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 …

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Re: Clothing related malfunction

I shared a teaching space with new colleague who couldn't get on with the computer. It always went wrong when it was her day in there and I was out in the local schools. On the days I was in and she was out I had no problem and there was nothing she'd told me that helped me to diagnose the issue. Until one day we were both in for some reason. I was on the computer when she walked past and it crashed. Just as she passed. It did the same thing about three times more that day. My only conclusion was that it was static from her really really fluffy jumpers.

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Coat

Re: Clothing related malfunction

@Anonymous IV - It's up to us to supply possible endings:

1. and that's how he met my Mum.

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Meh

We have toilets you know....

A few years ago I strolled into work only to be told...

"Be careful if you go into the PABX room...there's a BT engineer in there taking a dump of the realtis switch..."

Well really....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We have toilets you know....

One of a customer's offices was housed in a row of old domestic houses. There were knocked-through connections between adjacent houses that resulted in something of a rabbit warren. One set of comms kit was shoe-horned into a tiny room that was obviously a recently re-purposed toilet.

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Anonymous Coward

Pasty warmer

Oh yes. Computers used to be excellent places to keep things warm for lunch. I always used to keep my pasty in the paper bag, though, to avoid crumbs falling into the innards of said computer.

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More than just for warming pies

These modern low-power monitors are a real disappointment; I miss the days when I could dry my cycling shoes on top of a toasty warm CRT.

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Re: More than just for warming pies

" I miss the days when I could dry my cycling shoes on top of a toasty warm CRT."

I know someone who insisted on doing that in an open plan office.

Shoes disappeared one day (dumpster), and every subsequent pair he left to dry on top ended up mysteriously falling out of the window on the other side of the room.

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Re: More than just for warming pies

I used to have a drying rack behind my server rack for my towel and cycling kit. Lenovo servers really pumped out the heat.

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Re: More than just for warming pies

My cat never forgave me for moving from a CRT to LCD screen.

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

Ahh, speak for yourself.

And maybe me......

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Anonymous Coward

Serendipity

According to Fakebook five years ago today I was tinkering inside my old NES (replacing the ageing cartridge reader for a shiny new one I got off ebay) and lo and behold, said IT toolkit in the picture, amazing timing:

http://imgur.com/XkJQuN1

(re-shared to imgur as I'm not linking to my profile 'ere = p )

-"Baker"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Serendipity

"re-shared to imgur as I'm not linking to my profile 'ere"

...and Google image search didn't match it to anything on the web.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Serendipity

yep, especially if you rescale the image, tends to confuse google image search (not that my fakebook profile is publicly viewable, this isn't my first rodeo)

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Witchcraft?

Back in the 1990s I was working in a sixth form college. The science department had a number of Acorn Archimedes and I was called out one day to one where the mouse was behaving oddly. I knew those things had an optical mouse that wasn't light-tight and as soon as I went in to the room I noticed that the whole desk was in bright sunlight.

So I moved slightly so that I was casting a shadow over the mouse (and still a good ten feet away from it) an said 'I think you'll find it's all right now'. The lecturer's face was a picture as he tried to work out what I'd done!

I had to tell him, so that he could relocate the desk out of the sun...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Witchcraft?

A home worker complained that occasionally her screen would suddenly start scrolling erratically when she wasn't at the desk. The problem was the dappled shade caused by the tree outside her window. A combination of sun and wind at particular times of the day and year would activate her optical mouse.

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Re: Witchcraft?

Glass table.

I swear the user never thought about putting something under or over the GLASS. TABLE. to make the mouse work.

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It's the sun

Mumblty years back we had a Compaq Desktop machine in one lab that would work for a couple of hours and then crash. But not every day. Bring it back to IT and it'd run all day. No magnets, no radiators near it. No damned good reason. Compaq came out and tested it. No fault found.

As spring turned to summer it got worse. One of the guys looked in every day and eventually it ran all day for no obvious reason until he worked out it was raining outside. We had a couple of rainy days and without telling us he'd worked out why, he'd tell us the machine would run today. First sunny day came along and he told us it would crash. Which it did.

Turns out the sun was hitting the black case, conducting just enough extra heat into it to warm up some microfracture on the system board and click. It would go. Same would have happened if it had been near a radiator or if the fan had been slightly blocked.

Compaq engineer came in, we put it next to a radiator, it went click and now failed tests so they happily swapped out the board.

Toughest diagnostic I ever came across.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's the sun

We had an M2140 comms processor in Manchester that suffered the same problem. It was in a room with large windows. Occasionally the engineers would leave the door of the cabinet open. If the sun was shining at the right time of day then it heated up a board and a micro-fracture in a chip would cause the fault. It was very intermittent.

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Re: It's the sun

@PAKennedy

Heard of a similar story concerning a mainframe (this was back in the 60-70's) that would crash fairly regularly during summer in the afternoon.

At first it was thought the cause was a defective aircon installation but checks and sensors said everything was okay.

Turned out that when the sun did its daily stroll across the sky, the computer room had this one particular window which would, in the afternoon, let the sun shine directly on the glass lid of the disk unit housing the system pack.

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Re: It's the sun

We had something similar with a pair of Canon BubbleJet A3 (called "Billy" and "Benny") printers from the local teacher training college - kept getting sent in as they printed, but nothing appeared on the paper, despite multiple new cartridges. We'd fire them up in the workshop, they'd test fine, but back on site, no good. Turns out that the ink used to separate if it got too warm, and they were baking them gently underneath a window...

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Angel

My reputation precedes me.

All too often friends/family have been having trouble with an electrical device (usually computer related) so when I visit they're really glad I'm there because I can fix the device, only for both of us to discover the device is now working perfectly fine without me doing anything other than switching it on.

So it appears merely the threat of me turning up and delving into its innards (software configuration or physically with a screwdriver) scares these technological devices into working properly again.

I must be a divine being or something, so icon :)

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Re: My reputation precedes me.

I have the same talent . I when users say "oh its working now" i say "yes , computers are scared of me".

I can often achieve the same effect over the phone without even having to give the pc a good glare in person.

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I had a female co-worker

who was stroppiness personified when she did not get her way (she was a friend of the director who has vaguely promised that her application administrator role could lead to greater things and she was impatient to get to those things). When I complained, my supervisor said she had a medical condition (of the female kind) that caused her to be so short, so could I please excuse her behaviour?

Next time she kicked off, I pulled out a tape dictaphone (it was the 90s) and switched it on. She clammed up immediately. I took the dictaphone over to my supervisor, gave it to him, and said "I've found the cure for what ails her, it's either EMF or accountability".

I'm not on linkedin with either of them.

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Deskside Support for the non-nerd

I worked in a newsroom and knew just enough about the technology to be the guy who dealt with the technicians who were called in to fix hardware issues. Quite often the problem was the user. There's a Yes\No box waiting on the status bar for a choice and they're frustrated because they can't type anything anywhere else, for example.

In that case I'd look at the tech solemnly, suggest that this one looked like another of those DEU errors. I'd move the user back from the PC, type a few things and eventually hit the "y" and the machine would work. "What's a DEU" the user might ask. We had some long fake name in our pocket to explain it but the acronym was really for "Defective End User."

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My daughter favors Fantasia and falls asleep during "The Rite of Spring."

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This may not exactly be fooling the user but......

I used to be the Network Manager in a large business full of knobhead managers.

When machines were “not working” it was often the fault of the knobhead who could not use the software and whoi chose not to learn properly. This type of person always blamed the machine or the software.

My technician used to be bullied/harassed by them constantly – especially if he could not fix “the problem” on the spot.

Even I found it difficult to deal with some of these knobheads because of their seniority in the business.

My technician and I developed a strategy to “get revenge” on the knobheads.

When a problem occurred the technician used to ring me and say either “There is a nug” which meant Non-User Generated. We used to do our best to fix the problem on the spot or ASAP. If on the other hand he said “There is an ug” (with a slight pause between the an and the ug). This meant it was User Generated. (Although the grammar was a bit off.) He only did this if the manager was being awkward and harassing him. In such cases we “confiscated” the manager's computer saying it would take a couple of days to fix. In such cases we simply left it on the shelf for a day or two.

The said manager would then have to scurry around colleagues for a day or two because his won computer was “hors-de-combat”.

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Thumb Up

a Dave taught me this one.

PBKC - Problem Between Keyboard and Chair.

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Re: a Dave taught me this one.

I think you mean PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. And there's also PICNIC: Problem In Chair Not In Computer.

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Re: a Dave taught me this one.

could also be a One D, Ten T error (1d10t)

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IJD

The Apollo DN660 workstation (washing-machine-sized beast with bit-sliced ECL emulation of a 68000 CPU) had a space on top of the card cage just the right size for keeping a pizza hot...

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