back to article Fighter pilot shot down laptops with a flick of his copper-plated wrist

Why hello there readers! It's Friday and that means it's time for another edition of On-Call, our weekly column in which your peers take centre stage by sharing tales of jobs gone wrong. This week, meet “Len” who tells us he used to work for Dell and was once summoned “to the middle of nowhere in Cumbria.” Perhaps Len could …

Silver badge

School office.

Noticed the office staff layering plain paper and cheque paper alternately. For hundreds of cheques.

Queried why: "It's always been like that".

The printer always churned out two copies of the cheques, so you had to sacrifice a bit of plain paper to avoid printing out double-cheques.

Borough support had "looked at it dozens of times" over the years. This person had been in the same school for 20+ years, so she could tell you names, dates and what they did.

They'd reinstalled the software, reinstalled the machine, changed all the server settings, deployed print group policies, tweaked every option, and after years of callbacks given up and told the staff to put blank paper every second sheet.

It was a HP Laserjet, the ones with the old "cold blue" LCD displays. They only ever used it for cheques because it was the only printer on site that didn't jam when it printed them (cheque + sticky seal + plastic address window in one A4 sheet).

I tapped a few buttons.

Found the option that said "Copies; 2". Changed it to "Copies: 1"

Worked perfectly for years after that. I think she would have kissed me if she could. Years of "paper, cheque, paper, cheque, paper, cheque" for thousands of cheques before she printed every time...

(Yes, Borough support was in bed with RM so the system/support was basically entirely RM and HP. The same school sent back three machines five times because they "never worked". The problem? CMOS Checksum Error. I got the job there by sending a member of staff down to the watch store for 3 x CR2032 batteries. They worked fine for years after that)

94
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

Oh yes!

I learned the hard way. If you get really weird faults (especially at switch-on) change the battery. This will often be completely hidden by the makers - just to make your job harder.

28
0
Facepalm

Similar position at my present school. Every month the cheque run would grind to a halt due to issues with the printer - the usual sort of issues associated with an old, cheaper mono laser, not pricking up paper, inconsistent toner delivery, jammed paper. Many times I recommended replacing the printer, usually after pulling out bits of shredded cheque from the innards, only to be told there was no money in the budget.

One momentous day I happened to be in the office when they started the cheque run. Cue office lady counting out 4 (yes 4!) pre-printed cheque sheets (the type printed on A4 where the top is a summary of what the cheque was and the cheque itself at the bottom with a perforated area to tear off the cheque) and putting them into the paper drawer after first removing the existing paper. Print run was duly started and presto!, the first cheque gets chewed up.

After she'd calmed down I asked why she only did the run in batches of 4. 'Oh, that's all we need to do each month - everyone else is paid by BACS' Off I trot to the stationary cupboard, select a black ball point pen, return to office and present it to her, suggesting that this method may be a quicker, cheaper and less stressful way of generating the 4 cheques needed each month.

2 weeks later I took the printer away and quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!

67
0
Silver badge

quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!

I did that once . The satifaction dampened a little when i realised I had to clear up the wreckage off the car park

54
0
Silver badge

> quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!

How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?

34
0
Anonymous Coward

In the days of computer bureaux we used to do an occasional run for a catalogue firm which needed an unusually high number of printout carbon copies.

The customer supplied their own boxes of continuous printer paper. Every time we did the run we had take unusual care in setting the hammer pressure as the paper itself was extremely thin. Quite often the paper would still separate at a page perforation and come off the tractors in a crumpled mess. Then the run would have to be repeated.

A comment was made which has proved a useful addition to my IT vocabulary - "Someone had a nice lunch out of buying that".

17
0
Silver badge

How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?

By carefully muffling it with a spare user.

54
0
Silver badge

"Off I trot to the stationary cupboard, select a black ball point pen"

It would have been trickier if the cupboard had been moving.

97
0

We used to do work for a water plant and had the same thing.

The drawings for the plant indicated a controller that would use a 0-20ma input. The measurement equipment was specified to use 4-20ma output. The plant technicians could not understand why the controller was wrong when the tank was empty. My employer had sent the high paid tech's on that site job a untold number of times and every time the measurement equipment was tested to be 100% okay. Sadly none of the tech's we had actually understood the whole loop or why the customer couldn't ever get a "empty" reading on the tank. One day one of the tech's had a stomach bug so I picked up the phone call, they described the problem and after about an hour of phone support I said that it looks like the controller isn't calibrated correctly when it see's 4ma, the reply from them was that it was set to 0...

Same as the Dell guy the post is about, I got a warning because I didn't book it as a site visit or unit repair/replacement. The customer never had that problem again, they asked for me by name the next time they called but the business refused to let them talk to me as I was a lowly bench tech, they never put me on the phones again either lol...

50
0

School hols :)

If you smash up a printer and there's no one to hear, does it still make a noise?

[/zen]

10
0

Yes........

If for no other reason than you are there to hear it.

4
0

@GrumpenKraut "How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?"

If a printer gets the crap beaten out of it in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

3
1
Gold badge
Mushroom

If you smash up a printer and there's no one to hear, does it still make a noise?

Yes. And all the other printers hear it, and swear vengeance upon you!

But fortunately that makes no difference, as all printers already hate all humans. So they only ever operate out of caprice, so as to choose a more vital time to fail you.

Until you've instilled the appropriate fear in them, with your hammer. At which point they will sullenly cooperate. However, you'll be marked down as the first against the wall when the revolutions comes.

Terminator was wrong. Skynet wasn't a defence computer. It was a network of printers. And now we've given our printers WiFi! The end will be soon!

35
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

"Terminator was wrong. Skynet wasn't a defence computer. It was a network of printers. And now we've given our printers WiFi! The end will be soon!"

And here we see the true definition of a botnet.

8
0
Silver badge
Black Helicopters

> Terminator was wrong. Skynet wasn't a defence computer. It was a network of printers.

Uh, oh... So should I get rid of my printer/copier/scanner/handgun combo?

15
0

"I did that once . The satifaction dampened a little when i realised I had to clear up the wreckage off the car park"

I hope you learned your lesson and eventually picked somebody else's car park to host such activities?

30
0
Silver badge
Coat

I learned the hard way. If you get really weird faults (especially at switch-on) change the battery.

Please, please tell me that you do not work at British Airways?

15
0
NXM

someone I know..

saw a sign on a door in an office he was visiting which said,

The stationery department has moved.

Marvellous.

24
0
Silver badge
Happy

Can't we try the Aleister Crowley method?

From "Good Omens" (Niel Gaiman)

“He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies, on Radio Four, and thought it was an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did.

What he did was put the fear of God into them.

More precisely, the fear of Crowley.

In addition to which, every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn't look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants. "Say goodbye to your friend," he'd say to them. "He just couldn't cut it. . . "

Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuously around the flat.

The plants were the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. Also the most terrified.”

So, don't smash them in the car park. Dismantle them slowly in the office........

30
0
Anonymous Coward

How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?

The same way I quietly practice on my bagpipes.

17
0
Bronze badge

fwiw, I'm guessing that 90% of the readers here would be looking for Copies: 2 within one second of learning the scenario. The best stories are iconic.

6
0

By carefully muffling it with a spare user.

Is there any other kind?

0
0

I asked my current boss about the company policy on this very type of customer support call recently - where you fixed the problem without replacing parts.

I pointed out that one of the metrics that my employer tracks is the 'utilization rate' - the proportion of the salaried time that is accounted for by on-site service, travel time, and phone support.

So I asked.."If I manage to solve the customer's problem over the phone in half an hour, it makes my utilization rate go down, which shows poorly on my performance stats. If I drive a few hours, perform some on-site service, and drive back, using up my whole day for the exact same issue, then it's great for my utilization rate, but it costs the company money, the customer is down for an extra day - but look at that utilization rate! So, what's the official policy, what do they prefer me to do? - As long as the customer's happy, we're happy," came the enlightened reply.

Ask your boss the same question.

Also, a big two thumbs up to all the people who emphasize "Listen to the user!", which often includes "observe the user", and "try to understand the user's thinking".

Bonus: one of my favourite sentences to pop out of the user is "See, I did it just like it says in the manual, and it doesn't work!". That's a trigger phrase for me, which causes me to reach for the manual, just so I can say: "Well, in the manual it says..."

Often, it's not really their fault, they're not used to reading technical docs.

And lastly: while I was on-site for another issue, the kindly older lady operator asked me, as she had heard that magnets could be bad for electronics, asked me whether the copper-magnetic bracelet she wore was safe to wear while operating the equipment.

I brought the bracelet near the CRT - you could just barely make out a ripple on the display. "Wow!," I ejaculated, "you'd think that at the price they sell these things, the magnets would be stronger."

I then took out my magnetized screwdriver and brought it to the same position on the CRT, showing her just how much it was affecting the display. I told her not to worry, it was safe to wear that bracelet, as her hands wouldn't be near the CRT anyway.

A month or two later, I was back on-site. I noticed she wasn't wearing the bracelet.

6
0
Devil

"How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?"

He only grunted, while hammering away.

6
0
Silver badge

"And all the other printers hear it, and swear vengeance upon you!"

It's not just the printers...

2
0

How to bear it quietly?

Rubber hammer

1
0
Silver badge
Happy

"quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!"

I had a washing machine that had frustrated many an engineer while still under warranty, but they did manage to get it working for long enough that the warranty had well and truly expired.

The next time it broke down I had a plan ready.

It still looked immaculate, so there was the danger that some enterprising soul would try to resurrect it, if I tipped it in one piece, and then suffer the same way I had.

I stripped the thing down and spread the parts around various tips, to minimise the chances of someone doing that.

No rage, instead cool calculating satisfaction that I had rid the world of such a troublesome piece of kit.

1
0

The way round that is wait till they have a skip delivered at work, and then place all equipment that gave you grief, climb in and pretend you're Thor with next to no cleanup.

0
0
Go

"Off I trot to the stationary cupboard, select a black ball point pen"

"It would have been trickier if the cupboard had been moving."

I once had to move our stationary cupboard. It caused a local paradox.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

That is fun! Especially if you line the bottom of the skip with keyboards and other fragile stuff then chuck out 19" CRT monitors and printers out the first floor window. Downside is that you will find keycaps for weeks afterwards......

1
0
Silver badge

Oldie but a goodie.

Mid-80s, I was working for a company that built gear to dynamically allocate bandwidth between video, voice and data.

Incredibly Big Monster of a company started getting weird bit error rates on their global T1 (E1, T3 etc ...) network, which was larger than the Internet itself at the time. The network used our kit to terminate the telco supplied wire, and because telcos are perfect ::coff:: & it couldn't possibly be Monster's fault, it must be our problem, right? I was assigned to track down the problem after lower level techs couldn't figure it out.

Going thru' the data, I discovered that once the problem started occurring at any one site, it gradually became worse ... It was never bad enough to actually take down a connection, but network errors ramped up over time.

Further review showed that the same team of installers had installed the gear at the sites with the problem.

I flew out to Boca and discovered that they had installed punch-down blocks in a janitor's closet ... directly over a mop bucket full of ammonia water. A couple quick calls confirmed similar placement in other offices, world wide. Seems it was the only wall space that was unused almost universally in such spaces.

Corroded metal replaced and blocks relocated, no more bit-errors ... Rather than a "thank you", I got the task of updating the installation documentation. Naturally.

65
1

Ashes to Ashes

About 3 years had a call from local Crem to report PC kept shutting down near the Crem machine where the bodies go.

So sent across one of the minions to go take a look and he bought it back to site as indeed was over heating.

So the poor lad takes this apart and its full of (I kid you not) white soot.

So he happily goes on with clean it out etc.. untill i explain to him what the soot could possiably be...

Image that your last resting place wedged in the back of an HP DC5750.....

80
0
Silver badge

Re: Ashes to Ashes

Not surprised, given the number of times I have commented that this hp will be the end of me.

32
0
Happy

Seen this with mobile phones on dell laptops

put your phone to one side of the trackpad, voila! Shutdown..

Annoyed my boss until he worked out it was effectively his own fault.

6
0
Silver badge
WTF?

Re: Seen this with mobile phones on dell laptops

Youi made that up!

What boss would admit anything was his own fault?

8
0

Re: Seen this with mobile phones on dell laptops

Didn't admit to anything, just stopped blaming people for it. Six and half a dozen really

0
0

Both copper bracelets and magnets are just sham medicine and I'm surprised an ex-fighter pilot fell for it.

25
2
Silver badge
Trollface

Not man in a pub

Ex fighter pilot told me so it must be true!

I'm not sure why you think fighter pilots are less likely to believe in alternative science. I suspect that they may be more superstitious than average.

37
0
Silver badge

"Both copper bracelets and magnets are just sham medicine and I'm surprised an ex-fighter pilot fell for it."

Pilot != engineer.

41
0
Silver badge

not necessarily

The placebo effect is indeed clinically real. The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect when the patient is told it is a placebo.

52
0
Silver badge
Happy

YAO, methinks you underestimate the strength of the placebo effect. Remember those Obecalp your were prescribed as a kid?

"If you were a sick Londoner in the late 18th Century several treatment options were open to you. By no means the cheapest of these was to go along to a little shop on Leicester Square, hand over five guineas and receive a pair of pointy metal rods that would suck the disease from your body.

These instruments were called Perkins Tractors, after their American inventor Elisha Perkins, who claimed George Washington as a customer. They worked, it was said, because they were made of special alloys.

But in 1799 the renowned physician John Haygarth decided to test whether they really worked, and at the same time perform a scientific examination of "that faculty of the mind, that is denominated the Imagination". He organised a trial at a hospital in which five people suffering chronic rheumatism were treated with replica wooden tractors. "All five patients, except one, assured us that their pain was relieved," he reported. "One felt his knee warmer, and he could walk much better, as he shewed us with great satisfaction. One was easier for nine hours, and till he went to bed, when the pain returned. One had a tingling sensation for two hours."

When the "real" metal tractors were used on the second day, they had much the same effect as the fake ones. "Such is the wonderful force of the Imagination!" mused Haygarth.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34572482

29
0

Sham medicine? Maybe.

But is it still sham medicine if the patient believes in it and benefits from the placebo effect?

9
2
Silver badge

Re: not necessarily

"The placebo effect is indeed clinically real. The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect when the patient is told it is a placebo."

Provided it's done by a proper doctor. As I recall, the long term NHS study of homoeopathy showed that a placebo was more effective than homeopathic medicine.

20
0
Gold badge

I work in the building services industry. About ten years ago we were contacted by a customer who'd just retired. So I guess an ex-customer now. He'd started up a retirement job selling magnetic "health" bracelets. But also a magnetic doodah that you stuck on the fuel pipe of your car and improved fuel consumption by 5mpg.

He was a mechanical engineer.

I can believe that cleaning crap out of your fuel might slighly improve fuel consumption over time - as a cleaner engine is going to be a more efficient one. I can't believe that you fit this thing and it works straight away. Anyway where is all this crap going, if there's so much of it?

11
0
Silver badge

Re: not necessarily

"a placebo was more effective than homeopathic medicine."

Is a placebo for homeopathic treatment one that actually has real medicine in it?

23
0

That ist no quite correct.

It's just, that every individual has his/her own sensitivity to these fields. So while some people/bodies react very positively, others react negatively and some even don't react at all.

i.e.:

I myself am able find underground water streams, with plain copper rods (simple bent wire will do the trick)

My late father wasn't at all, while my little sister could to a lesser degree, and a good friend of mine was far more sensitive, than I was and the rods would react far more intense.

I never made a big fuss out if it, or tried to sell my services. I only discovered it whe we were looking for water (for a borehole), while living in Afrika with someone present who had exactly this ability.

There is nothing magical about it. It's simply your body being responsive to a magnetostatic field being created by the flow of the water. Because it doesn't work with "standing" water....

So just because you haven't seen it happen before, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

No magic, just plain natural science

6
29
Silver badge
FAIL

ZK. How many controlled scientific tests have you successfully completed? You just too late to claim your $1m.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Million_Dollar_Paranormal_Challenge

Unless, of course, you're a charlatan.

15
2
Silver badge

Re: not necessarily

The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect when the patient is told it is a placebo.

And the more expensive the placebo is, the better it works. That why these guys(*) offer gold and platinum placebos as well as their more normal ones (with virtual SMS placebos for the cheapskates). Even better, they've now got a homoeopathic placebo you make yourself from anhydrous placebo.

(*) One detects a distinct placement of the lingual muscle in the buccal cavity.

6
0
Gold badge

Re: not necessarily

I also like (and am equally depressed by) the nocebo effect.

Tell people about the side-effects of a drug, and some of them'll get them. Even if you don't give them the actual drug, and just give them placebo. It happens to the control group in drug trials - or sometimes to people who read the insructions on their prescriptions.

Also an injected placebo is more powerful than one in pill form. As many people perceive that we give more powerful drugs by that method.

Then you've got the white coat effect. My Mum's blood pressure is under control. She's got a machine at home to monitor it. When she goes to the doctor though to do the 6-monthly check-up that her prescription is right, she has massively high blood pressure. Even if she checked it that morning and it was fine. Once she's sat around with the doctor and chatted for a bit, it goes down to normal. Which suggests that going to the doctor can actually be dangerous...

14
0
Vic

Re: not necessarily

When she goes to the doctor though to do the 6-monthly check-up that her prescription is right, she has massively high blood pressure. Even if she checked it that morning and it was fine.

I have my blood pressure taken when I go for my aviation medical. The first two goes I do myself - because my AME and I both know the first one will be stratospheric, the second one merely ludicrous. He does the third check at the end of the medical, when all is well...

Vic.

6
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018