back to article 'Please label things so I can tell the difference between a mouse and a microphone'

Thank the Valar it's Friday, because that means it is time to share another of your peers' tales of stupid things happening at work in our weekly On-Call feature. This week, reader DC brings us a tale from his time on the service desk at a large publishing company. “One afternoon the personal assistant for one of the …

  1. 9Rune5

    Label you, label me, label us all together

    Proceed to the user's car and I am confident you will find an appropriately labeled "steering wheel" and "throttle pedal" + "brake pedal". Bonus if the shifter does not spell out the words "Neutral", "Park" and "Drive".

    I will post this comment as soon as I locate the key called "space".

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

      Is your comment in relation to labels, or to Star Trek?

      That young actor Anton Yelchin was killed by shit user interface design. Fiat Chrysler had already flagged those vehicles for recall because of the gear selector:

      http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/20/autos/jeep-recall-anton-yelchin/

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

        It was purely in relation to that user who required a label for the mouse... Does a person like that drive a car? The mind boggles.

        That Fiat Chrysler UI glitch popped out of my head the minute I read about it and did not influence my original comment at all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          Joke about the American south - the cars had the pedals painted to make things understandable - legend has it the cars there had a "green" and a "red" pedal.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

        quite a few people , when learning to drive, have to have their hands labelled "L" and "R"

        1. 404 Silver badge

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          'quite a few people , when learning to drive, have to have their hands labelled "L" and "R"'

          In OSUT (One Station Unit Training) in the early 80's, there was one poor sonuvabitch who couldn't march for shit, always started off on the wrong foot, who was made to carry a rock in his left hand for 13 weeks. If I wasn't preoccupied with perfecting my Zen (becoming One with the Woodwork is very desirable in Basic - Senior Drill Instructor got 137 counts of trainee abuse two cycles after we graduated), I would have felt sorry for him.

          Breaks my heart today when I remember him trying his damnedest to mentally/physically get into rhythm before even moving. I wonder what became of him?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

            Wasn't his first name Donald?

          2. Goobertee

            Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

            During earlier times, recruits came from the countryside with few of the finer skills, but many of the "practical" skills of their lives. Many could tell the difference between hay and straw, so a wisp of each was tied to their left and right boots, respectively, and the cadence was,

            "Hay foot, straw foot, hay foot, straw foot...."

        2. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          > quite a few people , when learning to drive, have to have their hands labelled "L" and "R"

          I know some who need "R" and "the other R"...

    2. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

      Somehow this old joke seems appropriate.

      BMW customer services complaint about the car that only works during the day

      Night mode does not work

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

        I'm not doing the old underwear labelled C&A joke.

        1. magickmark
          Unhappy

          Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

          @TRT "I'm not doing the old underwear labelled C&A joke."

          Damn, I was going to until is saw your post!!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

            I wonder what BHS stands for? Well, not that it matters now.

            1. TitterYeNot

              Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

              "I wonder what BHS stands for?"

              Looking at the size and cost of a certain previous BHS owner's boat, I think it stands for 'Bought His Super-yacht'...

              1. Dave 126 Silver badge

                Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

                @9Rune5

                A genuine thank you for your clarification.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

              "I wonder what BHS stands for?"

              Bloody Huge Studmuffin! Well, that's what I told my (ex) girlfriend anyway. No, as it happens, she wasn't my GF for very long, why would you ask that?

    3. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Label you, label me, label us all together

      I will post this comment as soon as I locate the key called "space".

      Never mind space. But I recall instances of "there is no 'any' key on my keyboard"...

      Some things really are best forgotten.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

    ... People will be so illiterate so they'll want pictures on the labels instead of words.

    You know, a picture of a mouse stuck on a mouse.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

      Or make the mouse (Human Input Device) look like a mouse (cheese thieving squeeking mammal):

      http://lowendmac.com/wp-content/uploads/kidzmouse.jpg

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

        You mean like where Word has gone? Where a microscopic picture of a pair of binoculars means "Find", and God alone knows what two parallel grey lines over a pair of green right pointing arrows with some feint dotted motif behind it does, or how it differs from the same but with only one green arrow...

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

          Or when Teamviewer and Outlook have very similar taskbar icons

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

            The very worst outbreak of icon disease is the pandemic that has taken over instruction leaflets, especially those for power tools and domestic electrical appliances. These days, before you can use a new purchase, you have to puzzle your way through complex assembly and use advice written entirely in pictograms.

            The manufacturers seem to be unaware that one of the reasons we're now using power tools instead of flint axes is that we developed a sophisticated communication system that allowed us to convey information unambiguously. Their argument, presumably, is that the picture-message transcends language barriers. If so, it's entirely nullified by the fact that their safety warnings are always fully translated, no doubt on the advice of their lawyers.

            1. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

              It's not that they are trying to transcend language. It's that everybody on the entire planet can get the exact same pictogrammes. Forget about the dozens of EU languages that turn up on every product these days, think of Thai and Japanese and Russian and Breton and Navaho and all... no more weird half assed translations. It's all been replaced by a set of pictures doodled by an executive in the midst of a caffeine crisis...

              1. Captain DaFt

                Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

                "It's all been replaced by a set of pictures doodled by an executive in the midst of a caffeine crisis..."

                Um... That white powder isn't caffeine!

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

                  "Um... That white powder isn't caffeine!"

                  But now we know what happens when you snort creamer.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

              "These days, before you can use a new purchase, you have to puzzle your way through complex assembly and use advice written entirely in pictograms."

              It saves a fortune in translators. They're equally incomprehensible in all languages.

      2. tony2heads

        Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

        Don't you mean 'Cheese-eating surrender mammal'?

      3. Shart Tank

        Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

        I used to have one of those mouse mice. I was disappointed when I got a new computer that no longer had a PS2 port for the mouse.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      But be fair...

      A lot of desktop devices don't look like what they are. I Google search for "conferencing microphone" pictures and I get a lot of things that could be a mouse, including a circular puck, and various things plugged into a laptop USB, which doesn't help.

      Maybe fitting the microphone with big cut-out-of-paper Prince Charles ears would help. Unless that's who you work for. The mouse - how about labelling it with an "arrow pointer icon" label?

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: But be fair...

        Many years ago when boundary layer microphones were relatively new, Beyer Dynamic produced a model that consisted of a chamfered square piece of oiled teak (or walnut) about six inches square by about one inch deep. It had a small round metal grill less than an inch in diameter in the centre and an XLR socket and a small swirch and little red LED on one of the sides. Very neat looking and apart from the cable, unobtrusive on the boardroom table.

        One of my collegues had to record a breakfast discussion for transcription purposes in a house with a black door somewhere near Parliament Square.

        He decided that instead of setting several individual mics he would try this new Beyer.

        All the setting up went well, good sound from every chair around the table so he went to his recording location in the ante-room to await the participants.

        The first few minutes went very well with all the voices clearly audible when there was a loud metallic 'THUNK' and all the voices became very muffled.

        Panic! The whole purpose of being there was to get a recording that could be transcribed but he wasn't supposed to intrude. He thought that although the voices were muffled it was still possible to just make out the words so he decided to sit it out. Occasionally the sound would clear only to be followed by the same 'thunk' and muffle a few seconds later.

        Eventualy the meeting ended and the group left.

        My collegue went inside to find a large silver coffee-pot sitting on this nice chamfered 'coffee-pot warmer' that was obviously switched on as it had a 'mains' cable plugged into it and a little red light.

        And no it wasn't me, and yes, the transcriber did manage to get most of it.

      2. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: But be fair...

        Surely sticking a huge pair of Prince Charles ears on it will make it look MORE like a mouse??

    3. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: When we get to the stage where we have to label everything...

      Funny you mention this... I recently saw an international translation helper/book with only pictures where you pointed to the image you desired, didn't see any pr0n images, but I only saw two pages with coffee.

      Isn't mouse on mouse action forbidden in countries?

      Also, there is an episode of Dexter's Lab where he and Dee Dee label the entire house....

  3. Alister Silver badge

    We don't provide external IT support to the public, thankfully, but as a software house we do provide on-site training for local government users of our product.

    One of our sales staff came back into the office the other day having done a training session at some local government offices, and she was telling us that one of the people she had been trying to train used a wireless mouse at her desk.

    Apparently three times in the course of an hour's training session this user managed to hold the mouse the wrong way up (as in, the buttons at the back) and then complained that her mouse never worked properly and "she'd told IT loads of times, but they didn't listen to her."

    The sales rep said she had to struggle with herself not to just snatch the mouse off the user and turn it round... She said she was rehearsing that old support question (Do you still have the box for your computer... etc)

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      this user managed to hold the mouse the wrong way up

      Back in the mid 80s the company I worked for had just set up its first batch of Sun 2 workstations. The chairman came in to look at them, picked up the mouse to examine it as he'd never seen one before, then put it down the wrong way round. He then proceeded to move it about, and of course the cursor moved the wrong way. At this point he said "bloody thing's broken", picked it up, banged it on the desk a few times, and then put it down the right way round. He then moved the mouse about some more, saw the cursor was doing the right thing, said "that fixed it" and left with a sense of achievement.

      1. BenDwire
        Boffin

        @Arthur

        Those Sun workstations used mice with metal mousepads, requiring a 2-colour printed grid to function correctly. It was really easy to annoy my CAD guys (and any other random PHB) by simply rotating the pad 90 degrees.

        It was almost as good fun as the cron job that turned the whole thing into a cuckoo clock.

        Oh the fun we used to have...

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: @Arthur

          Mouse doesn't work... at an Arts and Design college. Usual cause (until we got the new back to back desks) was that the extra long mouse cables dangled down the back of the desk, where the students would stretch out, catch their foot on the cord, and yank the thing out of the back of the computer.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: @Arthur

            "Usual cause (until we got the new back to back desks)"

            And afterwards? Mice swapped round onto the opposing desks?

            1. Nolveys Silver badge

              Re: @Arthur

              And afterwards? Mice swapped round onto the opposing desks?

              We used to do that with keyboards back in high school. There were two rows of back-to-back computers, just swap the keyboards of the two with their backs to each other and wait for someone to log in, type the user name and password as it comes up along with the next 20 characters or so. When the user starts whacking at the keyboard that's "stopped working" say "there's something wrong with that one, use a different one".

              You have to be a decent typist for that to work. Luckily they still had typing class back then.

              We got the admin password that way. The next day the intern we got it from said that he had a nightmare that we got the admin password. Poor guy.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Arthur

            Ah, even better, as the old ps2 mices would not be recognized by the computer if you just plugged them back into their slot. you had to power down the damn computer (assumes windoz) and power it back up to get the mouses recognized.

      2. Nick Kew Silver badge

        He then moved the mouse about some more, saw the cursor was doing the right thing, said "that fixed it" and left with a sense of achievement.

        If I'd had an audience when I gingerly played with my first mouse, I might easily have done the same. As it was, it just took a couple of simple moves to figure out which way to hold it.

        This thread is clearly the place to post the essential helpdesk video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_p3TYXmJFk

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          The version in English is here;

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUQRbqc2qtY

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            oh good , ill give that a go .

            Even in norwegian it was funny because i speak fluent "user" and i recognise the bodylanguage anywhere

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          I've watched in open-mouthed amazement as somebody has attempted to use a mouse the wrong way around in one hand, with their other hand contorted around to get their fingers onto the buttons. Amazing how the pain and lack of functionality doesn't manage to filter into their brains and suggest something's amiss. Presumably they also keep yanking at a door handle with it never occuring that maybe you need to push it.

          ...though, yes, I *have* watched in gobstopping amazement somebody do this, nearly ripping the door off the hinges in the process.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            I've watched somebody hold a mouse at 90 degrees to how it's meant to be used, contorting their fingers onto the buttons in a ludicrous manner as well. This came about because one user couldn't understand instructions referring to the left mouse or right mouse buttons... turns out that if you're a complete fuckwit and hold a mouse sideways it's not obvious which is the left or right button.

          2. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Presumably they also keep yanking at a door handle with it never occuring that maybe you need to push it.

            Many seem incapable of reading the sign over the handle that says: "PUSH"....

            1. Vic

              Many seem incapable of reading the sign over the handle that says: "PUSH

              A pub I frequent has a sign on the toilet door that states "PUSH HARD on way out".

              On the inside is a doorhandle on the hinge side of the door...

              Vic.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Presumably they also keep yanking at a door handle with it never occuring that maybe you need to push it."

            Ah, but doors have minds of their own and can see you coming. Double door with handles and no push/pull labels? Yep, one is always locked so four possible chances to get it right. You just know that the first two attempts of push/pull will be the locked door and despite the obvious "pull" type handle, the unlocked door will be a push to open. Fourth attempt, guaranteed, every effing time!

          4. SL1979

            I'm really not trying to one-up anyone's tech support stories, because there are some real gems in here. However, I once looked on in equal amounts of horror / amusement as an end-user that I supported attempted to set up her new (evidently first ever) PC, and couldn't figure out why the "foot pedal" wasn't working. I realized that she had connected her mouse, put it on the floor, and was attempting to use it like it was a sewing machine or something. I had to excuse myself, find the nearest restroom, and laugh until every orifice in my body was leaking. At least I was in the right place for that kind of thing.

            1. Vic

              I realized that she had connected her mouse, put it on the floor, and was attempting to use it like it was a sewing machine or something.

              Years ago, that was entirely understandable for secretarial staff; they'd usually come from using typewriters (using both hands) and a dictation machine which was operated by foot pedal.

              Vic.

        3. heyrick Silver badge

          While it's pretty easy to figure out the help desk video, here's one with subtitles: http://youtu.be/pQHX-SjgQvQ

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Though not as much in my last job, because that is what we all did, but you cannot understand how many times I've "fixed" something that does not need fixing. How? By using my eyes (rarely even my brain).

        Hand eye coordination goes miles for actually doing something. Oh, that and thinking about what you are doing.

        Like removing the "stuck" TV stand legs yesterday... you know, the ones with the push button on for quick release right there on the stand no one else could see.

        1. Queasy Rider

          push button on for quick release

          I once knew a couple with a partially crippled daughter. I watched them one day struggling to get her walker into their car. When I asked them why they didn't fold the walker, I got a blank stare. I strolled over, pushed the button releases on the legs and collapsed the walker. What was their reaction? "We've been using that thing for years and didn't know it folded!"

    2. DaLo

      "Apparently three times in the course of an hour's training session this user managed to hold the mouse the wrong way up"

      Did you ever use a Mac with the 'hockey puck' mouse?

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      (Do you still have the box for your computer... etc)

      HAHA! as soon as I read about your users upside down mouse that same early 90s tale of pc support woe popped into my head too!

  4. Lee D Silver badge

    Yesterday I had an email from one of the senior management team here.

    They "had lost all their email folders".

    Somehow, they managed to provide a screenshot (without asking, in the same email, with the entire screen! That almost redeemed them instantly!).

    I replied with a cropped section of that screenshot, with a big red arrow pointing to the tree-expanding arrow that collapsed folders such as "Inbox" have on Outlook.

    I usually do my own Friday Funny emails around my workplace, when there's something worthy. I already today's...

    1. psychonaut

      You are not alone

      I get that once every few months too

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I used to see the single missing folder issue where the user had inadvertently dragged a folder of e-mails into another folder (or sometimes a folder of files on the fileshare).

      1. Alister Silver badge

        I used to see the single missing folder issue where the user had inadvertently dragged a folder of e-mails into another folder (or sometimes a folder of files on the fileshare).

        Ooh, that reminds me of the time one of our developers put a textbook down on top of his mouse, whilst the files in Visual Source Safe were open in an Explorer window which had focus, and managed to drag and drop half the projects into an unrelated folder. Cue panic as he looks at the screen to find all his source code suddenly missing...

      2. Tony Haines

        "I used to see the single missing folder issue where the user had inadvertently dragged a folder of e-mails into another folder"

        That's an interface issue really. Stupid Microsoft.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Yeah, where's the confirmation dialog? I mean, how often do you MEAN to move a whole folder of thousands of emails somewhere else?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        thank the lord for message tracking in Exchange. We get several "I've never received an email but everyone else has" per year, but with the power of message tracking its yep you have, you moved it to etz \deleted it, etc

        And still the user will try and argue the toss, just admit you're a TWAT and feck off out of my office

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      big red arrows

      " cropped section of that screenshot, with a big red arrow "

      oh yes , a favourite technique of mine too . Its the only way to be sure.

      My email folder has disappeared - click the little box to expand

      My file folder has disappeared - look in the folder next to it - what? - never mind ive done it for you - ah yes ooh you are magic you computer whizzes

      My floppy disk has stopped working - Its a floppy disk I have no sympathy . there is no good reason you should have data on there that is not somewhere else. - "thats how they told me to do it"

      (dont get that one so much these days)

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Back when hard disks were expensive extras ...

    A customer complained that the hard disk didn't work. He knew it didn't work because file access hadn't got any faster. After a few minutes of confused conversation, I discovered that the files being accessed were on floppy disk. After a reasonably short explanation of copying files to the hard disk and accessing them from there, I had a contented customer (he was unhappy that this was not explained in the installation manual for the disk). The customer was not thick - explaining the solution went far more smoothly than I expected. He had read the manual, and it did not explain what a hard disk is, and that files have to be stored there for it to do anything useful.

    The problem was the transition from computers being exclusively for techies to being a device used by computer illiterates whose illiteracy was far beyond the understanding of techies.

    Now for the really difficult problems I have with computer illiterates:

    1) Type date<enter>. Look at the number of seconds. Count to three. Look at the number of seconds. See that a terminal emulator shows a record of past interactions that are not updated. Demonstrate this every week for months. The user still complains that old contents of a terminal window are not up to date.

    2) Two websites need to be updated with the same information. For the one I set up, user types one word<enter> and it is done - correctly every week. The other one I have no control over and uses wordpress. It requires about 30 seconds of typing/clicking, 3 minutes of waiting for the browser to update. One step is typing most of the file name and using tab completion to ensure it is typed correctly. The user will not use tab completion. The user types the file name wrong about one time in four. The shell says no such file, but she carries on regardless. The user looks at a blank text editor, realises something is wrong, and types shell commands into the editor expecting something to happen. (The file has to be damaged so wordpress can understand it, then she can use xclip to type it in). Has anyone successfully explained that typing shell commands into a text editor doesn't work?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      but she carries on regardless.

      " The shell says no such file, but she carries on regardless. The user looks at a blank text editor, realises something is wrong, and types shell commands into the editor expecting something to happen"

      Just trained monkeys . no concept of what they are doing.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

    She wore shoes with the legend TGIF so she would remember that Toes Go In First.

    I'll get my coat, it's the one that has COAT written across it...

    1. 2460 Something
      Coat

      Re: The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

      You seem to have picked up the anonymous Mask instead .. here, let me hand you a coat... ;P

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

      You can tell she's been using the computer, because there's white-out all over the screen

      1. Jelder

        Re: The old joke about the blond Executive Assistant...

        "You can tell she's been using the computer, because there's white-out all over the screen"

        Fixed that for you.

  7. Brenda McViking

    Labelling

    I work in a corporate with a load of engineers in an office, we have manufacturing too.

    We had an initiative to tidy everything up, after a few years back a 28m order was delayed by 2 days whilst they tried to find the right socket on the shop floor. Now we have "a place for everything, and everything in its place." Which C suite decided was such a good idea, everyone must do it, and made it mandatory not only for the shop, but all the design and research offices too.

    It also applies to individually owned engineering desks. Cue Mike from R&D, who is a genius but about as organised as a street-hookers diary (you know, desk permanently bowed from the stack of paper which has probably been there since 1992.) After recieving his 6th weekly red card in a row, HR sent their best droid to tell him that he was not immune and would face disciplinary action if he didn't conform to the new policy.

    He mumbled about quitting, but he still had about 8 months until his retirement, so he got on with clearing his desk. Took him the best part of a week to dismantle his paper mountains, and he was so cross by the end of it that he labelled everything on his desk, phone, keyboard, mouse, and even put coloured taped rectangles for his laptop, keyboard position, phone position, mouse position and a little rectangle labelled "Green Card" for the HR droid to place on his next rounds.

    Said droid came on the Friday and stopped dead looking at Mikes desk. Mike was in attendance at the time with a murderous glare fixated on him. Both Mike and the droid remained entirely silent throughout the ordeal, but the rest of the office were wetting themselves trying to stifle the giggles. He got his green card that day.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Labelling

      "Which C suite decided was such a good idea, everyone must do it, and made it mandatory not only for the shop, but all the design and research offices too."

      I'm with Mike on this one. An empty desk is a sign of an empty head.

  8. PK

    "...reboot the internet"

    I had a project leader who once asked if we could do a local backup of the web. It was the 90s and not quite as big though...

    1. Jedit
      Go

      "a local backup of the web"

      "Your attempt to download allthepornontheinternet.zip has failed at 99% due to insufficient disk space. Free up additional space and retry."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "a local backup of the web"

        Apparently there was someone in the IT department at UWE in Bristol about fifteen-twenty years ago, who had a bot set up to download every new image from alt.porn. He would then archive them all to tape and take them home.

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: "a local backup of the web"

        Hilariously enough, I have a friend of mine who has taken it upon himself to pull down a copy of every anime ever produced. *ALL OF IT*.

        He's been buying 3 TB drives in pairs for the last month or so.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "...reboot the internet"

      Yeah, I've still got a copy on a floppy somewhere...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easily fixed...

    Reminds me of a customer at a place I used to work at.

    A colleague got a call demanding that "It always goes wrong at the same point and someone needs to be here to fix it right away". As they were a big account and would not accept help over the phone, he gets in his car and makes the four hour drive to their site.

    When he arrives, he's taken straight to the PC and shown the problem.

    "See, I get to here, click the right mouse button as the manual says and nothing happens" says the customer.

    "Right" says my colleague, "I can see what the problem is here. Do you have a marker pen"?

    They go off and find one, and he is then able to put an "L" and and "R" on the mouse buttons and then make the four hour journey back to the office.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Easily fixed...

      That's quite amusing - and I'm by no means defending the bloke, but I'd like to note there are people genuinely incapable of ever learning which side is left and which one is right; I'm one of them. After many decades, I still have to conjure up memory aids and parse them to consciously derive the proper side each and every time I need to use them - the words themselves utterly failed to ever associate with anything meaningful in my brain all these years. My spatial orientation and 3D-thinking skills are more than fine, thank you, it's just that the labels themselves seem unable to stick. No idea why. All I know is if we are ever heading into a collision with something never, ever shout "RIGHT!!!" at me, because you've got a 25% chance of me going left, a 50% of freezing up confused, and only a 25% chance of actually steering to the right...

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Easily fixed...

        After many decades, I still have to conjure up memory aids and parse them to consciously derive the proper side each and every time I need to use them

        Easy mnemonic: You Write with the Right.

        In a similar vein for the nautically minded, "Port" has 4 letters, just like "Left"

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Easily fixed...

          The number of times I've seen manuals that say "right click" when they mean "secondary" or "contextual" click... because you can swap the button functions over for left handers, and you do get people with three button mice etc etc. And people who use trackpads or digitiser tablets.

        2. CustardGannet
          Boffin

          @ DJO

          "for the nautically minded..." - the mnemonic I was taught was :

          Is there any Red Port Left in the bottle ?

          (As the red light on ships (and aircraft) is on the port (left) side)

          HTH !

          1. aqk
            Facepalm

            Re: @ DJO

            Ahh.. are you coming it to PORT or leaving it?

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: @ DJO

              "

              Ahh.. are you coming it to PORT or leaving it?

              "

              That is only of concern regarding the colour of the entrance buoys and lights. And although the convention in the UK is that red is to port and green to starboard when entering the port, it is the exact opposite in many other places in the World (e.g. the US), where you would keep the green lights to port and the red to starboard when entering a harbour. Vice-versa when leaving, of course.

        3. Wommit

          Re: Easily fixed...

          @DJO "In a similar vein for the nautically minded, "Port" has 4 letters, just like "Left""

          And Sherry has more letters, just like "Not Left".

        4. aqk
          IT Angle

          Re: Easily fixed...port? uh.. oh yeah- left

          It doesn't work like that.

          I can easily figure out which is port or starboard etc, after a couple seconds through the use of conscious thought, but NOT when I'm driving a car at high speed and someone shouts "Turn LEFT NOW!"

          I'd prefer they simultaneously point with their finger.

          1. ITS Retired

            Re: Easily fixed...port? uh.. oh yeah- left

            Usually just at the point of no return and sometime in the wrong lane even.

          2. WorsleyNick
            Pint

            Re: Easily fixed...port? uh.. oh yeah- left

            QUOTE

            I can easily figure out which is port or starboard etc, after a couple seconds through the use of conscious thought, but NOT when I'm driving a car at high speed and someone shouts "Turn LEFT NOW!"

            ENDQUOTE

            There is the problem, if you have the time to think about it. After nearly 70 years I know my left from my right, I do not have to think about cycling on the (paws for thought) left, I just do it. But if you say turn left, turn right (but not straight on, that is easy), I have to think about and feel (I do not need to touch it, the sensation is always there), the rather long and tight scar on the most sensitive part of my (paws for thought) right index finger. I often wonder about the other little boy who stamped on my finger, with his cleated boot.

            I am left or right handed, depending upon what I am doing and in some things either; ironing depends upon which side of the ironing board I am standing, until I try to iron round the buttons on my shirts.

            Ontheotherhand, I used to hate providing support to left handers who did not swap the buttons round on their meeses.

        5. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Joke

          @DJO -- Re: Easily fixed...

          Easy mnemonic: You Write with the Right.

          No I don't. I'm left-handed. However, use the mouse with my right, swing a golf club like a righty, and am somewhat ambidextrous with everything else. So which side is the "right"????

        6. ITS Retired

          Re: Easily fixed...

          No I don't. I write with the left.

          That is how I remember Port and starboard though.

      2. Wyrdrune

        Re: Easily fixed...

        This is why, when driving, my wife has learnt to use "your side" or "my side"... :)

      3. tfewster Silver badge

        Re: Easily fixed...

        > ...genuinely incapable...

        And you know that, and you compensate for it yourself. You don't start demanding that the world is changed to accommodate the few* who have difficulties.

        * OTOH** genuine barriers - Like kerbs for wheelchair users, or a single button mouse, need to be addressed.

        ** Pun not intended. OTOOH, a picture of a hand with the thumb sticking out towards the middle might actually be helpful.

      4. Vic

        Re: Easily fixed...

        I still have to conjure up memory aids and parse them to consciously derive the proper side each and every time I need to use them

        My mate's girlfriend is much the same. When he's giving her directions, he doesn't use "left" and "right", but rather "watch" and "bangles".

        And that's fine. But I don't wear bangles, so when I'm approaching a crossroads and he tells me to turn bangles, it can get a little confusing...

        Vic.

      5. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Easily fixed...

        @DropBear, the labels left and right are completely arbitrary too. There is also no way to describe them in language alone without actually using the words left and right and assuming the other person knows what those are. Seriously, try it. There is no way to explain left or right without external reference and just pointing "that side".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          At ImAnIdiot re directions.

          "Your heart is in the left side of your chest. When you place your hand over your heart to say a pledge, you are typicly doing so with your right hand. A military salute is given using the right hand to the brow over the right eye, unless one has that arm in a cast or is otherwise unable to use that hand."

          There are many ways to indicate which side is left & which is right, you just have to remember to use your imagination.

          "American's drive on the right, everyone else drives on the PROPER side of the road!" is a great way to impress that lesson to any of you whiners on the wrong side of our Pond. =-)P Plbplbplbplblblblbbllbbllblb...

          (I was being sarcastic. Please don't down vote me too hard for trying to use humour to make a difficult situation a little less so. Thank you.)

      6. xeroks

        Re: Easily fixed...

        For the mouse button scenario, I think what happens is that right handers will tend to replace the word "right" with "the one you use automatically", and "left" with "the other one".

        The basic problem is that the primary mouse button is (by default) on the left instead of the right. And that many - if not most - people don't have the concepts of "left" and "right" hardwired into the way they think about their bodies.

        (If it's of significance, I'm right handed, but usually use my mouse with the left hand, with the buttons in their default configuration.)

      7. T-Bo

        Re: Easily fixed...

        there are people genuinely incapable of ever learning which side is left and which one is right

        This is not completely uncommon ... My Pop once got directions to someone's home, to look at a piece of furniture that my Mom was interested in. After driving for nearly an hour in confusion, he went back home and decided to retrace the route, substituting left for right and right for left in the directions had had been given. Straight to the house he went.

      8. fatalXception

        Re: Easily fixed...

        But surely - and I say this with tongue firmly planted in my cheek - you only need to learn *one* of them?

      9. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        At DropBear & others with direction issues.

        My father had this issue as well & came up with a rather ingenious way of solving it while driving in his car. Go to an office supply store & pick up a packet of the filmy, clear plastic, self adhesive arrows, such as what you might use on a report to indicate an important passage. Peel off an arrow, stick it to the inside of the windscreen at just above eye level, so that the arrow points to the Left. Use a heavy black pen to label it "Left". Now you have an instant, visual, easily seen through (it's clear plastic after all), directional reminder.

        He remembered his Left from Right when walking about by remembering that his shirt pocket was over the Left breast, thus making it easier to navigate.

        If you purchase one of those enclosed spherical "bubble compass" things from an auto parts store, you can draw an arrow to the Left on it & label it as such, thus every time you look at the keyfob so the letters are the right side up, the arrow points & says Left.

        You'll want someone else to verify that you've pointed them correctly the first time, but once you have it's easy enough to write "Left" on all the other arrows so the only way the writing is right side up is if the arrow is facing to the Left. Now you've got a pocket packet full of sticky reminders you can use elsewhere as you need.

        Happy navigating!

        1. J P

          Re: At DropBear & others with direction issues.

          For navigating on maps, I use a device called a romer - you can buy them ready made, but using a graphics programme & suitably accurate printer I've made my own, printed on acetate sheets, with various tweaks - the most important of which is a single vertical arrow with a patch of red colour to the left, green to the right. Placed on the map with the arrow facing in the direction of travel, the colour of the patch tells you whether to shout "left" or "right" (yes, turning the romer over is theoretically possible, but there's a fair bit of text on it so you'd normally notice). It works whether you are moving up, down or across the map; being comfy with red/green it works for me, but you could do your own with the words "left" and "right".

          (Prompt for that particular addition to the romer was "once bitten, twice shy". I don't normally struggle with L/R issues, but as you emerge from the forests onto a main road at 3am in the middle of Wales it can happen. And did; took us 40 minutes to realise as I just assumed the mismatch between what was expected from the map & what was on roadsigns was down to them being in Welsh. I know that doesn't make any sense *now* but after 17hours non-stop rally driving it did; we actually made up a fair bit of the time after realising & doing the U-turn and were only 45 minutes late into the 2 hour breakfast [nap] halt, but losing 45 minutes of precious rest time was a hard learned lesson...)

          The other thing I've learnt from years of navigating is the word "right" is reserved for directional instructions; agreement or confirmation is always indicated with the words "that's correct". Otherwise you get the inevitable "Do I go left at this crossroads?" "Yes, that's right" confusion. Amusing to watch when it afflicts the car in front of you; less fun to be involved in.

      10. Blip
        Thumb Up

        Re: Easily fixed...

        Well worth a listen:

        Radio 4 Word of Mouth Mon 26 Sep 2016

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07vs2h8

        Directions: North South East and West

        Michael Rosen & Laura Wright discover how different ways of talking about directions in other languages show differences in ways of thinking. Professor Lera Boroditsky explains how in some languages, you might be asked to move your chair a bit to the north, or to put the socks in the east drawer... And the past may be conceived of as in front of you, rather than behind. How do the languages we speak shape the ways we think?

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Easily fixed...

      Pedestrian crossings on dual carriageways often have instructions painted on the road telling you which way to look to avoid being run over (because you have to look right, not left, when crossing from the central reservation).

      The trouble is that when I'm preparing to cross a busy road I don't look down at the gutter just in front of my feet, where it says "Look left", I look across towards my destination, where it says "Look right". The writing is upside-down, of course, but most people find that easy enough to read, and, as far as I'm aware, there is no law of the universe that says things in upside-down writing mean the opposite of what they say.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Easily fixed...

        This is a genuine problem at some airports. Runways are numbered according to the first two digits of their (magnetic) heading. Thus an East/West runway would be numbered "09" when landing toward the East, and "27" when the Westerly direction was in use. The numbers are written in large numerals at the threshold of the runway facing the direction of the landing aircraft. A runway with a heading of 20 degrees is thus "02" and its reciprocal is "20" When written in squared numerals it is very easy to look down and confuse which end is which, and end up landing in the wrong direction.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Easily fixed...

          @Cynic_999

          To avoid confusion many airports actually just number their runway 01-19 or 03-21 in those cases. Magnetic drift means most runways are no longer aligned to their actual magnetic heading anyway so playing around with the numbers a bit to avoid unwanted numbers does happen.

    3. aqk
      Windows

      Re: Easily fixed...The "Right" Key not often used.

      I have that problem all the time.

      I have to emphasize "click the RIGHT button, not the left" usually used to bring up a context menu in Windows.

      They'll often pause and ask "the right one?" as though they had just discovered it.

      Of course, normally when you say "click the button", you imply the left one by default.

      Luckily, the more advanced Macintosh users have no such problem! (ducks!)

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    Meh

    "personal assistant for one of the directors"

    Well, there's your problem.

    What you're looking at there is a secretary so crap that they can't do that job[1] and have to shag the boss to remain employed instead.

    They think they have real power, 'cos they wield the email and phone of his or her nibs, but they know that everyone is actually laughing at them for their frequent thick-as-shit howlers. This makes them astonishingly stroppy, like Eric Cartman doing; "Respec ma authoriteh" on loop.

    [1] As in, useless at anything technological is a given. They can't use a word processor.

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge

    On the subject of labelling

    The original is the best.

  12. Sequin

    Engineers!

    I once wrote a system to capture the stock catalogue of an electronics workshop prior to the whole inventory system being computerised. Stock items varied from screws of 1mm in length to radio masts that were 200m tall.

    I got a call from the chief engineer one day to say that the system was very restrictive and he was an engineer not a typist. "Why do I have to spend time trying to find the A key on the keyboard?".

    To fix his problem I changed the message from "Press a key to continue" to "Press any key to continue".

    1. magickmark
      WTF?

      Re: Engineers!

      So did he then complain that he could not find the "Any" key?

      I use to train new IT users back in the day and I've actually had that happen to me!!!

      Spoken instruction to class:

      Me: Do [some task] then press any key

      Inevitable User: Where's the "Any" key?

      Me {thinks}: Now how do I respond without embarrassing [Inevitable User] in front of whole class?

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Engineers!

        I always coded that to say "Press SPACE to continue", then waited for any keypress.

      2. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Pint

        Re: Engineers!

        "Spoken instruction to class:

        Me: Do [some task] then press any key

        Inevitable User: Where's the "Any" key?"

        I had a Samsung DVD player that had an "anykey" in the remote. I kid You not: it really had a key named "anykey".

        Here one remote with such a thing: it is the top left square button.

        http://lofi-gaming.org.uk/blog/uploaded_images/IMAGE_081-764964.jpg

      3. Soruk

        Re: Engineers!

        Of course, you then get the smart-arse who, on being greeted by the "Press any key to continue" message, will tap the Shift key, get no response, then try tne other shift key, then do the same with the Control and Alt keys, in almost all situations will do nothing by themselves, then complain the instructions are wrong.

    2. RIBrsiq
      Joke

      Re: Engineers!

      >> To fix his problem I changed the message from "Press a key to continue" to "Press any key to continue".

      So did the keyboard have multiple "any" keys, then...?

    3. Putters

      Re: Engineers!

      Oh gods, been there. You know it's going to be a long day training someone to use a complex corporate project management / reporting package when they fail to log in because they don't know where the Return key is (circa 1989 - the guy was a very intelligent / competent project manager, just hadn't had any real exposure to computers)

    4. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Engineers!

      Being an arse, when in a sales demo and upon coming across a prompt to "press any key" I'd press a key modifier key such as Ctrl or Shift instead and ask them why it didn't work. The response was often went "any key except that one" followed by myepressing a different key modifier key instead...

      If you write "any key" damn well make sure that you really mean any key.

      1. G.Y.

        Re: Engineers!

        Russian has no definite article; I gather lots of Russian computers have "ANY" (in latin characters) written in sharpie on the space bar.

  13. TRT Silver badge

    Called out to the video conferencing system yesterday.

    We can't get the radio mics to work. Just no signal from them. The signal bar shows just nothing at all.

    "Hm," I think, "has someone changed the frequency setting? Batteries dead? Better take a look as that seems odd."

    Walk... walk... walk... walk... walk... ... ... ... walk... walk... walk... walk... walk... enter room, no lights on the receivers, the person points to the mixer unit which has power but no signal level bar even with them banging away on the £100+ each microphones. Switch power on at PSU and aerial distribution unit (switch is at the front and very obvious and I've show this person how to use it all before). Lights up like a Christmas tree - radio mics come on. Not a problem at all.

  14. Chris King Silver badge

    A couple of obligatory Dilberts:

    Today, young Asok learns that life is not like "Star Trek":

    http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-03-20

    Stupid Label Guy:

    http://dilbert.com/strip/1995-11-07

  15. bartsmit
    Boffin

    config.sys

    Back in the days of config.sys and autoexec.bat a useful warning for other techs was to add USER=ID10T to the former

  16. steamrunner

    OK Computer!

    I say the word "computer" in a Scottish accent to this day, purely because of Scotty in ST:IV. And I'm from deepest Devon.

    (My wife, though, always thinks I'm just taking the p*ss. She's from Edinburgh :-)

    S.

  17. wallaby

    Many idiots out there

    Once had a user who had been told that (as a previous user had damaged kit during a move) all IT moves had to be performed by my dept - I could see him lugging stuff about, then he sat for an hour and messed about as his mouse and keyboard wouldn't work. It was obvious he wouldn't come and ask me, so I watched him persevere until he had no other choice but to go and report it to his manager Tom.

    Tom came over to me and asked if I'd have a look at it, and as a favour to him it did. I went over and started moving the keyboard from side to side on his desk and declared "yes - there is a problem with your mouse". He said "but.... that's the keyboard!!", I asked him "why did you plug it into the mouse port then???", at that point I turned and went back to my desk.

  18. chivo243 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    That one ranks up there

    with this one. One day I get an angry call, PC X isn't turning on!! We need it now! I hustle down to the office only to find the monitor is not powered on. With out a work I push the orange button, it turns to green and we all can see all the new folders created by jacking on the mouse without the monitor being turned on...

    pedant as he looks about like the user did when I turned on the monitor...

  19. phuzz Silver badge

    The reader in question should have gone ahead and labelled the mouse in the board room. And the microphone. And every other thing in the entire room, just before the CEO was due to use it.

    When asked why everything was labelled, point out that certain senior execs couldn't tell the difference between a mic and a mouse, so you thought you'd help out.

  20. lukewarmdog

    Working in a school, the kids would often prank the teacher and / or the next set of students in after them.

    Without disconnecting it you swap mouse A from computer A over to computer B and vice versa. Cue two confused people, neither of whom's mouse works. You can also disconnect the mouse (and anything else) and people assume they're broken because if the cables go round the back and look like they should be plugged in.. people think they must be. Especially teachers. Replacing the teachers mouse with a broken one was a favourite. Just hide the working one behind the machine, put broken one in it's place. I had one teacher who was made up she had got a wireless mouse and said it was a pity it didn't work. I pointed out someone had just pulled the whole cable out of a wired one.

    Rearranging all the keys on the keyboard to spell words was always fun. I was really impressed once, this whole sentence had been formed. Until I realised that to make it they'd had to borrow keys from multiple keyboards making an amusing discovery actually a lot of work.

    1. paulf Silver badge
      Happy

      It probably dates me if I confess to doing that very prank of swapping mouse/keyboard cables on the RM Nimbus machines we had when I was at school. The machines were back to back so the mouse at this computer would be connected to the one behind. Ah, different times!

      As for rearranging keyboards - you just need to pick something with no repeated letters. I'd offer "fuck this" and "scrotum" as two options. Repurposing numbers (upside down calculator style) gives you more options as if you wanted something more exotic like "Sag Bag" you could use a 6 as a G.

      1. aqk
        Paris Hilton

        Now the thread is degenerating.

        58008618

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Switching the keyboard layout without switching the keys would create havoc.

    3. SImon Hobson Silver badge
      WTF?

      Many years ago, those who know what I'm talking about will be able to dat it, there was a game on Macs called Crystal Quest - and it was hard on mouse buttons with the need for lots of "rapid fire" presses. Also, this was in the early days when the Mac mouse connected with a 9 pin D connector and just passed the rotary encoder and mouse button switch signals to the host for processing.

      So I rigged up a little circuit that when switched to "game" mode made the mouse button just gate a pulse generator - meaning you just held the button down for as long as you wanted a stream of projectiles launching.

      Then at work, the guy opposite me (back to back desks) got a Mac as it was required for something to do with a project he was contracted on - and I suspect you are well ahead of me here. It took them quite a while before they found the cable hidden under some randomly positioned papers that led to the "game"/"normal" switch on my side of the desk. The icon sums up the guys reactions before they found it.

      B'stards wouldn't let me have my gizmo back for ages though - it was a b'ger playing Crystal Quest without it.

      The other fun one was setting the alarm clock to sound the hours - using a nice long sound like a recording of "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that" from 2001, and turning the sound right up. Of course, you do that anytime he leaves his desk just before mid-day.

      1. T-Bo

        For anyone in a long-ago office who was silly enough to leave their workstation open and unattended, we used to replace the Windows error sound with a WAV from the cowboy line boss in Blazing Saddles: "Hold it, hold it -- What the hell is that shit!?"

        Sounded glorious, eventually ringing out across a dead-quiet office.

        Good times, back in the day ...

        1. J. Cook Silver badge
          Pint

          the ISP I used to work for was worse- since we were not on the corporate network, we weren't restricted to what sites we could visit.

          You learned within your first few hours to lock the workstation the instant you got up to do anything lest you find your home page set to some really horrible, filthy porn site.

    4. swm Bronze badge

      Back in 1965 the time sharing system I worked on had a translation table from ASCII to internal code and another table from internal code to ASCII. One day we switched the tables so "2" ASCII was translated to 3\"3" internal and vice versa.

      This naturally confused a lot of users.

  21. MJI Silver badge

    Want to be cruel

    Swap N and M over.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Want to be cruel

      G and C is also fun...

    2. Steve Aubrey

      Re: Want to be cruel

      I saw a personalized car license plate that was

      MWNMVWM

      - or something similar. If I couldn't read it at a stop light, there was no way a policeman could read it at speed.

  22. aqk
    Facepalm

    "No, Mr. Scott! You talk into the mouse!"

    This actually happened to me about 15 years ago.

    My Pointy- Haired Boss (an elderly lady) asked me to replace an employee's dumb ASCII terminal with a shiny new PC and of course, a mouse.

    Note that a fellow employee, sitting not more than 4 feet away from the dumb terminal user, had been using her PC AND MOUSE for at least 18 months.

    Thus the TWO employees, side by would now have identical equipment. Got it?

    Once the new PC was set up, the PHB decided to show the ex-ASCII lady how to log in and use her PC.

    When she first picked up the mouse, the ex-ASCII lady waved it at the screen, and disdainfully muttered "So how does thing work anyhow?".

    Remember now: her "cow-orker" sitting RIGHT NEXT TO HER had been using an identical PC and mouse for 18+ months!

    So I (the only male in the group), - stupidly thinking she had seen the StarTrek movie and was joking, - laughed and replied "No, no, Scotty- you're supposed to talk into it!"

    So she held it up to her mouth and seeming puzzled, asked "So what do I say?"

    My PHB gave me (now horrified) a nasty look and hissed to me "I'LL handle this! Now go back to your office!"

    Anyhow after another 18 months, I found premature retirement - without a golden handshake - and the company went bankrupt. I believe the CEO retired to the Florida Keys...

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Never mind all this blither, was the internet ever rebooted? It seems to be full of malwarez, spam mail, cat videos and "ddoses" again, so maybe it should be rebooted again anyway?

  24. ricardian

    Ferrograph tape recorders

    Many years ago I worked for a large UK Government department that used a lot of the old, heavy, twin-track Ferrograph tape recorders. There was a tape counter that consisted of a dial with two hands recording the footage. Apparently this confused one or two particularly dim people so one bright spark put in an "official suggestion" that a label should be affixed to the tape counter bearing the words "This is not a clock". Amazingly the suggestion was adopted and every Ferrograph tape recorder had that label affixed to the tape counter. Of course in no time at all every clock bore a hand-written notice "This is not a footage counter" and other items such as buckets & telephones bore the proper printed notice "This is not a clock"

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