back to article Support chap's Sonic Screwdriver fixes PC as user fumes in disbelief

Welcome to another festive edition of On-Call, the column in which we recycle readers' horror stories. Today, as we seek something, anything, to write in the pre-Christmas news drought, we bring you a trio of tales from the bulging On-Call inbox. Which we must say is swelling this week: it looks like some of you might not be …

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: It really was the EM field!

        Talking of EM fields, in 1987/88 I was doing an MSc at a London hospital. My lab was 2 floors below ground and I'd just acquired a new crt monitor for my project. At regular intervals the picture would get distorted with a quite noticeable tilt to one side.

        I was all set to box it up and send it back as faulty when I realised that the hospital's MRI scanner was directly above me two floors away.

  1. streaky Silver badge

    First Line

    But first line support had to sign off on every job

    Revenge of the dumb processes. If your first line support is so smart why are they in first line. That's not how this works.

    "sign off" yeah thanks bruh.

    1. DaLo

      Re: First Line

      I presumed it was actually meant to read "the user had to sign off on every job" - as in the user had to agree the job was completed to their satisfaction. It was probably first line that they sent around to collect the signature.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: First Line

      Many years ago we diagnosed that the problem with support was that the first line tended to misdirect problems they couldn't solve themselves. The specialists then misdirected them to other specialists. So they rattled pillar to post round the system queues until they finally arrived at the correct specialist.

      It became obvious that first line support needed to be your most experienced generalists who could either solve the problem very quickly - or pass it to the correct specialists. However that went against management's taught model - so was quickly overridden in a mistaken cost saving exercise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Line

        I spent many a year moaning about this. Being the amateur guy who knew how to fix the computers, in the days when there just weren't any full-time IT support staff in education I can handle most things and know when and who to pass problems to if it was beyond me. But when we were given an IT support team I found myself, on an almost monthly basis, being passed around to lots of wrong people by a sequence of front line IT staff who didn't know anything about our ( standard education issue) PCs or network and software. I got to know the proper professionals well - so they gave me their mobile/extension numbers and told me to call them first. They then logged the call with the first line guys while they were already at our site.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: First Line

          I got to know the proper professionals well - so they gave me their mobile/extension numbers and told me to call them first.

          I think this is common in a lot of industries. When I worked at a small(ish) local radio station, my boss made a point of collecting such numbers. It was always quicker and easier, for example, to call the telephone which was next to the rack in the exchange which held our circuits (i.e. telephone cables which carried our Outside Broadcast lines and even the to-be-broadcast audio for our a.m. service) than it was to call the official help line.

          Analogue days, of course. I remember very clearly my first OB; it was ridiculously early in the morning (this was an OB of the breakfast show), it was my first "proper" job after graduating and I'd been in post only a few weeks.

          Turned up on site and went to find the BT engineer who was providing us with our temporary OB line. A head and shoulders appeared out of a hole in the road, proffering me a scraggy bit of cable with one pair untwisted and stripped. That was it, our 7.5kHz line back to the office :-)

          M.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Line

        "first line tended to misdirect problems"

        Worked third level DSL support for one time at ATT and saw that all the time.

        What first line did was walk the user through pointless scripted routines that could take literally hours, just so the poor customer would be good and spitting mad when they got to us.

        I always thought it would make more sense to send them to us first so we could determine if there was a fault we could address quickly (reconfigure in our router perhaps) - and then hand them off to first line support for needless torture as prescribed.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Gadget influenced by waving something in front of it?

    My dad complained that his phone, a Nexus 5, kept making bleeping noises. At first I assumed it was some notification that he didn't understand (such as Update Pending, or Google Wants to Know Where You Took A Photo, or some other useless crap), but the phone wasn't displaying anything. Hmm, weird.

    Eventually the penny dropped: his phone case was the sort that doubled as a credit card holder. Every time he closed it, the phone would read the NFC chip on his credit card and make a beep, but not actually display a message to the effect of "I can read an NFC chip but I can't make sense of it". Turned off NFC, problem solved.

    1. Tabor
      Pint

      Re: Gadget influenced by waving something in front of it?

      Thanks for that post, have an upvote and a pint. I haven't experienced it (yet), but when it occurs I will definitely remember it. I see plenty of folk with those cases, so far none of them use NFC but once they do I won't have to think long.

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Gadget influenced by waving something in front of it?

        Mother !@#$er!

        My uncle is complaining of this exact problem with his Galaxy something. It started yesterday. Wanna guess what he got for Christmas? Go on - take a wild shot in the dark...

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    Sonic Screwdriver

    Love that last one. There's nothing more satisfying than silencing a total arsehole.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] had been told, repeatedly, to stop warming his lunchtime pie on top of the boards"

    The air conditioning in a new computer room in southern Africa was not keeping the place cool - although the design spec showed two units should have been enough. These were big free-standing units - very tall to take in warm air and the top and releasing cold air under the false floor. So an extra unit was added and the problem went away.

    On a visit to update the O/S we were greeted by the very friendly operators - who offered us a beer. They then used a tile lifter to reveal their cache of crates of beer and water melons - lined up across the cold outlet of an air conditioner.

    Major maintenance in the machine rooms there was usually on a weekend or public holiday. That meant we could dispense with the formal suits. In summer we soon learned to carry a jumper as we moved from the concrete canyon street's 30C+ to what felt like sub-zero. When waiting to continue a task we would stand behind the exchangeable disk drives for the benefit of the warm air coming from their heat exhausts.

    Working all day on Christmas Day was an essential major maintenance slot. We soon learned that cooking a turkey with trimmings - even in the evening - was just masochistic at the height of summer.

    One day in June the local radio station played "White Christmas" - which the locals found very strange even though the public fountains were a cascade of ice until about midday.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "One day in June the local radio station played "White Christmas" - which the locals found very strange even though the public fountains were a cascade of ice until about midday.'

      Ah, brings back memories of the Australian "mid-year Christmas", which found me eating turkey, xmas pud & all the trimmings on a business trip to Melbourne, on June 25th a few years back.

      1. Hazmoid

        It's called "Christmas in July" and it is an excuse to get hammered whilst eating all the hot foods that are totally ridiculous for Christmas in Australia (December is mid summer for us)

        1. Captain Badmouth
          Happy

          Private eye record

          Back in the 60's, on one of the Xmas 45's, private eye had a report from Melbourne - " the Luton of the Southern hemisphere" about Xmas day down south.

          From what I remember ;

          " My wife, Beryl, has just plunged her electric mulling poker into my delicious ice-cold beer and we're all gathered about the blazing yule-tide log with nothing on, telling the odd spine-chilling ghost story..."

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Ahhh. Brings back memories of working in Hong Kong in the 1990s. Walking from 40'C heat outside into 10'C in the server room. I kept a thick jumper at work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Brings back memories of working in Hong Kong in the 1990s. "

        Had a holiday in HK. When leaving a big shopping mall I would instinctively brace myself to enter the cold dark night outside ...but it was like walking from the air conditioned cool into a warm bath.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        "I kept a thick jumper at work."

        "Why are you packing a thick jumper to go to the tropics?", enquired the girlfriend.

        The light summer suit is for the office.

        The thick jumper, thick socks and thick jeans are the order of the day when working in a tropical computer room.

  5. M E H

    Magic hands

    A former employer had taken on a tech refresh and outsource contract at a government funded "charity".

    Part of the tech refresh involved supplying Dell 15" LCD monitors, which were quite a novelty at the time.

    Randomly users would come in in the morning to find that their monitors weren't working. Cue irate phone calls to the Hell Desk about the shoddy kit we had supplied.

    As desktop support we would go to the users' desks and wail, "work, work, WORK", while waving our hands around the bezel of the monitor. At which point the monitors would spring to life.

    We kept this up for a few weeks until the users twigged that there was a physical switch on the right hand side of the monitors as well as a soft switch on the front. The cleaners would accidentally turn off the switch and we were just turning them on again.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Magic hands

      Magic hands sounds fun. But behind that stands a piece of truly mindless crap design, by the sounds of it. Why the f**k make even turning the damn thing on and off that much more complicated for the poor bloody infantry ( i.e. users)? Who thinks of these things? Two different types of on/off switch in two different places!!!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Magic hands

        "Two different types of on/off switch in two different places!!!"

        You mean like most PCs with the "soft" switch on the front and a main rocker switch on the PSU at the back?

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Magic hands

          Fair point. Though being on the back out of sight or touch means it might as well not exist. And even then, maybe it shouldn't be there either. Unless that does a forced switch off more safely than pulling the plug out, which wouldn't apply to a monitor..

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Magic hands

        Totally agree. I was at my neighbours a couple of days ago house sitting to wait for the telephone people to come round. I thought I'd watch the TV while waiting, so pressed the clearly marked 'power' button on the top of the screen. Nothing happened. Pressed a couple more times, checked the wall socket was switched on. Was wondering whether to pop home and get my toolkit and spare fuses when on the spur of the moment picked it up in frustration to look at the back to check I was following the correct flex to the power socket - and discovered a small black rocker switch recessed into the black surround at the bottom of the back of the casing.

      3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Magic hands

        "Who thinks of these things? Two different types of on/off switch in two different places!!!"

        Had that with a Samsung monitor back in 2010.

        Assembled it, tried switching on as per the instructions. Nothing,

        Checked the instructions again. OK, must be DOA.

        Taking it to bits again I found a conventional switch just by the mains inlet. Black on black of course.

        Checked the instructions yet again. Nope, the mains switch wasn't documented.

        One sentence would have done.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Magic hands

      I was acting as a support tech at a teaching college in the early nineties ( not actually my real job as someone else has alluded to ). I had this art lecturer who was always having problems with his desktop machine. Whenever I sat at it the damn thing would never go wrong! The lecturer was convinced that it was my "aura" and that the computer "wouldn't dare go wrong for you"!

      The problem was finger trouble, of course.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Magic hands

      Don't forget old blokes like us that would dim the brightness all the way down, instead of turning the monitor off, and everybody else would think the bloody thing was broken.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How I miss CRT's

    A decent sized neodynium magnet shaken behind a partition was all it took for the screen display to wobble disturbingly, when you were requested to check out the screen it would be stable, but again as soon as your back was turned (hand in pocket) it would start again.

    Growing up is not something to be proud of.

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: How I miss CRT's

      "Growing up is not something to be proud of".

      Growing OLD is something we can't avoid.

      Growing UP, now that's something some of us never quite managed.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: growing OLD

        "But youth is a quality, and if you have it, you never lose it.

        --- Frank Lloyd Wright, 1957, when he was 88, in an interview with Mike Wallace. Transcript and video here.

      2. Spanners Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: How I miss CRT's

        Growing UP, now that's something some of us never quite managed.

        I have successfully avoided growing up anyway..

        It's easy. Keep looking at interesting aircraft. Smile at fart jokes. Avoid wearing a tie unless its a funeral. Listen to Status Quo.

        1. mkaibear

          Re: How I miss CRT's

          Can you amend to "avoid wearing a tie unless you want to"?

          I like ties. I have a drawer full of interesting and entertaining ones. They go with my braces.

          Plus the wide-ranging ban means I can't do Bow Tie Tuesdays if I want to maintain my youthful* vigor*

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How I miss CRT's

            "I like ties. I have a drawer full of interesting and entertaining ones"

            Now retired - I still have a wardrobe full of white shirts and 150 ties from my office days. As there is rarely a need to dress formally these days - I always wonder if I will remember the tying the knot sequence first learned at about age 7. Dining with friends at Xmas my "god-daughter" appreciates me having a funny seasonal one - preferably with built-in sound. I even dust off the Wedgwood Caesar cuff links and the Omega Seamaster wristwatch to complete the archaic appearance.

            Nowadays schools often favour uniform clip on ties - and ban real ones on safety and potential insubordination grounds.

      3. Triggerfish

        Re: How I miss CRT's

        I'd like to think I am grown up but a couple of years ago when they had an April fool story about square eggs I dedciated a fair bit of the working morning to convincing one of the young, newbie fresh out of uni project co-ordinators, that yes it was true and was perfectly feasible really when you consider the chicken as we know it is nothing more than a creation of man after all.

        Still trying to work out how to put that on my CV as a work achievment.

    2. W4YBO

      Re: How I miss CRT's

      The degauss switch on the back of some NEC CRT monitors was usually good for a laugh.

      1. John 110

        Re: How I miss CRT's

        I hated mine. I had to sneak into the next-door lab after hours and move a waterbath away from the connecting wall. Damn thing's stirrer motor was making my monitor pulse and giving me migraines.

  7. Chris King Silver badge

    Mmmm.. Pies...

    Ahhh, there's nothing like rolling out a lab of shiny new PC's, and watching as the first batch of users comes in to "christen" them.

    I pop out to the gents, and someone is in the stall downloading some rather pungent brownware. This friend of humanity finishes his ablutions, walks out without washing his hands, and heads straight to my lab full of new shinies.

    If that isn't bad enough, he pulls something out of his bag... A (now-lukewarm) pie from the Spar, and proceeds to eat it over a brand-new keyboard.

    I instantly decide that the dirty interloper and his flaky (pastry) sidekick have outstayed their welcome...

    "Excuse me, are you illiterate, blind or just plain stupid ?!"

    "What's the problem ?"

    "You're EATING A PIE right under a sign that says 'NO FOOD OR DRINK TO BE CONSUMED IN THIS LAB' !"

    "That's right, I am !"

    He then eats the pie in the messiest, noisiest way possible (think Cookie Monster - Omnomnomnom), dropping gravy and bits of pastry all over the keyboard, then logs out and walks out leaving a huge trail of pastry flakes in his wake. The only way he could have made matters worse would have been to lickthe gravy off the keyboard.

    A four-week ban and a bill for a new keyboard rapidly wiped the smile off his face.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

      "Ahhh, there's nothing like rolling out a lab of shiny new PC's"

      I dont know, the novelty wears off. I rarely bother tidily arranging the wires and tucking them tidily away , because next week the user will probably demand it moved from A to B in a pointless desk shuffle that is about as productive as a cabinet reshuffle.

      Also I shudder at the amount of cardboard produced by a room full of new computers.

      Luckily the recession we're apparently in has put paid to too much new shinies

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

        "You're EATING A PIE right under a sign that says 'NO FOOD OR DRINK TO BE CONSUMED IN THIS LAB' !"

        "That's right, I am !"

        He then eats the pie in the messiest, noisiest way possible (think Cookie Monster - Omnomnomnom), dropping gravy and bits of pastry all over the keyboard, then logs out and walks out leaving a huge trail of pastry flakes in his wake. The only way he could have made matters worse would have been to lickthe gravy off the keyboard.

        You know that bit in the untouchables when De Niro has the baseball bat...

        1. Chris King Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

          "You know that bit in the untouchables when De Niro has the baseball bat..."

          Nice thought, but mopping up all that blood and snot wouldn't have been fair on the cleaners.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

          "You know that bit in the untouchables when De Niro has the baseball bat..."

          There would be more gravy for him to clean up...from the keyboard...the monitor...the walls...

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

      "A four-week ban and a bill for a new keyboard rapidly wiped the smile off his face."

      Was that back in the days when a keyboard cost more than a week's pay?

      1. Chris King Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

        "Was that back in the days when a keyboard cost more than a week's pay?"

        Sadly not, but it still cost more than an undergrad could pay comfortably towards the end of term.

  8. Chris King Silver badge
    Pint

    Nice one, "Baker" !

    Fixing the problem AND winding up a "problem" user in a way he can't touch you for !

    1. John 110

      Re: Nice one, "Baker" !

      Getting the brains out of the keyboard is a bugger!!

  9. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    remote fix?

    " so Baker had to visit each PC as well as fix it from afar"

    sounds effecient

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: remote fix?

      To be fair, it's only because first line were too dim to fix it themselves and we got paid for every close so we're not inclined to bat it back - system designed to fail = )

      "Baker" ; )

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laptop locks mysteriously

    I've met that as well. User was wearing magnetic (woo) bracelet and using the trackpad

    Told them to use mouse. Restrained myself from telling them to throw away bracelet as it was waste of money.

    Then within a week, diagnosed another user with same problem.

    1. dbannon
      Holmes

      Re: Laptop locks mysteriously

      ".. User was wearing magnetic (woo) bracelet and using the trackpad.."

      Yep, that makes sense. But I am not convinced about a metal implant, as I understand it they are invariably non-magnetic.

      David

  11. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Clothing related malfunction

    My Dad told me one about a mainframe he worked on back in the 70s that would spontaneously reboot, but only when one particular operator was using it. They eventually traced it to static charge from her nylon stockings...

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: Clothing related malfunction

      > They eventually traced it to static charge from her nylon stockings...

      You just can't end your anecdote there! HOW?

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