back to article All hail Ikabai-Sital! Destroyer of worlds and mender of toilets

My toilet is working again. I’m sure regular readers are overjoyed to learn this, and I extend a particularly warm welcome from me and my toilet to those reading this Saturday morning’s column while eating breakfast. That first celebratory slash of relief following three consecutive weeks of toilet withdrawal symptoms was …

  1. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Leaks are usually simple to fix

    Either replace the washer, fill the hole with inappropriate gunk or put a bucket under it.

    My sink drain uses the inappropriate gunk method. I did get some appropriate gunk afterwards, but never needed to actually use it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Leaks are usually simple to fix

      This may be a tl;dr.

      I tend to be the old bloke who knows a bit about it - former industrial engineer who has worked with wet, sparks and software.

      Last week the neighbour called one evening to ask if I had a spanner that would do up a 22mm compression fitting. Well, I do...but he returned saying it didn't work and so I went over to take a look.

      A to the best of my knowledge unqualified "plumber" was installing a new bathroom sink. But it wasn't over where the old one had been.

      Had he put a crank in the cold pipe? No because it was a pedestal sink. Instead he had:

      1. Cut a section out of the 22mm cold pipe under the floor.

      2. Then discovered he couldn't move it to put a tee in so:

      3. He cut off a bit more and put in a repair section but then

      4. He put a white plastic pushfit tee between the original pipe and a stub in the repair section

      (still with me?)

      5. At which point he found that the repair compression joints leaked so

      6. He added PTFE tape but they still leaked because the adjacent hot pipe meant he couldn't get the spanners in properly.

      At this point I thought but did not say:

      7. Even if he tightens it that's a compression joint under a floorboard which is going to take hours to get to if it leaks again.

      8. There's side load on that plastic tee because it's all copper on both sides, so that might leak.

      Now, I don't mind doing above the floor visible stuff, and I use copper pushfit. But for anything else I call in my local plumber with his certificates, 15 years of experience in his own business and his public liability insurance (and I know where he lives...). And his soldered joints for underfloor stuff.

      So the point of this perhaps overly long post? For plumbing, find a decent plumber and give him enough work to ensure he comes out to you. Because the person who knows a bit about it might be me, or it might be someone who thinks you can bodge any old mess of compression, copper, plastic, pushfit and why, and so long as it isn't leaking when he leaves the premises, job done.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Leaks are usually simple to fix

        "And his soldered joints for underfloor stuff."

        I must admit I always use solder joints. I feel a lot more confident and secure that it's waaay less likely to ever leak. I learned how to do it when I installed my new kitchen. On the second attempt. Previous soldering experience was electronics and that solder has flux "built in". Plumbing solder, even the pre-soldered fittings, need solder paste applying first or you get a barely tacked on joint that sprays water all over the place when you open the stopcock :-)

  2. Big John Silver badge

    Obligatory Zappa

    Flakes

    1. ChaoticMike

      Re: Obligatory Zappa

      I'd forgotten that one...

    2. Surreal
      Gimp

      Re: Obligatory Zappa

      Big John? Not _the_ Bald-headed John: King of the Plookers?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    “airline crack”

    Sounds like a car mechanic I once used. His inspection bill said my engine was a "right off".

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: “airline crack”

      Fucking homophones, how do they work?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “airline crack”

        In San Francisco call boxes?

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: “airline crack”

        Probably just like heterophones, but with better taste in interior décor?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: “airline crack” -- no, no, he spelt it *right* !

          I'm surprised no one noticed:

          He meant those things developing by metal fatigue in wings, fuselages, etc.!

          (E.g. and IIRC, the De Havilland Comet was one such case.)

          And kudoes for "Ikabai-Sital" -- initially I assumed it were the name of a plumber hailing from perhaps Pakistan or thereabouts...

      3. Naughtyhorse

        Re: homophones

        The trick is spotting which end you need to blow into.

  4. Esme

    So that's what I do!

    Thank you for your enlightening and informative arrticle Dabsy. I shall go and swap my Helldesker mug for one emblazoned with 'High Priestess of Ikabai-Sital', now that I finally understand what my job function really is!

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: So that's what I do!

      All hail the high priestess!

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: So that's what I do!

        Just let us know where you get the mugs from, as I'm sure many of us could also do with at least one...

        1. Esme

          Re: So that's what I do!

          I'm simply going to buy a white mug, and some black paint, and paint it on. Why not? Painting - I know a bit about it... (did a nice SoM logo on the back of a jacket once, many moons ago..)

  5. jake Silver badge

    Plumbing's easy.

    Fresh water is input.

    Pipes move it about appropriately.

    Grey & black water get shifted as needed.

    Leaks are easily fixed, thanks to the UBC in your jurisdiction.

    It's not exactly rocket science.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Plumbing's easy.

      "Fresh water is input.

      Pipes move it about appropriately."

      Not when they're plastic pipes & the mice have chewed through one of them. They then move it inappropriately all over the floor.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Plumbing's easy.

        Not when they're plastic pipes & the mice have chewed through one of them. They then move it inappropriately all over the floor.

        Or when the drain under the kitchen sink keeps dropping out of its connection. I've fixed that now though. I wrapped an old mains cable around it and the pipe above.

        BTW: I'm a computer programmer, not a qualified plumber :)

        1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Plumbing's easy.

          "I wrapped an old mains cable around it and the pipe above."

          Top drawer bodgery!

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Plumbing's easy.

            "Top drawer bodgery!"

            No. Cupboard under the sink bodgery. Much better.

        2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Plumbing's easy.

          Ooh, there are some quite unexpected twists in the plot.

          /edit/ Hope it doesn't take an unpredictable arc, that'd be shocking.

        3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Re: Plumbing's easy.

          That sounds like the sink I in my old flat.

          The washing machine would cause the water to get air locked and then pop the pipes open.

          Cue removal of the open section it drained into and put a pipe connector in, then duct tape to keep the whole thing together when pressure builds up. Oh a brick to make sure it doesn't sag too much and leak from the cheap pushfit pipping that the original plumbers used when converting the place.

      2. Martin Budden
        Flame

        Re: Plumbing's easy.

        Not when they're plastic pipes...

        I fucking hate those new-fangled plastic pipes, I really do.

    2. thx1138v2

      Re: Plumbing's easy - for the complete idiot

      Shit flows down hill and payday is Friday.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "This meant I was forced toa penny more than once – probably nearer £0.37 in total – in the downstairs sink, which I discovered is uncomfortably high for a diminutive man of five-foot-six."

    A. What's a toa?

    B. Don't you have a step ladder? Stand on the first step & pee between the rungs. Careful aim might be required.

    On a general point the entire plumbing industry seems dedicated to producing large numbers of parts none of which are what you need, probably don't fit together and when they do they leak.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Glue fixes everything

      "[...] producing large numbers of parts none of which are what you need, probably don't fit together and when they do they leak."

      Once did some friends a favour by replacing their utility cast iron bath and rusty water tank. They then decided to get a plumber in to replace the ancient 4 inch iron waste pipe which protruded from the kitchen ceiling below. That was not a job I was prepared to tackle for someone else - too many unknowns.

      I had finished the bath waste pipe with a standard plastic compression joint ready to accept a new plastic pipe. Near the end of the plumber's visit I discovered him unsuccessfully trying to glue his new pipe into the bath pipe's compression fitting. It appears that plumbers don't use compression fittings as they are relatively expensive - so he didn't recognise it as such.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Glue fixes everything

        "It appears that plumbers don't use compression fittings as they are relatively expensive"

        Plumbers don't like compression fittings because they develop leaks and require customer service.

        If you are plumbing from new, grey pipe and pushfit (especially the demountable type) or copper and copperpushfit are excellent; if you are adding to a copper system, copper pushfit is very good if you're doing it yourself, but for most jobs the time saved to the plumber isn't worth it. Also the pushfit fittings are bigger than soldered fittings which can be a problem in tight spaces.

        Cost has little to do with it. The last job I had done, the fittings were less than 1% of the bill. Not having to keep too many different kinds of parts in the van is more important.

    2. PhilipN Silver badge

      The entire plumbing industry ....

      ... loves right angles and only right angles.

      Does anyone know why when joining 2 pipes a few inches apart it needs a whole series of components of different lengths going through one 90 degree turn after another with a commensurate number and quantity of washers, nuts, waterproofing tape (whatever that thin white stuff is called) and of course an exponential increase in the risk of leaks?

      Come to think of it the automotive industry solved this problem more than 100 years ago with rubber tubing and spring steel clips*. Does a cistern which is never going to carry boiling hot water travelling at 100 mph need something more durable?

      *Not forgetting Ellerman's Oil for those who stick their head under the bonnet occasionally.

      1. stucs201

        Re: waterproofing tape (whatever that thin white stuff is called)

        PTFE - Plastic Tape For Engineers.

        (Technically polytetrafluoroethylene)

        1. Blofeld's Cat
          Happy

          Re: waterproofing tape (whatever that thin white stuff is called)

          "PTFE - Plastic Tape For Engineers."

          AKA Plastic Tape Fixes Everything

          1. Darryl

            Re: waterproofing tape (whatever that thin white stuff is called)

            Plastic Tape Fixes Everything

            No, that's duct tape. The handyman's secret weapon

      2. Ivan Headache

        Re: The entire plumbing industry ....

        Not forgetting "Hellerine Oil"

        Those homophones. How do they get them wrong?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The entire plumbing industry ....

        "Does a cistern which is never going to carry boiling hot water travelling at 100 mph need something more durable?"

        Flexible couplers of all sorts of length and termination are available from your friendly plumber's merchants. They are often embarrassingly helpful (well, the ones around here are.)

        What's more, nowadays you can buy ready made connectors with a kink to take them over a crossing pipe.

        Small point about boiling water - the average car hose is hot and under low pressure for only a few thousand hours. Domestic plumbing may be hot and under much higher pressure for that long every year.

      4. Naughtyhorse

        Re: whatever that thin white stuff is called

        PTFE

        Which stands for Plumbers Tape For Everything

    3. VinceH Silver badge
      Holmes

      "B. Don't you have a step ladder? Stand on the first step & pee between the rungs."

      Nah... just take a step or two back and aim high.

      "Careful aim might be required."

      And sufficient force.

      Icon represents a different problem.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Holmes

        "Icon represents a different problem."

        3 pipe?

    4. Crumble

      "On a general point the entire plumbing industry seems dedicated to producing large numbers of parts none of which are what you need, probably don't fit together and when they do they leak"

      QFT!

      "What's a toa?" I'm not an expert, but I know a bit about word processing. "toa" is short for "to spend a".

    5. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      On a general point the entire plumbing industry seems dedicated to producing large numbers of parts none of which are what you need, probably don't fit together and when they do they leak.

      Sunds remarkably similar to IT really....

  7. Efros

    I predict

    Ikabai Sital T shirts before the week is out.

    1. MrT

      The cork-pulling monkey and the elephant...

      How about a rewording of the mug to "After I finish this coffee I'm going to move a 'backup' in the cloud..."?

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I predict

      I want one, right now.

      With a tentacled silhouette underneath, preferably.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I'm cleaning windows

    My friend thinks me a bloody-minded miser because I do most of my household maintenance myself. "Why don't you call in an expert" she says. My experience of the "experts" is that they too often are still earning that qualification. In the old definition - an expert is someone who has made all the mistakes. They are also someone for whom time is money - whereas my time is free.

    This week our neighbours clubbed together to have all our roof gutters cleaned. My opinion was that we had a blocked downpipe. A USB endoscope on the end of a walking stick suggested this was the case - but I couldn't quite reach the suspect junction out of my bedroom window for confirmation.

    Now ladders aren't my thing - especially on a three storey house. So I was happy to leave it to a specialist - who turned up with a very long extendable water brush and no ladders. This apparently is hi-tech window cleaning equipment - as Health and Safety makes it time consuming to do the job with the appropriate tower platforms. The organising neighbour had seen the window cleaner clearing someone's gutter - so had contracted him on the spot.

    While he started the job on the other houses I made a longer Heath-Robinson support for my endoscope. A garden stake, a shelf bracket, and some garden wire - all lashed together with electrical tape. This provided a laptop video of the top of the suspect downpipe - thus showing its blockage to the window cleaner. It also showed the blockage was still there after the brush had done its work - in fact it was now buried under a layer of swept debris.

    The window cleaner went off and came back in the evening with a mate who owned a ladder. Apparently H&S allows that for a single point access. He poked the accumulated debris with a piece of cane - and expressed his relief that the blockage was only a few inches deep. Whether he had a contingency of another mate with a Dyno-rod wasn't revealed.

    He is now going to buy himself a 15m endoscope and an active USB extension cable. For an outlay of about £40 he sees a business improvement opportunity of being able to do a "before and after" inspection by attaching it to the brush. He's even thinking of investing in an industrial strength vacuum cleaner now he sees how to guide the nozzle in the gutter.

    1. AP1960
      Facepalm

      Re: When I'm cleaning windows

      Ah yes, Expert, Ex as in "has been" Spurt as in "drip under pressure"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When I'm cleaning windows

      "...as Health and Safety makes it time consuming to do the job with the appropriate tower platform"

      or he could simply climb out of the, say, 4th floor window, stand on the outside sill, hold onto the frame with one hand, lean over and clean the adjacent ones with the sponge brush in his other hand.

      Seen it done, ..., never again

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: When I'm cleaning windows

        Me too - we promptly told him to get the fuck back inside!

  9. Fihart

    To return to IT.

    My brother had a Fujitsu/Siemens desktop from the late unlamented Comet Warehouse. After nearly a year it started going funny so he asked me to look at it. But, he pointed out, a seal on it says breaking that invalidates warranty.

    As it was still within the notional 12 month warranty period (which is merely an arrangement between mfr and retailer) he decided to let Comet sort it out. Their response was that they'd have to wait for the Fuj/Siem engineer to make his rounds -- up to three weeks away. My brother decided he could wait three weeks.

    When a month or so later the computer was returned, working, he was told that the issue had merely been carpet fluff in a fan causing the CPU to overheat.

    I think this qualifies as an Ikabai fuckup on the grounds that my bro could have easily analysed and fixed the problem in fifteen minutes max had it not been for the dumb sticker.

    The sticker had no business being on a device such as an IBM-type PC which was deliberately designed to be opened in order to add network cards etc (hint; the PSU is in a separate enclosure).

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: To return to IT.

      Maybe so but he made the mistake of buying a PC from Comet in the first place. His second mistake of not breaking the warranty seal and diagnosing it himself was a follow on of being in the mindset to buy it from there.

      In all seriousness though if you've bought something new from a retailer and it had ended up being something expensive go wrong with the machine then your advice would have cost him if he had opened it up. It should be them who fixes it whilst under warranty frustrating or not.

      1. Doctor_Wibble
        Mushroom

        Re: To return to IT.

        > His second mistake of not breaking the warranty seal

        Actually the *real* mistake was to not figure out a cunning way of lifting said seal (and re-making it if necessary) in order to carry out the kind of evil illicit illegal law-breaking warranty-destroying service-violating activity that only criminals perform.

        I had something similar on an 'own brand' laptop - a solid mat of fluff in the gap between the heatsink and the exhaust grating was the answer to the question of why the cpu fan never went anywhere near idle-ish like it used to. Lesson (third one today this is becoming a bad habit): look at the temperature reading from time to time, 50-55C is OK, but if the machine says "WARNING - current temperature (99.0C) exceeds safe limits" then you really ought to think about finding that screwdriver. Explodey icon because that was the thing narrowly averted.

        p.s. also the air intake is exactly where it sits on your leg so the fluff isn't from the carpet it's from that super soft pink unicorns onesie you insist on wearing...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: To return to IT.

          "[...] but if the machine says "WARNING - current temperature (99.0C) exceeds safe limits" [...]"

          A friend complained that her PC would randomly die - sometimes after minutes, sometimes hours. So one Sunday she travelled a fair distance to let me take a look. Sure enough after a few minutes it died. Took the case off - couldn't find anything obviously loose - and then yelped as my hand brushed the heatsink. Closer inspection showed an obstructive wire meant that the fan had never worked in its life - and in fact was burnt out. A dig in the spares box produced a near-match over-sized fan which solved the problem.

          In the past I have found that many motherboard monitoring applications tend to be not quite compatible with Windows. The operational annoyances finally resulted in them being used only to verify a new PC build - and after that only if there was thought to be a new problem.

        2. Chris Evans

          Remove the seal! Re: To return to IT.

          "Actually the *real* mistake was to not figure out a cunning way of lifting said seal "

          It is a lot easier to remove the seal altogether and any trace of glue, then "They must have forgotten to put the seal on".

          What the eye cannot see the heart doesn't grieve over!

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Remove the seal! To return to IT.

            "They must have forgotten to put the seal on"

            I'm surprised they didn't counter with, "Nice try, but that's the first thing we check before we box the things. Those stickers save us some serious money."

            1. glen waverley

              Re: Remove the seal! To return to IT.

              "Nice try, but that's the only thing we check ..."

              FTFY.

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Remove the seal! To return to IT.

                ""Nice try, but that's the only thing we check ..."

                FTFY."

                Nope, that neglects to check the front for cracks, the removeable drives to make sure they work, and any other misses. The sticker may be there to detect internal tampering, but they're still obligated to field returns for external defects, so anything obvious gets sent back to the line to be repaired.

              2. Naughtyhorse

                Re: Remove the seal! To return to IT.

                Checking stuff???

                you flash git!

    2. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: To return to IT.

      "The sticker had no business being on a device such as an IBM-type PC which was deliberately designed to be opened in order to add network cards etc (hint; the PSU is in a separate enclosure)."

      I had a Compaq machine once. The tower case design was really nice - undo a couple of clips, and case would slide off, allowing the user to get at the insides. A joy for those of us who like to expand the computers ourselves...

      ...until you looked more carefully. Drive bays and so on had a slatted frame around them, riveted in place - all designed to make it as difficult as possible for the punters to do much of anything themselves, and instead encourage them to pay Compaq a premium for upgrades etc.

      A drill and some care later - that problem was sorted.

    3. Mr Dogshit Silver badge

      Re: To return to IT.

      Sod the warranty seal. If you've bought it, it's your property, and you can do what you damn well want with the thing.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: To return to IT.

        "Sod the warranty seal. If you've bought it, it's your property, and you can do what you damn well want with the thing."

        Sod you back. What you describe carries the caveat that if you monkey with stuff you're not supposed to, you're on your own. IOW, if it's YOUR property, it's no longer THEIR businesses to help you. Warranties normally DO NOT cover mishandling.

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: To return to IT.

          The purpose of a "warranty" is usually to attempt to limit the rights of the consumer. The implied warranty when you buy something is at least 12 months*, but I understand there is case law that says it should be three years for things like electronic goods.

          For a supplier to refuse to repair something under the terms of the implied warranty, they would have to prove that the purchaser had caused the fault, not just that he'd removed a sticker.

          Since the IBM PC architecture is designed to be extensible, anything that limits your ability to extend it, such as a sticker, effectively renders it unfit for purpose.

          * In the UK. May be different in less civilised jurisdictions.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: To return to IT.

            "The purpose of a "warranty" is usually to attempt to limit the rights of the consumer."

            You assume the consumer has rights in the first place. In the US, that only applies to serious defects that goes well beyond "not fit for purpose". In many cases, unless life or limb are under threat, caveat emptor is the operative rule.

            No, the warranty in these cases is meant to keep the customer satisfied since few things scare a seller like a defector who tells his/her friends. But since savvy customers will try to stretch warranties as far as they can, they put limits as a CYA move. It's their way of keeping the terms to, "If it's broke, we'll fix it...but not if YOU broke it."

  10. Martin Summers Silver badge

    So how much did you pay him Mr Dabbs? Because I find how much is the hard thing to determine when one of these guys gets the job done where no one else could. Quite often they undervalue themselves too because they are thoroughly decent people who actually set out to help you rather than fleece you. Your mind says you should pay them for actually fixing it when no one else could but then the other part of it tells you that he isn't an 'expert' so shouldn't get or expect expert pay. Quite clearly they should though but it's often a dilemma in itself.

    1. Corinne

      I had this dilemma a couple of times recently. My somewhat elderly shower died, on a Sunday morning (of course), so I went next door & spoke to my neighbours son who is quite handy but not an "expert". He advised me on what to get, then came in & fitted the new shower unit for me. I then had to almost force some money on him for doing the work.

      My other neighbour asked to borrow a corner of my garage to store his recently bought vintage motorcycle while he built suitable housing for it. I was very embarrassed when he asked me what I wanted for the storage, and after he forced me into giving him a figure he doubled it!

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      >> So how much did you pay him

      I never asked for a quote and paid him what he asked for. Before he offered to help, I had been expecting to fork out £200-300 on a new Crapper plus the same again on "expert" labour to take out the old one and out in the new one, what with my old loo being cemented into the floor.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Well I'm glad he told you a price and saved you the awkwardness. I often fixed people's home and even home/work IT problems out of the goodness of my heart as I didn't have the balls to ask for anything or any idea of what my time was worth. I did get money forced into my hand though sometimes at least by nice people such as Corrine above.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "[...] or any idea of what my time was worth."

          I always refuse "time" payment from neighbours for IT problems by saying "you can't afford me". If it is for their kids then it all comes for free as part of my contribution to rearing future wealth creators.

          If you charge them a token amount - then you find a queue of their friends and relatives wanting to use "this marvellous cheap chap".

          You can also suggest the "pay it forward" philosophy for them to do something similar with their competences for other people.

          They may also repay it with help to you when you need it - which is the essence of being good neighbours.

          1. Martin Summers Silver badge

            "which is the essence of being good neighbours."

            Is that when good neighbours become good friends?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Is that when good neighbours become good friends?"

              I had that same earworm start playing when I wrote the original comment. :-(

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "he isn't an 'expert' so shouldn't get or expect expert pay".

      Clearly he isn't an 'expert', he's an expert. So maybe he should get expert pay.

  11. Doctor_Wibble
    Flame

    Useless Experts

    I've been one myself though not by choice - someone who had a support contract with our company for one of their servers was experiencing trouble, but the relevant division had already closed and I got volunteered. A site visit with lots of poor quality bluffing (my first experience) and frayed tempers eventually resolved the problem but not until after I the cause was a third (and more up themselves than most) division of our company who had somehow done a long sequence of repeated accidental typos that were completely someone else's fault (hence bluffing, had to avert lawyers). I don't think they bought it TBH but maybe they didn't want lawyers either. Lesson: learn how to stay calm.

    As for toilets, I do know someone with experience of 'experts', the toilet in a flat kept blocking, expensive work recommended because 'not enough draw on the pipe' (only since new toilet installed, i.e. bollocks), turned out someone had adjusted the cistern water level to bare minimum, thus guaranteeing the horizontal bit across to the downpipe would keep silting up. Also not helped by being modern and 'eco', i.e. smaller cistern. Oh, and something about the letting agency manager having the same not-common name as someone involved with their preferred maintenance contractor. Solution : fix water level, have plunger available. Lesson: don't be scared to lift the lid and look.

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: Useless Experts

      The plunger --

      A small investment gains a set of drain rods including a big plunger thing.

      We are blessed to have Tolouse (not such a great trek each time) but the most comfy seat is also the one that blocks easiest.

      All it takes is one decent shove on the stick and I am a smug git as I've just saved more than it would cost to get an 'expert' out. As for the rest of the drain rods --occasionally, someone in the flats next door manages to flush a nappy or an entire box of wipes and the shared 3 metre deep manhole begins to fill. No need for a powerflush as once the water is released it's a bugger of a job(bie) to stop the rods being sucked in to the main.

      That's another £200 saved.

      (as a young lad working as a labourer at a builders, I'd get given the task of finding which of several manholes was the main blockage -- usually just aftera proper fry-up breakfast. It stood me in good stead later on as changing nappies never seemd as bad as people made it out to be)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Useless Experts

        " I'd get given the task of finding which of several manholes was the main blockage -- usually just aftera proper fry-up breakfast."

        In a community there was a woman who was the site plumber. Some of the newcomers felt she had too easy a job - "it is only a question of remembering that water flows downhill". An old hand reminded them "Ah - but it's not only water that flows downhill".

  12. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Reminds me of the old invoice adage

    60p for the seal, £25 perhaps for the labour, £200 for knowing how to fix the problem in the first place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reminds me of the old invoice adage

      Too often the 'expert' solution is to keep changing components, at the customer's expense, until the problem goes away. Root cause diagnostics are often not done - or the equipment design never provided for any.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Reminds me of the old invoice adage

        Are you, by any chance, a HP customer?

      2. Vic

        Re: Reminds me of the old invoice adage

        Too often the 'expert' solution is to keep changing components, at the customer's expense, until the problem goes away

        My missus has a VW. It developed a problem - total loss of power with no warning.

        The stealer - from whom she'd bought it brand new - cleaned the throttle body, changed the coolant temperature sensor and changed the lambda sensor. One each on successive returns. And charged for each "repair". They kept making a big deal about how they had VW diagnosticians they could call in - but refused to, because apparently it wasn't a serious enough problem.

        On the last visit, they decided it needed a new throttle body. Definitely. And if it wasn't that, it would need a new ECU. This was the point at which I told them they would need to repay those costs[1] if it turned out not to be the cause of the problem[2]. They wouldn't go for that. So I fixed the car[3]. It took me about half an hour, and used no parts...

        Vic.

        [1] We'd already spent over £800 on the fault, and then next two things were going to cost £2500.

        [2] A problem that moves around like that is *always* interconnect, and I'd even told them it was an interconnect problem.

        [3] It was an interconnect problem...

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Reminds me of the old invoice adage

          "[3] It was an interconnect problem..."

          You probably have a good case to take them to small claims for bogus repairs.

          I know someone who spent over £2000 on mercedes repairs because "computer says" -- it turned out to be a jammed-open thermostat and the C220 vehicle diagnostics couldn't cope with a stone cold engine.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of the old invoice adage

      One-off invoices are so passé.

      Expect a future plumber to implement Drainage Rights Management and Pay Per Void.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Reminds me of the old invoice adage

        Satan will be skating on ice before I pay to poo!

  13. Tromos
    Joke

    Ikabai Sital

    Another name to go on the antivirus no-download list.

  14. Roq D. Kasba

    Expert in a weekend

    Let's face it, people often look for qualifications to find an expert, which means someone who has had to study to get qualifications as opposed to having hands on experience...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reverse Ikabai...

    A person who says "I know a bit about it" is likely to be either (a) modest (i.e. cultural effect) or (b) overestimating the ability of others (i.e. Dunning-Kruger effect).

    My company rates people by asking them to self-rate. However, for a British chap of a certain age this is actually impossible. If I read someone's claim to "know a lot about" something, my ranking of possibilities goes in the following order:

    a) s/he is American, and knows a reasonable amount

    b) s/he is American, and actually knows a lot

    c) s/he is American, but knows very little

    d) s/he is British, but is a totally incompetent numpty

    e) s/he is British, but knows a reasonable amount

    f) s/he is British, and actually does know a lot -- and probably has Aspergers

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reverse Ikabai...

      People who think they know it all - are annoying to those of us who do.

      The IT industry must be one where it is particularly true to say "The more I know - the more I know I don't know".

  16. TheOtherHobbes

    I discovered recently the overflow from the cistern in the new house overflows under the bath.

    Onto the chipboard floor.

    And wasn't that a happy surprise, boys and girls.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Onto the chipboard floor."

      Twenty five years ago chipboard in bathrooms was deprecated. Marine plywood was the best composite floor material to survive a sustained leak. Possibly some chipboard now includes something to stop it crumbling like a biscuit when soaked through - but the material's structure makes it far weaker than any plywood of the same thickness.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Twenty five years ago chipboard in bathrooms was deprecated."

        My first house had chipboard floors throughout, including the bathroom.

        This wouldn't have been such a problem, but the toilet cistern valve would stick open so that there was always a bit of water flow. This of course meant the water was always pretty cold, and the porcelain cistern formed lots of condensation to drip onto the floor.

        The embarrassing thing about that was that my mother was convinced I couldn't aim properly.

        Mother's solution: buy me plastic floor covering for the bathroom

        The proper solution: Buy and fit a new valve assembly that actually worked

      2. Pookietoo

        Re: something to stop it crumbling

        Moisture resistant chipboard has a green tinge. You still have to be sure to seal any cut edges.

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: something to stop it crumbling

          Moisture resistant chipboard has a green tinge

          ... and is thus easy to confuse with mouldy non-moisture-resistant chipboard.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I discovered recently the overflow from the cistern in the new house overflows under the bath."

      Why oh why oh why do British cisterns not direct the overflow INTO THE FUCKING BOWL?

      That way you can SEE it's overflowing and take action.

  17. Chris G Silver badge

    The problem with experts

    Is having a piece of paper that is allegedly a qualification does not necessarily make one an expert.

    I have a number of fancy pieces of paper qualifying me to do all sorts of things as an 'expert' but quite a few of them are now so old and the subject of them so long untouched by me, that I could only honestly claim to be an IKABAI SITAL at best.

    In my experience an 'expert' is generally someone who, before an event, can tell you exactly what is going to happen, when it is going to happen and why.

    After the event s/he will be able to say exactly what didn't happen, possibly what did and that fixing it will require a sharp intake of breath and a pile of money!

    I definitely want the T shirt!

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: The problem with experts

      " The problem with experts..

      Is having a piece of paper that is allegedly a qualification does not necessarily make one an expert."

      I wish most corporations realized that before hiring people with the ink still wet on their MBAs.

  18. Peter Clarke 1
    Facepalm

    Piddling In The Sink

    One would hope you have enough class and breeding to remove the crockery first

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Piddling In The Sink

      Now that would just be a waste of the cleaning power of pee!

      http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/from-gunpowder-to-teeth-whitener-the-science-behind-historic-uses-of-urine-442390/

  19. Grikath Silver badge

    The one problem...

    Is that there's at least as many (well-meaning) peeps out there who are as bad or worse than the "Experts", that easily can make a minor annoyance into a disaster.

    I do this kind of Saving the Innocent "work" on a semi-regular basis for people I like, usually after the Handy Cousin or Neighbour has had his mitts on [stuff] already, and some of the results I encounter would bring a grown man to tears, or pre-emptive Darwinism if the perpetrator hasn't managed to reproduce yet.

    One of the easiest ways to tell if you've got the Real Deal, is to find out what his/her* tools look like. If they're all new and shiny: GTFO. Good tools are used and look the part, and the owner obviously knows how to use and maintain them.

    * The ladies, at least in my experience, tend to be less interested in the plumbing/construction stuff, but more in the interior finishing side of things. Things like tiling and plastering have their own expertise, and power tools, and I know a couple of ladies who are fiendishly good at them. Something to do with eye for detail, and Patience.

    Or as one of them once said: "You lot build the House, we build the Home."

  20. James 100

    On Good Friday, I found the kitchen ceiling a foot closer to the floor than usual - turned out the plumber supplied by B&Q had cracked the pipe leading into the cistern, and just wrapped it in PTFE tape rather than repair/replace it properly, so after a while it started watering the floor underneath.

    To cap it all, the "professional" plumber had to borrow one of my screwdrivers at one point - there was a narrow gap involved, and his was too big to fit through. I left him to finish the job, and eventually found my screwdriver sitting on the window sill - with the bit removed.

    A month later, the replacement cistern started flushing constantly - apparently there was a component missing, so it got stuck after the first N uses. The words "trading standards" and "lawyer" got involved at that point, so they fixed it properly this time.

    Back on IT, a friend managed to get a free laptop with my help - it had an odd BIOS bug which prevented Windows running properly. After a few visits back to the manufacturer, they admitted defeat, sent a replacement and said he could keep the faulty one as well - which I fixed by switching to the other HAL, at which point it worked fine. (Buggy ACPI implementation, as I recall - it's been a few years now.)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
      Coat

      "an odd BIOS bug which prevented Windows running properly"

      By bug do you mean it allowed it run to some extent?

      Mine's the one a penguin just took.

  21. Salts

    Council Height

    "This meant I was forced toa penny more than once – probably nearer £0.37 in total – in the downstairs sink, which I discovered is uncomfortably high for a diminutive man of five-foot-six."

    Reminds me of an old joiner my brother used to work with, when they worked away he would test the sink in the lodgings and if it was comfortable to piss in would declare it "Council Height" apparently councils had a specific height sinks must be installed at, oh and he was about 5'6". Those old standards where there for a reason, come such emergencies :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Council Height

      "Council Height"

      That is interesting. My 1970s functional bathroom has a pedestal sink at a convenient height to use it to wash my nether regions. Visiting my sister's very plush modern bathroom the sink was inset in a commercial unit - and I had to stand on tip-toe.

      My height of 5' 8" used to be the UK male average - but the subsequent generations seem to have gained at least 4 inches in height. Did the "Council Height" get updated - or were the bathroom units imports from a country with taller people?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Council Height

        "That is interesting. My 1970s functional bathroom has a pedestal sink at a convenient height to use it to wash my nether regions. "

        My 2015 bathroom has that functionality built into the loo. But I now have a new potential fault to watch for: low battery on the remote control. Easily fixed.

        Seriously, given what people spend on cars and how often it gets used, a Japanese-style superloo is an excellent investment, and avoids the awkwardness of washing bum in sink.

  22. Chris Evans

    El Reg's reach. "Ikabai Sital" in Google

    I put 'Ikabai Sital' into Google about 3p.m. (7 hours after the story was published, it reported 1,700 finds! All[1] seem to be pointing to The Register article.

    I wonder does El.Reg. use the snake oil that is SEO?

    [1] 'ikabai-sital -register -hail' gives only one hit which doesn't have 'sital' on the page

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: El Reg's reach. "Ikabai Sital" in Google

      Sorry to be a bore but this isn't how SEO works. If a search for "funny cat videos" or "Kim Kardashian's arse" pointed to this article, I'd consider it more of a success.

      1. Chris Evans

        Re: El Reg's reach. "Ikabai Sital" in Google

        Interesting point. For a second there I thought you were serious!

        So there are two types of SEO?

        One that directs as many people to your site as possible but with no specific relevance and SEO that puts you high in search results with some relevance.

        Doing the later is I'm sure much more difficult. Though I'm sure if you are trying to SPAM people (selling Viagra etc) the former is what you want.

  23. BongoJoe

    Security Issues Ahead

    I hope that the cult of Ikabai-Sital never wish to download an anti-virus package because to the Merkins it may sound a little like...

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/08/07/sophos_anti_muslim_name_filter/

  24. phil dude
    Mushroom

    definitely NOT....

    Rocket science....

    P.

  25. Dr_N Silver badge

    This whole piece ...

    .. was just an excuse to post chodbin euphemisms.

    Well done.

  26. Blofeld's Cat
    Coat

    Two fundamental principles...

    I think that as Mr Dabbs has disclosed the existence of Ikabai-Sital, it is time to reveal two of their fundamental principles...

    If it doesn't move and it should - use WD40. If it moves and it shouldn't - use Duck Tape*.

    Duck Tape is like the Force - it has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the Universe together.

    * Other fauna are available.

  27. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Seriously? You couldn't figure out how a toilet worked just by looking at it?

    I never want to read a disparaging article by you about some aspect of other people not getting computer security. That is rocket science compared to the works of a toilet.

    What in Azathoth's name were they teaching in the schools twenty mumble years ago? CSE physics covered the necessary theory when I were a lad. After that all you have to know is how to work an adjustable spanner (one moving part) and a screwdriver.

    Christ on a bike.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      "[...] you have to know is how to work an adjustable spanner [...]"

      Very few people have a Stillson wrench in their household toolbox. I find that is an essential tool given the often poor friction grip on the large plastic collar nut securing the flush mechanism to the cistern. Even when that collar nut feels hand tight the rubber seal will often leak very slightly - so it needs to be a tad tighter. That also means undoing it in few years time will need a mechanical aid.

      Like many jobs - having the right tool makes it easy. A neighbour spent an afternoon trying to change his kitchen taps. His problem was reaching the nuts from under the sink. Loaned him my "tap spanner" and the job was soon finished.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        @stevie, I am inclined to agree with you but t' modern youf today have more of a tendency to 'get a man in' than delve into the workings of anything that doesn't need a plug or a battery.

        I'm a fairly old git so I can fix 99% of items in my house because my education and experience shaped me for it, now we live in a more ' not user servicable' kind of world, so unless the problem is familiar in some way people won't attempt to get stuck in.

        @ AC Reaching your nuts from under the sink is well known to involve a great deal of contortion and sometimes plain disappointment, the advent of the universal tap wrench has been a boon to plumbers and home fiddlers alike.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bah!

          " than delve into the workings of anything that doesn't need a plug or a battery."

          My neighbours seem a relatively intelligent lot but:

          13 amp plugs with earth and neutral wires swapped.

          A new wireless keyboard didn't work. The two AA batteries were inserted nose-to-nose.

          Gave the neighbours' kids a radio controlled car with a matched set of AA Ni-Mh batteries. Came in for maintenance - the battery set was now a mixture of rechargeable and non-rechargeable.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Bah!

          "Reaching your nuts from under the sink is well known to involve a great deal of contortion"

          Don't try this at home.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      "You couldn't figure out how a toilet worked just by looking at it?"

      Figuring out how something works just by looking at it is one thing. Figuring out why it doesn't is something else entirely.

    3. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Bah!

      Run that by me again. Because I called in a plumber on my household appliance insurance, I am unfit to write about IT security? Oh-kayyyy.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Bah!

        "I called in a plumber on my household appliance insurance"

        There's your problem.

        I'm guessing you went via a call centre. That probably farms out jobs to a local business which also operates a call centre. They in turn have a list of self-employed erks who range from only turn out to replace tap washers because that's all they know to only turn out for complete CH installations because anything else isn't worth getting out of the van for. I'm surprised you got two to turn up at all.

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        "Run that by me again. Because I called in a plumber on my household appliance insurance, I am unfit to write about IT security? Oh-kayyyy."

        Read again. That is nowhere close to what I wrote, which - to paraphrase - went like this:

        "Sir: You have been known to ridicule those who cannot secure their computers in the past. This requires knowledge of things that happen invisibly in complex equipment built using advanced principles of physics.

        Paradoxically, you avowedly cannot fix a leaky toilet, something involving one moving part (the ball-cock/valve) derived from a principle known to the ancient Greeks, and water, the operation of which happens in front of your eyes if you take the precaution of opening them and not attempting to observe the device's operation with a bag over your head.

        I find your position, regarding the computer unsavvy being less-then intelligent for not possessing information normally disclosed in a university course or specialist press, to be no longer tenable owing to the extreme engineering lameness displayed by your good self when it comes to a simple piece of plumbing - that is in every home and that has remained essentially unchanged for your lifetime to date - which has been leaking all over your bathroom floor for weeks."

  28. ecofeco Silver badge

    Flush toilets are civilization defined

    "I’m sure regular readers are overjoyed to learn this, and I extend a particularly warm welcome from me and my toilet to those reading this Saturday morning’s column while eating breakfast."

    Actually, quite. I can live without many things. A working toilet is not one of them.

    So, HUZZAH!!!

    1. Michael Dunn

      Re: Flush toilets are civilization defined

      O K, but visit Knossos and see the flush toilet there dated about 1700 BC, and you'll realise it's not such a complicated business!

  29. lnLog

    Definition: Expert

    When you hear the words 'Expert' these should automatically transform themselves into ex-spert, which is of course nothing more than a wet drip under pressure.

    For this reason alone you should never refer to ones self as an expert.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: Definition: Expert

      Classical Murphy definition is still valid.

      "An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing."

      Or, to paraphrase, expert has an infinite amount of knowledge in an infinitely narrow field of expertise. Thus it's very much impossible to harness expert's knowledge for anything practical, because the field of expertise cannot be determined by mere mortals.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Definition: Expert

        "An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing."

        Corollary:

        "A consultant is one who knows less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely nothing about everything"

        Not sure it should be attributed to Murphy. Sounds more like a variant on Parkinson's Law or the Peter Principle.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Definition: Expert

          "A consultant is one who knows less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely nothing about everything"

          This is an excellent starting point for a consultant.

          His clients' employees almost certainly know the answers already but it's infra dig - and perhaps bad strategy - for a CxO to ask someone paid such a small fraction of a CxO's salary.

          The consultant, starting by knowing nothing, asks the experts, the employees. By adding his fee to the experts' advice his recommendations become pearls of knowledge. Information is valued according to what it costs.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Definition: Expert

            "An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing."

            "A consultant is one who knows less and less about more and more until he knows absolutely nothing about everything"

            So then how do you define an "expert consultant" or a "consulting expert"?

        2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Definition: Expert

          "Not sure it should be attributed to Murphy"

          It wasn't The Original Murphy who said it, but nevertheless it's a part of The Good Book.

          www.murphys-laws.com/murphy/murphy-technology.html

      2. Vic

        Re: Definition: Expert

        An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.

        Henry's Cat?

        Vic.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why we charge so much

    Fact: Old cast iron pipes develop internal growths that resemble the last section of your little finger.

    Fact: The string on tampons does not rot.

    Called to an old house with a blocked toilet on the first floor. We tried the plunger technique with no success so had to cut out a vertical section of the external downpipe. With the female customer in attendance I held a bucket while my accomplice poked a rod up the pipe. The next moment about 50 tampons mixed with shit slammed into the bucket, spraying me with filth. The customer looked rather embarrassed at this point.

    The problem is that when the first tampon gets it's string hooked on one of these iron nodules then the next tampon will get tangled on it and so on.

    I hope that this has not spoiled your breakfast :)

    Anon 'cos I don't want you lot ringing me up!

  31. Mr Dogshit Silver badge
    Headmaster

    You pissed "in the downstairs sink"?

    Well I hope you removed the washing up first.

  32. Alistair Dabbs

    Gary Larson: early plumbers

    Peter Houppermans, who Stevie will be pleased to hear can fix plumbing AND knows more about security than is feasibly possible for the unoverclocked human mind, reminded me of this Gary Larson cartoon.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Gary Larson: early plumbers

      A favorite of mine, that one. Our department has more than one person who speaks Larson Caveman when under duress "This not look good".

  33. Snafu1

    Dabbsy, I'm amazed you didn't link Flanders & Swann in last week's or this week's screed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyeMFSzPgGc

    (FWIW I try to stay away from plumbing. Just like sharpening kitchen knives, I know the /theory/, but always cock up the implementation.. usually drastically :( )

  34. Speltier

    ITWEE!

    Or, actually, I2E-- Instant Internet Expert.

    If you can get to uboob and fora, you can fix nearly everything fabricated by humans... and sound like an expert while doing it.

  35. Ben Bonsall

    If anyone ever says 'You have a squeaky hinge, I can fix that' and reaches for vegetable oil, stop them, break their arms, kill them if needed. In two weeks, the vegetable oil will oxidize and resemble glue, causing the hinge not to squeak because it has ripped it's screws out of the wall.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "If anyone ever says 'You have a squeaky hinge, I can fix that' and reaches for vegetable oil, "

      Or WD40, for the same reason (it's fish oil)

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "Or WD40, for the same reason (it's fish oil)"

        Really? So someone has taken a chemical analyzer to WD40, broken it down into its constituent oils (of which I believe there are six) and managed to identify them one by one and found fish oil to be one of them? I'd love to read the article that describes this in detail.

  36. magickmark

    with a 7% solution?

  37. jake Silver badge

    Hinges & locks here ...

    ... are lubed with graphite.

    Sticky liquid lube stuff is contra-indicated in any environment that might be dusty. (That's pretty much any environment exposed to the air ... ).

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