back to article User lubed PC with butter, because pressing a button didn't work

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday foray into a mailbag stuffed full of readers' recollections of being asked to fix things that should never have broken. This week, meet “Bill” who can't forget the time, about a decade ago, when someone from the marketing department “couldn't figure out how to eject a floppy disk …

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          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ah yes indeed.

            Oh dear. If posession/ownership of a briefcase wasn't enough, you only carried it to transport your lunch? No wonder us IT folk get called geeks! :-(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes indeed.

      "You should have better designed mice! These are clearly not fit for purpose! Why is IT so crap?!"

      Sadly I once worked for a company where I had overall responsibility for an enterprise software product. A client installation was to be carried out at a rather pleasant exotic location so the CEO decided that he would do the install "to impress the client". Unfortunately his knowledge of the product was about as good as that of, I imagine, most CEOs. He had also not troubled to understand a few things about localisation.

      The result was that after several days he came back and ranted at me that the product was "not fit for purpose," and proceeded to undermine me. So I did the only thing possible, which was to become a contractor, wait until there was an all hands to the pump crisis coinciding with the end of a contract period, and not renew my contract. It took a year, but revenge is a dish best served cold.

    2. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

      Re: Ah yes indeed.

      Conversely, I work for a gov agency and our IT department is truly hopeless. The length of time for requests to get attended to can be measured in weeks and not a single computer in our organisation (and there are at least 400 of them) is configured correctly. The worst was out graphic designer's machine. They were supposed to upgrade Windows to 64-bit version so the whole 8 gigs of RAM could be used and 64-bit Photoshop could be installed. Requested, begged, demanded but nothing. The machine, a quad core i7 should have run well but it was a performance dog because of misconfigurations. If something in my dept needs IT attention I do it myself because its faster and I know it will be done right.

      Not disparaging those IT folk who go above and beyond. I have utmost respect for them. Just saying that my particular one is as useful as the mammaries on a bull.

      1. John 110

        Re: Ah yes indeed.

        The NHS have standardised pay throughout. That means that you can't pay good IT staff extra to make them stay, so they keep getting lured away by the bright lights. I assum gov agencies are the same...

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Ah yes indeed.

          The NHS have standardised pay throughout. That means that you can't pay good IT staff extra to make them stay, so they keep getting lured away by the bright lights. I assum gov agencies are the same...

          Lured away by the bright lights, or driven away by the poor stress:payrate ratio?

          I've worked in some truly shitty jobs* but with great people, so the mess and what you were dealing with didn't really get to you, even when payrates weren't great. And I've worked short-term in a couple of jobs where the office politics were not ever going to be worth the money. I've seen places with quite decent paypackets, but the business quickly fails because of high staff-turnover.

          *One of my first jobs was helping out on a local farm after school. Some of it truly was disgusting and quite shitty in a very literal sense, but the other staff were great and some real bonuses as well - truly fresh milk that was in the cow only seconds ago (though I preferred it from the vat after it'd been chilled, especially on a summer's day) and meat so fresh that it'd been running around the paddock that day. Probably why I can't stand the floor sweepings that is "premium" supermarket meat.

          Icon - something like that might've been useful when cleaning out the pig pens.. Now that is a shitty job!

    3. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes indeed.

      "You should have better designed mice! These are clearly not fit for purpose! Why is IT so crap?!"

      How about a mouse with a self-righting mechanism based on Robot Wars?

      If it also includes a miniature circular saw and randomly removes ministers' fingers, so much the better.

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    context of the word "lubed" I have not encountered before...

    and I saw I marketing department try to get away with much the same thing I a firm I worked for where a great deal of "foreign matter" was found inside a PC.

    Saved by an IT director that was equally robust with the description of the matter, and how IT did not have the budget to possess it...

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    For some reason I'm reminded of a French film critic's review of Last Tango in Paris:

    C'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas le beurre

    1. Doc Ock

      Upvoted, thought exactly the same when I read the headline.

      Not a use they promote in the Lurpak or Anchor adverts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Not a use they promote in the Lurpak or Anchor adverts."

        A Clover butter family TV advert from 1989 used the "Roll Me Over In The Clover" song - only slightly modified.

        IIRC We used to sing that at the Boy Scout campfires back in the 1950/60s.

        Here are the words for anyone who doesn't know them. This version is close to the one I learned - there have been many variations from subtle to explicit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >Not a use they promote in the Lurpak or Anchor adverts.

        An advertising slogan that never made it........

        Butt her with Butter.

      3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Upvoted, thought exactly the same when I read the headline.

        I regret to say I first read the headline as "Uber lubes PC..." and I'd better say no more as it might be libellous.

  4. wolfetone Silver badge
    Pint

    Well, we could've forgiven her for that faux pas if it weren't for the fact she thought/thinks Excel is an appropriate tool to design with and that she's just a general jackass.

    To Bill, my glass of lager is raised to you good sir.

    To the idiot you had to deal with: Get Fucked.

    1. ridley

      Well it is obviously the tool of choice to some artists.

      http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2013/05/28/tatsuo-horiuchi-excel-spreadsheet-artist/

      1. BongoJoe

        I could easily imagine Hockney arting in Excel.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "I could easily imagine Hockney arting in Excel."

          That might be an improvement over finger-painting on an iPad.

          1. wolfetone Silver badge

            Yeah but he wouldn't be as good as Andy Warhol using the paint bucket tool on an Amiga.

  5. herman Silver badge
    Windows

    I can understand that one can use Excel for marketing glossies. For organizing text into columns and keeping it aligned with a graph or two, it works much better than doing the same with MS Word. However, using Mac Numbers is much better. Using Mac Pages for this is hopeless, since graphics keep jumping around no matter how hard you try to lock them in place.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Agreed. For some things Excel is better than Word.

      It all depends on what kind of document you want to create.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        re: Excel is perfect for graphics

        Just make a sheet 1024 cells wide by 768 high, go full screen

        and then set the background colour of each cell to make the picture you want

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: re: Excel is perfect for graphics

          Some long long time ago as I was bored on my job I did a BMP to Excel and a JPG pixel to Excel cell mapper just for fun

          And, best of all, it wasn't completely pointless, as I got to know the innards of JPG compression.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: BMP to Excel

            Ooh. Can I have?

            Since Excel stopped including a data-to maps tool, I craved a map consisting of a thousand Excel cells linked to the geographically correct data, and colour coded according to cell value - that's fairly versatile, so e.g. you could represent Glasgow with a Glasgow-shaped area of cells that would all be coloured magenta by setting an appropriate input number (it's a while since I programmed my Spectrum but I think magenta may have been 3). But I didn't actually make it, because that seemed quite tedious.

      2. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Nah, the like of scribus or reportlab are for financial calculation and the occasional graph. MSPaint is for database administration, and I generally find Firefox is pretty good at molecular structure modelling...

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      I blame the existence of such "contortionists" on the stubborn insistence of every office suite ever that layout in any way, shape or form is Not Their Concern (insert imaginary middle finger here).

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      The last time I used MS Word ...

      ... the layout changed depending on the selected printer driver.

      For the last decade or so I have been using reportlab. Bye bye WYS is POM dependent.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "since graphics keep jumping around no matter how hard you try to lock them in place."

      Bring back Aldus Pagemaker!!!

  6. 's water music Silver badge

    Butter lube?

    I would suspect that the story about a stuck disk was simply a face saving ruse to cover up the real story

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Butter lube?

      That little intro makes me nervous of following your link....

  7. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Stef trying to have his way with a stick of butter? (who can catch the reference?)

    1. oddie

      reference...

      the old days of userfriendly? that takes me back...

    2. Chris King Silver badge
    3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      @ASAC, re: reference.

      As stated by the other commenters ahead of me, that's UserFriendly.

      *Waves*

      Yes it's me.

      *Grins*

    4. Kiwi Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I was wondering if someone else would comment..

      Found UF a couple of weeks back, don't recall seeing it before..Think it was in relation to an El Reg comment though might've been when I was looking for something in relation to something I was posting. Much thanks to whoever inspired me to find it.

      (PS is the author on El Reg? Couple of posters make me wonder, and that at least one UF cartoon refers to El Reg...)

  8. Allonymous Coward

    "Designing marketing materials"

    OK, I think I see the problem here.

  9. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    Acahol in the Caculator, to kill the stench of tom cat piss

    Some years back, my mother worked at a major manufacturer of electronic calculators, when such things were a new 'thing'. OK this is secondhand, but the gist: A customer apparently had a tom cat piss all over his 'Caculator', and he couldn't get the smell out. So he basically dumped a bottle of 'Acahol' all over it. Apparently this caused it to malfunction, so he took it apart and tried to dry it off [possibly with a hair dryer]. He wrote a letter to the company asking advice for getting his 'Caculator' to work again. I guess that's understandable, since they were as expensive as smart phones back then.

    The letter was subsequently copied and circulated. Interoffice humor. Who knew?

    [And in this day and age, it might inspire another youtube video by Craig Turner]

  10. SotarrTheWizard
    Mushroom

    Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

    . . .I had the misfortune of working at the Pentagon's Helldesk for the Air Force.

    And I actually got a "cupholder" call: a 3-star (fighter pilot, of course) had called in to report that his "cupholder" had cracked.

    Yep. He was using the CD-ROM tray for his coffee cup.

    I get there, diagnose the problem ("What, you can't glue it back together ?? How about replacing the tray ?"), call it in to order a new CD drive. Mind you, at the time, a CD Drive was a several hundred dollar piece of gear. And I mark it down as Customer Misuse of Equipment, which meant he PERSONALLY got the bill for parts and labor, about 400 bucks.

    General blows a gasket, demands I retract the report. General ALSO had signed a waiver for training on the box, accepting, under his signature, personal liability to all damage to the computer beyond normal wear and tear. Never got to the end of the matter, as I left for a better job shortly thereafter. . .

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

      The "cupholder" issue is one of the very few where I have sympathy for the end user. It really is quite difficult for normal people - i.e. those outside the industry - to know what a computer should or should not be able to do. It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions.

      iPhones are famously designed to be usable by the nontechnical, and don't have removable storage. I liked Sony phones but I can see that fiddling with the SIM tray and ensuring that the cap seals are properly engaged after replacing the micro-SD card is not something that the general public will want to engage with. This is why one of my relatives, who works in IT, buys Galaxy Notes (but not the catching fire one) but supplies their other half, a lawyer, with an iPhone.

      In this case, I would want to to bill the misused CD to the training department, for failure to teach the general what the bits of a computer did. The same with the example in TFA. No issue of new equipment without training on features should be a rule.

      And an Air Force should know this, after all they don't normally hand a pilot a new aircraft and say "there you are, apparently it's all intuitive."

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it? Back in the 90s, that was everywhere.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it?

          Yes, it does, but, to save money, they stopped doing it in ink, and now, it's just raised plastic, same color as the body of the tray. So when working on a strange machine, you need to shine a light on the drive, at just the right angle, to see if it's a CD, CDRW, DVD, DVD+/-/R or Bluray...and it's almost never the kind you need.

          PITA

        2. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it? Back in the 90s, that was everywhere.

          Something from Douglas Adams springs to mind. Black writing on black background and so on...

          (IOW, many CD/DVD trays have the logos just molded into the plastic rather than painted/silkscreened on)

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        "In this case, I would want to to bill the misused CD to the training department, for failure to teach the general what the bits of a computer did."

        On the whole I agree with you but maybe you missed the fact that the general had signed a waiver.

        It's difficult if not impossible to deal with idiocy that's risen to the higher levels of an organisation. After all these are the people who should be exercising wisdom and laying down rules for the rest of the organisation. The first step of this should be understanding why those rules are needed and why they apply to themselves* as much as everyone else.

        *It's doubly important that they follow their own rules. They need to set an example.

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          "The first step of this should be understanding why those rules are needed and why they apply to themselves* as much as everyone else."

          I agree with your post - fair comment on mine - except for one thing. It is the job of people at the top of the organisation to know when to break the rules, or to introduce new ones. That's what they are paid for. As a one time technical director, it was part of my job to assess the risk of doing something outside the system and decide whether or not to go ahead. Otherwise, what do you need senior management for?

          But that assumes you are equipped to know what the rules are and why they exist. Under what circumstances would you enter a clean room (or tell someone else to) without full kit? Would you go ahead with a potentially very profitable contract which involves untried new technology? Would you buy a new machine from untried vendor A who can deliver in 3 months or vendor B who is fully certified but will take a year? Will you break the pay scale to retain a scientist who may be on the verge of a breakthrough but may not?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          "It's difficult if not impossible to deal with idiocy that's risen to the higher levels of an organisation."

          The Peter Principle. "People rise to their level of incompetence".

          Then sometimes they get promoted further to get them out of the way. At a certain magic level they merely enter the pool that circulates round businesses. In each case they leave with a golden handshake - only to be immediately snapped up by another company where they introduce their pet business fad that has failed so many times before.

      3. /dev/null

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        I thought the padding on Cray-1s and X-MPs was there because the technicians working on the rat's nest of wiring inside the chassis had to kneel on them?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions.

        I was in high school when Crays were a thing, and never seen one personally, but yes, I always assumed that was seating.

        I never could figure out why though you'd want people to sit on your multimillion dollar supercomputer.

      5. swm Bronze badge

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        "It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions."

        I recall that Crays actually specified "seats 12".

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: It's got a CD player

      If the user doesn't know that it's for CDs or CD-ROMs then he probably doesn't need it to work as a disc player. So you could just tape the thing back together, add in a drip catching mat. Upgrade the device to a working CD drive if it's actually needed. And don't let the guy use anyone else's computer.

      Or: call it a "music player", which it is. Then leave the unlucky user to face the music.

      And why do they have a CD player or cup holder in a fighter plane anyway? Well - I suppose you really don't want your drink to spill in there. A sippy cup may be best.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Cup holders"

    Great fun when the machine reboots, tray retracts and coffee goes into free-fall...

  12. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Facepalm

    abuse Excel especially creatively

    The most staggering abuse I ever witnessed was using it for just running text. Sentences spilled over several cells, the next cell started just when the previous looked full on the individual display.

    No points for creativity, though.

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