back to article Fighter pilot shot down laptops with a flick of his copper-plated wrist

Why hello there readers! It's Friday and that means it's time for another edition of On-Call, our weekly column in which your peers take centre stage by sharing tales of jobs gone wrong. This week, meet “Len” who tells us he used to work for Dell and was once summoned “to the middle of nowhere in Cumbria.” Perhaps Len could …

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Favorite so far

Sociopathic, vindictive turd of a manager went on a rampage to try to fire anyone who left their single sign-on token unattended. 'Unattended' here is literally defined as more than a half meter from your fingertips...for this particular fire drill you are in deep kimchi if you turn away from the card reader without pulling it

Same gal kept leaving hers in her machine and going to 'lunch' with a senior manager.

Knowing that the two of them would be going at it hammer and tongs for at least the two minutes a VP can achieve and sustain... we disassembled the smart card reader and co formal coated the contacts with clear nail polish. Only thing available on short notice. Kept her from doing anything 'productive' for DAYS

IT guy broke into a big smile when he figured out the mod and we had a helluva laugh over it... his comment? "Always wear protection!"

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"ejection tie from Martin-Baker"

I'm imagining this as a fantastic bit of marketing - tie should say "Martin-Baker worked for me".

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Re: "ejection tie from Martin-Baker"

To any one who needs to know - it does. If you don't need to know, you won't be making purchasing decisions on M-B products anytome soon.

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Anonymous Coward

Static phone

I had an interesting problem with Centrix phones from C&W.

The whole thing was a bit of a disaster with loads of problems, many of which were caused by the "Systems Architect" who couldn't understand why we wanted to customize the phone soft keys layout, and ended up getting thrown off site...

Anyway...

We had one extension that would constantly drop calls. Changed cables, changed sockets, changed phones numerous times still the same problem.

I ended up moving to a different office, but kept up with the details.. turns out it was a chair! the chair was causing a static charge and when sitting down or standing up the charge went through the phone cutting off the call.

They proved the device's sensitivity to static my testing it in a false teeth factory (apparently all the plastic made for a large static environment)

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Between leaving school and getting a proper job, I worked for a while as a salesman and van-driver for a local TV and radio retailer. Colour TV had just come out, and a wealthy customer bought a very expensive, top of the range set. For the first week, he was delighted. Then the set went really weird, and a service engineer had to be called. He carefully de-gaussed the tube (remember when we had to do that?) and spent a few happy hours re-doing all the purity and convergence from scratch!

A week later the same thing happened. And the following week! Eventually the service man went to the house early on the morning the fault was due to manifest itself. The set was fine. He watched it for a couple of hours, and was just about to leave when the housekeeper came in with an ancient Hoover. She pushed it under the TV, and the picture went all psychedelic again! The motor had such a powerful magnetic field, that it completely screwed up the tube, beyond the repair of the internal de-gaussing coils!

Another couple of hours re-aligning the set, followed by some friendly advice to the housekeeper, and the problem was solved.....!

--

Pete

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Orv
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Anyone remember the Apple Imagewriter dot matrix printers? They often stopped working after someone dropped the plastic cover. Turns out there was an interlock to keep you from getting your fingers jammed in the printhead mechanism -- it consisted of a magnet on the cover and a reed switch on the printer. Drop the cover, magnet pops off and skitters off under the teacher's desk, now the printer thinks the cover is off even when it's on.

I also ran into the laptop sleep problem once, but it was because I'd stacked two laptops, and the magnet from one was triggering the other.

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You want placebos? Talk to a hi-fi nut

If you can get past the maze of oxygen free, 24karat gold speaker wire and ludicrously expensive pre-warmed glass valve amplifiers, that is. And all to listen to old prog rock LPs that were recorded in a field by four guys who could barely hear over the narcotics buzz.

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Re: You want placebos? Talk to a hi-fi nut

Duh, everybody knows that a CD player sounds better when you put a brick on top of it. Mind you, the brick has to be burnt at the proper temperature at new moon, and from the right sort of clay out of a quarry touching a layline, and has to be angled just so.

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Linux

Back in the day

I used to do desktop support and had to go visit one of our extremely less than technical users. We supported damn near everything that had a wire in it too.

On this particular day she was complaining about a hum in her telephone headset. This was was a hard wired Plantronics to an Avaya IP phone. The hum was only in the headset. Not the handset or speaker phone. She would say the hum was there, take the headset off and hand it to me and I couldn't hear anything.

Finally, I noticed that she had one of those warming pads that you put in the chair. I had her stand up and she immediately said the hum was gone. I unplugged the pad (it was strapped to the chair and I didn't want to fuck with it) and she confirmed the hum was gone.

She got a wireless headset that after that.

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Not long ago I had a user who complained her laptop's trackpad would behave erratically, but not all the time. If she had explained not all the time meant "only in my office" we wouldn't have replaced her laptop before discovering that the issue was caused by her desk phone. I even took the laptop back to my office to test and discovered nothing.

Phone plugs into Ethernet wall socket, laptop was plugged into pass-through port on phone. When plugged in to the Ethernet, the trackpad behaved strangely. I eventually worked out that it was the (ancient) phone causing interference. Swapped the phone and the problem disappeared.

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Weirdest problem I've ever heard was with a printer switch. A college of men was dispatch. to fix a printer that would not turn on. This was an old ball printer made by some french company. He called me for help as a fresh set of eyes. The logic board was replaced, power supply and switch replace. I finally deiced to take the entire printer apart to trace wires. What did I find? The switch was wired to a relay that was powered by a 9volt battery. The battery had died. That's some deep BOFH at work there. Kind of like the arcade machines that held the game code in ram and when the on board battery died the machine was bricked.

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Anonymous Coward

You want a fun one here is one. A co worker of mine was working on a Dell computer. Opening up and exploded captors and burn mark on the mother board. He wrote it up like this ,upon visual inspection the caps were bad know problem replacement board needed as making does not power on. Dell wrote back what test did you run to determine that the board was not functioning as designed?

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Anonymous Coward

A young acquaintance had a second-hand HP PC that failed - so it was sent to me by courier. The capacitors were bulging. Took a while to source a second-hand motherboard - sent him the working machine. A year later it came back again with the same problem. This time I sent him a rebuild with more modern hardware - and questioned him about what could cause a possible overheating problem

It transpired that they lived in an area where people kept valuables out of sight. He had put the PC in a cupboard - with the door open only just enough for the leads when it was being used.

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Anonymous Coward

Used to support expensive video compression boards, which came with test software. Did things like memory test, I/O address check etc etc.

Used to run the diagnostic software and email the makers with the results for RMAing faulty boards. Apparently they don't except that as a valid fault description.

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I had a client fry three HDD that way. Then I had another client that killed her computer by being a chain smoker and putting it in a cabinet. She was pissed when I told her warranty was void. Then I had a client that thought I was an idiot. I went out five times to replace a faulty HDD. Thing is they kept on giving me refurbished HDD. Oh the equally fun part about replacing a customers HDD is when they ask about their data. All those missing photos and emails.

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Z80

For some problems you have to be there

I once got asked to go and take a look at why a certain PC was absolutely hammering one of the MySQL servers. I wandered over to the building where it was located, pondering the possibility of some kind of malware situation on the way, and find there's nobody around when I get there. What I do find is an unlocked PC with a browser open on a web application used for booking time on shared lab equipment that I'd configured coincidentally so I knew it used a MySQL database. I also noticed a pile of journals and folders behind the keyboard have slumped onto some of the keys, including F5...

I shoved the papers clear of the keyboard and reported back to the 3rd line guys. "Cause was...environmental" I said and left them wondering for a bit...

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New chip

I did diagnostic software for a militarized microcomputer. It was a back-plane design. One day, I got a work order: computers with the latest rev of the timing card keep crashing. So, set up a duplicate system and, yes, it failed diagnostics. Put a card extender into the back-plane so we can put probes on the new timing card. Everything worked fine. Rats.

It took two of us a week with a logic analyser. The original microcode violated some of the rules, and did a read/modify/write in a single cycle. Not supposed to do that but it worked and it saved a single microcode instruction. Turns out, it worked because one of the chips on the timing card was slow enough internally that certain outputs stayed high long enough for the operation to complete. But the latest rev used a new revision of the chip. While it met the same specs, internally it was faster, so some of the outputs dropped faster than they used to, and the microcode cratered.

Mucho satisfaction finding and fixing that bug.

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The Middle of Nowhere is not in Cumbria

Its in Australia. I've been there. See that bit on the map? Bit to the west... yeah 'bout there. They say that if you climb a tree you see the edge of the world. I couldn't find a tree.

Cumbria, on the other hand, is walking distance to Civilisation(tm) and, as I remember anyway, the countryside is sort of soft and cuddly.

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Re: The Middle of Nowhere is not in Cumbria

And nothing there wants to kill you. Any country where the spiders can carry a mouse up a refrigerator is one you want to think twice about.

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Re: The Middle of Nowhere is not in Cumbria

I'd recommend going up there in the depth of winter, or when there's one of those Desmond thingies about.

Use to live an hour from the Lakes and when its feeling moody its fucking dangerous! Use to get pissed in Glenridding then up Catstycam and up to Helvelyn. I wouldnt dare do that sober on a calm day now!

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About 17 years ago, I worked at a small computer shop. We got a customer from the neighborhood that repeatedly brought in a computer, claiming it would randomly just reboot.

3 or 4 times I was sitting for hours at the PC on our work bench, without even the slightest such issue. Then the customer himself sat on a Saturday afternoon for a few hours in our store at the workbench, likewise without a single reboot or shutdown, which he had claimed he wouldn't believe me that it never happened during my testing. So we scheduled me to visit him on Monday late afternoon, just a couple of blocks away.

Sitting in his home office, it did indeed happen, about once every 30 minutes. Asking him if he had ever noticed that the light where briefly flickering when the PC rebooted, he mentioned that this would be a very recent add-on to the house, with a basement underneath (unusual for SoCal) and all new electrical wiring, with a brand new electrical panel. At that moment, his wife walked in the room and the small stairs down into the basement. When she opened the door, I could hear a large freezer kicking in and immediately the lights were flickering and the PC rebooted. Turned out that while they planned nicely for a separate circuit for the freezer and for the rest of the extension, because they changed their mind about how to position the freezer in the basement for easy access, the folks who actually delivered the box had plugged it into an outlet on the wrong circuit, as the power cord of the freezer didn't reach to the intended dedicated outlet...

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The vacuum cleaner done it.

Early 1970s, testing a new mainframe for ICL. Intermittent power-offs - nothing new there except they always seemed to occur at around 6 o'clock at night (this was before we had 18:00). I noticed that it was when the cleaner person moved the sucky machine next to the CPU cabinet. Tests ensued, and sure enough, that was the cause.

For several years thereafter we had to perform a standard vacuum cleaner test on every new machine.

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A strange ironic copper bracelet....

It says here that copper, while an excellent conductor of electricity, is not in the least bit magnetic.

One suspects that any relief the ex-pilot got was beyond placebo, because there was very little copper in his bracelet to give him the effect. Or was it the iron? If he had been told that iron was even better, would he have obtained even more relief?

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