back to article My PC is broken, said user typing in white on a white background

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's free therapy session for those who perform tech support chores and need to get the worst ones off their chest. This week, meet "George" who in 2002 worked in "a metal service center in Athens" that had just acquired its very first PCs to replace dumb terminals slaved to an AIX server. …

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Re: Broken monitor

"Who remembers the "Good old days" when you could steal the ball from someone's mouse..."

Ah the school computer labs, then the inevitable plea from the headmaster at next days assembly, made all the more amusing because he had to use the word "balls".

(Second only to the announcement that smoking in the loos would be cracked down on as he found "butts on toilets")

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Re: Broken monitor

Who remembers the "Good old days" when you could steal the ball from someone's mouse...

Even though I've been using an optical mouse for well over a decade, I've still got a spare mouse ball in the top drawer of my desk. You never know when it might come in handy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Broken monitor

Home user complained that their cursor would only go up and down the screen - not sideways. Turned their mouse over. There was a neat line of "felt" round the ball that allowed it to rotate along the "vertical" axis but stopped it moving at 90 degrees.

They sometimes used their mouse mat as a coaster for glasses of sugary soft drinks. The sticky residue acted as a binder for the fine hairs from their dog.

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DJV
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Mouse balls

When I worked in IT Support back around 1998 we used to get numerous complaints about mice not working due to the build up of crap on the rollers and balls. I used to remove all the balls and take them to the nearest "gents" and give them a soak in a basin of warm soapy water. Other staff entering the loo would ask, "What are you doing?"

"Washing my balls," I'd reply.

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Yeah, it was probably

a good idea not to tell the truth there.

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Re: Broken monitor

I remember the good old days when you could re-program the 'Enter' key on the terminal to be 'Line Erase'.

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Re: Broken monitor

"I remember the good old days when you could re-program the 'Enter' key on the terminal to be 'Line Erase'."

Good old days?

stty kill ^M

works in 2018 on Linux and macOS (and I think other *nix-like operating systems too).

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Allegedly genuine IBM memo about Mouse balls........

If a mouse fails to operate or should it perform erratically, it may need a ball replacement. Mouse balls are now available as FRU (Field Replacement Units). Because of the delicate nature of this procedure, replacement of mouse balls should only be attempted by properly trained personnel.

Before proceeding, determine the type of mouse balls by examining the underside of the mouse. Domestic balls will be larger and harder than foreign balls. Ball removal procedures differ depending upon the manufacturer of the mouse. Foreign balls can be replaced using the pop off method. Domestic balls are replaced by using the twist off method. Mouse balls are not usually static sensitive. However, excessive handling can result in sudden discharge. Upon completion of ball replacement, the mouse may be used immediately.

It is recommended that each person have a pair of spare balls for maintaining optimum customer satisfaction. Any customer missing his balls should contact the local personnel in charge of removing and replacing these necessary items.

Please keep in mind that a customer without properly working balls is an unhappy customer.

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Re: Broken monitor

A small piece of micropore tape is very effective here.

Be selective though. There are some people I would not want this done to. There must be some round you too...

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Happy

Re: Mouse balls

I remember in Glasgow University Library in the mid 80s seeing a lady head-to-toe in Islamic gard using her burka as a cleaner for her mouse.

Ahhh - multicultural further education!

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Coat

Re: Broken monitor

Who remembers the "Good old days" when you could steal the ball from someone's mouse...

Even more fun these days, is to take some clear (Scotch) tape, and put it over the sensor on the bottom of an optical mouse. This introduces just a bit of randomness to the mouse. Add layers to make the mouse less and less responsive. A piece of non-clear tape makes the mouse not work, and people think their computer has frozen, and the user usually reboots. I did this one April first to an entire office of mice.

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Re: Broken monitor

*FX220,13

:D

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Water and Electricity (see Icon)

Got a phone call from a user saying the monitor had started developing strange colours at the edges. The cluster had CRTs and they were getting on so I said guess it is failing and if they had a problem just move to another and we would replace it. Then they volunteered that it was making a crackling noise. My response was to just move away to another and I'd pop up to the top floor where it was. Then I get that bit where the user thinks they can diagnose the cause of the problem. Could it be the water dripping from the ceiling onto the monitor causing the problem? I possibly swore, I cannot remember, something like please just get the F* out of there and touch nothing. Safe to say a flat roof in Manchester was never a good idea.

The building is quite famous see http://www.the-modernist.org/shop/renold-badge

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Not a display thing, but this was in 1987...

Yes, 1987, when 3.5" floppies were just becoming a thing.

I was a student working in an actual programming job for the summer, and the company had some sort of big contract with IBM, and we had all sorts of interesting toys to play with:

* A "bar" plotter - it took paper of the A1 or A0 sort of size (actually a size the Americans call "D"). Much fun.

* Personal System/2 machines, model 50 and 60.

* 3270 terminal emulator cards for the PS/2 machines

* other things that aren't important here.

Anyway, one of the saleswomen brought me a 3.5" floppy for a copy of the software I was working on. Those floppies had two different kinds of labels - small ones that stuck only on the front, and large ones that wrapped around the top onto the back.

And of course she, not being very familiar with what was, of course, a *new* thing in PCs, had stuck a large label entirely on the front, covering part of the metal shutter.

I'm embarrassed to have to admit that it took me several attempts before I realised *why* the disk wouldn't go into the drive. (OK, it went most of the way in, but stopped about half an inch before it was fully in.)

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Re: OK, it went most of the way in, but stopped about half an inch before it was fully in

Hey! Phrasing!

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Re: OK, it went most of the way in, but stopped about half an inch before it was fully in

Who's saying I didn't write it like that on purpose, eh?

And would it have been better if I had said "the floppy went most of the way in"???

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Re: OK, it went most of the way in, but stopped about half an inch before it was fully in

More people need to watch Archer.

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404
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Re: OK, it went most of the way in, but stopped about half an inch before it was fully in

Half way into season 2 of Archer right now (again lol)

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Re: OK, it went most of the way in, but stopped about half an inch before it was fully in

Some places call 3 1/2" diskettes "Stiffies".

They aren't floppy like the big ones.

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Re: OK, it went most of the way in, but stopped about half an inch before it was fully in

"They aren't floppy like the big ones."

Pedant alert! The disks are floppy, but the case is rigid.

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Facepalm

On another forum.

User posted (on mobile obviously) "Screen gone blank, smoke and sparks coming out of PC, what do I do?"

Another user posted, deadly serious "That will be your monitor that has broken. You should buy a new one".

Me? I mentioned they should get a fire extinguisher, keep the monitor, but assume PC is dead.

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Re: On another forum.

Round about 1999 I had a similar conversation with the Elonex service desk.

Smoke was billowing from the back of the main box of my computer and the computer was dead. So unplugged it and called Elonex.

Me: "Can you send someone to repair my PC please - it's stopped working and I have smoke coming from the CPU box"

Elonex: "Can you try plugging in a different monitor and see if that fixes it"

Me: "Err, no, it's not the monitor - there is smoke coming from the CPU box".

A couple of days later an Elonex service technician turned up, fitted a new motherboard and everything was fine again.

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Re: On another forum.

When I worked for what is now CEX in 1996 I had someone call up and ask what to do as their monitor was smoking, I asked if they had unplugged it, and as they haddn't I suggested unplugging it and then bringing it back for exchange/refund.

Either they never returned with it, or I wasn't working when they did, as I never saw the monitor come in.

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Trollface

Re: On another forum.

"Me? I mentioned they should get a fire extinguisher, keep the monitor, but assume PC is dead."

You dont speak user do you

they refer to the screen as "the PC" and the PC as the "hard drive"

So whilst a fire extinguisher may be handy , the screen is what needs changing

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Re: On another forum.

That would be this episode of The IT Crowd:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EBfxjSFAxQ

// icon: of course

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Entirely unrelated to the above but...

I have to mention the brief visit I made to help out a 93-year-old resident at a retirement home I do some amateur IT support work for.

10 minutes spent getting his printer to behave (what *is* it with printers?) and then twenty minutes of the two of us leafing through his 1944 Mosquito pilot's log book.

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Re: Entirely unrelated to the above but...

http://www.bforbel.com/2014/07/printers-are-evil.html

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Re: Entirely unrelated to the above but...

99 year old member of congregation I served last year,James McLaughlin, was lead pilot on the second Schweinfurt raid. He still tears up when telling about that particular flight.

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Re: Entirely unrelated to the above but...

I delivered and installed a PC to an old gent. But got distracted by the pics and models of Short Sunderland III ie the Flying Porcupine which he had flown against U Boats.

I had a fascinating afternoon talking to him and going through his mementos etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Entirely unrelated to the above but...

One of my colleagues, Maurice, was a pilot on Sunderlands. After the war he became a pilot on the Empire flying boats island hopping to Australia. His base was Tahiti.

Not sure how he ended up in IT - but he was eventually one of the volunteer crew who ferried the last? flying Sunderland from Canada? to the UK for preservation. I never did manage a rendezvous to see his photograph collection.

IIRC Hendon Museum have one that you can walk inside.

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Happy

Re: Entirely unrelated to the above but...

"...twenty minutes of the two of us leafing through his 1944 Mosquito pilot's log book...."

My father-in-law (unfortunately no longer with us) was a Mosquito navigator. It's just possible that your bloke and my FIL flew together.

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maybe cause I it's early or I'm just jaded from IT but I read that as a mental service center.

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Noisy Business!

I was working for a UK company in 2004 ish that had their helldesk in France when a ticket came through as so:

User is having difficulty getting a shit to come out, it is making squeaking and clanking noises.

So after regaining my composure and visiting the said person it turned out to be a sheet (of paper) not coming out of his printer so the english > french > english translation failed that day!

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Re: Noisy Business!

User is having difficulty getting a shit to come out, it is making squeaking and clanking noises.

First step, laxatives, next step man get some fiber in that diet. Seriously you can pass out from low blood pressure trying to push to hard

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Re: Noisy Business!

Maybe get a small stool?

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Black on Black

I was working on a desktop upgrade a few years ago where we came across a little used but utterly critical (of course!) application that had been written in house at some point in the 1990's with no documentation or support existing (and the author/s having left the company turn of the century). It had survived various previous upgrades intact but trying to run it on Win7 rendered two screens entirely black. Black text on a black background. We managed to work out that the author had used some custom non-standard colouring that Windows could no longer identify and rendered black by default but we never did manage to get to rewrite it; the customer realising that they'd be better off writing a new piece of code to do the task this obsolete stuff did.

And I have far too often managed to turn text and background the same colour within a MS document - the ribbon buttons are next to one another and far too similar in appearance...

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Re: Black on Black

Black label text in a black icon on a black background, with a black border indicating that the icon is selected?

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Re: Black on Black

Clearly a fan of Disaster Area & wanted to copy their colour scheme.

"Every time you try to operate one of these weird black controls that are labelled in black on a black background, a little black light lights up black to let you know you've done it"

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Spousal support

Got an IT support call from my wife a while ago:

SWMBO: My laptop is not working...

Me: OK, what is it doing?

SWMBO: It's making a beeping sound and water is pouring out of the corner...

Turns out she'd spilled a large glass of water over it. I told her to turn it off and let it dry out naturally. Amazingly, it still worked after that, albeit with help from an external keyboard.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Spousal support

I have noticed that when I lift a drink off the desk - my hand automatically moves on a dog leg path to avoid the cup crossing over the keyboard.

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Re: Spousal support

"I have noticed that when I lift a drink off the desk - my hand automatically moves on a dog leg path to avoid the cup crossing over the keyboard."

Back when computers in companies were capital purchases and very, very expensive, eating or drinking near one was a capital offence. That's ingrained in me and and so I still don't do it.

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Anonymous Coward

"Blackened" unclassified document

Somehow it reminds me this Unclassified document of the Iraq war from 2005.

It had been blackened in Word and then converted to a pdf. Needless to say that a simple copy /paste of the blacken text into notepad like app would reveal the hidden text...

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Pound signs

I used to do network admin for a high-street bank. One day a user called me and said he was having a problem with his keyboard, so I went to see him and asked him to describe and show me the problem. He wrote a lot of letters which would be sent out to customers, including those about charges for services. "I'm trying to get Pound signs, but I keep getting 3s," he said.

"You are holding the shift key down when you press 3, aren't you?" I said. He looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted two heads. I reached across and tapped the 3 key a few times, then held the shift key and did the same. 33333£££££

"Oh, thanks for that," he said. "You've saved me so much time and effort."

I asked him what he meant by this. Turned out he used to print the letters but before each amount he'd leave an extra space, then write the Pound signs in with a black biro.

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Flaming computer

Had an acquaintance pull a very old computer out of storage. She set it up, plugged it in, and turned on the monitor and computer. Monitor simply showed a blinking cursor in the upper left for a couple seconds... before a sheet of flame came out the front of the computer. A ceramic capacitor on the back end of the motherboard had popped (literally blew the top off it), igniting the quarter-inch-thick layer of dust inside the computer.

I personally once took a power supply to a computer shop, asking if they would test it. The tech picked it up, turned around and took two steps toward the back, then turned back around and set it on the counter. "It's fried" he said - pointing to the scorch marks on the outside that I hadn't noticed during removal.

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Just last week I was sat next to a user (the CEO's PA no less) who was complaining that the monitor on her macbook air kept going blank, slamming the thing around as they do and muttering what a pos it was.

The issue?

A dead battery and no mains power connected!

I really had to bite my lip.

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"sent emails aren't saved"

The folder was set to sorting alphabetically by recipients name.

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Wanted: Original content

Maybe good stuff is hard to find, but if we're just going to relay what already appeared on Reddit in Tales from Tech Support, it might be quicker just to post links.

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My favorite is still this. Computer makes noise when people hit the desk and monitor goes blank when people trip over the cord.

First one is easy tell people to stop hitting the desk. Second one well, how the hell are people tripping on the monitor cable . It's a freaking 1.5 meter long cable

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Anonymous Coward

"Computer makes noise when people hit the desk and monitor goes blank when people trip over the cord."

In the days of acoustic delay lines it is said that a sharp knock to the video terminal would corrupt the displayed text. Not quite the same as letters falling to the bottom of the screen by a typical prankh.

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