back to article User couldn't open documents or turn on PC, still asked for reference as IT expert

Thank Cthulhu it's Friday, because that means the weekend is at hand and we can offer you another instalment of On-Call to show what happens when support calls ruin your personal time. This week, meet “Adam,” who once did tech support at an Australian university. One of Adam's users, who'd been in her job for a week, “came to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well...

    .. that's DevOps for you.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Well...

      Are you implying that the problem was a lack of convergence?

    2. Doc Ock

      Re: Well...

      The Role was for head of NHS IT procurement .

  2. tfewster Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Dunning-Kruger effect or just misunderstanding the question? A large outsourcing company I worked for asked us to rate our skills in our "skills profile" so they had a searchable database of skills to match up to clients and projects. I rated myself as 4/5 for HP-UX Unix, as I was comparing myself as a sysadmin with HP's Mission Critical support superstars with whom I had regular contact. Another chap rated himself as 5/5 for HP-UX Unix - because he was a power user (and even then frequently had to phone me for help just as an end-user, he had no admin or support skills and not even logical thinking, resourcefulness or troubleshooting abilities).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Those who know a little - think they know everything. Those who know a lot - know there's much more they don't know.

      The latter sentiment can apparently be attributed as far back as Aristotle. That doesn't stop HR requiring self-assessments which are then used for skill assessments of the individual. They also tend to ask about "hard skills" as "soft skills" are too difficult to phrase in their questions.

      1. Vector
        Happy

        "Those who know a little - think they know everything."

        Oh! You mean teenagers!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I rated myself as 4/5 for HP-UX Unix

      Years ago I was asked to fill out a skills matrix by the manager of an HP-UX consulting group. So I filled out the 2 pages of questions. He read it handed it back to me and said "your problem is that you'll only describe yourself as an expert when you'd happily teach the lab engineers an internals class, while most of my staff tick expert when they know which cupboard the manuals are stored in"

      Self assessed skills matixes are worth the bits they're written on.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        I rated myself as 4/5 for HP-UX Unix

        A bit tangential, but that reminds me of the following killer interview question:

        "What are your five favourite Linux commands?"

        1. Lyndon Hills 1

          mount fsck umount...

        2. channel extended
          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re favourite Linux command

            rm -rf /

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Self assessed skills matixes are worth the bits they're written on.

        Ditto self-written recommendations and self-written assessments.

        I was once asked to write my own reference after I had requested one in an exit interview. I said that if my boss couldn't be arsed to write a paragraph saying I was or was not worth what he'd paid for me then I didn't want it anyway.

        I was also once asked to write my own yearly assessment by a boss eager to try "new methods" of staff management. I wrote that I was a genius, always knew the right answer to any problem and was overdue for promotion and/or a significant pay raise. No-one was ever asked to write their own assessment again.

        Since there was no chance of promotion (or that mythical thing, a raise) anyway there was no need for me to pull punches. My lazy-assed boss needed to be told to stop sitting around all day reading the paper and eating crisps, and do what he was paid to do. One task on his list was write yearly assessments for his staff and since they regularly made him look good despite himself he should have been happy to do that.

    3. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      LinkedIn recommendations

      Does "X" know about...

      How do I answer that when I have one friend who knows about it in the sense of having written THE book and being on the international standards body for that technology and another who knows about it in the sense of hearing a man talk about it down the pub and parroting what he heard?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Skills matrix

      I worked for IBM who suggested a similar self rating scheme. Just before announcing redundancies.

      Fortunately, when I pointed out they need some kind of control candidate or manager agreement to stop people exaggerating, they listened.

      Unfortunately they had me mediate, and I had a couple of dozen one on one meetings where I would more or less give people a polite correction of their skills.

      A year later, I too was redundant. I had to submit my own skills matrix.

      Clueless.

  3. GlenP Silver badge

    Back in the day...

    When PCs had proper on-off switches I had a user call in a panic late one afternoon.

    User: "How do I turn the computer off?"

    Me: "Did you turn it on this morning?"

    User: "Yes."

    Me: "Well press the same switch!"

    User: " I know that, but which one is it?"

    The PC was an HP Tower with a white on-off switch in the top corner so fairly visible*.

    *Unlike an Apricot PC I installed where the on-off switch was a grey rectangular push button in the middle of the back that looked just like a cover over a port.

    Glen

    1. illiad

      Re: Back in the day...

      Or how about (I think it was an acer 'Q' ) that has the power button just below the top right corner!! - even worse , it was by the wall, so easily nudged by the user - so pushing the switch against the wall!! :O

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back in the day...

        "[...] it was by the wall, so easily nudged by the user - so pushing the switch against the wall!! "

        One PC model had a protruding switch on the front - near the bottom. If a user pushed their desk keyboard back to make more space then it often powered their PC off.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back in the day...

        When punched cards were the mainframe input medium the jobs were submitted in metal trays. At the start of the evening shift there would be so many trays that they were stacked high on the cabinets' work surfaces.

        One evening a systems programmer was waiting to take over the mainframe for a dedicated slot. To keep out of the operator's way he stood against the cabinets. He then made himself more comfortable by leaning back into the protruding card trays. A descending eerie silence signalled that there was an emergency off button directly behind them.

        To avoid the problem happening again the cabinet under the emergency off button was removed.

        The next week the same programmer returned. He warily avoided repeating the mistake - and found a convenient tray-free space - where he leaned back against the same emergency off button.

        The button was finally secured by fixing a papertape core ring as a protective surround.

        That sort of protection didn't help at another customer. The whole computer centre suddenly went very quiet. An operator then had to try and explain what had possessed him to press the emergency off button by the room's exit door.

        1. tfewster Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Back in the day...

          And the (possibly made up) corollary:

          During the post incident management review to make sure it never, ever happened again, the operator was asked to retrace his steps. He explained "I was balancing a stack of tapes and couldn't see around them very well, so when I reached out, like this..."

          And the computer centre went quiet again.

    2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Back in the day...

      Once called by a user about a new external floppy drive that wasn't working... took me 5 minutes to find the rocker switch carefully recessed in the overhanging base.

  4. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    Bad references

    Aren't they against the law?

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Bad references

      Normally a response like "I'd love to, but if I do then you won't give her the job" will suffice to drop the hint.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bad references

      Yes - if you're asking from the previous employer. No - if you're asking from a colleague or a "mentor". Since the chap wasn't working for the Uni anymore he's free to tell the truth.

      If the reference states that the person worked but doesn't give any praise - the prospective employer can draw his own conclusions from that.

      IANAL.

      1. Chris King Silver badge

        Re: Bad references

        I was once asked to provide a reference for someone who had been sacked for gross misconduct and fraud - after pointing out that (a) he had not approached me for a reference and (b) I would have him removed from the building by security if he attempted to approach me, I summed up my feelings about the guy by saying "He should go far, that one. Pluto would be a good start, if we can't fling him into the sun".

        "So, if you were asked if you would recommend him for this job, that would be a 'No' ?"

        *boggle*

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: Bad references

        "No - if you're asking from a colleague or a "mentor". Since the chap wasn't working for the Uni anymore he's free to tell the truth."

        Reminds me of the anecdote about a professor that hated to give bad references.

        His reference for the totally useless?

        "If you can get this person to work for you, you will be extremely fortunate."

      3. Paul Stimpson

        Re: Bad references

        Another good one is too much praise. "He's amazing. The best employee we ever had." If a reference is too good, most people start to wonder why you're so keen to make sure the person gets the job so you can be rid of them.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Bad references

      No.

      No.

      No.

      No.

      No.

      They are not.

      Stop spreading that absolute rubbish.

      You are asked for a reference and should reply HONESTLY.

      If someone is NOT rubbish and you give a FALSE reference, you can get into trouble.

      If someone IS rubbish, you are perfectly entitled to give a bad reference.

      Everything else is political-correctness rubbish that has no basis in law at all.

      Stop spreading this utter tripe.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Bad references

        For anyone who doubts this, I challenge you to point to a law that says anything like that, or a court case where an HONEST reference was deemed illegal.

        And almost every reference you can find will tell you the same:

        http://www.totaljobs.com/careers-advice/money-and-legal/references-faq

        The reason it's not generally done is a) professionalism, b) avoidance of the possibility of a lawsuit (by the time you're into references for people that haven't done a good job, you tend to tread carefully, HR-wise), c) it's easier to just REFUSE to provide a reference which tells people roughly the same without the potential liability.

        But it is NOT illegal to provide an HONEST reference, good or bad.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Bad references

          AFAIK, it's nothing to do with the reference which is "illegal" (as pointed out above). The legal conundrum can come from possible libel/slander*.

          If you have evidence to back up what you say, you are entitled to say it. However, as with anything, if you say something bad about a person they can take you to court for libel/slander and (AFAIK) you must prove that what you said was accurate. According to Wikipedia:

          In the common law of libel, the claimant has the burden only of proving that the statement was made by the defendant, and that it was defamatory. These things are generally relatively easy to prove. The claimant is not required to prove that the statement was false. Instead, proving the truth of the statement is an affirmative defence available to the defendant.

          So, if you can prove that what you say is true, by all means say it. If you cannot, or just don't want to risk a lawsuit, just refuse to give a reference. This will be taken as a bad reference anyway, so does pretty much the same job. This is why companies rarely give a bad reference: Purely because they can't be arsed with a lawsuit, and refusing to give a reference has the same effect with no risk.

          * I can never remember which way round these are.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Bad references

            "I can never remember which way round these are."

            Libel is written. Think "li" for "libel" and "li" for "literature.

            If libel's written then slander isn't so it must be spoken.

            HTH

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Bad references

              "Everything else is political-correctness rubbish that has no basis in law at all"

              I think this is also true for the "We have to advertise the job externally" or " oh they have to offer it internally , before they can go outside" . I'm no lawyer , but both sound like bullshit to me , and are just company policies - probly made up on the spot to do what they want.

              --------

              re the references - the current policy of "never say anything bad" could get you into just as much trouble couldnt it? A company could take on a complete tool, spending a lot in the process - because referee gave glowing reference , and then feel they had to sue referee\previous company

              1. Peter2 Silver badge

                Re: Bad references

                Yep, the issue with references is simply libel. The chances of getting sued are about zero as long as it's true, since "truth" is an absolute defense. (although you have to be able to prove your statements, and most people would prefer to avoid the hassle)

                You can provide poor references without derogatory comments though, I have seen such a reference which basically said:-

                "I confirm that $person worked for us from $date to $date, and I am sure they would be suitable for your vacency, assuming that that it is a junior position with adequate supervision".

                1. Lee D Silver badge

                  Re: Bad references

                  "I confirm that $person worked for us from $date to $date, and I am sure they would be suitable for your vacency, assuming that that it is a junior position with adequate supervision".

                  Oh... nasty.

                  I had a similar one given for me once - "I confirm that they worked for us from X to Y", basically. But that was standard practice from the new boss that came in and destroyed that particular workplace, they gave that for everyone, even people who'd been there 20+ years in senior positions and just decided to move on rather than work for them.

                  Fortunately, I had contact with their predecessor who issued me with a proper reference, and a superior to them who'd retired from an even-higher possession who vouched me for entirely, and in fact my next employer hired on the basis of their word before their references came through (and haven't regretted it!).

                  References are a minefield open to interpretation, and employers tend to treat them as such. Just because your immediate boss, or HR hate you doesn't mean that you're bad at your job. But if they say "He blew up my workplace, mis-filed financial statements and caused me to go bankrupt", you KNOW to steer well clear.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Bad references

                  There is no risk at all with a bad referene if you state it correctly.

                  If you say: X is incompetent and knows nothing about computers. There is a potential risk of libel if very very small.

                  If you say: 'We would not employ X in a technical role based on an assesment of his skills while he worked for me, there is no risk and it is a more accurate statement.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. HelpfulJohn

            Re: Bad references

            Slander is speaking, libel is legible.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bad references

          "But it is NOT illegal to provide an HONEST reference..."

          It is, however, important to distinguish between honesty and accuracy. You may honestly believe that the candidate is a lazy, arrogant shit, but unless you can unequivocally demonstrate that fact you are well into the realms of libel if you say such things to prevent them getting a job. It ticks every box in the relevant legislation.

          It's for this reason that HR departments are so finnicky about references. Given that, alongside the rest of the documentation in the recruitment process, they're subject to disclosure under the DPA, it isn't worth the bother. Especially given how bad we all are at actual performance management.

          Besides, it's pointless. We all know what "I'm not comfortable providing a reference for that person - you'll have to speak to HR" means.

      2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

        Re: Bad references

        @ Lee D

        Ok. Chill your bean, love.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Bad references

          The problem with bad references that makes current employers loathe to provide them is that a bad reference will prevent the candidate from moving on of their own accord.

          It isn't illegal to provide a true bad reference, just unwise given the tangled way some laws have of preventing a clean firing for cause.

          Providing a bad reference can open one to charges of providing a false statement though, which can blossom into libel and damages lawsuits. Who needs that amount of bother when one can write "Lovely chap. Knows his stuff. Be sorry to lose him"?

          On one of my contracts terminating I was given a bad reference when my agent asked for one. The reason given was so outrageously untrue I just laughed, even though it did cause me material harm in that I was out of work for a bit and the reference didn't help.

          The real reason this paragon of truth had written me down? The whole department suspected I had slept with The Office Angel after a party, and I refused to gratify their prurient interest. She ended up going consultant herself within a month of my leaving so they lost their eye-candy, likely because she resented their attitude as much as I did.

      3. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Bad references

        If someone IS rubbish, you are perfectly entitled to give a bad reference.

        Everything else is political-correctness rubbish that has no basis in law at all.

        Stop spreading this utter tripe.

        Hopefully this is true. If so, it gladdens my heart given what commentards have said on another thread.

    4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Bad references

      No. Over-cautious legal departments prevent companies giving references beyond "She worked here from date x to date y." because they think it protects them from getting sued should one of their ex-employees f**k up at another company or fail to get a job cos of a bad reference. Of course, it means that they now have no way of knowing that they are about to employ a potential f**k up - so there's potential karma out there.

    5. Bill Gray

      Re: Bad references

      At least in the US, where fear of lawsuits is well-placed, some of the standard ways of weaseling one's way in such matters are :

      I cannot recommend this person too highly.

      You will be lucky if you can get this person to work for you.

      Words fail me in describing this person.

      1. Tim Roberts 1

        Re: Bad references

        I Kenya a few decades ago they used to say

        "This man has done me well, I hope he does you too"

        (at least according to my Dad who worked there in the late 50's and early 60's)

    6. Alumoi
      Trollface

      Re: Bad references

      Yeap. In the good old USA you can't discriminate.

      So you can't say a person is some lazy dumbfuck who can't count to 10 without taking his/her shoes off. You must describe such person as someone with mobility and cognitive disabilites. Which is something good as the prospective employer MUST hire him/her or risk being sued.

      1. Havin_it

        Re: Bad references

        >can't count to 10 without taking his/her shoes off

        Anyone with fewer than 10 fingers ain't welcome in my typing pool, I'll tell ya that much :p

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    I work IT in schools.

    At least a dozen times now, I've had young, keen new members of teaching staff come in and are desperate to show off. If their subject is IT-rated, they inevitably feel the need to show-off how well-versed they are in IT and the IT department are apparently perceived as easy pickings. Because, well, we can't possibly be as qualified as an IT teacher, right?

    The guy who was going to "teach Scratch" to our Year 7. Who said it as if it was instant-hire-by-Microsoft kind of skill. After I interjected to tell him he'd better check with the head of department first, he questioned why I should be telling him what to teach.

    "Well, it's up to you," I said, "But we move on from Scratch in Year 3."

    After he then accused me of not knowing what I'm talking about, a well-timed Year 7 child came in to quiz me on some C99 he was coding up to go onto an Arduino to control the self-built, 3D-printed, made-from-components, soldered-circuit-board dronecopter with GPS module that he was in the middle of building in the extracurricular class I was helping to host. I'm sure that kid would have loved to sit through a lesson in Scratch as if it was the pinnacle of programming knowledge.

    It was almost as good as when a maths teacher was made to use the playground markings as part of his lesson and was stumped at how to do so. So I suggested a practical demonstration of the Sieve of Erastophenes, using the children as individual numbers and removing multiples-of-factors until you were left with only primes. They looked at me as if I was Rain Man as they'd never heard of the Sieve.

    Yes, people. An IT guy can actually get their degree in mathematics and thus understand twice as many subjects areas as you teach.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Year 7? Is that upper-sixth, or some reference to the 'new money' classifications?

      Infants - Lower Middle Top

      Juniors - J1 to J5

      Comprehensive, Years 1 - 5 and lower 6th and Upper sixth.

      ... as nature intended!

      You kids get off my lawn!

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Ooops, Juniors, J1 - J4

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Year 7? Is that upper-sixth, or some reference to the 'new money' classifications?"

        The "old" system in England of "First Form" etc apparently only applied to secondary schools. It could be ambiguous when some places used 13 as a transition age to secondary schools rather than 11.

        In England the "new" numbering system works fairly well - assuming age 5 is a mandatory start point. The term "Sixth Form" still seems to have been retained - particularly for "A" Level studies.

        However with various reductions in the age of starting formal education the nomenclature of the younger age groups is less obvious. Interestingly they have avoided ordinals of "0" or negative numbers - which would have been a useful concept for children to absorb.

      3. Steven Roper

        "Year 7? Is that upper-sixth, or some reference to the 'new money' classifications?"

        It's been the standard system in Australia since before I was in school back in the 70s, and still is. Here it's R(Reception) and Years 1 - 7 are primary school, 8 - 13 (used to be 12 or "matriculation" in my day) are high school. In my day the primary school years were called "Grades" as in "Grade 1", "Grade 2" etc, whereas high school it was "Year 8" or "1st Year", "Year 9" or "2nd Year", and so on. I think this last distinction has been discontinued these days, however, so it's just "Year X" now.

        Larger R-13 schools often subdivide into Junior, Middle and Senior schools, where R-5 is Junior, 6-9 is Middle, and 10-13 is Senior.

      4. David Nash Silver badge

        Year 7

        Since no-one answered you directly, I will clarify: Years 1-6 are primary school, what I knew as Infants and Juniors. Sometimes preceded by "Reception" which didn't have a name in the mid 70s where I went to school.

        Years 7-11 are what were the standard first to fifth years of secondary school up to GCSEs. Years 12 and 13 are Sixth Form, obviously :-) I normally have to to a quick mental calculation when discussing it with my kids, especially for those latter two years.

        Don't get me started on the grading system...."I got a 6". "6 out of what?" "just 6".

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Year 7

          In the UK:

          State Primary (Infants and Juniors):

          Nursery (Optional depending on child's age?)

          Reception

          Year 1 - 6

          State Secondary:

          Year 7 - 11

          Year 12 - 13 (was College / SixthForm)

          Independent (Private) Pre-Prep:

          Nursery (Possibly)

          Reception

          Year 1-2

          Independent Prep:

          Year 3-8

          Independent ("Secondary"):

          Year 7-13

          Are you sufficiently confused now? How about when all of the above are open to variation across schools, countries, etc. too!

          1. Havin_it

            Re: Year 7

            >in the UK

            In Scotland (80s-90s at least):

            Nursery: ""playschoolers"

            Primary school: "P1-7"

            Secondary school: "S1-6"

            Why must people so complicate matters? Keeps someone in a job, I suppose.

    2. keithpeter
      Coat

      Sieve

      "They looked at me as if I was Rain Man as they'd never heard of the Sieve."

      What? Good heavens. Where do you get your Maths teachers?

      Coat: shuffles off mumbling into beard.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yer English is crap tho', innit?

  6. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    FAIL

    A whiter shade of pale?

    Got called back to a small office system we had supplied. "We can't see anything!", they cried. Well selecting a theme of white text on a white background may be the reason. "We did not do that!", they cried as I exited.

    1. cyrus

      Re: A whiter shade of pale?

      Had to upvote you for this, as it reminded me of a client of mine who sent an email to me containing a user name and password in white text on a white background... you know, prying eyes and all. Don't want that info in the wrong hands!

    2. Chris Jasper

      Re: A whiter shade of pale?

      Have sadly seen this with so called Graphic Designers too

    3. Captain TickTock

      Re: A whiter shade of pale?

      Governments have redacted confidential PDFS by adding black rectangles over the offending text, forgetting that copy-paste still works...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Re: A whiter shade of pale?

      "ell selecting a theme of white text on a white background may be the reason. "We did not do that!", they cried as I exited."

      They didn't, it was me...

    5. salamamba too

      Re: A whiter shade of pale?

      justeat's website was down a few days ago, and their apology for the site being down was in white on a white background. A very mealy-mouthed way of apologising for the disruption.

      1. Jelder

        Re: A whiter shade of pale?

        And also likely to earn them a 'cloaking' penalty from google search...

  7. MrDamage

    Lets see

    Highschool: Maths teacher was sent some data on a 5.25" disk, with the instructions to remove it from its cover, and slot it into the drive on the computer.

    The person writing the instructions called the cardboard sleeve the cover. The Maths teacher misunderstood, slice open the protective plastic cover, removed the disk, and placed that into the drive. It worked, but at the age of 15, was my first experience of PEBKAC.

    10 years later as a field tech, get called out on a "now" response call, where the head beancounters PC won't switch on. $750 just for me to walk through the door.

    This is back in the old AT psu days, where they head a pass-through connector for the monitor to be plugged into.

    Beancounter was in the habit of just switching off the PC, which in turn powered off the monitor. Beancounter goes off on holidays, temp beancounter comes in to do the books, and was in the habit of switching off both monitor and PC.

    I'm sure you can work out how I "fixed" the problem.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Lets see

      Sounds like my sister, except in her case, the PC was normally left in standby and a simple mouse wiggle used to wake it.

      One day someone switched the PC off, and she spent four hours wiggling the mouse before calling me (at 10pm).

      Even this isnt the best, I think I can top the headline story.

      Last year, An elderly lady called me (while I was away at the other end of the country), to complain her email hadnt worked for a few weeks; after a hour of talking the facts revealed were.

      She and her husband were using several hand-me-down iPads and (Windows Vista!!) laptops, and none of them were getting emails because they had all lost their wifi connection. (They hadnt notice outgoing mail wasnt working !!).

      So suspicion falls on the elderly BT HH2; AHA no lights!!

      Me " Could you possibly have unplugged it and forgotten to plug it back in??"

      OL "Well I did hoover in here the day email stopped working"

      Me "Can you look to see if you can find the plug and plug it back in?"

      OL "Oh, I think I'd better get a man in to do that"

      So she paid some kid £40 to come out and plug the router in.

      1. Aqua Marina
        Joke

        Re: Lets see

        "OL "Oh, I think I'd better get a man in to do that""

        Sensible girl!

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: Lets see

          Ms Marina, I believe the reference was to 'elderly lady'.

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: Lets see

            @Hollerithevo

            Whooooooosh

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lets see

        I was doing tech support for a company that does VOIP.I was trying to help a women out . She respond we are women we have heels we can not do that .

      3. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Lets see

        I can beat that.

        I called a user who had a ticket open - something to do with not being able to use his menu-driven greenscreen application. I had taken over the ticket system when the helpdesk guy quit unexpectedly after not working much for a month and I was under strict orders to close out outstanding tickets as quickly and efficiently as possible, and so was having a nice day "reaching out" to frustrated and ignored people.

        But this bloke answered all my questions, starting with "What's showing on the screen?" with "I don't know".

        In the course of twenty minutes of ever-increasingly persnickety questioning I managed to ascertain that he was sitting in front of the terminal, that it was switched on, that he was neither blind nor color-blind. Yet when asked what color the screen was, he answered "I don't know". When given choices to pick from - "Is the screen blue or green?" - all I got was "I don't know". "is the power light on?" "I don't know".

        I eventually told him that I would send someone out to help him (there was no-one to send) and simply closed the ticket. I never did understand what the hell was going on. It remains the Meldrew's Giant Fly in my life.

        Stranger than this story is that when I sent it to another forum for this sort of tale, the commentards were vitriolic in their insistence that it could not have happened. I'd have accepted charges of being boring, but lying? Who makes up a story like this? It has no point.

        1. Blotto Bronze badge

          Re: Lets see

          its like when i ask people to telnet a host on a port. they always say nothing happens. the flashing cursor is the the response i'm looking for as opposed to the error when it fails, yet nothing is happening is the response.

  8. sandman

    Is it on?

    Before being temporarily diverted into technical support (my admiration goes to just about everybody involved in that, I haven't got the patience) I thought "Have you switched it on?" was a stupid question. After the nth time of seeing just that.... My favourite was. "My monitor doesn't work!" "Have you switched it on?" "Of course I have, do you think I'm stupid?" "OK, is it plugged in to the back of the computer?" "I've bloody checked, I'm telling you, it's BROKEN!" "Have you turned it on at the mains?" "Oh".....

    1. Robin

      Re: Is it on?

      That change in attitude at the end there, reminds me of a time way back when, when I did first-line website support for a financial company.

      Guy rings up shouting and screaming that the website is broken and it won't accept his correct data. So I suggest I bring up the same page on my screen and we go through it, field by field. We get about halfway down, to some date fields (date moved into house or something).

      Me: Ok so let's fill in these date, month and year fields, what values are you entering in there?

      Guy: 31...

      Me: Yep. Now the month?

      Guy: 9...

      Me: Umm, can I just stop you there

      To be fair, once he'd twigged he was quite apologetic and was grateful for finally getting his application through.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: Is it on?

        "Guy rings up shouting and screaming that the website is broken and it won't accept his correct data. So I suggest I bring up the same page on my screen and we go through it, field by field. We get about halfway down, to some date fields (date moved into house or something)."

        There may be a second possible problem there.

        Yes, the guy was clearly having a blonde moment by mistakenly trying to enter 31st September - that's the first problem, which you managed to resolve. (I've had the odd blonde moment like that of my own).

        However, the other possible problem is that the company's web form didn't highlight the error for him - if it did that when he tried to submit the erroneous data, he might have spotted the problem himself without the need to call you. My clue that this may not have been done is the fact that you went through it all field by field with him - if it highlighted the field that was in error and he still didn't spot his error, there should have been no need to go through it like that.

        Of course, whether my guess is reasonable may also depend on other factors, such as how long ago this was and the standards (and possibly even standard of web browser) in use.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Is it on?

          "However, the other possible problem is that the company's web form didn't highlight the error for him - if it did that when he tried to submit the erroneous data, he might have spotted the problem himself without the need to call you."

          Another problem with ill-thought-out forms is the mandatory field which is half a screen away from all the other fields, say Title (mandatory? really) somewhere in the middle of the explanation of how to fill in the form. Stream of conciousness is not a good way to design a user interface.

          Then there are fields which are only appropriate for some circumstances - no your two letter abbreviations for US states aren't appropriate if I'm in the UK.

          And entire pages designed to only fit onto screens of at least 6000x4000 pixels.

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: Is it on?

            "And entire pages designed to only fit onto screens of at least 6000x4000 pixels."

            I associate this with excessive spacing, stupidly large fonts, and pointlessly big images - regardless of the platform (and screen size) on which you are experiencing it. I call it "the tabletification of the web".

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Is it on?

              And entire pages designed to only fit onto screens of at least 6000x4000 pixels

              Happens with the good old desktop too. I still use an Asus EeePC which has a 1024x600 pixel screen. Time and again, with various Linux flavours (currently using Mint) a dialogue box will pop up that is bigger than 600 pixels high and it is absolutely impossible to move it to enter data into the fields off the bottom of the screen. Sometimes you can press "enter" and hope they weren't important...

              M.

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
                Flame

                Re: Is it on?

                Don't get me started.

                I'm viewing the page on a 7 inch screen, INCHES from my face. Why the hell do you think I want some backwards retarded website with half the functionaliy and a max of 5 lines due to the large font size. Do 'designers' think our mobile devices are not much more powerful than WAP devices?

                I've seriously never found a 'mobile' version of a site better than the desktop one. And those sites that browser sniff and then redirect automatically to the mobile site do my head in. If it's a commerce site, and there is no easy way to switch back, it's not worth bothering with. They lose my custom.

                Browser sniffing.... Sigh. I thought we'd seen the end of that in the early 2000's :-(

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Is it on?

                  "Browser sniffing.... Sigh. I thought we'd seen the end of that in the early 2000's :-("

                  Yep. For various reasons, the only browser available to me the other day was Konqueror. Latest, fully patched version. But the BBC decided I was using some sort of mobile device. No amount of hunting over the page elicited the "show full site" link they used to have. I can only assume that their limited browser checking was simply looking for known, expected browser and assuming anything not oin that list must be phone. Same applies to my 8" tablet screen. No, you twunts, it's NOT a tiny little phone screen.

                  The other bugbear is the sort of websites you are most likely to want to refer to while out and about but the site is hard coded for width and almost impossible to read on a phone screen even in landscape mode. Like the other day when I was having problems with my satnav while on the road.

                  1. Havin_it

                    Re: Is it on?

                    Pretty sure you can nobble the User-Agent: header sent by Konqueror, change it to something more mainstream and you'd probably be golden. (Konqueror is sadly now discontinued now though, so I hope your predicament was temporary.)

                    I've had to do this in my Raspberry Pi with Firefox on occasion: many sites don't compute when you've got a HD screen but appear, processor-wise, to be on a phone. Sigh...

              2. keithpeter
                Coat

                Re: Is it on?

                @ Martin an gof

                Try maximising the dialog[ue] box. Works on xfce4 on my old NC10.

                Inconvenient though I admit.

              3. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Is it on?

                Happens with the good old desktop too. I still use an Asus EeePC which has a 1024x600 pixel screen. Time and again, with various Linux flavours (currently using Mint) a dialogue box will pop up that is bigger than 600 pixels high and it is absolutely impossible to move it to enter data into the fields off the bottom of the screen.

                Happens in Win7 too and an HP Netbook had the same problem. My Zenbook screen is 1366x768 and the core i5 cpu means I can also play Civ V* when lounging around cafés waiting for doctors' appointments :-)

                * Some days el Reg can be v. boring. Maybe it's just me but the standard seems to have fallen over the last 12-24 months.

              4. Kiwi Silver badge
                Linux

                Re: Is it on?

                Time and again, with various Linux flavours (currently using Mint) a dialogue box will pop up that is bigger than 600 pixels high and it is absolutely impossible to move it to enter data into the fields off the bottom of the screen.

                Oddly not at a Linux box right now so can't confirm this, but IIRC you can hold ALT (or maybe CTRL) and drag the window with the mouse, from any where in the window. Have had to do this a few times on Mint as well, for similar reason (though it was a Windows game under WINE crashing out (thanks SystemD, you really are an incredibly crappy pile of shitamazing bit of code!) and leaving the screen rez rather borked.

                I wonder if the same idea works with Windows.. I've had that problem with new installs in the past before the graphics drivers go in, Windows only seeing 800x or worse, 640x ! Thankfully could do a parallel install and work out what each field was and how many times to hit [TAB]...

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Is it on?

                  IIRC ALT-SPACE then M and then the cursor keys will move the currently active window in MSWindows. Thanks for the *nix desktop window shortcut move command though. Another one I wasn't aware of :-)

              5. Havin_it

                Re: Is it on?

                ^This, and not limited to Linux either. My mum and I had netbooks around the same time (got her the same model as mine to hopefully simplify long-distance support) and quite a few apps had dialogs (or in at least one instance, main window) too tall for 600px vertical. Thunderbird account settings stands out ... Turns out "Alt+drag" is a tricky concept to grok over the phone :(

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: Is it on?

                  Thanks to all for the Alt-drag tips - I'll try it next time.

                  M.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Is it on?

              "I associate this with excessive spacing, stupidly large fonts, and pointlessly big images"

              I associate it with UX designers. Unable to come across anything that works without breaking to enhance the user experience.

              1. VinceH Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Is it on?

                "I associate it with UX designers. Unable to come across anything that works without breaking to enhance the user experience."

                Yeah, them too. idjits, the lot of 'em.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is it on?

            My mom recently ran into a problem with bad web design. She was trying to send gloves to my niece. she tried to enter the address but the site barfed. Since my mom was in the US it expected a US zip code, but my niece was in Vancouver,BC.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Is it on?

              And can someone tell me why credit/bank card forms ask for the 16 digit number with no spaces or dashes?

              Is it really so hard to parse '^([0-9]{4}[ -]{0,1}){4}$' ?

              What's worse are those forms which only allow 16 characters, so as you are typing in the number with spaces (for clarity, AND as it's printed on the card) only for the field to stop accepting the complete number.

              1. VinceH Silver badge

                Re: Is it on?

                "And can someone tell me why credit/bank card forms ask for the 16 digit number with no spaces or dashes?

                Is it really so hard to parse '^([0-9]{4}[ -]{0,1}){4}$'"

                Quite - that's long been an annoyance for me. What's worse is that I'm absolutely sure I remember correctly, and when e-commerce was first starting to take off, many forms would accept card numbers formatted with spaces.

                As you say, it's trivially easy to parse the number and strip anything unwanted (give a 16 digit block with no spaces to the back-end, if necessary - but let me type it in with spaces!) - but more importantly, it's easier for the user to double check what s/he has typed if it's spaced out like that - especially older people, or those whose with less than 20/20 vision.

                And don't get me started on those that force you to switch from keyboard to mouse when what has to be input can very easily be done from the keyboard. Duh! Offer the mouse method as an alternative method for those less adept with a keyboard!

                (And that includes making sure your fields can be easily navigated using the tab key - don't put too many unnecessary stops (extra links) along the way, and FFS don't use CSS lay the page out in such a way that the tab order becomes an illogical mess!)

            2. Pompous Git Silver badge

              Re: Is it on?

              My mom recently ran into a problem with bad web design.

              This week I decided to switch mobile telephone providers and entered the required details in the company's webform. It then told me that the email address I've been using for the last 16 years (jonathan@mydomain.com) was invalid. I had to create a throwaway email address to proceed. Go figure...

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Is it on?

          Yes, the guy was clearly having a blonde moment by mistakenly trying to enter 31st September

          Doh! I totally missed that. I was wondering if it expected "Sep" instead of "9", which didn't seem to make it a stupid user mistake to me *blush*

        3. Robin

          Re: Is it on?

          "However, the other possible problem is that the company's web form didn't highlight the error for him"

          Yep, this was about 1999/2000 time and the site had already been in place for a year so the conventions for such things weren't really established, and I think it was something along the lines of an onSubmit() function checking each field in turn and throwing up an alert box like "Please check the blah blah field". Of course as well being poor validation (compared to modern standards at least) this led to 'chase the error' situations.

          I went on to be one of the developers on the same site and we got to redevelop it from scratch, so of course it became awesome and we received zero phone calls after that ;-)

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Is it on?

            Input verification with no error message is the most annoying and financial systems are the worst offenders:

            Suppose on the next line he had entered 4.1% and it wouldn't let him continue because 4% is the maximum deduction for one legged piano players in Arkansas who also claim a single dependant as wife and sister and aren't separating form 24B from income on .......

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Is it on?

              I'm sorry, but in this day and age, if anyone doesn't know that 4% is the maximum deduction for one legged piano players in Arkansas who also claim a single dependant as wife and sister and aren't separating form 24B from income on ....... then they don't deserve to be employed.

              1. Havin_it
                Joke

                Re: Is it on?

                Isn't it quite hard to play a piano that's only got one leg? A skill like that should command remuneration enough to put one well above the welfare bracket in any civilised society, surely?

      2. Ameringue?

        Re: Is it on?

        That's more an example of poor form design.

        1. Robin

          Re: Is it on?

          "That's more an example of poor form design."

          As well as the intended gist of my post, yes it was indeed. See this reply for clarification.

    2. lukewarmdog

      Re: Is it on?

      Same thing with the head of IT at a local school. Thing is, when teaching effectively is just reading the GCSE teachers book out aloud, all you need to be able to do is get the kids to follow simple instructions and type stuff. Usually in Word. There's no actual IT going on and she hadn't actually taken IT at uni. It's not her fault she got the job but I just can't see why she applied or was appointed.

      I got a fairly angry call to come see why her PC wasn't working first thing one Friday morning, probably before her coffee, so asking her was it plugged in and switched on was definitely not what she wanted me to say.

      "Of course it is, do you think I'm stupid?"

      So there's some question you never answer honestly, right?

      So off I go, when I got there and "fixed" it, she was in the room and asked me what I'd done, I pointed out I'd just plugged it in at the mains. At which point she blamed the cleaner for unplugging it.

      Really gotta hope she had coffee before "teaching" the kids later.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it on?

        Be honest would any of us think comp school IT teachers would know anything about IT? The old saying those who can do those who can't teach springs to mind! Best teacher we had at school back in the 80s was a chemistry teacher who had done a PhD (uncommon in a comp) and worked doing proper chemistry in industry. This is why lectures at college\uni tend to be far better than teachers as most of them have done the job. I had some cracking lecturers at college (BTEC Engineering) they had all worked in industry whether that be elec eng , mech eng, materials science, electronics, drawing office, etc

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Is it on?

          Be honest would any of us think comp school IT teachers would know anything about IT?

          I'd hope it's better now, but in my day it was generally a maths teacher who'd been on a course.

          When we were all hacking away on our ZX Spectrums and Commadore 64's, we had a secondary teacher who knew sod all, and was very defensive because of it.

          I remember one lesson where she wrote BASIC a few lines to output 3 numbers in numerical order. It was full of if... then etc.

          As homework, we were told to write a program that would sort 6 numbers.

          I wrote a simple generic sort program, as you would, and got bollocked in front of the class: "If I'd wanted you to write a sort algorithm, I'd have asked you too"

          Back then, I was as shy as a coconut stand (*rimshot*) [No-one believes me when I tell them that today}, but fortunately a mate of mine was a gobby little shit and gave it to her big time.

          When I did A levels (different school) it was totally different, the teachers knew their stuff, and knew they did, and if they were asked something they didn't know, they'd say as much, rather than mumble and bullshit like the first teacher did. In fact, you'd often hear "I hear XXX(pupil) has been looking at that. Why don't you ask him/her"

          I sorta agree regarding university lecturers, although whilst there were a few great school teachers, there were also a few lecturers who were obviously only there for their research project and equipment/funding.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Is it on?

        "Really gotta hope she had coffee before "teaching" the kids later."

        NO! Sounds like she was already naturally too hyper to begin with.

      3. afrihagen

        Re: Is it on?

        The trick is to ask the user tun unplug the thing, and then replug it bac in.

        Nobodys ego is bruised, and everybody is happy!

    3. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      Re: Is it on?

      It happened to me, only a week ago.

      The computer won't turn on.

      Have to turn on the extension cord.

      Click. Bam. After resetting the circuit breaker, it appeared that the extension cord was fried, time to buy a new one.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just yesterday

    A user phoned to ask if there was any issues getting to resource X as there had been some problem last week and some guys were trying to get on with some tasks on a wired PC.

    Resource X is the on main network/subnet so from that visitor network it is pretty well tied down and I don't like the change that, so I went to the unit to see what was required.

    Turns out they didn't need that at all, all they needed to do was plug a fucking network cable in ™ and the item they wanted would be accessible.

    1. fnusnu

      Re: Just yesterday

      What you should have done is 'plug the f**king cable in' in the first place.

      I'd also advise you to grip your attitude, not only does it do you no favours, it also damages the reputation of IT in general.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just yesterday

        The equipement is test kit that gets moved around the room on wheels and only needs networking during non-windows OS updates which these programmers were doing. To avoid trip hazards on this wired-only kit we don't leave the network plugged in all the time as it is not required, nor beneficial, to training users.

        My error was assuming other commentors would know, not everybody works purely in an office.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My error was assuming other commentors would know

          No, your error was not getting a wireless connection set up for a mobile device. And swearing because users aren't IT experts, despite the fact you'd be out of work if they were.

          1. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

            Re: My error was assuming other commentors would know

            "your error was not getting a wireless connection set up for a mobile device"

            Your error is assuming a wireless connection would be appropriate. If it was in an EMC test lab, for example, that would not be the case.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: My error was assuming other commentors would know

              you know what grinds my gears? and this wont be popular.

              Technical people who have not spent a long enough time in a user facing situation, due to rising meteorically through the ranks , and now have incredibly unsympathetic and condescending attitude to users from up in their ivory towers where they do "important things" - at a seemingly geologically slow speed whilst us grunts on the ground are taking a shitstorm of fire from all directions while waiting for our lords and betters to hit a few buttons to resolve the situation.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Your error is assuming a wireless connection would be appropriate.

              Well in that case by all means swear at the users! Only twats work in EMC test labs, for example.

              1. HieronymusBloggs Silver badge

                Re: Your error is assuming a wireless connection would be appropriate.

                "Only twats work in EMC test labs, for example."

                Banged your head on the underside of your bridge? It's Friday. Calm down and have a beer.

      2. Bloakey1

        Re: Just yesterday

        "I'd also advise you to grip your attitude, not only does it do you no favours, it also damages the reputation of IT in general."

        Agreed. It is these people that allow us to generate decent incomes and have a good life. The same kind of laugh could be had at my expense by an artist when reviewing a piece of my work on canvas.

        Long live the naive users God bless them and may their gonads never fester.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Just yesterday

          Ultimately, whether we're full-time pro support staff, the part time IT support with another job in the organisation, or the only team member who knows anything about computers, we have to accept that the IT equipment is by and large just a box of tricks that lets the staff do their jobs. If it works seamlessly then it'd doing what it should and their only responsibility is know how to do their bit and the peripheral tasks associated with that, like saving work turning it on and off properly etc. If it fails to work like that then someone else carries the can and it's no shame to the users, whether it's due to crap design, purchasing decisions that fail to take crap design into account or poor procedures.If the job specifies a certain level of computer skills, that's a different matter. But it's then a part of job competence.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Just yesterday

      issues getting to resource X

      Thought I was about to generate a story of my own for a while - I couldn't get onto the company Outlook web interface from home. Suspected my network connection (nope, everything else is fine) or possibly my slightly flaky installation of Firefox (for some reason the entire web works, except for posting articles on The Register and accessing amazon.co.uk) but no, I got the same issue on another computer and another web browser (both of which work fine with El Reg and Amazon).

      Came into work and reluctantly emailed IT (hi guys!) who sent back "aah, yes, we've reconfigured everything and not told anyone. We'll send an email around later". Not much good for us part-timers, so I've copied the new details to my home address, and that of a colleague who also often needs to access email at home.

      Grrr...

      M.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Just yesterday

        'Came into work and reluctantly emailed IT (hi guys!) who sent back "aah, yes, we've reconfigured everything and not told anyone. We'll send an email around later".'

        So they reconfigured the email so it wouldn't work for you and then proposed to let you know by email. Good thinking there. About the same as that Suse release where they knew the online update was broken but planned to fix it with an online update.

  10. DailyLlama

    At my first IT job (back in 2000), we had a guy who knew the sum total of nothing (TM) about computers. He'd come to me every day and ask pertinent questions, such as "How do I create a new Excel document?" and then several hours later "How do I save an Excel document?", followed by the inevitable "How to I open that Excel document from yesterday?".

    He used to get me to type his emails for him (because he was way way way more senior than I was, and I was too young and inexperienced to refuse), and when questioned why, claimed that it was because the computer on his desk was too old and slow to work properly. Conceding that the old 286 (complete with TURBO button) might not be the fastest thing on the block, we bought him a new desktop - a P3 600 with 128mb of RAM. An absolute monster in terms of the machines we bought then. I set it up and noticed that the network cable was damaged, so I removed it to get a replacement. Somewhere along the line, I got distracted (by something shiny, no doubt), and never got around to installing the new cable.

    The missing network cable was discovered after 5 weeks...

  11. wolfetone Silver badge

    My girlfriend never turns her laptop off, and sometimes she brings it home (obviously puts it in standby mode). It's happened on more than one occasion that Outlook stops responding, or won't start, or something is generally slow on her work laptop and she'll ask me what's wrong with it.

    "Have you turned it off and on?"

    "No."

    "Well do that first, then if it doesn't work we'll take another look".

    Depending on her mood, she'll either do it straight away or try and crawl through the problem until she restarts it. But she'll always say "That's what the tech guys at work say, like it's the only way to solve a problem on a computer. And they get paid to tell me that".

    At this point, I remind her, that 99% of the time this fixes the issue. I try to tell her to turn the computer off when she's not using it, but nooooo. That's too hard to do that.

    But we've all been there haven't we?

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      But... but... uptime

      obligatory xkcd: https://xkcd.com/705/

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Sorry, but I prefer your girlfriends attitude.

      Yeah, "switching it off and on again" is the quick 'fix' but it's just firefighting. As a support person, you don't often have much choice, but thinking 'switch it off and on again' is acceptable is one of the many things we can thank Microsoft for.

      Before then, it was simply a non-answer. Don't switch it off! We'll lose debugging diagnostics!

      (Again, I'm not talking about you at home wit the girlfriend, but generally in the industry)

      Can you imagine if "have you switched it off and on again" was the stock response for computers running traffic lights, nuclear power stations, auto-pilot etc.etc

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Technically...

        Turning it off and on again is a work around, not a fix.

        :)

    3. Pompous Git Silver badge

      At this point, I remind her, that 99% of the time [rebooting] fixes the issue...

      But we've all been there haven't we?

      Remind me again, how long has it been since Outlook 97 was released? Mrs Git still has to ask. Mind you, since the Gitling gave her his old Macbook running Win7 she has only needed to once.

  12. Andy Non
    Coat

    Holds hand up in shame

    Back in the days of big clunky 286 PCs; it was sometimes necessary to power off and back on again between using certain software. Someone asked if they could use my PC and I said "OK, but turn it off and on again first." Big mistake. I should have said "Turn it off, wait a few seconds, then turn it back on again." She turned the computer off and immediately back on again, causing a surge that burned out the power supply unit. Sigh.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Holds hand up in shame

      That's not your fault, that's her fault for being impatient.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: her fault for being impatient

        Um, she did what she was told to do.

        If all my users did what they were told, my life would be easier because all I would have to do would be take care in how I told them to do something. Instead, like everyone here I suppose, I tell them to do one thing, they do something entirely different, then they come back and complain that what I told them didn't work.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: her fault for being impatient

          I dont ping machines anymore my cmd prompt has little script that pings it , but also gets all kinds of other pertinent info from remote machine including how long since user last rebooted it!

        2. Kiwi Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: her fault for being impatient

          I tell them to do one thing, they do something entirely different, then they come back and complain that what I told them didn't work.

          Ah yes, the number of times I've either been in the room watching or on something like a shared screen on Skype, told the user to click on "The big green START button at the bottom left of their screen (xp days)" and watched their mouse immediately move up and right. Then they complain there's no green button there. I tell them where to look and they still don't. Eventually resort to "move your mouse down a bit. Bit more. Now left. More left. More left. Little down. Little left. Yeah, that green button in the bottom right". Or watch them move hard right/left when you say it's just to the left etc..

          If they could just do as told, with little fuss. Ask if they don't understand rather than faking it (I often tell them they'll look more stupid when they fuck things up because they clicked on the wrong things). Also have one gent (older and management, who'd have guessed) who insists on "I'll click on xx and see what happens" when I'm asking him to read out a settings dialogue or something else. Even though I often expressely remind him to only ever click what I say, when I say, and only the exact number of times I say.

          (Remotely-viewed mouse cursor is a "prior art" version of those eye-tracking devices :) )

          tl;dr : Users are annoying and don't follow even basic instructions, often because they want to appear to know more.

          Icon : If only...

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: her fault for being impatient?

        No, it's rubbish PSU design. All too common.

        Live somewhere rural with a loose connection somewhere in the overhead transmission and after a while "natural selection" ensures you only have PSUs that cope. Also bean counters realise a UPS isn't a luxury on a server.

        IMO the best aspect of a laptop is the built in UPS, when you live somewhere with dodgy electricity. You KNOW you need to save often, but sometimes get so engrossed you forget. Or forget how you did the clever function or paragraph of text written just after the last autosave.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: her fault for being impatient?

          No, it's rubbish PSU design. All too common.

          This would have been in the age of 286s (early 1990's), when PSUs were somewhat less sophisticated and refined than they are, or should be, today.

          Not that there aren't still a lot of poor PSUs these days, particularly for consumer networking kit and similar.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: her fault for being impatient?

            "Not that there aren't still a lot of poor PSUs these days, particularly for consumer networking kit and similar."

            A friend rang up to say their PC wouldn't power up. I was going through the usual checks - then the user suddenly went "oops!!". They had interpreted "switch it on" to include frustratedly flicking the on/off switch several times until there was a blue flash.

            Stripping down the PC showed that the Enermax PSU had a vaporised fuse. Whatever had caused the problem was pretty drastic. Out of everything in the machine - only the fan had not been irrevocably killed.

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Holds hand up in shame

      She turned the computer off and immediately back on again, causing a surge that burned out the power supply unit. Sigh.

      That was also a neat way to kill a hard disk. Even in this day and age with SSDs I still count to 10 before powering a machine back up.

      1. Andy Non

        Re: Holds hand up in shame

        The wait 5-10 seconds between powering off and powering on ANY appliance is now totally engrained in me after that incident. Better safe than sorry. I imagine hardly anyone is given the advice to pause between powering off/on appliances nowadays, but back in the late 1980s it was common knowledge, or so I thought, until the woman in question inadvertently destroyed my PC.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK

    I was doing the other (main, non-IT support) part of my job, with a senior teacher in a local school. She had a document on her PC, so asked my to wait before I came in to her office because it was confidential and she didn't want to lose it. Some puzzlement and several minutes later I heard the printer. Then she let me in to her office. She explained that she'd already had to write it twice before, because she'd had to leave her room before it was finished and had switched it off because it was confidential. So I asked her if she hadn't just saved it. She said she didn't know how.

    This was in a school with any number of technically competent teachers, a four strong admin team and hundreds of kids she could have asked. But she'd wasted hours and hours of her time, week in week out because she didn't know how to save a document. It wasn't my role in that school to show her, but I offered. She said she didn't have time!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: OK

      "She said she didn't have time!"

      Of course she didn't. She had a lot of documents to retype.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK

      " She said she didn't have time!"

      A friend often uses that excuse when I'm trying to get her to take some IT precaution. Guess who is expected to sort out the mess afterwards?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: OK

        "Guess who is expected to sort out the mess afterwards?"

        So tell her you don't have time.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User couldn't open documents or turn on PC, still asked for reference as IT expert

    that's typical in the Greek public sector

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "a phone call from the head of a government department, who had been given my name to provide a reference about her IT skills....

    The really weird thing? She got the job anyway."

    Not at all weird. Bullshitting was probably a prime requirement for the job & he'd just proved her credentials.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Either that, or she had other, very supporting arguments.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've a feeling

    she got a job in our tech support dept.

    No disrespect, guys, doin a great job y'all

  17. illiad

    SOME interviews have no clue about the tech... especially government...

    the phrase "went down to have a look to find two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port and assorted other horrors."

    would be understood as "went down to have a look to find two mmm plugged into each other, a usususu plugged in to an etrstet and assorted other horrors."

    um, what?? she does IT, that's good enough! (you have seen IT CROWD? "ah you do email! just what we need!" )

  18. Gary Moore's Plectrum

    "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

    Can anyone explain how this could be physically achieved? I'm genuinely stumped.

    1. David Roberts Silver badge

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      Monitor lead (VGA) with two male ends?

      Failing memory, but can't be arsed to root around for a spare one to check.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

        pretty much all monitor signal cables are the same at both ends!

    2. BenR

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      Brute force and ignorance?

    3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      When you've worked with some of the people I have, its achievable

      Square peg+round hole+ big hammer = it fits

    4. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      Male and female power connectors, common back in the days when monitors were powered through the PC's PSU. I've seen it done. USB and Ethernet, though? That has me stumped.

    5. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      "Can anyone explain how this could be physically achieved? I'm genuinely stumped."

      The USB mouse plugged into the ethernet port is a piece of cake. When I set my laptop up in a particularl location, it's positioned such that I plug things in by feel - and USB stuff will plug very easily into an ethernet port.

      The monitors - as someone upthread suggested, possibly two male ends to a VGA cable. In fact, depending how recent this was, that may very well be right - the connection at both ends is the same these days. (I had to unplug this very monitor to double check because I wasn't entirely sure). The same is obviously true of HDMI.

    6. Bloakey1

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      "Can anyone explain how this could be physically achieved? I'm genuinely stumped."

      Some (nearly all nowadays) monitors have a socket in the back that you connect a cable to and then connect to the computer. Take two monitors and one video cable and Bob is your uncle.

      The USB plug will slide into a CAT5 socket nicely.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

        A few years ago I was working with some customer equipment that used the smaller-than-RJ45 connector that you see on phones (RJ11?) to connect a power supply to the unit. I always thought that was a dodgy piece of design, as the equipment ran at quite a low voltage - seemed to me it would be quite easy to plug in something phone-related (9v, IIRC) and release the Magic Blue SmokeTM

        1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: "Magic smoke"

          I used to have to troubleshoot AT&T/Avaya "Merlin" and other phone systems. (They were amazingly reliable overall) Sometimes I'd have to verify a wiring path was intact, and I also worked on their networking for their Terminal Server/dumb terminal environment. All jacks were RJ-45 and often times things were not labelled well, if at all. I used to buy a few of the cheap $10 cable testers with a remote unit off ebay and keep several on hand. The reason being if I would plug them inadvertently into what I though was a serial or Ethernet jack, but turned out to be a phone jack fed from the PBX, the 48V would instantly fry one of the lines on my tester. I went through about 5 of these in the 4 years I did that job. The dumb terminals were resilient to the treatment if plugged into the wrong jack, but once in a blue moon it would damage one of the cards in the phone system.

          I made a point of labelling everything I encountered and using different colored jacks for each if I needed to replace them, but a surprising number of employees would just plug in anything wherever it would fit. "A hole is a hole." ..without getting too deep or off topic, I think that logic applied beyond networking as well to many of them.

      2. David Brown 2

        Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

        It's easy to plug a USB cable (type "B" end) into an Ethernet RJ45 port. For some reason, I used to do it regularly with an embedded electronics card we had. I really should have known better - I had designed the card in the first place!

    7. apepper

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      I would guess the monitors had DVI or VGA connectors and someone used a cable to connect between the two.

      When personal computers were first coming out I was working in the computer centre of a very prestigious college in London - . I'd installed a CP/M machine for someone who's job title was programmer. So she was a programmer in a professional computer centre in one of the top centres of excellence for technology and science in the UK. A couple of weeks later I got a call saying I must come down "at once" to mend the computer. I was finishing off what I was doing and was about to leave for her office when another call came in; "You don't need to come. Someone spotted it wasn't plugged in."

    8. Just Enough

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      I once worked with a developer who plugged his ethernet connection into his monitor port. I can't remember what adaptors were in use, but this was a while back so they must have been pretty funky.

      Unsurprisingly the entire network went down immediately. It took a while before someone realised that his complaining about his monitor not working, and everyone else complaining about the network not working, were directly related.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

        plugged his ethernet connection into his monitor port

        Ethernet MAU to IBM MCGA? Both use 15 pin D-types.

        M.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

          "Ethernet MAU to IBM MCGA? Both use 15 pin D-types."

          Or a Token Ring cable in CGA/EGA video port. DB9 connectors with matching genders.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

          "Ethernet MAU to IBM MCGA? Both use 15 pin D-types."

          Or, more likely, a BNC 10BaseT connector into an RGB monitor using separate BNC connectors for each signal line. Some had more connectors than were required, depending on what you were connecting to it.

    9. Kiwi Silver badge

      Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

      Can anyone explain how this could be physically achieved? I'm genuinely stumped

      IME most VGA, DVI and HDMI leads have a plug on each end, most screens and computers have a socket. I can see how someone could accidentally loop them when connecting 2 devices especially when flustered, inexperienced, and not entirely sure of what they're doing. And reaching around behind the machine where it's usually rather dark and hard to get to (not everyone works in a private office with the machine in the middle of the room and easy to get to!)

      As to the USB lead in network socket? Fits beautifully, not that I've ever done it before myself, honest! Not too hard to do when you're feeling behind a machine and find say the keyboard lead, and push the external HDD or other device lead into what might be a slot just below it. Easier still on machines that have 2 network ports, especially when you're not used to the idea.

      1. Havin_it

        Re: "two monitors plugged into each other, a USB mouse plugged in to an ethernet port"

        Heh, yeah I was incredulous at USB->Ethernet myself so likewise had to try it, and son of a gun...

        Good job El Reg is responsible journalism and doesn't tell us to go jumping off cliffs ...

  19. BigAndos

    I had to show a whole department of users how to save an attachment from their email a few weeks ago. And no I don't even work on the helldesk!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My daughter came home from school . . .

    a few years ago (she was about 8). And asked me if most people are stupid. She had had to help a teacher get a document off a USB stick, powered on a monitor that 'wasn't working' and sorted out some printer issue. She is not a genius but just looks at things logically and starts with the simplest likely problem.

    I had to tell her that, "Yes, sadly most people are stupid".

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: My daughter came home from school . . .

      'I had to tell her that, "Yes, sadly most people are stupid".'

      Learning that at 8 saves a lot of problems later on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My daughter came home from school . . .

        The difficult lesson is that it's highly likely the most stupid people will be your bosses.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My daughter came home from school . . .

          "The difficult lesson is that it's highly likely the most stupid people will be your bosses."

          The Peter Principle is "Everyone rises to the level of their incompetence". A good techie often stays in a (low paid) techie role - an incompetent one gets promoted to being a (higher paid) manager.

  21. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    So glad sysadmin hell is over for me from this day on forward.

    Have fun, guys!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you are retiring then you will probably find that people now assume you have even more time to fix their kit.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        If you are retiring then you will probably find that people now assume you have even more time to fix their kit.

        "Sorry, I've got out of touch with that sort of thing these days."

        Especially useful with W10.

        1. HelpfulJohn

          "I don't *DO* Win-ten, I don't *HAVE* Win-ten, there are *NO* Win-ten boxes in my house." Yet Inept Sister still gets me to help-desk her on her Win-Ten box.

          Worse. Once I fixed her box she had me try to fix, by telephone, the Wi-fi on her daughter's box. What confused me was that none of the things she was seeing on the screen matched with anything I'd ever seen while playing with the demo models of Win-ten in the shops.

          Inspiration. Winver. Daughter-box is running XP.

          Fortunately, my telekinesis is too weak to strangle sisters by way of the telephone system.

          Even more fortunately, XP issues I can deal with.

          Much kudos when I did, too.

          It's when they say "thank you" that it almost seems worth the aggravation.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        If you are retiring then you will probably find that people now assume you have even more time to fix their kit.

        Easy peasy. When asked: "Are you the computer expert?" you say: "No, I'm a pedophile." Works wonders :-)

        1. HelpfulJohn

          I'm old, hairy and don't wear suits any more.

          If I tried that one, I'd be in the pokey.

          1. Havin_it
            Coat

            Mm, your handle probably doesn't help matters in that regard ...

  22. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Our expensive PCs

    People get used to consumer grade PCs with cheapo power supplies where you just plug in the mains cable and off you go. Our expensive "enterprise grade" boxes though have a not-very-visible rocker switch that you also have to turn on. Gets 'em every time.

    I have to say I have given up being snarky with un-knowledgeable users. I used to get all frustrated about them "wasting my time" but what is the point.

  23. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    FAIL

    ERROR DETECTED. PLEASE REPLACE USER AND PRESS F1 TO CONTINUE.

  24. Gert Leboski

    As they say.....

    "Your ignorance is my job security."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As they say.....

      Not necessarily. An ignorant manager will often replace a competent techie who says "no" - with an ambitious one who expects to have moved on before their "can do" answers come home to roost.

  25. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Depressing...

    I had a very irate contractor, one that was being paid over $100K for a 4-month stint, call me angrily saying her monitor that we had just installed wasn't working. The tone of her voice implied that we were all incompetent. I asked whether she had turned it on and if the power light was lit up. "Of course I've tried that!" I'm sure you see where this is going... I walked into the office, wordlessly pushed the power button without even looking at her, and silently walked out.

    I've also driven miles through a typhoon of a rainstorm to discover that when people 'cleaned behind the computer cabinet', they plugged the UPS into itself. A perpetual motion machine it was not.

    Recently I had the gristly discovery that a relatively new IT hire, that I mentored, and that still daily calls me with questions, was hired in making significantly more than my current salary.

    While dealing with things like this gracefully is all part of being an adult, it does tend to wear you down...

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Depressing...

      plugged the UPS into itself

      Does that not just make it get very hot very quickly?

    2. Havin_it

      Re: Depressing...

      >gristly discovery

      If you'd had one of those, I doubt you'd be sharing about it. Not on here, anyway.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That being said

    After about thirty years of doing support I find myself getting stumped from time to time by one or two of the public PCs where I am a volunteer worker ( not IT). I don't often have to use them, but sometimes a member of the public will say one isn't working and I can see that someone has switched it off so I need to switch it on again. It's a rather small, dark grey strip of plastic, standing out about 2mm on the front of a dark grey box covered with bits of dark grey trim, that all look exactly like the damn button. So I spend a couple of minutes pushing little bits of plastic until one moves.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: That being said

      "It's a rather small, dark grey strip of plastic, standing out about 2mm on the front of a dark grey box covered with bits of dark grey trim, that all look exactly like the damn button. So I spend a couple of minutes pushing little bits of plastic until one moves."

      Ah, yes - the modern trend that's been going on far too long, shows no signs of abating, and is somehow getting worse and worse: Form over function.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Invisible switches

      You could stick an adhesive paper label onto the power switch so that you can see where it is. Maybe with some sort of "Do not touch" message, like the electric shock symbol or the Ghostbusters logo.

      I did that with the controls on my home hi fi. I have reasonable vision, as tested, but black buttons on a black box labelled with black writing (slightly shiny) defeats me.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Invisible switches

        "black buttons on a black box labelled with black writing"

        Or dark grey alien symbols on a black bezel that seems to be touch sensitive. BUT! Variable latency in response, so you learn to wait before trying a second time, as otherwise it turns on and goes to standby.

        Black text on black flush buttons on Tesco DAB / FM Alarm radio, including volume, alarm cancel etc

        Incomprehensible sequences of buttons with almost no GUI on a one line LCD. Impossible without manual or bright spot light and even then really hard.

        Ergonomics is GARBAGE on consumer Electronics as they cost costs by having no knobs or numeric pads. Non-mobile Websites and desktop applications that all functions are hidden in a "hamburger" menu and GUI designed for a 320 x 240 display.

        Much vaunted Apple Design takes worst aspect of Dieter Ram's minimise, which was too stark, designed to sell in showrooms.

        We need to never sacrifice function or ergonomics for style or cost saving.

        1. John G Imrie Silver badge
          Alien

          black buttons on a black box labelled with black writing

          So that's where Disaster Area got their ships design from

      2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Invisible switches

        some sort of "Do not touch" message

        The problem is that to a user, this sort of message is always interpreted as "Press this button! Press this button now!"

  27. Mage Silver badge

    The user with a very slow PC

    It seemed perfect to me.

    So I got the secretary to show me her work flow. The document seemed to take a very very long time to open.

    For years she had been typing every letter in the one file. She selected the appropriate block and then Print Selection to print a letter. She printed two copies. One to post and one to file. I asked to see how she filed them.

    She had a wonderful paper filing system. So I showed her how to to duplicate it with folders for filing cabinets, drawers, sections and separate files. She did use her spare time to gradually convert the mega file to separate ones.

    One wonders at the quality of IT training at Business Colleges.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The user with a very slow PC

      Oh gods. Flashback.

      A previous office assistant (yes, Clippy might have been better) finally got fired because someone noticed what they'd done to documents sent to customers.

      It wasn't that they'd left "track changes" on, it was the fact that they'd got into the habit of making notes, some impolite or unprofessional, with raw costings including profit margins, company sensitive information, etc, and then before sending the document to the customer they'd select all their notes...

      ....and colour them white to hide them, then save-and-send.

      Argh.

  28. philthane

    Schools Defaults

    Years back I worked for a company that supplied CAD/CAM software and machinery to schools and colleges. To try to avoid complications there were some pretty sensible defaults that Just Worked(tm) but one regular problem was teachers complaining that our software worked in Imperial measurements but schools have used metric since about 1970. Worse still there was no option to change it. One of the decisions our developers had made, thinking it would simplify things, was to have the software automatically use whatever measurement system had been set up in Windows settings. It would appear that every UK school PC at the time was using US measurements. I bet most still are.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Schools Defaults

      We have a build for that country, everyone else gets mm

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Schools Defaults

      "teachers complaining that our software worked in Imperial measurements but schools have used metric since about 1970."

      I'm old enough to have started life in imperial units but made a career in science both systems come naturally.

      Sometimes you really should just accept the appropriate units for the task. I used to go to an evening class in furniture restoration. I couldn't get the instructor to grasp the fact that the maker of a piece of English furniture had worked in feet and inches and that that was the appropriate way to measure it.

      And I remember the time the RS catalogue went metric. All those ICs with pin spacings of 1/10" were now rendered with an apparent precision finer than the size of a grain of pollen.

  29. John 110

    Plugs....

    I knew an IT lady who didn't like to embarrass people, soft-hearted soul that she was. When phoned with an obvious "it's not powered on" problem, she would explain that they've had a batch of faulty 3-pin plugs, and can the user check the serial number on the one they have. Miraculously, the problem cleared itself!

    We had one user who managed to consistently plug in the "printer end" usb plug 90 degrees wrong. It doesn't help of course that device manufacturers can't seem to agree what way up the sockets go...

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Plugs....

      Or printers with a near hidden USB B and an obvious USB A (to print images from a USB stick). User bought an adaptor!

      He rang when that didn't work. I got him to search at the back for another USB socket.

      Yes, you CAN force a USB plug into an ethernet socket, but not vice versa.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Plugs....

        In the days before USB, devices were either Data Terminal Equipment or Data Communication Equipment. If by some miracle they had the same number of pins on the connector, they could in theory be jammed together to communicate. In real life, a simple straight through cable with connectors of different genders at each end was required. Sometimes someone would need to connect DTE to DTE. This requires a cable with the same gender on each end, but most of the connections crossed (eg Txd to Rxd). With great care and determination it was possible to buy null modem cables that did this.

        Then came "gender changers" - the same gender on each end, but wired straight through. Take a standard serial cable, add a gender changer and you can physically connect two PCs, and get really frustrated because they cannot transfer data. There were cables sold by computer distributors with "Null Modem Cable" written on the label, but wired straight through.

        At about that time, ethernet design was just as bad. All cables had the same gender on each end. Computer to switch/hub required a straight through cable. Computer to computer required a cross over cable and some hubs had a port wired like a computer for connection to another hub.

        After years of this rubbish, it became obvious to everyone in the industry how to design network cables: same gender on each end - cross over. Different gender on each end straight through. So what does Intel do with USB? Return to the DTE/DCE crap so that devices would not be able to talk directly to each other without an (Intel) PC. And what a surprise: USB gender changers turn up - just as useless as they were in the days of RS232.

        Want to connect two computers by USB? You needed a chip hidden in each connector that converts USB to RS232 and back, plus PPP to turn it into a network connection. The cable looks just like a USB-A to USB-A, and some distributors think it is clever to save money by missing the chips out.

        Next time you are having difficulty remaining calm and patient in the face of an ID10T error, remember it took us 18 years to get from USB-1 to USB-C.

        1. Tannin

          Re: Plugs....

          Just so. But that straight-through / null modem / gender changer mess had serious consequences. Equipped with a gender bender, any slightly intelligent user who didn't know better could figure out all by himself that all he needed to do to get the parallel cable to fit into the serial port correctly was connect the gender changer. Worked first time every time. (Assuming that by "worked" we mean "let the smoke out", of course.)

          And then there were those DB-9 monitor connectors (back before 15-pin VGA became universal). They were fine, nothing else would fit in them .... until modern 9-pin serial ports started replacing the old DB-25 style and instead of blowing up $25 serial ports by plugging them into $200 parallel printers, we could blow up $500 monotors by plugging them into serial ports.(Or was it the ports that blew up. Can't remember now.)

          Anyway, I used to teach people that the only thing you needed to know about using gender changers is don't.

          Which brings me to the ridiculous visual similarity of HDMI ports on laptops and USB ones. Right next to each other too, and every damn thing is (a) out of sight under the stupid curve in the laptop case edge, and (b) black on black. Haven't managed to blow anything up that way yet, but there is always hope.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Plugs....

            "modern 9-pin serial ports"

            Another fine mess.

            D25 is numbered 1 to 13 along the long side and then 14 to 25 along the short side. D9s are likewise 1 to 5 & 4 to 9. PCB headers are odd numbers on one side and even on the other. The PCB header for RS232 was laid out so that pin 1 connected to pin 1 of the D, pin 2 to pin 14 & so on so you could use a ribbon cable and IDC connectors to connect the one to the other.

            When someone designed the PCB for the D9 they obviously got a pin-out list but not a diagram for the D25, drew up a simplified list for 9 pins and used the same number list for the D and the headers. Now you can't make up a simple ribbon/IDC - put an IDC on the header, convert to a rat's nest at the D9 and solder it in. Whoever did it must have been a Very Senior Designer; it must have been spotted instantly when it went to the workshop to be made up but nobody sent feedback to get it corrected.

        2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Plugs....

          If by some miracle they had the same number of pins on the are some sort of connector, they could in theory will always in practice, through brute force and ignorance be jammed together

          FTFY

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Plugs....

      "It doesn't help of course that device manufacturers can't seem to agree what way up the sockets go."

      In general they seem to agree that the way a USB A socket goes is such that the USB symbol on the plug is uppermost. I find that recently cable manufacturers have lost the memo and are putting the symbol on both sides of the plug.

      1. John 110

        Re: Plugs....

        "In general they seem to agree that the way a USB A socket goes is such that the USB symbol on the plug is uppermost. "

        Unless you have a Dell PC. The ones we have at work (ie quite old...) have the USB sockets on the front of the case "upsidedown"

        Who cares what way up the back ones are, you always have to rotate the plug several times to get them to fit.

        1. Havin_it

          Re: Plugs....

          I've never seen a PC or lappy that had "upside-down" USB ports - seems so counterintuitive it's hard to believe any mfr. would do it (oh, hello Dell).

          I'd always proffer the plug with the side where the holes don't have the contact-plate right behind them, and the join in the metal isn't (where there is a join, which is pretty normal), as the top side. Never been an issue IME.

          Apart from the rise of micro-micro-thumbdrives which only have the contact-plate and no housing. Made a litany of fumbles with those bleeders :(

          And then there're the PCs that put the USB sockets sideways (oh, hello again, Dell, but plenty others too). I can't imagine there's any orthodoxy within that.

          Still, you know, I guess it's better than what we had before. Mostly.

  30. TheOtherHobbes

    "Have you tried...? Oh. Never mind."

  31. Captain TickTock
    Facepalm

    Converting a Word doc to HTML...

    by changing the filename suffix...

    this genius was the new configuration mgmt guru...

    1. Just Enough

      Re: Converting a Word doc to HTML...

      To be fair... that works the other way around. Well, for all intents and purposes. Try it.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spelling problems

    Having spent a few years in IT and tech support roles, I've probably got loads of examples of this sort of thing but a couple spring to mind.

    Firstly, back in the day of dot matrix printers with an 'Online' button on them, a user called and complained that their printer wasn't working and they'd send loads of jobs to it but none were coming out. 'Is it online?', I asked. Over the phone I could literally hear her press the button before she said angrily, 'Yes of course it's online'. 'Oooh, it seems to be working now'. Surprise, surprise.

    Personal favourite came during a stint with a large, red coloured, databse provider supporting their ERP applications. We were requried to confirm the version of the database they were running so I asked once, 'What version of the RDBMS do you have?'.

    'RDBMS?', she asked, 'How do you spell that?'

    'Err, R......,err, D........' (at that point I had to mute as I couldn't stop laughing).

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modern day deceipt

    The integrity of the honest suffer...

    Greed and manipulation seems the way forward nowadays. <FAIL>

  34. arctic_haze Silver badge

    The computer Tao

    I have also seen users complaining that a mouse works strangely while holding it upside down and ones having problems with switching computers on or off.

    Having said that I must add that there is an additional (mysterious) component. There are people computers seem to obey and ones the hardware and software itself seems to hate. I call it "computer Tao" as I don't have a better name for that. You either have it or you don't.

    Someone calls me that the server cannot be switched on. I ask him to show me how he tries to switch it on. He does everything correctly but the box is dead. I push the very same button and the server comes alive. As irrational it seems to be, I've seen it too many times to ignore this. And always with the same persons. Sometimes applications crashed the moment such person entered the room. Superstition? Coincidence? Maybe but it did happen too many times to just shrug it off.

    1. Helldesk Dogsbody

      Re: The computer Tao

      I've had the same sort of things happen but generally put it down to either that computer's can smell fear (that of those who've tried before) or sense intent (in that if they don't work soon I'll make damn sure that they're properly broken).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The computer Tao

        "in that if they don't work soon I'll make damn sure that they're properly broken"

        Toolkit:

        Screwdrivers to open boxes, attach gubbins, etc.

        Meters, logic probes to investigate electronics.

        Hammer to instil fear.

    2. Tannin

      Re: The computer Tao

      Yep. I have that gift. Computers like me. Back when I used to have a bigger place with hot and cold running staff, the lads in the workshop used to troubleshoot intermittent hardware problems they could not duplicate by sending me outside to stand on the footpath with a cuppa because they swore black and blue that the bloody things wouldn't go wrong if I was in the building. True story! I never used to mind that, except when it was cold and raining.

      But my little gift only works with computers. Don't ask me about bloody lawnmowers. :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The computer Tao

        "Yep. I have that gift."

        If I could bottle that I'd make a fortune. My gift is that apparently solidly validated products in any field will go wrong if I am near them.

        My theory is that they can sense someone who will try to understand their problems :-)

    3. PerspexAvenger
      Flame

      Re: The computer Tao

      We used to term that the tech bubble.

      When a user had problems with stuff, us going over would bring the tech inside the bubble, at which point it would, of course, work. When we leave the tech is no long in the bubble and becomes sad and fails again, etc.

      The extra wrinkle we found was that some users, including the PHBs of this world, have -negative- tech bubbles, and you need to keep them away from anything important and otherwise outmass them with positive bubble. This may require more than one individual to escort them through a server room...

      1. Havin_it

        Re: The computer Tao

        I'm with you on the "negative bubbles", in fact I think they are the true phenomenon here. I say that because I don't think I'm anything special or magical, just someone who spent a good amount of spare time methodically learning how computers and things worked and how to use and troubleshoot them (for myself, at any rate). The result is I generally have a nice time on a computer, and when things go wrong I patiently set about putting them right. No hammers required (well, rarely).

        My GF, on the other hand, exhibits very much your "negative bubble" concept (which I myself named "technopathy" - linguists present may freely comment on how cromulent this construction is). If something can go wrong with a computer while she is using it, it will, whatever the odds. I will watch her like a hawk and not be able to explain what I'm seeing, nor be able to replicate it. It apparently happens to her at work as well. She is no ninja but knows her way around a computer as well as most who've used one day-to-day for as long as she has; I swear the things just don't like her.

        So, yeah. Not sure about the positive, but the negative? Yup.

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: The computer Tao

      I used to share a teaching base with a teacher who said she couldn't get on with our computer ( a 386). We weren't often in the base at the same time. I couldn't understand why she had problems. She said it kept crashing. It never crashed when I was in there to use it.

      Then for a few weeks we were both in together. I used the machine and she avoided it. But b****er me. Any time she walked past the damned thing did indeed crash. Suddenly, without warning- even if it was not being actively used. I put it down to static from the fluffy jumpers she liked to wear. She reckoned it just didn't like her. Who knows?

    5. keithpeter
      Coat

      Possible prosaic explanation - Re: The computer Tao

      "There are people computers seem to obey and ones the hardware and software itself seems to hate. I call it "computer Tao" as I don't have a better name for that. You either have it or you don't."

      Desktop clients: Part of this could be responsiveness of the system. I used to have to encourage and cajole teachers to use more IT in their teaching. I noticed a similar phenomena when doing staff training sessions. I arranged for the non-Tao staff who were a bit wary of computers to have the fastest and most responsive monster machines I could book, and a lot of the problems resolved themselves. I suspected that those of (us) who follow the Path may simply be able to judge when the UI needs a second or several to respond and wait. The non-Tao people would repeat click or repeatedly type and the type-ahead buffer would do the rest.

      User Interfaces: My favourite is a choice made in one control at (say) the top of the screen alters the state of some tiny widget at (say) the bottom left of the screen in some subtle way. The recent versions of Anaconda (the Fedora graphical installation client) spring to mind.

      Mind you recall that...

      "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao; The Name that can be named is not the eternal Name."

      Coat: mine is the one with the tao in the pocket

    6. Domino
      Stop

      Re: The computer Tao

      arctic_haze 'Having said that I must add that there is an additional (mysterious) component. There are people computers seem to obey and ones the hardware and software itself seems to hate. I call it "computer Tao" as I don't have a better name for that. You either have it or you don't.'

      I used to get regular calls to one PC that had some strike supporting sticker on it "Stop Working Now", I had a strange feeling that it was obeying the instruction and eventually removed the sticker. I never got another call about it after that.

  35. JQW

    I used to run a helpdesk for external customers, but occasionally had to also offer support to our in-house team.

    One particular head salesman was especially dim, and although he could remember his password, he repeatedly couldn't remember his user ID for the main network. As we'd added the sales group details to the default search list for his department, this was simply his first name and surname with a space in between, although we had kindly also added an alias to allow him to login using just his first name as there was no-one else in the sales team with that name.

    So, in other words, he couldn't remember his own name.

  36. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Remind me in 1988

    I was asked by a fellow student doing "Computer Science" to show them how to use Wordstar to *create* a letter accepting the £13,000 a year job at Nat West as a programmer.

    It is experiences like that which make me the cynic I am today.

    Just for reference, £13,000 for a graduate in 1988 was in the top 5% of jobs.

  37. JQW

    Another salesman one. I received an internal call one day from a salesman that his Windows 3.1 E-mail client was running slowly, and could I sort it out.

    So I wandered down to the sales team once free, and noticed him on the phone whilst reading through his latest E-mails. When he had finished reading a message, instead of hitting 'Close' or 'Delete' to dispose of it, he was hitting the minimise button, and he seemed to have over 50 different E-mail messages currently minimised. As this E-mail package displayed something like "Message 4 of 184" in the title bar of every message, every single minimised window had to be updated whenever a new message arrived.

    The salesman's main task at this point was to sell this E-mail package to customers.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't hire the firees

    I used to work in the support centre for a major systems vendor. One key customer was having an abnormal number of problems and the team were asked to look into them.

    Lo and Behold, one particular one of their employees was at the root of all these issues.

    A lot of careful data collection went on and the findings shown to the boss at the customer's site. The problematic employee was asked to leave.

    The next thing the support guys know is that this guy has just been hire by our company to work on major projects. He'd filled in a skills matrix claiming to be an expert on everything he'd broken. He'd listed the names of all the support guys who'd rescued his arse on numerous occasions as being references and the manager who'd hired him hadn't bother to check any of the references.

    When they pointed out what a liability the guy was to his new manager the bloke wouldn't accept it and just said he needed heads and this guys was the best available.

    1. JQW

      Re: Don't hire the firees

      I used to come across precisely the same thing when working in the support team for one of the handful of UK suppliers of an obscure system. Several times an incompetent support contact would get dismissed from one customer, only to turn up at another a few months later.

      One was a particularly irritating person who couldn't do anything right, and ended up at three different customers of ours. One call alone, pertaining to him not being able to get our system installed on a new server due to a hang on booting, took up all of the day, due to him being totally unable to tell me the last line displayed on screen when the system hung. I forget what the actual problem was, but it would have been something to do with an incorrectly configured device driver.

  39. Anonymous Cowerd
    Facepalm

    turning a PC on...

    I found my old boss looking puzzled by one of our test machines. Apparently it was refusing to boot up.

    I checked all the connections - all ok - then asked him to try to switch it on again.

    "Aha! I know what the problem is!"

    "So what is it?"

    "You're trying to eject a floppy disc. The on-button is that one."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: turning a PC on...

      I was on a night flight one time and the cabin crew did the usual announcement that the cabin lights would be dimmed, and if you wanted to continue reading then you should turn on the light in the panel above your head.

      For the next 30 seconds or so the cabin was filled with the sound of attendant call "ding"s, followed by a further announcement "the button for the light is the one labelled with a picture of a bulb!"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: turning a PC on...

        There was an aeroplane crash that was blamed on the instrument panel having too many warning sounds. IIRC The critical "stall" sound was similar to some relatively mundane warning.

        A nuclear power plant's control panel had two identical levers side by side. One was for normal use - the other a crash down for emergencies. The operators replaced the levers' knobs with ones from a bar - being two distinctively different brands' beer dispensing figure heads.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: turning a PC on...

        ""the button for the light is the one labelled with a picture of a bulb!""

        And once you turn the light on you'll be able to see that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At Anonymous Cowerd, re the buttons.

      I had the unfortunate luck to once work for Packard Bell / NEC back when I was young & just starting. I had been hired to the QA department & got to test brand new systems all day, making sure they worked before letting them go to Shipping.

      The bright bulbs in the Design department tried to produce a front panel that had both the power button & the floppy disk eject buttons so closely positioned & of nearly identical shape that it took those of us in the QA part about sixty seconds to fail the design as unworkable. The Design lead came back to cuss out my manager about "making up problems nobody would ever face in the real world!" My manager promptly had me close my eyes, reach out to eject the floppy, & was rewarded by my inadvertantly powering off the system.

      When there's less than a centimeter between the two buttons, both buttons are made of the same plastic, have the same shape & texture, & the only way to tell one from the other is the power button doesn't take as much force to trigger, by the time you realize you're pushing the off switch the damned machine had just shut down.

      The Design lead was pissed but took back the unit for a redo. QA was fine with that since we didn't feel like rejecting thousands of post-production units instead of merely the prototype.

      I was always a bit nicer to mere users after that point. If even the supposedly smart *designers* of the machine can do something so braindead, the users don't stand a chance in hell.

      =-\

    3. HelpfulJohn

      Re: turning a PC on...

      "You're trying to eject a floppy disc. The on-button is that one."

      I'm a pro. Really, really I am. I have *centuries* of experience.

      My home PC has a "Multimedia Optical Drive" bay. This has a Blu-ray writer in it. It also reads CD's and DVD's.

      It also has an "Expansion Bay". This has nothing in it. It does nothing. It does not read discs. There isn't even a tray in there I can put a disc onto.

      Both bays have a flap-door. Both bays have a little silver radio-button to eject stuff.

      *EVERY* *DAMNED* *TIME*.

      I'm a professional. I used to get paid to *teach* things like this ...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the days of 5.25" floppies and no Internet a customer had been sent some data from one of their suppliers - they're tried loading it into a the system they'd got from us, but the data was being rejected without any meanigful error message.

    We asked them to send us a copy of the data so we could check it out.

    A couple of days later, in the post, we received a sheet of A4 paper with a photocopy of the floppy disk in question.

  41. Spudley

    Meh. Even I've accidentally stuck a USB stick into an ethernet port by mistake once. They're right next to each other and close enough in size that it does actually fit and stay put.

    On the flip side though, I did realise what I'd done fairly quickly.

    1. BongoJoe

      Once? I do this daily.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember dealing with a business department that had the task of entering weekly personal and business company car mileage data for all the company car holders. With about 200 car drivers, you'd expect no more than about 1000 records a month to be inserted to the db, not too onerous. They recruited a new person and trained them up themselves instead of asking IT dept to do it for them. At end of month, new user was distraught. They'd entered all the data and they only had one row in the database. They'd kept querying the same row and updating the registration number and mileage repeatedly. At least they weren't asking for a reference though. Felt sorry for the noob, it was his department's fault for poor training and poor supervision.

  43. alisonken1

    Speaking of email ...

    When I was in the Navy and stationed at a research facility back in the days of Eudora email and Windows 3.1, I was called to a department head office and asked why her computer was so slooowww.

    Upon checking her computer, she had her email set to check for new email every minute.

    Needless to say, 286-class computer, Windows 3.1, and new-fangled networking with email set to check every minute, .....

    Her reasoning was that if someone emailed her she needed to respond Right Now (tm).

    After suggesting to her that if someone needed an answer Right Now (tm) then they would use the phone sitting next to her computer.

    Upon resetting her email to check every 15 minutes her computer ran fine.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do people ASK for a reference when...

    Ahh references.... best one I ever produced was along lines of "I am unable to put anything in writing regarding said individual. If you would like to call on <> I will happily elucidate". This was for an american contractor I had sacked two weeks previously for being caught masturbating in the office carpark in front of a nine storey glass building by a female security guard.

    .... and he STILL put me down as a reference for future jobs

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WiFi

    Worked in St Louis.

    Got a call from employee who had flown to San Francisco - laptop wouldn't connect to WIFI.

    Her WiFi at home in St Louis.

  46. nimraynn

    Users....

    Two of my "favourite" jobs to remember in my time as desktop support came from one such user...

    The first instance was when he logged a call simply stating "My virtual machine isn't working".

    None of our users have a virtual machine to use, so we were pretty confused as to what he was talking about. When I called him up, he insisted that he had a virtual machine. They keyboard & mouse weren't responding and he'd tried repeatedly reconnecting the cables. Remember, virtual, right?

    I decided I'd go up to the user's desk to work out what he was actually doing. This "virtual machine" was in fact his laptop's docking station... and he hadn't turned it on.

    Fast forward about 6 months, the same user has the same problems again... This time at least, he remembers its called a docking station, but he still struggles with some simple concepts. He told me that the laptop does not work at all when on the dock. No response from the keyboard & mouse plugged in. I asked him if he could take the laptop off the dock and try the built-in keyboard. He couldn't do this because the laptop was locked to the dock for security and he'd forgotten to bring the key with him that day. Oh dear.

    I spent a good 15 minutes trawling through the spare keys for user's laptops (Our company is too cheap to buy decent locks so we end up with hundreds of random keys) and can't find his key, but find about 10 unlabelled keys that match the style of his dock. I head up to his desk and I very nearly just threw the keys at him and walked out after what I saw.

    He tried to show me the fault by hitting random buttons on the keyboard to prove that it wasn't working. What caught me though was the fact that despite his claim that he couldn't take the laptop off the dock because it was locked, the laptop was in fact, not on the dock. The key that he had left at home was also sitting in the lock barrell. The keyboard was plugged into the dock, not the laptop.

    Picked up the laptop, put it on the dock and walked off.

    Somehow, this guy still works here and is now responsible for one of our biggest multi-million pound clients.

  47. Delbert Grady

    still not fixed..

    bad design, still. when i have the misfortune to use Windows and eject a USB thumb drive, i'm still annoyed Microsoft have got 'Format' directly above the 'Eject' in the device icons right click menu.. i wonder how many USB devices have been accidentally formatted.. as the automatic response for many users - is to click 'OK' .. good design there Microsoft. i thought that might have been a bit obvious years ago, but nope, it's seemingly only me that would have moved the 'Format' option to the other end of the dialog box...

  48. Kevin 6

    Sounds familiar

    Had one at a university I worked at years back that was very similar. She had the computer skills to rival the one mentioned in the article.

    One time her PC was running slow so she claimed she needed a new one. Went to go see what was the matter turns out she had NEVER rebooted the machine (it was running win 98 so the good ole memory hole) since she started (4-5months prior), and had installed every single IM, and IE addon bar you could imagine.

    Uninstalled all the trash, and all was fine.

    Well month or 2 later we did a major network overhaul so we shut every single PC down.

    Next day she rang us up claiming her PC is broken as it wouldn't turn on. I told the helldesk phone jockey just tell her to press the power button on the big box under her desk(was not the 1st call that day like this)... But no the helldesk drone instead wrote a ticket that I had to go put down the work I was doing(I was repairing some expensive equipment), and deal with as the ticket was given the highest priority, and I was the only person available that could go on calls to staff offices at the time...

    Go over there, and ask her to show me what she was doing. She was pressing the monitors calibration button (it was an old gateway that had a huge dial in the center of the bottom of the screen)... Yea that was the power button to her. So I press the power button, and showed it to her(was futile got a call a few weeks later for same crap), and waited till she logged in as I didn't feel like being called back if she forgot her password as she never used it. BTW the PC was the modem in her mind as she questioned why I was turning the modem on...

    After that I went back to the IT dept, and when the helldesk drone walked away I ran to his PC took a screen capture of the screen minimized everything, and moved the taskbar to the top of the screen, and hid it setting the background to the screen shot to get back at him. Walked back to my desk, and proceeded repairs to see 10 mins later he was re-imaging his PC as it was stuck lol

    Funny thing is one of my co-workers at the time saw my antics at work, and said I'd make a great BOFH which puzzled me, and when I asked BOFH he directed me to this site, and told me to read :D

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    users not knowing what they're doing has serious consequences.

    Back in 1998 I spent a huge amount (£1000) of saved up money (I was unemployed at the time) on a Hewlett Packard Pavilion 3240 slimilne desktop with a very small power button on the front of the case (the siginifcance of this will become clear in a moment), with a P200 MMX intel processor (whoo!) and 32MB or RAM (whooer still!). More annoyingly if I had waited a an extra month or so, I could have bought a Pentium II :(( (but that would make me digress from the rest of the anecote). I had the computer for a month or so and slowly learnt how to use the Windows 95D operating system that cam with it.

    During this time I was having my heart monitored by the local hosptial, which caused me the odd sleepless night as the poppers on the connectors kept popping off. Anyway, I had an appointment with the "Download Technician" which I promptly attended. There on the desk, was a Hewlet Packard Pavilion 3260 (2 numbers away from mine).

    The DT pressed this several times and the computer didn't come on. She pulled her face and looked rather puzzled. I mentioned to her that I had a similar PC at home and also said there was a swtich on the back of the desktop unit on the right hand side. Someone had flicked it to 0. She flicked the swtich, pressed the very small power button, and the machine beeped into action. It seems that no one had told her that there was a switch on the back, and that it was me, the patient, who sorted it out. They diagnosed me with cardiomyopathy and told me to take it easy, which I did.

    Fast forward 13 years later and I went to my GP about something I don't really remember. I mentioned that I had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. She tapped stuff into the computer and looked at my medical history. My notes had been completely trashed. There were about 5 lines of text left. There were no records of antyhing! She promptly sent me to the local hospital for a total medical, which resulted in a 12 hour nightmare stay with most of those hours wasted sat around for blood tests etc. As the time ticked away I had nothing to eat nor did I get any sleep as security guards patrolled the hospital. Eventually I was discharged around 2-20 AM; I finally got home at 3-40 AM (having to walk). I'm not going into more detail as this was an incredbly stressful time for both myself and other patients. Cutting a long story short, people died. I had to have even further tests and the 1998 diagnosis was wrong. What I have is actually so common, it's regarded as insiginifcant.

  50. wsm

    Clueless users?

    Yes, but they've all been management, so I can't say anything about--oh shi..............

  51. Hugh_Johnson

    cntrl-c and cntrl-p, also, mouse has 2 buttons

    I once had the joy of teaching a very senior "consultant" how to copy and paste, as well as explain why there are 2 buttons on her mouse.

    Me: "Highlight the text you want to copy and right click, then choose 'copy'"

    VS"C": "Right click?"

    Me:"Yes, the other button on your mouse."

    VS"C":"oh, that is what that is for!"

  52. JJKing Silver badge

    The dreaded L user and L techs

    I my corporate job when my daughter started school so I could either drop her off or pick her up. It was a massive financial drop in $$$ as I went to work in the school IT system. Years later I was employed at a school and was told my boss was the 21 year old "tech"and here I am now 55 years old. I arrived the SharePoint Helpdesk was full of open jobs that that the "tech" couldn't clear. Two weeks later I had nothing to do, SharePoint was clear. I then noticed the kid was fixing teacher's home machines that they bought in and was entering them into the Helpdesk as work he had done. I can only guess it was so he would be able to point out that he was actually fixing things and entering them into the Helpdesk.

    A couple of new laptops were in the office when I arrive one day with a note say "XXXX with do!" so, he was the boss so I left them alone. I had noticed that he had been downloading a large number of wireless LAN drivers for these laptops and I didn't know why. We worked different days so I didn't get the chance to ask. About 3 month later the Principal asked if I could if I could look at the laptops and get them to him with the appropriate software installed on them. After spending 1.5 seconds turning on the Wi-Fi switch I proceeded to install the software and handed them to the Principal 90 minutes later. It was after turning the Wi-Fi switch on that I twigged as to why all the wireless drivers had been downloaded. He didn't know there was a switch. Guess he didn't know how to RTFM or use Google.

    At the end of the year I was terminated. I later heard that the Business Manager hadn't been notified my departure and was not at all pleased because in her works "at least Joseph fixes things". I had to fill in for this clown at another school for 3 months while he was off for some reason. There were 18 computers that I was told were dead. When I was told when they died I was not happy because it happened while they were still under warranty so could have been fixed and cost them nothing plus they would have had these resources. I looked inside a couple of the machines, borrowed a compressor of a friend and resurrected 17 out of the 18 "dead" computers. Things went downhill from there.

    I wonder to this day (5 years later) why he was able to keep his job being totally inept but I couldn't because I was now in the undesirable age bracket. This isn't intended to sound like a whinge about me but it is more about the thousands of dollars this one idiot had cost these schools some of which had tiny IT budgets where the loss of one machine was a disaster. From the previous readings it seems that incompetence rises to the top and us with the receding blonde hairlines are seen as being unable to keep up with these new fangled magic boxes filled with electronic thingies.

    Last one. I walked into a classroom and the teacher had decided to take the cover off a 15" CRT monitor to show the students what was inside. Now I don't know what sort of charge the large electrolytic capacitors in these held but I do know, not from personal experience, that it is not a good thing to touch them. I don't think any parent would have been too pleased to find their 9 year old child had been zapped with one of them.

    If we techs wrote a book listing all the stupid and dangerous things we have come across day to day in our chosen profession, it would be labelled fiction because nobody would believe anyone could be so dumb. Thank you and please keep them coming as some have even made me go, no way, why did they do that?

  53. Colin Tree

    luser

    Years ago I did a job at South Twe_d Primary School.

    (real name obscured to protect the "user")

    The school secretaries login had been set up

    by an education department sysadmin as "luser".

    It was explained to her that this meant "local user".

  54. Urh

    I think...

    ...we just figured out who was REALLY responsible for the Australian Census fail.

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