back to article User couldn't open documents or turn on PC, still asked for reference as IT expert

Thank Cthulhu it's Friday, because that means the weekend is at hand and we can offer you another instalment of On-Call to show what happens when support calls ruin your personal time. This week, meet “Adam,” who once did tech support at an Australian university. One of Adam's users, who'd been in her job for a week, “came to …

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Year 7

Since no-one answered you directly, I will clarify: Years 1-6 are primary school, what I knew as Infants and Juniors. Sometimes preceded by "Reception" which didn't have a name in the mid 70s where I went to school.

Years 7-11 are what were the standard first to fifth years of secondary school up to GCSEs. Years 12 and 13 are Sixth Form, obviously :-) I normally have to to a quick mental calculation when discussing it with my kids, especially for those latter two years.

Don't get me started on the grading system...."I got a 6". "6 out of what?" "just 6".

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Re: Year 7

In the UK:

State Primary (Infants and Juniors):

Nursery (Optional depending on child's age?)

Reception

Year 1 - 6

State Secondary:

Year 7 - 11

Year 12 - 13 (was College / SixthForm)

Independent (Private) Pre-Prep:

Nursery (Possibly)

Reception

Year 1-2

Independent Prep:

Year 3-8

Independent ("Secondary"):

Year 7-13

Are you sufficiently confused now? How about when all of the above are open to variation across schools, countries, etc. too!

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Coat

Sieve

"They looked at me as if I was Rain Man as they'd never heard of the Sieve."

What? Good heavens. Where do you get your Maths teachers?

Coat: shuffles off mumbling into beard.

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Re: Year 7

>in the UK

In Scotland (80s-90s at least):

Nursery: ""playschoolers"

Primary school: "P1-7"

Secondary school: "S1-6"

Why must people so complicate matters? Keeps someone in a job, I suppose.

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Anonymous Coward

Yer English is crap tho', innit?

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FAIL

A whiter shade of pale?

Got called back to a small office system we had supplied. "We can't see anything!", they cried. Well selecting a theme of white text on a white background may be the reason. "We did not do that!", they cried as I exited.

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Re: A whiter shade of pale?

Had to upvote you for this, as it reminded me of a client of mine who sent an email to me containing a user name and password in white text on a white background... you know, prying eyes and all. Don't want that info in the wrong hands!

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Re: A whiter shade of pale?

Have sadly seen this with so called Graphic Designers too

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Re: A whiter shade of pale?

Governments have redacted confidential PDFS by adding black rectangles over the offending text, forgetting that copy-paste still works...

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Devil

Re: A whiter shade of pale?

"ell selecting a theme of white text on a white background may be the reason. "We did not do that!", they cried as I exited."

They didn't, it was me...

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Re: A whiter shade of pale?

justeat's website was down a few days ago, and their apology for the site being down was in white on a white background. A very mealy-mouthed way of apologising for the disruption.

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Re: A whiter shade of pale?

And also likely to earn them a 'cloaking' penalty from google search...

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Lets see

Highschool: Maths teacher was sent some data on a 5.25" disk, with the instructions to remove it from its cover, and slot it into the drive on the computer.

The person writing the instructions called the cardboard sleeve the cover. The Maths teacher misunderstood, slice open the protective plastic cover, removed the disk, and placed that into the drive. It worked, but at the age of 15, was my first experience of PEBKAC.

10 years later as a field tech, get called out on a "now" response call, where the head beancounters PC won't switch on. $750 just for me to walk through the door.

This is back in the old AT psu days, where they head a pass-through connector for the monitor to be plugged into.

Beancounter was in the habit of just switching off the PC, which in turn powered off the monitor. Beancounter goes off on holidays, temp beancounter comes in to do the books, and was in the habit of switching off both monitor and PC.

I'm sure you can work out how I "fixed" the problem.

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Re: Lets see

Sounds like my sister, except in her case, the PC was normally left in standby and a simple mouse wiggle used to wake it.

One day someone switched the PC off, and she spent four hours wiggling the mouse before calling me (at 10pm).

Even this isnt the best, I think I can top the headline story.

Last year, An elderly lady called me (while I was away at the other end of the country), to complain her email hadnt worked for a few weeks; after a hour of talking the facts revealed were.

She and her husband were using several hand-me-down iPads and (Windows Vista!!) laptops, and none of them were getting emails because they had all lost their wifi connection. (They hadnt notice outgoing mail wasnt working !!).

So suspicion falls on the elderly BT HH2; AHA no lights!!

Me " Could you possibly have unplugged it and forgotten to plug it back in??"

OL "Well I did hoover in here the day email stopped working"

Me "Can you look to see if you can find the plug and plug it back in?"

OL "Oh, I think I'd better get a man in to do that"

So she paid some kid £40 to come out and plug the router in.

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Joke

Re: Lets see

"OL "Oh, I think I'd better get a man in to do that""

Sensible girl!

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Re: Lets see

Ms Marina, I believe the reference was to 'elderly lady'.

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Re: Lets see

@Hollerithevo

Whooooooosh

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lets see

I was doing tech support for a company that does VOIP.I was trying to help a women out . She respond we are women we have heels we can not do that .

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Re: Lets see

I can beat that.

I called a user who had a ticket open - something to do with not being able to use his menu-driven greenscreen application. I had taken over the ticket system when the helpdesk guy quit unexpectedly after not working much for a month and I was under strict orders to close out outstanding tickets as quickly and efficiently as possible, and so was having a nice day "reaching out" to frustrated and ignored people.

But this bloke answered all my questions, starting with "What's showing on the screen?" with "I don't know".

In the course of twenty minutes of ever-increasingly persnickety questioning I managed to ascertain that he was sitting in front of the terminal, that it was switched on, that he was neither blind nor color-blind. Yet when asked what color the screen was, he answered "I don't know". When given choices to pick from - "Is the screen blue or green?" - all I got was "I don't know". "is the power light on?" "I don't know".

I eventually told him that I would send someone out to help him (there was no-one to send) and simply closed the ticket. I never did understand what the hell was going on. It remains the Meldrew's Giant Fly in my life.

Stranger than this story is that when I sent it to another forum for this sort of tale, the commentards were vitriolic in their insistence that it could not have happened. I'd have accepted charges of being boring, but lying? Who makes up a story like this? It has no point.

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Re: Lets see

its like when i ask people to telnet a host on a port. they always say nothing happens. the flashing cursor is the the response i'm looking for as opposed to the error when it fails, yet nothing is happening is the response.

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Is it on?

Before being temporarily diverted into technical support (my admiration goes to just about everybody involved in that, I haven't got the patience) I thought "Have you switched it on?" was a stupid question. After the nth time of seeing just that.... My favourite was. "My monitor doesn't work!" "Have you switched it on?" "Of course I have, do you think I'm stupid?" "OK, is it plugged in to the back of the computer?" "I've bloody checked, I'm telling you, it's BROKEN!" "Have you turned it on at the mains?" "Oh".....

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Re: Is it on?

That change in attitude at the end there, reminds me of a time way back when, when I did first-line website support for a financial company.

Guy rings up shouting and screaming that the website is broken and it won't accept his correct data. So I suggest I bring up the same page on my screen and we go through it, field by field. We get about halfway down, to some date fields (date moved into house or something).

Me: Ok so let's fill in these date, month and year fields, what values are you entering in there?

Guy: 31...

Me: Yep. Now the month?

Guy: 9...

Me: Umm, can I just stop you there

To be fair, once he'd twigged he was quite apologetic and was grateful for finally getting his application through.

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Re: Is it on?

Same thing with the head of IT at a local school. Thing is, when teaching effectively is just reading the GCSE teachers book out aloud, all you need to be able to do is get the kids to follow simple instructions and type stuff. Usually in Word. There's no actual IT going on and she hadn't actually taken IT at uni. It's not her fault she got the job but I just can't see why she applied or was appointed.

I got a fairly angry call to come see why her PC wasn't working first thing one Friday morning, probably before her coffee, so asking her was it plugged in and switched on was definitely not what she wanted me to say.

"Of course it is, do you think I'm stupid?"

So there's some question you never answer honestly, right?

So off I go, when I got there and "fixed" it, she was in the room and asked me what I'd done, I pointed out I'd just plugged it in at the mains. At which point she blamed the cleaner for unplugging it.

Really gotta hope she had coffee before "teaching" the kids later.

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Re: Is it on?

"Guy rings up shouting and screaming that the website is broken and it won't accept his correct data. So I suggest I bring up the same page on my screen and we go through it, field by field. We get about halfway down, to some date fields (date moved into house or something)."

There may be a second possible problem there.

Yes, the guy was clearly having a blonde moment by mistakenly trying to enter 31st September - that's the first problem, which you managed to resolve. (I've had the odd blonde moment like that of my own).

However, the other possible problem is that the company's web form didn't highlight the error for him - if it did that when he tried to submit the erroneous data, he might have spotted the problem himself without the need to call you. My clue that this may not have been done is the fact that you went through it all field by field with him - if it highlighted the field that was in error and he still didn't spot his error, there should have been no need to go through it like that.

Of course, whether my guess is reasonable may also depend on other factors, such as how long ago this was and the standards (and possibly even standard of web browser) in use.

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Re: Is it on?

It happened to me, only a week ago.

The computer won't turn on.

Have to turn on the extension cord.

Click. Bam. After resetting the circuit breaker, it appeared that the extension cord was fried, time to buy a new one.

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Re: Is it on?

"However, the other possible problem is that the company's web form didn't highlight the error for him - if it did that when he tried to submit the erroneous data, he might have spotted the problem himself without the need to call you."

Another problem with ill-thought-out forms is the mandatory field which is half a screen away from all the other fields, say Title (mandatory? really) somewhere in the middle of the explanation of how to fill in the form. Stream of conciousness is not a good way to design a user interface.

Then there are fields which are only appropriate for some circumstances - no your two letter abbreviations for US states aren't appropriate if I'm in the UK.

And entire pages designed to only fit onto screens of at least 6000x4000 pixels.

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Re: Is it on?

"And entire pages designed to only fit onto screens of at least 6000x4000 pixels."

I associate this with excessive spacing, stupidly large fonts, and pointlessly big images - regardless of the platform (and screen size) on which you are experiencing it. I call it "the tabletification of the web".

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Re: Is it on?

That's more an example of poor form design.

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Re: Is it on?

And entire pages designed to only fit onto screens of at least 6000x4000 pixels

Happens with the good old desktop too. I still use an Asus EeePC which has a 1024x600 pixel screen. Time and again, with various Linux flavours (currently using Mint) a dialogue box will pop up that is bigger than 600 pixels high and it is absolutely impossible to move it to enter data into the fields off the bottom of the screen. Sometimes you can press "enter" and hope they weren't important...

M.

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Facepalm

Re: Is it on?

Yes, the guy was clearly having a blonde moment by mistakenly trying to enter 31st September

Doh! I totally missed that. I was wondering if it expected "Sep" instead of "9", which didn't seem to make it a stupid user mistake to me *blush*

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Re: Is it on?

"However, the other possible problem is that the company's web form didn't highlight the error for him"

Yep, this was about 1999/2000 time and the site had already been in place for a year so the conventions for such things weren't really established, and I think it was something along the lines of an onSubmit() function checking each field in turn and throwing up an alert box like "Please check the blah blah field". Of course as well being poor validation (compared to modern standards at least) this led to 'chase the error' situations.

I went on to be one of the developers on the same site and we got to redevelop it from scratch, so of course it became awesome and we received zero phone calls after that ;-)

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Re: Is it on?

"That's more an example of poor form design."

As well as the intended gist of my post, yes it was indeed. See this reply for clarification.

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Flame

Re: Is it on?

Don't get me started.

I'm viewing the page on a 7 inch screen, INCHES from my face. Why the hell do you think I want some backwards retarded website with half the functionaliy and a max of 5 lines due to the large font size. Do 'designers' think our mobile devices are not much more powerful than WAP devices?

I've seriously never found a 'mobile' version of a site better than the desktop one. And those sites that browser sniff and then redirect automatically to the mobile site do my head in. If it's a commerce site, and there is no easy way to switch back, it's not worth bothering with. They lose my custom.

Browser sniffing.... Sigh. I thought we'd seen the end of that in the early 2000's :-(

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Re: Is it on?

Input verification with no error message is the most annoying and financial systems are the worst offenders:

Suppose on the next line he had entered 4.1% and it wouldn't let him continue because 4% is the maximum deduction for one legged piano players in Arkansas who also claim a single dependant as wife and sister and aren't separating form 24B from income on .......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is it on?

My mom recently ran into a problem with bad web design. She was trying to send gloves to my niece. she tried to enter the address but the site barfed. Since my mom was in the US it expected a US zip code, but my niece was in Vancouver,BC.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is it on?

Be honest would any of us think comp school IT teachers would know anything about IT? The old saying those who can do those who can't teach springs to mind! Best teacher we had at school back in the 80s was a chemistry teacher who had done a PhD (uncommon in a comp) and worked doing proper chemistry in industry. This is why lectures at college\uni tend to be far better than teachers as most of them have done the job. I had some cracking lecturers at college (BTEC Engineering) they had all worked in industry whether that be elec eng , mech eng, materials science, electronics, drawing office, etc

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Re: Is it on?

"I associate this with excessive spacing, stupidly large fonts, and pointlessly big images"

I associate it with UX designers. Unable to come across anything that works without breaking to enhance the user experience.

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Coat

Re: Is it on?

@ Martin an gof

Try maximising the dialog[ue] box. Works on xfce4 on my old NC10.

Inconvenient though I admit.

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Pint

Re: Is it on?

"I associate it with UX designers. Unable to come across anything that works without breaking to enhance the user experience."

Yeah, them too. idjits, the lot of 'em.

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Coat

Re: Is it on?

I'm sorry, but in this day and age, if anyone doesn't know that 4% is the maximum deduction for one legged piano players in Arkansas who also claim a single dependant as wife and sister and aren't separating form 24B from income on ....... then they don't deserve to be employed.

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Flame

Re: Is it on?

And can someone tell me why credit/bank card forms ask for the 16 digit number with no spaces or dashes?

Is it really so hard to parse '^([0-9]{4}[ -]{0,1}){4}$' ?

What's worse are those forms which only allow 16 characters, so as you are typing in the number with spaces (for clarity, AND as it's printed on the card) only for the field to stop accepting the complete number.

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Re: Is it on?

Be honest would any of us think comp school IT teachers would know anything about IT?

I'd hope it's better now, but in my day it was generally a maths teacher who'd been on a course.

When we were all hacking away on our ZX Spectrums and Commadore 64's, we had a secondary teacher who knew sod all, and was very defensive because of it.

I remember one lesson where she wrote BASIC a few lines to output 3 numbers in numerical order. It was full of if... then etc.

As homework, we were told to write a program that would sort 6 numbers.

I wrote a simple generic sort program, as you would, and got bollocked in front of the class: "If I'd wanted you to write a sort algorithm, I'd have asked you too"

Back then, I was as shy as a coconut stand (*rimshot*) [No-one believes me when I tell them that today}, but fortunately a mate of mine was a gobby little shit and gave it to her big time.

When I did A levels (different school) it was totally different, the teachers knew their stuff, and knew they did, and if they were asked something they didn't know, they'd say as much, rather than mumble and bullshit like the first teacher did. In fact, you'd often hear "I hear XXX(pupil) has been looking at that. Why don't you ask him/her"

I sorta agree regarding university lecturers, although whilst there were a few great school teachers, there were also a few lecturers who were obviously only there for their research project and equipment/funding.

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Re: Is it on?

Happens with the good old desktop too. I still use an Asus EeePC which has a 1024x600 pixel screen. Time and again, with various Linux flavours (currently using Mint) a dialogue box will pop up that is bigger than 600 pixels high and it is absolutely impossible to move it to enter data into the fields off the bottom of the screen.

Happens in Win7 too and an HP Netbook had the same problem. My Zenbook screen is 1366x768 and the core i5 cpu means I can also play Civ V* when lounging around cafés waiting for doctors' appointments :-)

* Some days el Reg can be v. boring. Maybe it's just me but the standard seems to have fallen over the last 12-24 months.

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Re: Is it on?

My mom recently ran into a problem with bad web design.

This week I decided to switch mobile telephone providers and entered the required details in the company's webform. It then told me that the email address I've been using for the last 16 years (jonathan@mydomain.com) was invalid. I had to create a throwaway email address to proceed. Go figure...

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Re: Is it on?

"And can someone tell me why credit/bank card forms ask for the 16 digit number with no spaces or dashes?

Is it really so hard to parse '^([0-9]{4}[ -]{0,1}){4}$'"

Quite - that's long been an annoyance for me. What's worse is that I'm absolutely sure I remember correctly, and when e-commerce was first starting to take off, many forms would accept card numbers formatted with spaces.

As you say, it's trivially easy to parse the number and strip anything unwanted (give a 16 digit block with no spaces to the back-end, if necessary - but let me type it in with spaces!) - but more importantly, it's easier for the user to double check what s/he has typed if it's spaced out like that - especially older people, or those whose with less than 20/20 vision.

And don't get me started on those that force you to switch from keyboard to mouse when what has to be input can very easily be done from the keyboard. Duh! Offer the mouse method as an alternative method for those less adept with a keyboard!

(And that includes making sure your fields can be easily navigated using the tab key - don't put too many unnecessary stops (extra links) along the way, and FFS don't use CSS lay the page out in such a way that the tab order becomes an illogical mess!)

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Re: Is it on?

"Really gotta hope she had coffee before "teaching" the kids later."

NO! Sounds like she was already naturally too hyper to begin with.

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Re: Is it on?

"Browser sniffing.... Sigh. I thought we'd seen the end of that in the early 2000's :-("

Yep. For various reasons, the only browser available to me the other day was Konqueror. Latest, fully patched version. But the BBC decided I was using some sort of mobile device. No amount of hunting over the page elicited the "show full site" link they used to have. I can only assume that their limited browser checking was simply looking for known, expected browser and assuming anything not oin that list must be phone. Same applies to my 8" tablet screen. No, you twunts, it's NOT a tiny little phone screen.

The other bugbear is the sort of websites you are most likely to want to refer to while out and about but the site is hard coded for width and almost impossible to read on a phone screen even in landscape mode. Like the other day when I was having problems with my satnav while on the road.

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Linux

Re: Is it on?

Time and again, with various Linux flavours (currently using Mint) a dialogue box will pop up that is bigger than 600 pixels high and it is absolutely impossible to move it to enter data into the fields off the bottom of the screen.

Oddly not at a Linux box right now so can't confirm this, but IIRC you can hold ALT (or maybe CTRL) and drag the window with the mouse, from any where in the window. Have had to do this a few times on Mint as well, for similar reason (though it was a Windows game under WINE crashing out (thanks SystemD, you really are an incredibly crappy pile of shitamazing bit of code!) and leaving the screen rez rather borked.

I wonder if the same idea works with Windows.. I've had that problem with new installs in the past before the graphics drivers go in, Windows only seeing 800x or worse, 640x ! Thankfully could do a parallel install and work out what each field was and how many times to hit [TAB]...

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Re: Is it on?

IIRC ALT-SPACE then M and then the cursor keys will move the currently active window in MSWindows. Thanks for the *nix desktop window shortcut move command though. Another one I wasn't aware of :-)

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Re: Is it on?

^This, and not limited to Linux either. My mum and I had netbooks around the same time (got her the same model as mine to hopefully simplify long-distance support) and quite a few apps had dialogs (or in at least one instance, main window) too tall for 600px vertical. Thunderbird account settings stands out ... Turns out "Alt+drag" is a tricky concept to grok over the phone :(

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