back to article BOFH: That's right. Turn it off. Turn it on

"I wasn't built for user support, I know that now," I sigh. "I know," the PFY replies, without looking up from his game. "At one time I thought I could do it but now I know I'm asking too much of myself. I don't like lazy people, stupid people or whiny people." "I know." "I can't stand tinkerers, tweakers, or people who …

The power of suggestion

It's amazing and so close to the truth!

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Jad

Re: The power of suggestion

my life in a webpage ...

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Silver badge

Re: The power of suggestion

".. so close to the truth!"

Um, that IS the truth. This is pretty much the rulebook that government IT use .. which is then passed on to ServiceNow for (in)action.

IIRC one of the more recent successes was. "When entering your Government ID please do not enter the hyphen character, the system will take of that for you"

Most common responses:

Is a minus sign or a dash or the small line between 9 and equals like a hyphen?

I could not find a hyphen key, so I entered a space and now it says I failed to provide my correct ID.

My favourite: "How can I trust the system to enter it for me and why can I not enter it myself?"

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Re: The power of suggestion

Heaven help you if you have to teach a user how to type a tilde ~

Nobody knows what that is, while - has some passing familiarity.

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Anonymous Coward

do not enter the hypen!

IIRC one of the more recent successes was. "When entering your Government ID please do not enter the hyphen character, the system will take of that for you"

That really grinds my gears , the DVLA website does that as well - "Please enter your lengthy document id without the spaces"

TAKE YOUR OWN FUCKING SPACES OUT YOU DICKS. Its not hard if the input received from the user has spaces in it remove them . the code is almost in english

REPLACE ( string_expression , string_pattern , string_replacement )

REPLACE (documentID,' ' ,'')

To think some web dev , who gets paid more than me didnt think of that - thought h'd just write it on the page and hope the user can do it for him. And then some project manager (whose definitely getting paid much more than me thought it was fine) , and then a bunch of testers approvers , senior managers all thought "oh yeah , the best way to remove spaces from an ID is to ask the user to do it" , before putting that on a national fucking website that everone in the country can see.

there u go free tip for u DVLA . you're welcome.

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Silver badge

Re: The power of suggestion

I'm gonna start putting backspaces into passwords to see if any of the users clock on.

"yes sir , your new password is P W D backspace 1 2 3 backspace num-lock"

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Silver badge

Re: The power of suggestion

"Oh we make them all the time," the PFY replies. "We just don't tell anyone."

I've been operating this way for a fair few years now. Now things go:

User: "Oh, there's been a change to blah-blah-blah."

Me: "Yes, two years ago..."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The power of suggestion

Tilde ... yeah, it's above the pound-sign.

So. er - F3, right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: do not enter the hypen!

TAKE YOUR OWN FUCKING SPACES OUT YOU DICKS. Its not hard if the input received from the user has spaces in it remove them . the code is almost in english

Also applies to places where users have to enter credit card numbers.

Which ones? EVERY SINGLE ONE. No, really, check it out. The simplest bit of usability and it has *never* been done.

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Silver badge

Re: Daniel Gould Re: The power of suggestion

"It's amazing and so close to the truth!" And very dangerous to demonstrate! A friend did something similar - a fake change warning - and ended up having to go to management to ask for overtime money for his help desk team. During that meeting he had to field questions from a senior manager over how to back out the non-existent change. It turned out senior management were just as prone to falling for the hoax as ordinary lusers, only they had the scary power to end your career if they ever found out!

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195X Re: do not enter the hypen!

Fortran 1 could do it back in 195X

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Re: do not enter the hypen!

Many more upvotes required for the post above....this is typical of the slack bast***s who 'do coding' these days. Sanitising/tidying/correcting user input into a useable form is the *first thing* you do! Saves loads of hassle later on...

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Re: The power of suggestion

I know where the key is approximately

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Devil

Re: The power of suggestion

Pound sign as in British currency symbol?

Or as in octothorpe?

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Silver badge

Re: do not enter the hypen!

The reason for that is that credit card fields have EXACTLY 16 spaces in them. Not 15 nor 17. And there's no slack because SOMEONE will use all 17 spaces by mistake (double strike) AND swear up and down they only entered 16 numbers to the point they only count 16 when directly asked to do so.

Sometimes, you just can't fix stupid.

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Re: Hunt to blame for NHS attack

But surely you can check it's 16 characters after removing the spaces?

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Re: do not enter the hypen!

Credit card numbers are up to 19 digits, although I'll admit that most uk ones are 16

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payment_card_number

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Silver badge

Re: The power of suggestion

"yes sir , your new password is P W D backspace 1 2 3 backspace num-lock"

Better than that: Use a really crap font for the password, like Monaco, and then use commonly 'mistakable' characters for the password and wait for the irate phone calls ..

"I can't log in, I can't tell if the bloody password starts with a "1" or with an "l" because you sent me the email in some weird font, and is that a zero or an O?"

(puts phone on mute and ROFLMAO)

(picks up phone again)

"Did you restart the computer before entering the new password, Sir?"

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Silver badge

Re: The power of suggestion

I am reminded of an acquaintance's experience on the IT support staff of a major regional US law firm.

Unless they were terminally bored, unlikely in a firm with over 400 lawyers, their standard instructions to callers were to defrag and reboot. Occasionally it fixed a problem, but in all cases it put the caller off for half an hour or so.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The power of suggestion

their standard instructions to callers were to defrag and reboot. Occasionally it fixed a problem, but in all cases it put the caller off for half an hour or so.

Dammit, I knew there was one thing we missed when switching to Macs :).

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Holmes

Re: The power of suggestion defragged

"their standard instructions to callers were to defrag and reboot"
Would be interesting if they rebooted in the middle of the defrag.....

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Re: The power of suggestion

In the (very) early days of the intertubes, one experimental implementation of password management *did* allow backspace as a character. Caused no end of problems.

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Re: do not enter the hypen!

Having spent the last 25+ years working with outsourced developers it is that whilst they may be technically smart (an assumption not a proven fact!), they are required by THEIR management to follow the specifications given to the letter... no original thought allowed, no deviation, no corrections.

So what we end up with is normally EXACTLY what was asked for irrespective of how stupid it is.

PM's can sign off because its what was asked for. Subbies get paid because it was what was asked for. Management smile because the project delivered what was asked for. User's cry because the solution is so bloody stupid and cumbersome and bemoan that IT didnt fix it because it was "obvious" what they really meant......

Most satisfying program I delivered was where I had the business users sitting with the developers and literally going "ah no.. I mean.. blah, blah, blah" and the coder being able to change it there and then....

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Big Brother

Re: do not enter the hypen!

>Sometimes, you just can't fix stupid.

Yes you can see if you can get them to become a candidate for a Darwin Award

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Silver badge

Re: do not enter the hypen!

> business users sitting with the developers and literally going "ah no.. I mean.. blah, blah, blah"

But that's not what you wrote in the legally binding contract.

No problem. There will be a small extra charge per off-contract change with a minimum fee of £250k

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Facepalm

Re: do not enter the hypen!

Not only are card number 19 digits, the MOD-10 check works with letters (in EBCDIC). While the CVC happens to be 3 or 4 digits now, there isn't anything keeping letters from appearing in the field either. Expire dates aren't quite what they appear as well.

We found that allowing spaces in card numbers reduces our change backs as people make fewer mistakes. The worst are the silly Javascript things that screw with the browser filling in the card numbers since they will do funny things and increase mistakes in non-obvious ways.

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FAIL

Re: do not enter the hypen!

"The reason for that is that credit card fields have EXACTLY 16 spaces in them.

...

Sometimes, you just can't fix stupid."

<pedant>

Nor, apparently, can you fix ignorance.

American Express card numbers have 15 digits (4 + 6 + 5), and --- several years after they introduced the 3-digit security CSC (like all the other credit/debit cards) --- I can't find a single payment service (Sage, Worldpay, any of the banks) that will allow you to specify it (the 3-digit CSC) rather than the 4-digit number that is printed on the face of the Amex Card.

Sigh!

</pedant>

In 1986 I wrote a credit card acceptance function for MUD II that stripped out the spaces and --- in every card acceptance page I have authored since then --- that continues to be the case; it seems I'm in a minority of one.

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Silver badge

Re: do not enter the hypen!

The most important words should be; "What I need to be able to do is....... because then I can........". said by frontline staff ( users) to IT staff (developers)

Sadly the people who need to be heard saying those words often hear someone saying "What we've done is make it possible for you to do <insert something complicated and unwanted>." to them.

My impression is that this comes from a lethal mixture of developers (because they can and it's whizzy) and remote managers ( because they're clueless but it sounds whizzy).

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Re: do not enter the hypen!

> credit card fields have EXACTLY 16 spaces in them. Not 15 nor 17.

AMEX card numbers (for just one example) are 15 digits. Not exactly 16...

If only someone (like ISO) had created a standard for card numbers so people didn't have to make up the spec and get it wrong every time.

> Sometimes, you just can't fix stupid.

Sometimes you can fix "didn't bother to read the standards", but mostly it just comes under stupid.

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Re: The power of suggestion defragged

woud justify headphones and an "urgent" job for the next 3 hours.

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Re: do not enter the hypen!

The reason DVLA and others (eg Debit/Credit card numbers) are in 3/4 number bunches delineated with spaces is because most people don't cope well with long strings of numeric characters.

Personally I'm fine with numbers ...

... but that's probably down to autism.

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Bronze badge

Re: Daniel Gould The power of suggestion

"A friend did something similar - a fake change warning"

Your friend should have lost his job for that. As soon as IT breaks trust with the users (for real, not the way the users always complain about) they become a liability in the company instead of an asset.

The next change comes up, and it's an important one, say to patch against the latest Ransomware, and everyone just remembers the hoax and doesn't pay attention. The joke just caused a major disruption to the function of the business, one that it may never recovery from.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: do not enter the hypen!

Some do! On a contract several years ago the business analyst thought my suggestion and implementation for entering credit cards numbers was great (it also made me memorise my 16 digit card number, which sadly the bank has changed twice in the past 18 months, so now I have to pull out my wallet or epassword safe to enter it). Sadly 11th September happened and the airline went under :-( and so did my code). I've seen a few websites since that do a similar thing, but they are few and far between. Ce la vie!

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Silver badge

Thnak you, thank you, thank you!

I will be using this as a training aid the next time a new manager is rotated through the department.

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Silver badge
Devil

Re: Thnak you, thank you, thank you!

the next time a new manager is rotated through the department.

That's the spirit. Don't forget to line the inside of the barrel with a piece of carpet, so that he's already fully wrapped up when you're done rotating.

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Silver badge

Re: Thnak you, thank you, thank you!

Don't forget to show them the halon closet as well.

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Silver badge
Thumb Up

And so-

BOFH reaches perfection!!

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Silver badge

Re: And so-

I thought perfection was a couple of episodes ago but I am currently getting funny looks off colleagues cos I am sat here grinning for no apparent reason :-D

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Hello. Is that the help desk?

I think I need a new monitor. All my colours have gone funny.

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Silver badge

Re: Hello. Is that the help desk?

Stop watching those "speciality videos" then, it does your eyes in! Eventually. After the wrist RSI has gone.

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Holmes

Re: Hello. Is that the help desk?

You should have learnt by now not to drink coffee whilst reading BOFH

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Silver badge

OK I admit it...

...I write those stories under a pseudonym.

I truly have had cases like this.

Just a few months ago, we sent out an email about a change happening over night, but due to 3rd party issues, we aborted it and never even logged in.

I had 6 calls the next day saying the change had altered their set up.

Sigh..

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Never get out of the boat.

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Gold badge
Flame

Are you suggesting the use of napalm on the more annoying users?

I'm sure HR will have something to say about that. Unless you call in an airstrike on them first I suppose...

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Silver badge

I'm sure HR will have something to say about that.

Remember children, HR exists to protect the company from the workforce.

Unless you call in an airstrike on them first I suppose...

Wouldn't work. I suspect even a thermonuclear strike (of sufficient megatonnage so as to vapourise half the planet) wouldn't work unless put in place by Senior Management.

Who would then be sent for mandatory Sensitivity Training as run by the most psycopathic person in HR.

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Silver badge

I did ask if I could get a captive bolt gun on expenses but was told no, no matter how much I explained that it was more humane.

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Silver badge

I did ask if I could get a captive bolt gun on expenses but was told no, no matter how much I explained that it was more humane.

To hell with humane. Bring back the guillotine on the public square so the rest get the idea that idiocy will not be tolerated. Then again, from what I've seen, there's not enough guillotines.... <sigh>

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Childcatcher

@Aladdin Sane

Gonna have to ask that on the next department conference call. We're getting ready to do an aggressive migration from McAfee EMM to Intune and their are some that would just be better off that way...

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Silver badge

"Never get out of the boat."

That's easy for an admiral to say.

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Silver badge

Napalm requires signoffs.

Lusers like this deserve P45s.

Perhaps this kind of tactic can be used to sort out who's for the chop in the next round of redundancies.

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