back to article What do you MEAN, 'Click on the thing which looks like a Mondrian?'

A minicab driver is cross with me. As we swing around the tidy little streets of 60s-built suburbia, none of which look familiar, he fixes me in his rear-view mirror and snarls: “Don’t you know where you live?” Yes I do, I reply in calming tones, adding – less helpfully – it’s you who doesn’t know where I live. If I’m guilty …

  1. Phil W

    I prefer your description Alistair, it's significantly more accurate. The icon (assuming your depiction is accurate) looks very little like tetris, it is totally lacking T and L shapes.

    These days though many decent computer based video conferencing systems allow you to share screen content so surely showing them would be easier.

  2. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Call me a cab . . .

    "These days, they are able to support their specialist lack of direction and spatial awareness with the help of a GPS. But they didn’t in the mid-1990s."

    These days they are far, far more accurate when getting lost.

    Huge road signs are invisible, obvious cul-de-sacs are meant to be attacked at full speed.

    When lost -- do not pull over to the side but stop immediately where you are and swear at the Sat Nav.

    U-Turns MUST be done without hesitiation or indication, 85 point turns are preferred.

    No, I don't use them -- they are just another road hazard to be negotiated whether driving, cycling or even walking (it is imperative to pull up on as much pavement as possible).

    Giving brainless fools tech kit only makes them more efficient brainless fools.

    1. Doctor_Wibble

      Re: Call me a cab . . .

      > 85 point turns are preferred.

      I remember when having driving lessons I was told it was a "turn in the road" not a "three point turn" and I have always wondered if that was just an official naming thing or if it was because there's never enough space any more due to all the parked cars, or whether it's because even back then we were already all so completely useless that doing it in three was just one impossible dream too many...

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Call me a cab . . .

        There was, and is, no such thing as a 3 point turn.

        It's to turn "using forward and reverse gears" and the main testing point, now and 40 years ago was not to hit anything or anyone ( including the kerb).

        1. Doctor_Wibble
          Headmaster

          Re: Call me a cab . . .

          > There was, and is, no such thing as a 3 point turn.

          Of course, that's why the expression clearly never existed and nobody ever referred to anything by that name? Unless you missed the word "officially"?

          And no, I have no idea if that counts as sarcasm or pedantry or pedantic sarcasm or sarcastic pedantry...

          1. PhilipN Silver badge

            How many points?

            Amen to that (as they say in Nashville).

            So if a supertanker (hopefully) out at sea turns round only by means of a six-point turn, what is it if it is not a six-point turn?

            1. DocJames
              Pirate

              Re: How many points?

              I hope that a supertanker, or indeed any ship, does not turn using 3-, 6- or any point turns. It should turn in a smooth arc. If it has to do a U turn, something has gone very wrong with the world (or the minicab driver was inadvertently made the captain and was using the GPS)

              Icon - well, a U turn might be acceptable in this setting

              1. aureanus

                Re: How many points?

                considering on a ship a point is a compass point so there are 32 points to a 360 degree circle. for a supertanker to do a 3 point turn it would do a gentle course correction of 33.75 degrees.

                if it was wanting to do a 180 turn it would be a 16 point turn

            2. JulieM Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: How many points?

              If it took an even number of points to complete the turn, surely you would end up reversing out of it?

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Call me a cab . . .

            Whatever

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Call me a cab . . .

        It's called a "turn in the road" because you are not penalised for needing 5, 7 or 85 points rather than three. Mind you, if you need 85 then you might be penalised for "failing to make reasonable progress".

      3. joeW

        Re: Call me a cab . . .

        Three point turns used to be a bit more difficult before ubiquity of power steering. My upper arms were more toned then too.

        1. Pookietoo

          Re: before ubiquity of power steering

          I was very proficient at handbrake turns. I loved my Minis. :-)

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Call me a cab . . .

      Or "at the roundabout, take the first exit", which happens to be a farm track that isn't on the Satnav map. OK, you might notice something wrong there very quickly. How about when it asks you to take the second exit, which is a plausible road, but it actually means the third exit, because the farm track isn't on the map.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Call me a cab . . .

        >> Or "at the roundabout, take the first exit", which happens to be a farm track

        My Dad used to do this. As soon as the GPS told him to turn left, he'd immediately haul on the steering wheel and shoot up someone's front drive.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £££s

    They usually want more money for taking you longer and further than you needed too which adds further to the squalid air.

    I recall once taking a black cab (outside the centre) who merely managed to get us one stop on the DLR closer before giving up and charging £5 for the prviledge, then getting cranky when we asked why we should pay for his inability to take us where we actually wanted to go.

    Even before they all had sat-navs they used to have this thing called A-Z. Don't think this chump had heard of it though.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: £££s

      My opinion of The Knowledge was not encouraged on arrival in London by aeroplane early on a wet Spring Sunday in '93. Six of us were crammed into a black cab from Heathrow bound for a B&B in a side street in North Finchley. It seems the Knowledge only extends to main roads beyond the North Circular and this individual had to resort to his A to Z to find the place.

      Later on I would see them on their mopeds with clipboard on the handlebars training for it. But only along the main road to Burnt Oak. I never saw one go down any of the actual residential streets where people might want to go. If you are a visitor who doesn't know the area, you are not going to be much help, are you? Which is why you engage a supposed professional guide . . .

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: £££s

        >> black cab from Heathrow bound for a B&B in a side street in North Finchley.

        Be reasonable. You honestly expect someone to have memorised every street name, location and directions to get there within the entire Greater London area?

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: £££s

          If you can afford the Black Cab fare from Heathrow to Finchley then you should be able to afford more than a mere B&B.

          Nice logic but a flawed example.

          Black Cabs are a real rip off. £25.00 from T5 to Stockley Park with extra for the second bag. Going the other way with a local mini-cab was £11.00.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: £££s

            No no no.

            Black cabs are a specialised service. Mostly for travel round the central city, though they do have a suburban knowledge subset. You can hail one in the street to get you where you need to know, with metered charges.

            Cabs are ruinously expensive to buy and run, with strict maintenance rules, all sorts of requirements and a cabbie who has advanced driving and done the knowledge and can get you the quickest way to where you need to be. (And despite the myths, they do).

            There are no rich cabbies, though if they work hard they can make a decent living.

            Licensed mini-cabs can be pretty decent but there is no such guarantee.

            Charging is what they can get you to to pay - which varies wildly.

            And you have no idea what condition the vehicle is in unless it happens to have just come from its MOT. Standards of driving vary wildly too.

            I've used mostly mini-cabs around home ( to the airport , bringing friends and family home from stations, hospitals and the like) and black cabs for work, to get me between meetings on a tight schedule, for example.

            It depends what you need.

      2. Clive Galway

        Re: £££s

        The mind truly boggles. Either you are a complete moron or you are trolling. Probably you are American and you expect everyone to know where every road is because back home they are all numbered.

        Go look at the A-Z of London, and then ask yourself "If I memorized the entire lot, how long would it take me and how much would I expect to earn per hour for driving people around".

        > It seems the Knowledge only extends to main roads beyond the North Circular and this individual had to resort to his A to Z to find the place.

        Go look at what the knowledge is: http://www.the-london-taxi.com/london_taxi_knowledge

        It's about ROUTES from one area to another - ie how to get around london, not about memorizing the entire map of london. It is also about MAJOR landmarks (Embassies, restaurants, hotels etc) not some poxy B&B in a back street.

        > If you are a visitor who doesn't know the area, you are not going to be much help, are you? Which is why you engage a supposed professional guide

        Did he get you there?

        Presumably he got you from the airport to the general area by memory alone, then had to look up exactly where the side street was.

    2. BongoJoe
      Paris Hilton

      Re: £££s

      My chum and I were once thrown out of a Paris taxi for asking "...and why did they build the Arc de Triumphe?"

      icon because...

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: £££s

        You can usually get slung out of a taxi quickly and with no charge for saying "Oh, I don't feel well, I think I'm going to throw up"

        1. Alistair Dabbs

          Re: £££s

          >> I think I'm going to throw up

          I once felt unwell during a sushi-and-saki party, and the restaurant staff skilfully smuggled me out a back door and into a black cab. When I said I was feeling sick, he put his foot down and got me home in 20 mins instead of the customary 60.

        2. Stuart21551

          Re: £££s

          I think that is what my driver was trying to say to me - had I been able to understand him. He had a horrible cough, near a death rattle - to avoid catching it I was trying to breath 'through my derierre' to put it politely.

          Laid him on the back seat, jumped in the drivers & got myself home. He parked under a tree for a few hours, then was gone -

          And I tipped him.

  4. Phuq Witt
    Facepalm

    You Think You've Got It Bad?

    Try providing IT support by phone to my mother.

    * Buttons, menus, icons, tabs, windows, title-bars, etc. etc are all interchangeably referred to as "The Thing"

    * The acts of clicking-on, clicking-off, double-clicking, opening, closing, scrolling, maximising, minimising, launching, quitting, booting, rebooting, selecting, deselecting and so forth are equally comprehensively covered by "Go Into" or "Go Out Of"

    * All software is referred to by either the picture on its icon, the manufacturer, or one of its functions, but never by the actual name of the application. The web browser may be identified by any content on any page it is capable of displaying.

    * Dialogues are dismissed by clicking on either 'OK' or 'Cancel' at random and always without actually reading the alert message.

    * Other domestic appliances are often thrown unexpectedly into the mix, for no sane reason.

    So, each troubleshooting session starts with a ten to twenty minute Q&A session, just to identify what particular problem lies beneath:

    "When I went into Apple, the pictures thing after the thing that comes up said something, so I went out of it and now Libre won't let me turn the spin drier off —and if I go into Poldark, there's a thing that keeps saying something and then when I go out of it it won't let me go into the other thing any more! "

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      Add to which they progress through several screens without telling you - then wonder why they can't find the thing you expect to be there.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      Sounds a reasonable description to me.

    3. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      All software should have a spin dryer and a Poldark.

      It should definitely be a thing.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      Install remote desktop viewing and control software then you can see and steer to success. Teamviewer is very good and free.

      1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

        RE: "Teamviewer is very good and free."

        Yes it is very good. You still have to get them to keep their sticky fingers off the mouse and keyboard while you're doing stuff. Telling them "I'm now electrifying the mouse and keys" only pauses them for a few moments. "I can see you're dressed interestingly today" often works better as they scurry off to enrobe.

    5. DaDoc

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      Ok, so you probably need to update your AOL CD to CompuServe, but you'll need a new TV with that.

    6. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      I'll add to the chorus of "amens"... My father-in-law at age 80 got his first computer. I had to learn a whole new language to support him. For example, never say "click on...", it was "poke it with the mouse".

      1. Stuart21551

        Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

        In Chinese, the @ sign is called 'hsiao lausu' - 'small mouse' -

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      /quote

      * Dialogues are dismissed by clicking on either 'OK' or 'Cancel' at random and always without actually reading the alert message.

      /quote

      I think you'll find that part of the problem is that the relative positions of the CANCEL and OK, which should be set in stone, aren't.

    8. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      "Try providing IT support by phone to my mother."

      There's a simple way of dealing with that - don't do it.

    9. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      It could be worse. Does she interrupt halfway through any question intended to clarify the situation, either blaming you for not having already solved it, complaining you are being too finicky, or shouting, "Stop shouting at me, I just want to get my work done!"?

      1. Phuq Witt
        Facepalm

        Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

        "...Does she interrupt halfway through any question intended to clarify the situation, either blaming you for not having already solved it, complaining you are being too finicky, or shouting, "Stop shouting at me, I just want to get my work done!"?..."

        Not quite. She tends to wait until about 30 minutes in to the 'surgery', when I'm plucking the last strand of hair from my bleeding scalp and gritting the last of my teeth into talcum powder –with her computer teetering in a partially-configured and barely usable state, before saying "Och. It doesn't matter. We can do it some other time. I need to nip out to the shops"

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

          "Och. It doesn't matter..." That sounds sooo familiar. Have an upvote, and a beer.

    10. mykl

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      um... anyone willing to comment on distance support for "wife" in response to this?

    11. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

      > Try providing IT support by phone to my mother.

      I'm struggling to type now - just the thought causes a nervous twitch.

      My Mum's favourite is to throw into a conversation that "A message came up", what does it mean ? No she didn't make any note of what it said, no it's not still on the screen.

      But otherwise, "I clicked something, a message came up" (where neither the "something" clicked, nor the message is either specified or can be remembered) is a fairly common description of the fault - which usually cannot be reproduced.

      But +1 for remote control software. Being a Mac, I just use the built in Screen Sharing - which I can do remotely via an SSH tunnel to my server there.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GPS

    Ordered a mini-cab to take me to the "High Street" in a village a few miles away. A couple of minutes later he pulled up in our own "High Street" and asked where I wanted to be dropped. Explained the destination again. He then proceeded to drive erratically while using his smart phone to try to identify where the village was. Luckily I had a piece of paper with the post code - which he then entered into his satnav while still driving erratically.

    Going along a minor country road there was a right-angle turn. Following his GPS the driver continued straight ahead - onto a wood's muddy track whose ever-deceasing width and potholes forced him to a snail's pace. Eventually we exited the wood to rejoin the road we had left several minutes earlier. The road had merely made a second right-angle turn as it followed an ancient boundary round the square-shaped wood.

  6. Velv Silver badge
    FAIL

    The Knowledge

    The Knowledge has gone if my experiences of London this May are anything to go by. Four hailed black cabs, three drivers who didn't have a clue where the destination was (hotel, restaurant), and wanted the postcode (which we didn't have to hand).

    Three of the drivers were of foreign extraction and one Londoner, but crazily the Londoner was the worst not even getting the area right to start with. The Sikh driver was the only one who gave any confidence of the current black cab service.

    Tip: if you want to go anywhere in a taxi then know the postcode of your destination (and not just in London)

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Trollface

    Never mind

    Uber to the rescue, with its fleet of highly-trained employees entrepreneurs mugs.

  8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    That's (some of) the reasons why minicabs were made illegal outside London in 1976, and - bizzarely, people seem to have not noticed this - made illegal in London in 1999, and Private Hire licensing introduced. If that driver had come to me for a Private Hire license I'd have kicked him out of the licensing office so hard he wouldn't have needed to drive home.

  9. Dr_N Silver badge

    It's a Floorplanning Button

    Obviously.

  10. Novex
    Coat

    Pedantry

    "...For younger trainees, he plans to use terms from Mindcraft..."

    I didn't know younger trainees were into psychology and telekinesis...

    Coat please...

  11. keithpeter
    Coat

    Piet

    Piet is an interesting toy programming language. The 'code' is coloured pixels in a png. There are direction and colour change based syntactical rules. I have a prime factor program as my wallpaper on t'other computer.

    Radiocars: the secret is become a regular. In Brum its seven sevens, a nod, and home after teaching evening class in 10mins.

    Off out for the veg off the market now. The bus will do for that.

  12. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Explain anything

    There has been, if my impression is right, a growing trend for people to not listen to or read explanations properly. Rather just to respond to key words, or a main concept.

    So that if you write or say, maybe something like, The ( device name ) is faulty so that the timer won't start unless you reset it by turning it off at the mains"

    You are likely to be asked to check the fuse.

    And woe betide you if you give an example.

    Like,"The thermostat dial is loose, so that it doesn't set the correct temperature. Yesterday it was set to 20 degrees and the room went up to almost 30".

    Because you'll get, "I see; the room is too warm. I will send you instructions to set the thermostat".

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Explain anything

      That is secondary to the modern thing where everyone is doing the jobs of three and has no time to read things properly so they skim looking for keywords and respond robotically. That this means you and I have to make them more frazzled by sending more emails, including ones that insist that all the necessary information has been sent (included below).

      A related problem is that customer interface operatives are often not technically competent or educated. So when you or I seeking to be precise and helpful use technical terms it just confuses them. I remember ringing the help desk of the university IT dept 'the DNS is not resolving' I told the guy on the other end. 'What?' was the response. They obviously hadn't got up to that bit in that student's course and he wasn't curious enough about it to have learnt it otherwise. And I was merely a technically conversant scientist trying to use the net to do my job and being frustrated.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Explain anything

        A gem from some years ago: a misconfiguration at my ISP sent everybody's DNS requests to my allocated IP address. My poor little Linux box damn near ripped the bearings out of its disc drive...

        Called tech support: "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" followed by the traditional "Can you go to the device manager?" (No, it's a Linux box, and I've just told you the problem is at your end. Can we have second level support now please?)

        Still took them a week to fix.

        1. JulieM Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Explain anything

          You were getting all those DNS requests coming into your Linux machine, and you didn't even think of setting up a doctored BIND installation to send them all to the wrong sites?

          Or even tried to extort money out of people for not mentioning out loud which websites they had been visiting?

    2. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: Explain anything

      Sometimes, I have found that by repeating an error message verbatim, I can get the user to understand it. The same words that were on their screen only seem to make sense to some people when uttered by a human being.

      - Try it again only this time, don't get rid of the box when it comes up. Now, what does the error message say?

      - It says, Could not connect to server. Check your username and password.

      - Ah. That means it couldn't connect to the server.

      - Oh, right! Do I need to go into the settings and change my password? I might have put the wrong one in.

      But the most important question, which you should always ask at the beginning of any support session, is:

      Has it ever worked properly?

      Before I learned that, I used to get led down all manner of blind alleys, investigating why something might have stopped working that had never worked in the first place, or vice-versa.

    3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Explain anything

      I learned long ago that to remote fault-find in the quickest time, *never* ask more than one question or issue more than one instruction at a time - and preferably use questions that have only two possible answers. Even then, do not assume that the answer was correct. It may require quite a few rounds if doing this via e-mail, but it is a lot faster than asking several questions or offering several suggestions in a single e-mail.

  13. Graham Marsden
    Boffin

    Click on the Save icon...

    ... Which one is that?

    The one that looks like a 3 1/2" floppy disk.

    ... What's one of those...?

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Click on the Save icon...

      At some point the yoof are going to wonder why on road signs cameras are shown as ancient bellows jobs, phones as old corded circular dial machines, trains are always steam engines and presumably old people will look antediluvian when instead of sticks they are equipped with mindcontrolled robotic exoskeletons.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Click on the Save icon...

      >> The one that looks like a 3 1/2" floppy disk.

      Some interface designers have tried to solve this problem (no-one under 30 knows what a floppy disk looks like) by changing the button to look a bit like the casing of a hard disk. This is worse because not only do even fewer people know what a hard disk looks like, a thin blank rectangle with a dot (to represent an LED) is practically unrecognisable as anything.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Click on the Save icon...

        Just click on the deformed Honda logo to save.

        More seriously, it has simply become the universal glyph that means "Save".

        The origin of the icon doesn't matter any more than where "?" came from.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

    Train station

    wooden wood

    feline cat

    etc

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

      Not sure what you mean. Are you suggesting it's a tautology? If so, I call it a 'training course' to distinguish it from a golf course, an assault course or a course in electroconvulsive therapy.

      1. Dr_N Silver badge

        Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

        ... or a university degree course.

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

        "or a course in electroconvulsive therapy."

        And many instructors have wished they switch the trainees to this type of course from time to time.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Coat

          Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

          I went for a course in electroconvulsive therapy. I was disappointed in the quality of the teaching. It was down right shocking.

          1. Alistair Dabbs

            Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

            >> I went for a course in electroconvulsive therapy

            Did you make any contacts?

            1. fearnothing

              Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

              >>>> I went for a course in electroconvulsive therapy

              >> Did you make any contacts?

              Knowing other people is important - you need to stay current. Did the therapy help or were you just going through a phase?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

      Never heard of a bus station I see.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

        A station is where things stop.

        Which makes you wonder why it's called a workstation.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

          I kind of think of it like The Stations of the Cross.

    3. Angol

      Re: Why do you keep using the phrase "training course"?

      It's called a railway station.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone been tempted?

    when taking a support call and faced with "It won't work, just says error" or "the email came back" to ask

    "can you actually fucking read? as I assume the bastard message said more than just error!"

    Sorry for the swearing but I really wonder why anyone puts text in error messages as the otherwise literate cannot possible read more than one word of it, it seems.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Anyone been tempted?

      I'd guess that most people have already learned that the error messages are either meaningless, wrong, or ignored by the support desk who are stuck to using a support script that ignores user input.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Anyone been tempted?

      Well there's always my father-in-law's approach.

      "No, no, it doesn't work, eh? It's not working. No, it's not doing what it should do."

      From that big-picture view we have spend about half-an-hour to drill down to what's actually wrong.

      I would use TeamViewer but it's difficult to actually get him to launch it on account of him randomly moving his desktop icons about so they look better.

      1. moiety

        Re: Anyone been tempted?

        I quite like FastStone Capture for this sort of thing - Screenshots, then allows you to annotate, with text, arrows and highlighting. People seem to get on a lot better with visual information

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Anyone been tempted?

          I use FastStone a lot.

          However I tried the route of annotating a screenshot and sending it to product support.

          They never got it. They were specifically prohibited from recieving attachments.

          Ok I said, here's the page on my webserver.

          "Sorry Sir. We have no internet access from these premises. Now, have you tried turning the PC off and on again?"

          See Icon for my reaction at that.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Anyone been tempted?

      Anyone remember MS-DOS? Where every (or nearly every) error message was: Network Error.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Anyone been tempted?

        >> Anyone remember MS-DOS?

        Some years ago, a letter came in to the computer mag I was working for, in which a disabled man was complaining that MS-DOS kept insulting him. Being wheelchair-bound, he believed that the operating system was being sarcastic about his attempts to use DOS commands because it would respond "INVALID SYNTAX" every time.

        I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be a joke letter but I do wonder sometimes...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anyone been tempted?

          You must have worked for a very posh mag if they printed genuine readers' letters!

          Out of the three I used to work for, almost all the letters were made up. Usually by the editor at the last minute. It wasn't that there was a lack of correspondence, it was that there was a lack of correspondence that made any kind of sense whatsoever...

          I had a friend who was a (fairly well-known, albeit local) radio DJ, and he gave the private studio number out to nearly everyone he knew with instructions to call in whenever he was running a competition, doing a give-away, or whatever. He wasn't trying to be deliberately dishonest - it was just that he couldn't get anyone on-air who could string a sentence together otherwise!

    4. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Anyone been tempted?

      "Sorry for the swearing but I really wonder why anyone puts text in error messages as the otherwise literate cannot possible read more than one word of it, it seems." -- AC

      It's not alone, but Lotus Notes in particular is rather good at popping up completely empty error messages, with nothing but an OK button -- perhaps a red X icon if you are lucky.

    5. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Rule one of user interface design

      Users do not read.

      Rule two: Users cannot read.

      Rule three: FFS, never ask the user to read more than one line of text at the absolute maximum. If you think it needs more then you're doing it wrong.

      If you follow these rules, you can design a good interface.

      1. Old Handle

        Re: Rule one of user interface design

        No, you design one of those horrible modern interfaces where everything is represented by inexplicable Tetris icons.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone been tempted?

      > ask "can you actually fucking read?"

      Oh yes I've been tempted, in fact I do think I have said something to that effect once or twice - though even being autistic I still (mostly !) manage to keep the expletives turned off.

      For some reason, I'm the only one who's not had to cover (properly at least) the hell desk when the regular people are off !

      I do tend to get a few bounce emails forwarded from customers for interpretation. It's understandable when they are from an Exchange server where the error description us usually little (if anything) more than "I couldn't deliver it" - but when the error message is really clear with things like "unknown user" ?

      A while ago a colleague told me a tale from a previous job, for an outfit doing support for some military units. They only took first-line calls out of hours, during working hours the users were supposed to use their local specialist, known as the Single Point of Contact, who is supposed to triage requests and deal with the more (shall we say) "basic" ones.

      Anyway, the helpdesk person had dealt with the issue a Captain Kirk had, and finished off with "if you have further problems, can you please consult your SPOC" (don't spell it, say it as a word ...). At which point, Captain Kirk went ballistic - and it took them a while to calm him down and explain that no they weren't having a laugh at him.

  16. Doctor_Wibble

    And I hate that multilayer sandwich one

    I hate it because two frequently-used programs from the same software house have cleverly decided to use it in different ways. Amongst all the other UI cockups you'd hope they could get some kind of coherency or consistency. One gives you the answer to "where did my menu bar go" and the other is a mish-mash block of icons and text labels and in the distraction it's easy to miss the circular type 'on/off' icon in the bottom corner that is not labelled and at first glance doesn't look like it is anything other than decoration but actually that's where the Quit button went.

  17. thx1138v2

    " For heaven’s sake, “pop-ups” go up and “drop-downs” go down.." Which is why you should always keep your task bar at the top of the screen so that clicking the Start button will cause the menu to drop down instead of dropping up, the other two alternatives being dropping right or dropping left.

    And after clicking Start you can always Shut DOWN. Shutting UP would be rude, to say the least.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Is it only me, or do "pop-ups" for anyone else quite often go down?

      For me, when I right-click, the pop-up menu will go up when and only when my cursor is near the bottom of the current window. Any other time, it'll go down. This applies in Firefox, Notepad++, Adobe Reader and Word - all the applications I happen to have open right now - so I think it's not an uncommon rule.

      And may I just mention, I hate the "burger" description. To me, that icon looks nothing whatever like a burger. Can't we agree to call it "stack of three horizontal lines"?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Esme
    FAIL

    Modern taxis (mutter grumble...)

    Back in my 20's and 30's, I could order a taxi to take me to and from a night out, confident in the knowledge that (a) the driver, when the taxi arrived, would know where it was that I wanted to go and (b) that they would know how to get there reasonably efficiently.

    I'm getting close to 60 now, and taxi drivers have satnav to make life easier for them. And yet a good 50% of taxis seem to have no clue of where they are supposed to be taking me, and more like three quarters of them ask me which route to take.

    I am not a driver. I never have been a driver, as after three attempts at the test, I gave it up as a bad job as I couldn;t afford the cost of more lessons and attempts, plus I'd also discovered that even the traffic back then made me nervous (probably my love of physics making me nervous of how many tons of metal I could see being chucked around carelessly by folk with too little sense of self-preservation).

    What was the absolute worst though, was a few months ago when some kind of virus was affecting my throat, and I was finding it harder and harder to talk at all. I had the address of the emergency unit I needed to get to written down (it was the middle of the night, as is traditional for potentially serious odd ailments). I had explained this to the taxi controller, and also had it written on the piece of paper with teh address I needed to get to that I had lost my voice due to the virus. Yet STILL the driver asked me

    'What route do you usually go?'

    My pained smile started cracking. I shook my head and waved my hands to indicate that I had no idea.

    'What, you don;t know?'

    I shook my head again. Apparently this was a severe disappointment to the driver.

    'Well, how am I supposed to know how to get there' he snorted, despite the satnav stuck to his windscreen.

    At which point, he stopped and finally bothered to put the postcode of my destination into his satnav. And still took a good 15 minutes longer than I would have expected to get me to the emergency centre on roads that were nearly free of traffic. By the time we got there, I was starting to have a bit of trouble breathing. Suffice to say, I didn't feel the service rendered quite qualified for a tip, which earned me a disgusted glare.

    OK, so that was the most extreme case I've encountered, but I recall another trip in which I had to tell the driver no less than five times that I don;t know the route, as I didn;t usually make the journey I was wishing to travel that day. To top it off, when we finally arrived at my destination he asked 'how much do you usually pay?' You may imagine my unfortunately irritable response.

    SIgh. Give me old-school taxi-drivers any day. There's a lovely one on the other side of the city, near where I work, but they won;t pick up from where I actually live, more's the pity, as in my experience the good ones that know what they're about are a very rare breed indeed nowadays (I don't live in London, incidentally).

    Fail, because with the added benefit of technology to help them get to places, most modern taxi-drivers actually manage to give a worse service than they did 20-30 years ago.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Modern taxis (mutter grumble...)

      "Fail, because with the added benefit of technology to help them get to places, most modern taxi-drivers actually manage to give a worse service than they did 20-30 years ago."

      Will that service get better or worse when JonnyCab is doing the driving?

    2. Phuq Witt
      Facepalm

      Re: Modern taxis (mutter grumble...)

      "...'What route do you usually go?'..."

      Dammit! If this is becoming the norm now it means the end for my strategy to avoid being ripped off by being given the grand tour [AKA "cabbie's shortcut"], when visiting a strange town:

      I'd always look up in advance, a main road or landmark near my destination, then tell the cabbie "To <destination> please, my good man. It's just near <landmark>". Makes you sound like you know your way around and how to get there.

      If cabbies are now self-proclaiming their ignorance of the route themselves, where is the "out-of-towner bonus" coming from nowadays?

  19. John 110
    Pint

    re Directing taxi drivers

    I find it useful to direct drivers using pubs as a reference point. The street I live in is the one further down than the road with the similar name with a pub on the corner. They all know where the pubs are...

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: re Directing taxi drivers

      Or 'Where all the Pubs once were in another age' as at least 80% of them around here have closed and are now either so called Convienence Supermarkets or blocks of flats.

  20. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
    Coat

    No wonder you're confusing people

    Your "burger button" is obviously a liquorice allsort.

  21. Phuq Witt
    Headmaster

    Knowledge != Knowledge

    "...I'm getting close to 60 now, and taxi drivers have satnav to make life easier for them. And yet a good 50% of taxis seem to have no clue of where they are supposed to be taking me..."

    And therein lies the rub.

    It's not just cabbies. All across society people have instant access, via their smartphones to almost the sum total of the knowledge of the human race but it doesn't seem to be helping much.

    When SciFi writers in the past contemplated this future they envisaged it leading to us becoming akin to a hyper-intelligent super-race, yet the opposite seems to be happening. Folks seem to be becoming less capable of basic 'problem-solving' and independent thought, as the years go by.

    I noticed this especially during a 15+ year teaching career.

    When I first started out, most students would make notes during lessons and refer to them when later working by themselves on projects, only occasionally asking for help with something which deviated from what they'd been shown, or which we covered a long time ago.

    In recent years, almost no-one bothered to write anything down and, whilst they were [supposedly] working on their own, I'd be constantly bombarded with questions asking me how to do stuff which, quite often, they'd been shown only an hour or so earlier. Even then, after having had to ask for help, they'd still not write anything down and would quite often ask to be shown the same thing again, later on that day. [Sometimes multiple times]

    I think this kind of behaviour is endemic in the generation who've grown up with the internet and don't remember a time before it existed. You don't need to retain any information or work anything out for yourself, or practice to get better at anything any more, because all the answers are always there, at the tip of your fingers. And your teacher or lecturer is just a meat-bag Google Talk, Siri or Cortana, from who you can just keep asking the same piece of information, over and over again and never trouble yourself with retaining any of that knowledge in your own skull.

    Good help us if the power ever goes off!

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Knowledge != Knowledge

      "All across society people have instant access, via their smartphones to almost the sum total of the knowledge of the human race but it doesn't seem to be helping much." -- Phuq Wit

      What amazes me is people's reluctance to consult this information. Cabbies who don't use their Sat Navs; people posting nonsense on Facebook when a 10 second search would have told them it was a hoax; people unable to learn basic concepts when a world of YouTube tutorials exists ...

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Knowledge != Knowledge

      It's not just cabbies. All across society people have instant access, via their smartphones to almost the sum total of the knowledge of the human race but it doesn't seem to be helping much.

      Possibly relevant?

  22. TRT Silver badge

    I hate pictograms.

    Give me menus with proper words on them any day.

    And that looks nothing like Tetris. I'd describe it as "the button that looks vaguely like the diagram that explains the derivation of 'A'-series paper sizes. What do you mean you've no idea what 'A'-series paper sizes are? You've head or A4, right? And you've heard of A3, right? And you know that if you cut a piece of A3 in half down the long side you get two sheets of A4? You didn't know that even? I can see we're going to have problems."

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: I hate pictograms.

      Perhaps we could use a limited number of pictograms, say 26, and give them short, standardised names. Hmm, but there are more than 26 things we need buttons for, so perhaps we could use combinations of pictograms to symbolise things, and derive rules for combining the short names for the pictograms so they become pronounceable groups of syllables. But someone is bound to mess it up, breaking the rules and adding extra bits above or below the pictograms to change their names a bit...

  23. earl grey Silver badge
    Devil

    that last little blob

    Looks like an upper case E which has fallen over on its face. Just sayin'

  24. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Forward slash

    Eventually I discovered they meant forward slashes.

    There is no such thing as a "forward slash". There is a slash, and a backslash. A forward slash would have to slope forward more than a slash, so it would overbalance and become an underscore. But "forward slash" isn't the worst; the radio presenter John Humphries is so prurient that he thinks "slash" is a rude word, and he calls it "stroke". Pass the sickbag, Alice.

    The correct name for this character is, of course, "solidus". This has the advantage of being both unambiguous and historically interesting. The solidus was the slash used between shillings and pence in £sd prices (eg 2/6d), and was so called because "s" and "d" are the initials of Roman coins, the solidus and the denarius.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forward slash

      > The correct name for this character is, of course, "solidus"

      Took a while to make my mind up - upvote for the interesting historical tidbit (I do like some of the names for some of the characters/symbols), or a downvote for daring to introduce facts into an ELReg comments section :-)

      Have an upvote.

      Oh yes, and that reminds me. Just recently we had an issue where a customer's system "fell over" and was unable to process incoming orders because ... the inbound data had a "/" in it (in an address I believe) and the system couldn't cope. Sigh.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    onceaonatimeiness

    I do remember looking forward to Mr Dabbs' articles with anticipation back in the day. I still (try to) read them weekly without fail but I find that I struggle these days to appreciate 'em. My problem, obviously.

    Maybe my sense of humour has changed (deteriorated?) over the years. In fact, I'm sure it has - I used to like bofh but I can honestly say it's about a decade since I managed to digest one of those articles was with any concept of enjoyment. (Spits discreetly.)

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