back to article User left unable to type passwords after 'tropical island stress therapy'

Last Friday your correspondent snorkeled on a tropical island, but this Friday it's time for another edition of On-Call, our weekly column in which we recount readers' tales of being forced to take on tricky jobs for tricky people. And this week reader “Mal” brings us a story with a tropical island element, as he told us that …

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Paris Hilton

Nailed it in one

I think....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nailed it in one

I have witness some secretaries with those claw-nails typing as fast as any other...

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Re: Nailed it in one

There was one lady in a plcae I worked had who had very long nails (not sure if natural or artifical, guessing the later) and could type very quickly but all the letters had been scratched off her keyboard.

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Re: Nailed it in one

Me too - on an old fashioned typewriter, to boot. And, boy, could she type!

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Re: Nailed it in one

They're also great for getting SIM and micro SD cards out of phones, as the lady at the local phone shop demonstrated when I went for a repair.

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TRT
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Re: Nailed it in one

You DON'T use your nails as tools. My flatmate keeps telling me this. At least twice a week.

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Trollface

Re: Nailed it in one

it helps if you don't clip one down to use as a temporary screwdriver, yeah. question is, do you use what you clipped off, or the part still attached?

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swm

Re: Nailed it in one

Reminds me of the apocryphal story of a well-endowed key punch operator who complained that the key punch machine was inserting random spaces. The repairman, after observing her punching for a while suggested she go "freshen up" and that the problem would be solved when she returned. When she left the repairman didn't touch the key punch but raised her chair an inch.

This fixed the problem.

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After vacation

It always takes me one hour or so before I manage to type at any reasonable speed, like I lost some muscle memory.

Now, talking about grooming, or the lack of thereof, we once had a new colleague that was lacking any kind of grooming (or he had a serious medical condition), his stink was so pungent one could not stay in a closed room with him. Luckily, he was on probation, no need to mention he never did it.

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Re: After vacation

"Now, talking about grooming, or the lack of thereof, we once had a new colleague that was lacking any kind of grooming (or he had a serious medical condition), his stink was so pungent one could not stay in a closed room with him. Luckily, he was on probation, no need to mention he never did it".

Yep, I had to deal with the occasional Mr (or Miss) Smelly, but one year I had to deal with Mr Vile. He was a real-life version of Foul Ole Ron (buggrit millennium hand and shrimp) but his Smell always stayed at his side. You know it's bad when someone stinks out the room SO badly that you have to open the windows for several hours afterwards... in the middle of winter.

One of the local supermarkets employed him, but people tended to queue up for other tills rather than risk being tainted by the Smell.

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WTF?

Re: After vacation

Worked with a Mr Bean type character (dress style, mannerisms, life outlook), he commuted in from Taunton daily, one week his car was in for repair (Putting down - It used to have a mohawk that looked like a flock of Albatross's had shat on it) & he checked into a B&B, with no change of clothes at all, no hygiene products & slept in his underwear.

By Friday he was ripe to say the least.

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Re: After vacation

BO...

When I worked as a sysadmin at an accounting firm years ago, we got a new HR goon.

You could smell him the moment he entered the parking garage 6 floors below.

The smell of stale coffee, stale cigarette smoke, stale sweat, poured off him in waves.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: After vacation

when I was at Uni back at the start of the 90s we had a lab tech that you could smell as soon as you were on his floor. And he was called *snigger* Mr Wiffle

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Re: After vacation

I worked with a guy whose BO stunk the place out at a place in Basildon in the late 90s. on top of this he was *the exact spitting image* of Poindexter out of revenge of the nerds. hair. glasses. skinny. suit. daft voice. the lot.

eventually the director had to have chat with him in his office, which must have been bloody unpleasant.

he also drove an orange morris marina.

actually this was the place i got the nickname 'better than god'... as the previous guy called himself 'god' as he thought he was a genius programmer. i came in and fixed the (stupid) problems he had created so therefore i was 'better than god' :)

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Government staff: need I say more?

"My email is not working please can you send someone to fix it?"

Sent via email.

(Still have that one archived btw)

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Facepalm

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

I regularly get "I can't get on the internet. Is your email server down?"

No dear. Just because (OSX) mail says it cannot connect to mail.<our-domain>, doesn't mean the problem is with us.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

It isn't the preserve of Government staff. It's any staff that thinks they're above having to use a computer, and above having to learn or appreciate how to use one.

My mother-in-law-to-be is one of these. Refuses to use a computer, then wonders why I don't help her when she's stuck with something. This causes problems between me and the wife-to-be, and she doesn't like it when I tell her I've already shown her that twice, she should have remembered what I did and done it.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

>I regularly get "I can't get on the internet. Is your email server down?"

I get "Is the internet down?"

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

It's not just the .gov ... Ever since the beginning of the Eternal September, the single most infuriating question I get asked is "Is the Internet down?", or the variation "When will the Internet be back up?". You just can't beat it into peoples heads that even though THEY can't access TehIntraWebTubes, it doesn't mean that the entire 'net is down for the count!

I've stopped trying to explain. The answer to the first question is a simple "No, it's running fine", which passes their confusion on to the next poor sap. The answer to the second is an honest "What do you mean? It has been running just fine since January 1st, 1983", which usually causes them enough confusion that they give up for the day.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

You get a question? I thought the more normal form was, "The Internet is down!!"

Next time I'm told that, I'm booking a three-month trip to "fix the Internet"

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Facepalm

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

Not 5 minutes ago I received something similar.

Them:'My wireless keyboard isn't working - come and fix it right away!'

Me: 'What PC are you using?'

Them: 'Mine'

Me: 'Then how are you typing?

I'm still waiting on the reply

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

"Is the Internet down?"

I see nothing wrong with saying it like that. The same I could say electricity is down because the storm cut the power line that lead to my home. Or the water is down because they are working on the main pipe down the road.

From my point of view, if I cannot access some utility, it may even be down, dead and disintegrated, for all I know.

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Pint

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

@Olivier2553 - Sure, in some contexts, there is nothing wrong with saying it like that, but when calling your IT support? What sort of answer do you expect?

"Yes. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

and

"No. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

are perfectly reasonable, full answers to the question. But the conservation really doesn't achieve much. An ideal caller would succinctly communicate their problem, as they understand it ("I get an error when I send email", "I'm expecting an urgent email that hasn't arrived", "I can't reach my favourite porn site an important supplier website", etc.), and the ideal IT support would respond with diagnostic questions leading to a solution, or information on a known fault and a fix timescale ("did you type the address correctly?", "the server room is on fire" etc.). The ideal caller would then be overjoyed at the efficiency of their IT support, and offer them beers and/or fire extinguishers.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

Never heard anything back from him.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

In my case the problem was on helldesks end: a colleague opened a service ticket reporting is phone not working. Some days later he received a notification closing the ticket. Justification= "Tried phoning the user but he never answered"

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

I get "Is the internet down?"

It's a few years since I last worked on the helldesk, but my response to this very common question was usually along the lines of "The Internet was designed to be a multiply-redundant military network capable of withstanding the destruction caused by a global thermonuclear war. Unless you can see lots of mushroom clouds outside your window, I think it's much more likely that the problem lies with your computer. Switch it off, check the cables are firmly seated, then switch it back on again."

Nine times out of ten they wouldn't call me back.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

I mean really? Do you need to be so stereotypical?

Most people -even the ones that call the helpdesk - are aware that the actual internet is generally robust, but that occasionally connectivity issues occur on a variety of scales, without global thermonuclear war occurring.

The question "Is the internet down?" is a reasonable contraction of "My computer appears to have a problem interacting with a service I regularly use (which may or may not actually be on the internet). Are others affected by this, or is it local to my system?"

Your response might instigate a number of reactions, including the switch it off/wiggle cables/switch it on option.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

I would imagine that 99% of people who state or question whether "the internet" is down, are using the phrase as a short way to refer to their internet connection and know full well that "The Internet" is not down. I know I've done so myself, despite being well acquainted with the meaning.

Pretending that you think they mean the entire Internet is just petty and achieves nothing.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

Never heard anything back from him.

Don't try that with philosophy lecturers. They'll argue with you all day on the meaning of "working".

The best I ever managed with them was a no-score draw after extra time. I might have won if it had gone to penalties.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

I used to call my ISP when I had problems with internet access at home. When the line was busy, I knew it's their problem because everyone is calling them, so I would just hang up. If they answered, I knew the problem was at my home and I had to fix it myself because they could never help you, so I would hang up as well.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

With that answer, I would classify you as a first rate asshole.

Clearly "is the internet down" means "is the company's network currently able to supply internet access, or isn't it". Only a malicious asshole would understand it in any different way. And I've had "the internet is down" situations often enough that you would have got your ass kicked (by me or by HR) with that kind of reply.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

"Nine times out of ten they wouldn't call me back."

Please tell us about the tenth.

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At Wolfetone, Re: your MILTB...

I was in a similar situation with my Father In Law To Be & his brand new E-Machine. He would call me up asking how to do $X, I'd tell him I'd be over in a few to show him, then spend a few minutes creating a How To sheet on explaining exactly how to do $X.

Step by step instructions, cropped screenshots with text lables pointing to things needing attention, & essentially "holding his hand" without actually holding his hand.

When I arrived at his place I'd lay the How To sheet down beside his computer, patiently go through it with him, & make sure he could apply the fix all by himself. I would rarely get a repeat call for the same issue, unless he had lost the sheet. He kept them in a binder labled "How To's" & would go back to it if he had the same problem, since I had already given him the answer. It wasn't that he wasn't smart enough to remember such things, he was a math prof & could run rings around most other folks in his field, but he knew SFA about *computers* which made my How To's invaluable to him.

Give it a try, make a physical print out of the details on how to fix the problem, & walk with her through it. She'll eventually stop having to call you with repeat requests, saving you for those times when the feces REALLY hits the oscillating oxygen moving device.

It'll make things a hell of a lot better between you, MILTB, & the SWMBO. Cheers, and enjoy a pint on me! =-)

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Thumb Up

Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

It's always nice to get a "customer" (business or family) who not only doesn't know something, but is also knows that they don't know it and is willing to admit the fact. Almost makes it possible to enjoy your work sometimes...

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

"Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

Never heard anything back from him."

maybe he didn't get your email...

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Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

" who not only doesn't know something, but is also knows that they don't know it and is willing to admit the fact. "

a rare find indeed. these are my favourite customers. makes a nice change from most of them

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

A dept manager called and said "The net is down." Turned out that the printer he was trying to print to was out of paper.

I always have to prompt the user to tell me what's really going on. To non-IT people the functioning of systems is a black box. It's not there job to know otherwise unless they are somehow personally interested.

But it is still funny... cute like hearing a two year old trying to talk. (or annoying if that's your point of view)

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the nub of the issue...

Whilst it is perfectly acceptable for a user to refer to an inability to access the Internet as "the Internet is down [let's have a tea break]" it's not really an appropriate thing to say to a person from whom you seek technical assistance. The blue E has gone from my desktop; I get a dialog box when I click it; it always says Page not Found... I'd have no problem with any of these, just as I'd expect any half decent mechanic to be perfectly satisfied with a client who says the vehicle pulls to the right; vibrates over 50mph; clanks when you change gear.

Nobody expects users to do their own diagnosis... just please be a little less unhelpful!

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Meh

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

While the "is the Internet down" is technically wrong, I've also had users ask if the Network is down when using their home computer and not doing "work". Seems to be interchangeable. I also hear "my hard drive isn't working" when they mean the computer/monitor/mouse/etc.. Go figure...

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

Sure, but the connection between my router and the local exchange is definitely not multiply redundant, and my local mobile phone mast is connected to the same street cabinet as my landline.

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Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

My dear mother does something very similar. (including written notes on how to power on the mac.)

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WTF?

Mother (or in-law)

I've given up with mine. She once had a bad experience as a budding typist on (what would have been) an old IBM twin floppy wordstar box. She then, as a budding author, purchased an amstrad PCW ??? (I forget) with a daisy wheel and one floppy. Oh, if only it had had two. She got muddled swapping disks.

Someone gave her one of those motorola (x-files era) flip top phones. When it died I bought her a samsung gt-xx (gingerbread) smart-phone. "Ah! Computer!" she thought and promptly went to tesco to buy a cheapo phone on their tariff that has a flip-top (because that would work the same). It didn't so she doesn't use that either. I suggested the internet. I offered to pay for it. Nope. Demon spawn!

If ever I plugged my laptop into one of her tv's, she'd bin it.

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Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

I walk my wife through the steps, but being a nurse she writes my directions down in her medical shorthand. That avoids "computer speak" from me, it reinforces the actions to take in the correct sequence, and it's in a form she's comfortable with.

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Re: the nub of the issue...

While I mainly agree with you, I disagree with your car analogy - I rarely have a user being that specific. It's more often analogous to "my car won't work" when they can't tune in Radio 2.

I often get "is the system down?", only to be told that they actually mean that they can't access online banking (while netflix plays on the other screen, and the CRM on the third). I've tried explaining that HSBC isn't keen on giving me access to their internet banking backend, but it doesn't seem to sink in.

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Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

Yup. I've learned that it's easier to show people how it's done and let them write down in their words what they should do. Then I get them to follow their own instructions to make sure they've got all the steps.

I tried to create a flow chart for the printer, as I got fed up of being told "the printer isn't working - it says ink low". I probably should have put the XKCD Guide to understanding flow charts beside it. All paths did end in "have a coffee" though.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

"Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

Never heard anything back from him."

maybe he didn't get your email...

if only the OP hadn't been too glib to add "...let me know if you don't receive this."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

I had an aging relative who was quite contentedly using a BlackBerry Bold for emails and phone calls with no complaints - it just worked. Then her mobile provider decided that she needed an iPhone and sent her one with no instructions on how to set up her email (provided by her ISP). So I was called and told that her email didn't work on the iphone and it needed fixing. I sat in her living room with the iPhone and a computer and she explained that the setup procedure was different on the aPple product.

Explained to me that to set up the email on the Blackberry you just typed the email address and then the password. She then said it asks me for "weird shit" like mail server details and SMTP - WTF do I need to know that for? Now normally I don't believe some of the technical stuff that she comes out with because she isn't that way inclined. When she went to school girls didn't do science/technology they did things like home economics so she hasn''t had any grounding in anything like that. However she was right to set up her BlackBerry you didn't need the mail server details just the email and password it did the rest for you.

Someone on the phone when she'd been told they were upgrading her to the iPhone had said that the email would be working on the phone when it arrived. Yes seriously! She was underwhelmed by this "new fangled phone" and pissed off that her email didn't work. Threatened to call her mobile company and give them a piece of her mind on upgrading little old ladies to things that were too complicated for them. However I was able to neturalise the situation after sorting out the email by downloading Candy Crush and suggesting she try that. I now just get updates letting me know that she's reached level X and that the back of the phone is warm and that she's running out of battery. I get the "running out of battery" message quite a lot given she's playing Candy Crush on an iPhone.

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

Whilst working for an illustious firm one day I received a phonecall that the printer was down and to fix it right away please. We had taken a copier/printer/scanner in the building offline because it was in need of a replacement part and there were instructions on the wall above the printer about how to use a different printer. I asked politely if they had followed these instructions and was told yes they most certainly had thank you very much. I then went upstairs to find the source of the problem and found the caller waiting at her desk looking annoyed. She showed me the full colour 50 page document on screen that she had now sent 10 times to print and still nothing had printed. The print queue was empty and so I checked that she'd actually connected to the correct printer. She had, it was one the other side of the building and when I got round there had a bit of a shock.

She'd certainly sent the thing to print as there were copies of her document neatly stacked by the side of the printer. The intern who was there as the last page of the last copy of her document came out said that he'd refilled the A4 paper tray twice whilst waiting for his document. Carrying the 500 pages back round I met the caller standing by the defective printer saying that it still wasn't working. She had assumed that despite the fact that the machine was unplugged both from the network and the mains the "different connection instructions" would still allow her to print to that machine. She'd sent it to print three more times since I'd left her desk but fortunately she was stuck in the queue and I was able to cancel them. I explained where the new printer was and said the extra walk would do her good. I also pointed out the print both sides option when we looked at the print options menu.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Government staff: need I say more?

no it's is "the system" down whatever the system is!

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Re: Government staff: need I say more?

My top question is also any variant on "Is our Internet down?" - while merrily bopping to music from on or another stream that's showing in another window or tab of the same browser! That an individual site may be experiencing problems while the rest of the web keeps on trucking is never considered.

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