before God, I swear this creed. My Keyboard and myself are the defenders of my trade. We are the masters of our users.

        We are the saviors of my sanity.

        So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

    2. 2460 Something

      Re: Bless....

      Haha, Reminds me of the time someone swapped a few of the keys around on my keyboard as a prank. Only I didn't notice for ages as I hardly ever look at the thing. When I did finally notice it was nearly 4 weeks later ... kinda killed their fun :D

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