back to article Tech support discovers users who buy the 'sh*ttest PCs known to Man' struggle with basics

To no one’s surprise, Friday has arrived again, and brings with it On Call, El Reg’s weekly foray into the best (and the worst) technical problems our readers have helped solve over the years. This week, a very forthright “Bill” has written in to tell us about his time working in the tech department of a small IT firm for …

Page:

  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Priceless!!

    Reminds me of the BOFH episode when Simon had helldesk duties

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Priceless!!

      kinda like "internet help desk" from "3 trolls in a baggie"

      1. VikiAi Silver badge

        Re: Priceless!!

        Yes! A definite twelve-o'-clock flasher there!

  2. willi0000000

    do you think that's the reason the power button is on the bottom left on my monitor?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      It is bottom right on every monitor I've ever seen. That makes it easier for right-handed people to use it. Probably this luser didn't know the difference between left and right either.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Actually... the power button for my new Samsung U28H75x monitor is on the back, on a joystick.

        You have to reach around and feel for the joystick (giggle) then click it in, and a menu pops up. You then click down and click again to select and it powers off.

        Seriously.

        Yeah, I just pull the damned plug.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          "Actually... the power button for my new Samsung U28H75x monitor is on the back, on a joystick."

          Our 2012 Samsung TV uses the same system as well, except that the damned joystick is on the back but pointing downwards.

          The damned stick is close to breaking.

          And they do break, according to others' experience.

          And yeah, we also yank the damned plug as well xD

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge

    The right attitude

    When somebody does not understand, then it was not explained well enough.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: The right attitude

      Agreed - most of the time.

      If you say "press the button on the corner of the screen" to someone that grew up without computers, then they are going to look for a physical button on the display itself, not a virtual "button" in the corner of a non-tactile lit display.

      But users can also be absolute morons too. I have more-than-one user for whom it has taken four years to grasp that they can use the scroll wheel rather than having to hunt down the window edge, find the half-greyed-out miniature and ever-changing box, click and hold and then drag down the screen, instantly jerking 50 pages at a time and spending an age trying to get it back to the page they were looking it.

      And STILL, it's not their first action when they need to scroll, they don't get that they have to be in the right window (if you have ten scrollbars, how's it going to know what scrollbar you're scrolling?) and so when you have a scrollbar in a textbox on a webpage, the farce continues no matter what method they use.

      Don't get me wrong, they're lovely people, just not the most computer-literate. But I wouldn't start by assuming they just *know* how a computer works.

      My staff induction process consists of a first series of questions which are "What level would you like me to pitch this training at? You okay on computers? Happy for me to go at Warp Nine and you stop me if you don't understand, or you want me to lead you through it?"

      1. BlueTemplar

        Re: The right attitude

        Well, could be older people that used a mouse without a scroll wheel for a very long time, to the point that it's an ingrained reflex to hunt for the scrollbar?

        (Though someone *should* have explained them the point of Page Up/Down keyboard keys at some point, so...)

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: The right attitude

          Scroll wheels were introduced with Windows 95.

          Unless you grew up with Macs, they introduced theirs in 2005 with the Mighty Mouse, that's unlikely.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: The right attitude

            Rollout for a call centre in UK.

            PC's were freezing on the Windows 98 build for some unknown reason, couldn't find a root cause until I noticed the machines on the second floor weren't freezing.

            These machines were operated by older staff members who weren't using the scroll wheel on the mouse, one removal of the Logitech scroll wheel mouse driver on all the machines across the board resolved the issue.

          2. Loud Speaker

            Re: The right attitude

            I still have mice without scroll wheels, and a lot of people have only ever used laptops.

            Personally, I favour public humiliation for the shitbags who create scroll bars three pixels wide, and/or hide them, or who create windows with boarders one pixel wide (Seems to be the default for Mate).

            My screen is quad HD, and you can't click on such tiny features. Other people have higher resolution than me, and the display manager bloody well ought to know about PPI - I get at least 3 PPI related phone calls a day!

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The right attitude

          "(Though someone *should* have explained them the point of Page Up/Down keyboard keys at some point, so...)"

          It continually amazes me how many people, both those with years of desktop experience and those fresh from school who have no idea about keyboard shortcuts or any of the special keys on the keyboard and are constantly grabbing the mouse to do basic stuff like page up/down, file save, close window etc.

          I suspect that it's basically a lack of training or poor teaching. Or those doing the teaching never learned either and are passing on their lack of skills.

      2. Potemkine! Silver badge

        Re: The right attitude

        users can also be absolute morons too.

        I know that first hand!

        Nonetheless, even with morons you have to find a way to explain them. I never said it was easy ^^

    2. cortexatack

      Re: The right attitude

      I don't get it. Maybe you could simplify that a little more?

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: The right attitude

      When somebody does not understand, then it was not explained well enough.

      It depends on how 'advanced' your users are. I once very carefully explained that I wanted someone to turn a computer off, and specified that I didn't mean the screen, I meant the separate box with flashing lights on it.

      Cue five minutes of me getting more confused about a lack of progress, until I realised that contrary to what I'd said, the user was pressing the power button on the monitor.

      Not only do you have to explain things well enough that even the least technically-savvy can understand, they also have to f**king listen to what you say.

      Still, at least he tried, I've had other calls when I've asked the user to do something simple, only to be told "sorry, I don't do computers, you'll have to wait until my manager is back in next week".

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: The right attitude 4 phuzz

        Not only do you have to explain things well enough that even the least technically-savvy can understand, they also have to f**king listen to what you say.

        Ha! Ask a specific question on any technical forum and get back witless answers from our own lot.

        "I need to know how to do x on the new Raspberry Pi O/S. It apparently has changed since Wheezy" gets back "Check out the FAQ and you'll see that Wheezy has a widget for that".

        "How do I do y on Oracle RAC running on Solaris?" gets back reams of useless information about configuration options that only exist on Linux.

        "What options are available on package z on AIX" gets back dribble about package !z on Linux.

        All drawn from real life. It would seem IT is rife with people who cannot read for comprehension. I love getting back an RTFM response when I point out that I wasn't asking the question they answered too.

      2. trydk

        Re: The right attitude

        @Potemkine! and @phuzz

        I'd like to recollect two examples of problematic communication, the first was when I held a series of Windows 95 workshops for a large oil company. The prerequisite for the workshops were high-level computer skills.

        At one of the workshops there were two people, a man and a woman, that sat at the same table, incidentally. Unfortunately, it seemed that their "high-level" skills did not include the art of double-clicking (and much, much more). At some point near the beginning of the workshop I had to show them how to double-click. The male participant did not have the fine-motor skills do it and gave up (I showed him how to single-click and then press Enter instead, which worked most of the time). His double-click consisted of a click, a slight pause, a jerk of the hand and then another click, and as you probably know, Windows does not register a double-click when you move the mouse between the two clicks.

        The second actually happened before the "first" on my personal timeline. I was a student and a Teaching Assistant at an Engineering university. I helped with the practical experiments in weekly, all-afternoon classes. In this particular case experiments with an 8080 processor. The students (in teams of four) had to connect the processor box to the power supply box at the beginning of the class. The power supply had a mains lead and five coloured sockets for each of its four voltages and ground (Red socket = +12V, Orange socket = +5V, Green socket = -5V, Blue socket = -12V, and Black socket = Ground). The CPU box similarly had five sockets in the exact same colours and then there were five coloured leads in, guess what? Yup, the same five colours. About half an hour into class, one of the teams approached me and said their setup did not work. I looked at what they had done, which miraculously involved connecting the mains cable correctly to the mains power as well as connecting the five sockets on the power supply to the five sockets on the CPU with the five leads, only ... No two sockets of the same colour on the two boxes were connected to each other and no lead/socket combination used the same colour, instead something like Red power supply socket connected with Blue lead to Orange CPU socket, etc.

        I asked the members of the team (nicely!) to observe the colours of the sockets and the leads, and asked them if they thought the leads and sockets were coloured for a specific reason. (A learning opportunity, eh?) They didn't take that very well and asked me (not entirely nicely ;-) to just f***ing tell them what to do.

        Tsk, tsk, tsk.

        Miraculously, the CPU had actually survived the misleading (sorry!) connections.

        1. Yes Me Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: The right attitude

          as you probably know, Windows does not register a double-click when you move the mouse between the two clicks.

          No, I didn't, and I've been clicking on Windows windows for an embarassingly large number of years. Thanks for the info.

          But OTOH why the f*** would I move the mouse between the two clicks? I've never done that until you told me to (and you're right, it doesn't register).

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: The right attitude

            "why the f*** would I move the mouse between the two clicks?"

            Reading between the lines in what trydk said, the user had some kind of impairment/disability that made clicking difficult, and because of that they were unable to keep the mouse stationary whilst clicking.

            In that situation you could try turning down the mouse sensitivity, or possibly moving the user to a trackball (if possible).

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The right attitude

      Making a judgment call here... I think "Bill" had an attitude because of his employer, the policies, etc. and took it out on the customers. Yes, customers can be stupid, that's a given. But a toxic environment or being in the wrong place doesn't help. I hope he's found an employer that he's happy with. Customer service, HellDesk, etc. isn't rocket science but it does take a bit of diplomacy and a bit of teacher personality to get by. A few beers after work never hurts either.

      1. cream wobbly

        Re: The right attitude

        "A few beers after work never hurts either."

        Unless you attempt to drive home and crash into a horse. That would hurt.

    5. N2 Silver badge

      Re: The right attitude

      Agreed,

      With one exception: my mother in law.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Takes me back to the joys of building computers with a power switch on the PSU where the customer previously didn't have one. Many an irate customer soothed by knowledge. Though there was on that was particularly funny as he decided to run through all his computer qualifications before we could even get to the power switch, he knew better apparently.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When ATX supplies were new I had to talk a customer (who was quite savvy with software on computers) through taking the case off his brand new PC, finding where the power switch plugged into the board, and then following the wires until we found where the manufacturer had hidden the power switch on the case.

      all the lights and reset button were at the top (clearly marked in a slim panel above the cd drive), the power button turned out to be the bottom of the front panel (unmarked) and you just pushed the front to power up the machine

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "until we found where the manufacturer had hidden the power switch on the case."

        Style over function. The sign of a company run by marketing.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          "until we found where the manufacturer had hidden the power switch on the case."

          Style over function. The sign of a company run by marketing.

          Funny, I don't remember Apple using that particular switch configuration...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] and you just pushed the front to power up the machine"

        Or presumably power down also. In a desktop that would have been a prime target for a user pushing their keyboard against the case.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Like that didn't happen to you the first time? ;)

      Also the joys of 110V/OFF/220V PSU switch when after a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction you feel cold sweat starting to form on the back of your neck while you wonder whether you just fried your PC or not !

      1. Jedit
        FAIL

        "a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction"

        I once had a PC that had a 110/220 switch on the PSU, and one day I caught said switch while the PC was switched on. That was certainly a sound to remember.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction"

          we had a user or switched said 110\240 button on a Gateway PC when they were still in the UK market. "What does this do?" BANG, Blue smoke, oh

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction"

            "BANG, Blue smoke, oh"

            A customer had his PC taken away by the police on suspicion of him being distantly involved in an alleged crime. They were very unhappy when his protestations of innocence were proved correct - their long investigation had been a wild goose chase. After a few months he was told he could collect his PC.

            A few weeks later there was a bang and a flash. The PC had been switched to its 110v setting and the PSU had finally succumbed.

            It is possible that the police's forensic lab used 110v for safety. One or two of my corporate customers did that in their offices - and they supplied a large autotransformer for visiting engineers to power 240v equipment.

            1. JulieM Silver badge

              Re: "a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction"

              Probably not an autotransformer (which has only one winding and does not provide any isolation), but a proper safety isolating transformer, tapped 55-0-55 volts with the centre tap earthed.

          2. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: "a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction"

            it's a fuse tester. the test failed.

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: "a mistaken split-second push in the wrong direction"

              it's a fuse tester. the test failed.

              It's not a fuse protector then? I'm shocked. I thought it was intentional for the circuit board to blow and protect the fuse.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC

        The little switch of doom, I made that mistake once, never again. The bang and smoke were a lot of fun though.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When adding a daughter board to a PC we used to leave the mains cable connected as a chassis earth.

      One day I did that and the PC powered up as the board was being inserted. My first experience of PCs with "stand-by" and "wake on LAN" functionality - and no isolating switch on the PSU. Fortunately it still worked ok afterwards.

      Later models had a disabling microswitch when you opened the case. This then made it difficult to work on the insides of the PC when it also needed to be powered up.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        When adding a daughter board to a PC we used to leave the mains cable connected...

        I did that, once, when adding memory. Destroyed the memory and the motherboard. In the manufacturer's defense, there was a lit LED on the motherboard, which I ignored, because I was tired, inattentive, or both.

        Lesson learned.

        Mains cable is now always unplugged before opening the case.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          better idea.

          Leave it plugged in BUT do switch OFF at the wall - keeps the thing earthed.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: better idea.

            No not a better idea. 'Earthed' is a relative thing, You need to be connected to the earth/chassis on the PC as you can be several KV away from the mains earth value which is not good for the memory chip you are fitting, Unless its a WOM,

          2. j.bourne
            FAIL

            Re: better idea.

            Not really. The socket only switches the 'live' wire - the neutral is still connected and isn't always at ground potential....

            1. Baldrickk Silver badge

              Re: The socket only switches the 'live' wire

              Not on all switches. The one I fixed for my father recently, and likely all those in his house and mine disconnect BOTH the live and the neutral.

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Later models had a disabling microswitch when you opened the case.

        "This then made it difficult to work on the insides of the PC when it also needed to be powered up."

        Pfft!

        I have this exact same set-up and need to see the works in action with the lid off on my antediluvian clothes dryer and I figured out how to jumper the switch even when the panel containing it was removed in seconds, and built a reusable jumper to do the job in minutes. I guess they didn't have wire and crocodile clips in your "shop".

        HashtagUrDionItRong

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I spent two years in tech support

    Every conversation I ever had began with my asking the user to "click on Start". And they could all do it.

    Then Microsoft's Department of Infinite Wisdom renamed the Start button, and now it's not called Start any more. In fact, it doesn't have a name. So now when relatives bug me with tech support phone calls, I instinctively say “click on Start” and they say “What’s Start?”

    “You know, the thing that used to be called Start but isn’t any more. In the bottom left hand corner. The thing, you know, the thing…” <grates teeth>

    1. hazzamon

      Re: I spent two years in tech support

      Though the button no longer has the text 'Start', if you hover your mouse over it you get a tooltip that says 'Start'. In Windows 10 at least.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: I spent two years in tech support

        "Though the button no longer has the text 'Start', if you hover your mouse over it you get a tooltip that says 'Start'. In Windows 10 at least."

        Not the version of Windows 10 I'm using. In fact, the not-start button appears to be the only thing on the taskbar that doesn't have a tooltip at all.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: I spent two years in tech support

        I get that in Windows 7, but not 2012 R2 (aka Windows 8.1) or Windows 10.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: I spent two years in tech support

      It's not just the users..........After the company I worked for merged with (was taken over by) another company the head of IT changed. New bloke who is more of a manager than a real IT type wants to make staff store everything on a network drive to allow for hot desking. He therefore instructs all the machines locked down. Users will not be able to store anything on a local drive at all. There was a rule that no personal data/files were to be stored on the network. This meant users were now seriously restricted compared to what had gone on before. However if you used a particular software package if you didn't have local storage it didn't work. He was perplexed as to why we were getting so many support calls regarding this as he'd personally certified that all the software was suitable. He'd used most things elsewhere and done the same trick but had evidently got lucky. A joke email that went round suggested buying a copy of windows for dummies. As this was really something a lot of people used the machines were required to have local access. That buggered up his hotdesking plans.

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

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019