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

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

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Facepalm

You think normal users are bad when it comes to colours? Try a bunch of graphic designers who all insist that they need, nae, deserve calibrated monitors (which just so happen to be slightly larger than the last person's new monitor), and who then proceed to do most of their work on their iPad, in bright sunlight..

Actually, I've literally just received an email from a user about a fix I made saying: "it's not made it any worse but not better"*. That pretty much sums them all up really doesn't it?

*(The user then goes on to say that the thing which was broken is now working, but apparently that doesn't count as 'better')

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This sounds like a job for the BOFH, after all it's been a while since he's had a run-in with the coloured pencil department.

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qq{Actually, I've literally just received an email from a user about a fix I made saying: "it's not made it any worse but not better"*. That pretty much sums them all up really doesn't it?

*(The user then goes on to say that the thing which was broken is now working, but apparently that doesn't count as 'better')}

Well, obviously. If it's just back to the way it was before, how is that better? You can't make something "better" simply by fixing it, there needs to be real improvement. Words have meanings, you know!

When the user's been so inconvenienced that they're forced to interact with support, you need to throw in a quick spritz of armadillo repellent or a peril-sensitive undercoating, something that adds real value! That's how you placate them. They just want to feel special. /s

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Without going into details, they had a thing which worked, then they moved their office around and it stopped working 90% of the time. Several months later it was mentioned to me and I raised a ticket and made a fix. I think they're back to 100% now, but the email is a little vague.

Alas, the idea that nobody bothered to tell me about the problem for months doesn't surprise me at all these days.

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Devil

But surely all the PCs are already fitted with armadillo repellent. After all, I don't see any armadillos round here.

I want a proper upgrade!

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I'd go with Pterodactyl repellent, to prevent some smart-arsed luser from ${place_where_armadillos_come_from} raising a ticket.

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Coat

"I want a proper upgrade!"

I read that as 'a propeller upgrade' and thought to myself 'that'll never take off!'

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A few years back I worked for a photocopier dealer going out, installing the machines etc. We had one picky customer who kept calling and complaining the output of the copier (which was properly calibrated) never matched the colours on their screens. Every single screen in the place was neither calibrated nor the same as the screen of the person next to them but they refused to accept that it was the screens that were wrong! Somehow they thought the copier should be calibrated to each screen individually!

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Those colours don't look right to me!

I can relate to Rabbit80 's experiences - to the letter.

Same role for myself some years back. One of our customers was a graphics design company, entirely Mac based of course, who insisted that they worked in a "managed colour space environment".

Spent many a visit calibrating the printer correctly (EFI Fiery controller) to try and match their non-calibrated displays. Waste of time really, but their Head of IT made the visit bearable (a good looking lass indeed). :-)

One place that colour matched workspaces is popular is environment consultants who work on wind generation projects. Often they have to produce impact visualisations for planning approval, so the images they generate (of a load of turbines in the distance, for example) has to accurately match what their client was hoping to build.

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Over the years, I have seen a lot of art that only looks good on a badly adjusted monitor. Most people can't even get brightness and contract right, though you may have trouble getting the full range.

I used to do this with chemical photography, and printing an image has all the same problems. You cannot get anything whiter than the paper. The BOFH obviously knows this. 8 bits on the data, and 6 useful bits from the monitor.

Those high range images do have some use, but most of the detail will get thrown away at the end. And not even Ansel Adams could give 8 stops brightness range. (Different jargon, 1 stop difference is a factor of two, 1 bit.)

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> who then proceed to do most of their work on their iPad, in bright sunlight..

Well, most people consuming their content will probably be in a similar scenario, so it may make sense to test that way...

Shouldn't they be using color codes rather than eyeballing it anyway?

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Eyeballing is Art.

Eyeballing is Art.

Digital is Code.

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I worked in support for a large copier sales / support company many years ago. A year or so after we launched our first analogue colour copier I took a call from someone at the national forensics laboratory asking how a counterfeit could be detected if it had been made on any of our devices. I replied, in all honesty, that it wouldn't look anything like the original and would be dripping in silicon oil. He seemed quite happy with this response and and far as I am aware it was never tested in court.

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>> Try a bunch of graphic designers who all insist that they need, nae, deserve calibrated monitors

Worked with one like that loved pastel shades. Totally useless in the real world of 'standard' cheap monitors where 3 shades of light pastel pink all looked the same. And we also had problems with colour blindness.

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"8 bits on the data, and 6 useful bits from the monitor."

You'd be surprised what you had stash in those 2 bits.

Take a look in the 1990s-era Usenet postings of Claudia Schiffer gifs sometime.

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Windows

Ahh, My good friend

The placebo effect! Awesome. I've *cough* used that one a couple times...

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Scarily realistic.

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"You did all that with an email," the Boss sighs. "I can't imagine what happens when you mean a real change."

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

Excellent, And scary.

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Not scary - true

Best way to push through a change is to tell nobody. Unless there's going to be something obvious, and even then most of them will bloody miss it.

The amount of work I do without advising users of a change... <sigh>

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Re: Not scary - true

Best way to push through a change is to tell nobody.

Sadly, in our new caring, sharing, "responding in an agile fashion to business need" we have to tell people about all the changes - particularly if it's going to cause an outage[1].

So we now have a procedure to put a recorded message on the service desk number to say something like "if you are phoning about the change announed on $DATE, please be aware that we are monitoring the systems and will alert you if there is any problems[2]".

And also explain to people that us changing the backup regieme slightly does not mean that their PC will suddenly get really, really, slow.

[1] Even if said outage is at 2am on a Sunday morning. As a not-24 hour business[3], I'd be very surprised if we had anyone awake then, let alone working.

[2] But not in the ITIL sense.

[3] Except batch processes. That we are aware of. There may be others scheduled by people who have mistakenly been given admin access to stuff more complicated than their tiny brains can cope with[4] but that's not our problem[2][5]

[4] Like anything more complex than an abacus. Or a wheelbarrow.

[5] Until said $LUSER screams to the decapitated domesticated fowls in senior management.

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Re: Not scary - true

That's a perilous path. A bug fix, making something work as documented, is one thing. But if the fix is done by somebody who hasn't checked the documentation, and changes the name of some menu option on the way, is the sort of thing that turns a BOFH into a mere user.

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Re: Not scary - true

As someone who likes to get things right where possible I'd imagine half the code I've written has been done in secret so it got done rather than whirling around in meetings. I even wrote about 10,000 lines of code in my own spare time to save my sanity as I knew this was the only way to get the job done. And then deleted the office copy. No one ever worked out how the fuck I achieved it even though I'd asked them to let me write if from the off. Laziness truly is the mother of invention.

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Anonymous Coward

Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

Installed a new system in an office block, replacing the thermostats they had for a computer controlled system with optimum start, stop, etc.

Logging showed all was well, but customer said the staff were always either too hot or too cold and the thermostats would need to be put back so they could adjust the temperature.

They were put back and everyone was happy.

We never told them they weren't connected to anything...

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Boffin

Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

<thermostats .... were put back and everyone was happy.

We never told them they weren't connected to anything...>

This happens in 90% of all commercial offices - its there to make sure the users feel in charge while ensuring the system runs itself without morons changing it every 5 minutes. Bonus points to those installes who throw in the CxO A/C remote control that beeps and the wall panel with actual working numbers!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

"We never told them they weren't connected to anything"

I was taught this lesson by someone back in the 1980s. It may have been at a tyre company near Bath, it may not.

The foreman kept fiddling with one particular knob trying to speed up the process or slow it down (depending on proximity to overtime or fishing time.) It did not make a lot of difference but it was affecting product quality. Above the knob was a meter.

So over a weekend the control behind the knob was carefully disconnected having been set to the correct position, and an electrical circuit attached to the knob which included a thermistor, a variable resistor, a small light bulb and a connection to the meter.

The result was that the meter reading would gradually move up or down depending on temperature and how much the bulb had heated the thermistor. Thus the foreman was able to fiddle with his knob [ooh err miss] as much as he liked, but production continued on its smooth way.

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Re: The foreman kept fiddling with one particular knob

On company time no less.

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Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

"Above the knob was a meter."

Yes, sounds like it...

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Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

At CERN it is known as a [REDACTED] switch after a once young physicist who is now a very senior boss.

"An input, generally a multi-turn vernier dial pot, not connected to anything which allows a senior physicist the feeling that they are doing something to adjust the experiment without the risk that they will actually change anything important"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

There is a kind of person AC because married to one such who doesn't/can't understand that a thermostat is about the temperature reached, not the rate of cooling or where they've just come in from. i.e they feel too cold when they first get in the car or arrive in work on a winter's day so they turn the thermostat up. In effect, they think the thermostat is an output control. I suspect it's handed down through the generations, from days before thermostats when you had to turn the heating up if you were cold etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

You want to try to trick the boiler?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNqcuzUleNQ

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

There is a kind of person AC because married to one such who doesn't/can't understand that a thermostat is about the temperature reached, not the rate of cooling or where they've just come in from

Oh my God, don't get me started. There's so much ignorance on that topic that, unusually compared to my otherwise pretty laissez-fare approach to life I implemented two things:

- at home, the thermostat is not to be touched. Don vests or undress or open windows as required, but the first person who isn't me touching that digital mechanism is in trouble.

- anyone who does not reset the heating and ventilation controls in my car to where they were when returning the vehicle gets to hand in their keys. Once you understand the physics involved, car temperature and ventilation control is extremely easy (and mine is digital and actually rather good if just left to do its thing), but the number of people who just have the heating dialed up to eleven and then control vehicle temperature by constantly fiddling with the fan control is so large that I suspect we're genuinely dealing with a genetic defect in the population, and it drives me nuts when I see it (as I know from depressingly long experience that there is no educating those people - you can easily spot them when it rains because they're the ones with cloths in the car wiping the inside of an otherwise completely fogged up interior).

Grrr.

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Re: Reminds me of an energy management company I used to work for

'"We never told them they weren't connected to anything"

I was taught this lesson by someone back in the 1980s. It may have been at a tyre company near Bath, it may not.'

I think the principle goes back further than that - Sir Christopher Wren was more or less compelled to add additional supporting pillars to the Guildhall in London, at the insistence of some of the councilors.

The additional pillars actually stop one inch short of the ceiling beams and are just there for decoration.

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"it doesn't work"

Some pieces of my code appently stops working from time to time, but strangely enough, only when I'm not around. When I come around to check, everything is fine. but of course " Well it's working now, but I did the same a minute ago, and it wasn't working". Yeah sure, that's likely. PEBCAK, much?

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TRT
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Re: "it doesn't work"

That's your basic IO error. Incompetent Operator.

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Terminator

Re: "it doesn't work"

I think you'll find this is a case of the machines knowing when a bofh-alon is around to kick the bejeezus out of their diodes if they play up. Happens to my wife all the time - she *hates* asking me for help on the computer because the moment I turn up it suddenly works again :)

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Re: "it doesn't work"

Well it's working now, but I did the same a minute ago, and it wasn't working

Well - to be fair Windows is about as far as you can get from a deterministic system so it might be true..

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Re: "it doesn't work"

the moment I turn up it suddenly works again

Which is what led me to the Dark Side[1] of support lo, these many years ago.. I was spending more time fixing cow-orkers PCs than I was spending programming.

Or as I sometimes say (usually within earshot of the developers) - "I used to be a programmer, but then I grew up and went into support"..

[1] And no, cookies are very rare. And no funky working lightsabers. Sometimes, reality sucks.

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Re: "it doesn't work"

"Well - to be fair Windows is about as far as you can get from a deterministic system so it might be true..."

It's my code, it's simple, elegant and it comes with its own map and compass specifically featuring the users' ass and elbow just to be sure. It works. OK, it only happens with my Java code, perhaps if I complained less about Java being an unclean language the users might not assume that it must be broken somehow, but heh.

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Re: "it doesn't work"

> only when I'm not around

I joke about this all the time. Code gremlins is one of my favorite reasons.

But I found a real example of this recently.

I have some kind of messed up drivers on my laptop from an upgrade from Win8.1 to Win10, rather than a clean install. So when my laptop is plugged in to my monitor (or some tvs/projectors) it will fail to play any video file in any application. Otherwise, when unplugged, it runs just fine.

So I couldn't play videos, but if I took it to IT, it would work just fine, I'd look dumb, and go back to my desk. Rinse, repeat. I never noticed the monitor variable for a month or so, just thinking it was "randomly" broken.

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Pirate

Re: "it doesn't work"

"I have some kind of messed up drivers on my laptop from an upgrade from Win8.1 to Win10, rather than a clean install. So when my laptop is plugged in to my monitor (or some tvs/projectors) it will fail to play any video file in any application. Otherwise, when unplugged, it runs just fine.

So I couldn't play videos, but if I took it to IT, it would work just fine, I'd look dumb, and go back to my desk. Rinse, repeat. I never noticed the monitor variable for a month or so, just thinking it was "randomly" broken."

Not even close. First, users don't send their failing kit to me, I go to their machines, no peripheral glitch can be implicated. Then, coding is not my primary role, so I find myself in a very comfy situation where I'm not under too much pressure to release code, so when I do release a tool, it's properly tested, comes with extensive documentation, and is reasonnably bug-free (yes, I know I'm lucky, don't be too jealous). Plus, I generally get to demonstrate (and sometimes install it myself). In fact, I've NEVER seen my code fail on ANY kind of setup to date (when used according to the bundled instructions). Which means that my tools generally perform as expected, except right before banking holidays for some reason. Right now is a bad period for me, for example. You could blame high temperatures for random glitches, but it also happens mid-December and to a lesser extent right before any kind of holiday.

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Re: "it doesn't work"

We had an office manager whose machine really would go on the fritz for her. She was extremely Christian and the more difficult the machine became, the harder she had to work not utter basic Anglo Saxon descriptions of the machine's ancestral line. She would call me in, say "it's doing it again," which meant it was "not doing it again," what "it" was. I would sit down at her desk, move the mouse, and then tap a key, any key, and it would be perfectly fine. That would lead to the sound of teeth grinding behind me and occasionally sniffles linked to tears of frustration. I told her she had to be less impatient. The electrons didn't like being around upset people. Naturally that would drive her into a rage - sentient electrons?? Anyway, she quit when the world didn't end, divorced her husband and headed for the Caribbean.

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Re: "it doesn't work"

"And no funky working lightsabers. Sometimes, reality sucks."

It's not an issued item.

To become a full fledged Sith (or Jedi) you're supposed to build your own lightsaber from scratch.

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Re: "it doesn't work"

We had a customer who complained that her main program kept disappearing down to a corner of the screen and she insisted we come out and fix it (which meant de-minimise the iconised program.)

After several visits, she swore black and blue she wasn't minimising it and claimed our staff were somehow doing it remotely and no matter how many times we showed her how to minimise/unminimise the program, she insisted that she couldn't expand it once minimised. When we started charging for callouts, she rapidly decided to become an ex-customer (no big deal for us, she was one of the ones who cost far more than their income)

Several years later, her husband admitted minimising the software when web browsing and hadn't said anything at the time because that would mean admitting to using "her" computer when she wasn't around (it was a family machine, apparently).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "it doesn't work"

Happens to my wife all the time - she *hates* asking me for help on the computer because the moment I turn up it suddenly works again :)

Ah, you have one like that too (wife, I mean) :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "it doesn't work"

To become a full fledged Sith (or Jedi) you're supposed to build your own lightsaber from scratch.

.. using only items found in abandoned desks and the stationery cupboard.

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This is right up there with the time we sent out a "do not reply to emails like this one" notification with an example phishing email in it.

We received five replies in an hour from users who were sending us their login credentials, including the frequent flyer who triggered us to send the notification by having to have his password reset *AFTER RECEIVING THE VERY SAME PHISHING EMAIL USED AS THE EXAMPLE*

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Windows

Our security lot have stopped bothering with the "dont reply to these" emails and the "dont click on these" emails.

They send their *OWN* phishing emails. You respond? you click?

You get assigned a course. Mandatory.

You drag it off to a mail to the security team to investigate - they send you back a neat little certificate.

I've seen someone handed a package for not getting the course. Three times.

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@Alistair

That's how it ought to be done. Hopefully compulsory up to and including CxO level.

There's still the other side to deal with: how to stop marketing sending out emails which look exactly like phishing emails and thus training customers to be phished.

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Which brings us to the next problem. What happens when the rubes happen to be on the board?

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DrSyntax

OH God yes! I've actually phoned my bank to complain about that stupidity.

OTOH it sort of suggests that marketing and Phishing folk share a mindset, doesn't it.

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