back to article Support chap's Sonic Screwdriver fixes PC as user fumes in disbelief

Welcome to another festive edition of On-Call, the column in which we recycle readers' horror stories. Today, as we seek something, anything, to write in the pre-Christmas news drought, we bring you a trio of tales from the bulging On-Call inbox. Which we must say is swelling this week: it looks like some of you might not be …

  1. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Overheard conversation about a new server

    "So why do you need a four processor machine?"

    "I've got poor circulation.The single processor one didn't keep my feet warm enough."

    (The server lived under his desk).

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

      I used to use my laptop as fan heater when working in a client's unheated office. Sadly, Dell placed the vent on the left hand side of the machine, and I used my right hand for the mouse.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

      I once worked in a small office with a server room next to it. When the central heating failed in the middle of the winter, I found that despite the cooling, the warmest place in the office was in the server room, behind the exhaust of a big pile of servers.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

        At my last job, only one other person had a key to the server room, my boss.

        If he was away, and I had a particularly boring day, without much work on, I'd go and have a nice kip in there.

        If it was a hot day, I'd roll a chair right under the aircon and doze there. On a cold day, I'd curl up behind the main rack, gently drifting off to the sound of a bunch of fans screaming along, wafting warm air over me.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

          Dunno why it is, but I often suffer from insomnia and have trouble sleeping in a decent bed at night the quiet starts my mind ticking over, but put me in a room full of servers behaving, or somewhere an engine is ticking away and working sweetly and the white noise and warmth can send me to sleep so quickly sometime I have to fight to stay awake sometimes.

          I have arrived for long overnight work thats going to involve a lot of sitting round at night on my own in something like a server room with a packed sleeping bag, rollmat and pillow.

          1. JulieM Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

            And I bet you would wake up instantly, if there was a slight change in pitch or loudness .....

            1. Triggerfish

              Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

              Pretty much yeah. :D

              But sometimes you get pitch chages as they do things they are supposed to, you know you probably have spent to much time with this sort of stuff, when you subconsious recognises that and doesn't wake you, or wakes you when it doesn't.

              1. agurney

                Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

                Sounds just like sleeping on a boat at anchor ...

                1. Triggerfish

                  Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

                  Sounds just like sleeping on a boat at anchor

                  That is basically mogadon for me.

            2. Tim99 Silver badge

              Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

              @JulieM

              A long time ago, when a 25-50MB rack mountable Winchester disk had a "voice coil" when I was running routine data jobs, I didn't need to look at the screen, the gentle melody of read/writes told me that everything was good. I did have a couple of spectacularly loud hard disk crashes which gouged the oxide off the platter though...

          2. Grifter

            Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

            >> the quiet starts my mind ticking over

            Search youtube for "star trek sleeping", or if star trek isn't your thing there are plenty of other types available too, nature noises and what not. Or just put on some music. I've been sleeping with music, though mine is heavy/black metal, for nigh on 25 years now (:

            1. Triggerfish

              Re: Overheard conversation about a new server @ Grifter

              I have tried something like that before but weird as it sounds it doesn't work, dunno why, I think its because its a recording and just doesn't work because of that. Music sometimes works, I have tried to persaude the other half to drive a car round for the night so I can crash in the back seat, but the answer to that is alway no.

              I might try that one though it's very ambient low level.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

              Waiting for Cousteau, part 4 - 45 minutes of wave and scuba noises.

            3. Haku

              Re: Overheard conversation about a new server

              "star trek sleeping"

              Rather neat, I hadn't thought of searching for a loop of the ships background noise, though just listening to a couple of minutes of it made me realise it would probably drive me nuts trying to sleep to it due to its unnatural monotony.

              For many many years I used to listen to Tangerine Dream to help me get to sleep, auto-reverse walkmans were a godsend, but now we're in the age of video playlists on pcs so it's familiar films or tv shows I usually crash out to.

  2. whitespacephil

    "the large cylindrical plastic tube that I never worked out what it was quite for in my standard issue IT toolkit" - I believe it's for keeping safe the screws and other components that you extract with other parts of the toolkit.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      But if you store them in the tube, you can't stand them on the desk in a logical pattern related to their original location and reassembly order. (Not that it ever worked out well for me.)

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        When dissembling a device, you can sketch it on a piece of cardboard. When you remove screws from the device, pierce them into the cardboard in the appropriate place.

        Obviously this trick is only suitable for screws of a certain size.

        1. psychonaut

          laptops.....get little triangular stickers about 5mm on a side of different colours

          get some old jam jars

          put triangular sticker pointing to screwhole of all screws that are the same size, put them in the corresponding jar.

          makes it a doddle.

          for cars though, the carboard idea above is the best

        2. Triggerfish

          When dissembling a device, you can sketch it on a piece of cardboard. When you remove screws from the device, pierce them into the cardboard in the appropriate place.

          I have a colleague who used to do that, one day when he was dissambling something for some reason, his missus walked past saw (to her) a loose sheet of paper, picked it up and threw it in the bin, distributing lots of tiny screws all over the front room and the shag pile carpet.

          Apparently it was his fault.

          1. The Wegie

            "I have a colleague who used to do that..."

            Ouch! Was this used as evidence in the subsequent divorce?

        3. Simon Harris Silver badge

          The last time I had to completely disassemble a laptop, I poked each screw into a flat piece of expanded polystyrene packing in a matching position.

          Didn't lose a screw. On the other hand I couldn't resurrect the laptop either!

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        RE: But if you store them in the tube

        Surely they're to be stored in that strange little cage in the pc case that seems to suck them in from the desk above and holds on to them harder than the black hole at the centre of the galaxy and no amount of shaking or poking will get them out?

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: RE: But if you store them in the tube

          My view is that if it still works with several screws left over then it was over engineered.

          I rarely feel the urge to take things apart again to put the additional screws back.

          1. Josh 44

            Re: RE: But if you store them in the tube

            Sounds like the story about the VW Beetle when you'd put the little motor in the kitchen sink to work on it. There were always a few pieces left over when you put it back together. After a while, you'd have enough parts to build a second engine.

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Why so much trouble. They always put extra screws in as evidenced by the leftovers once everything is reassembled.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I can attest that.

        Ancient IBM PS/2 Aptiva desktop. Took it apart to change an HDD, back in the day. 32 screws.

        Put it back together. 18 screws, even using 2 screws in CD-ROM drives and bracing mounts and whatnot.

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    PJ's tale about the Telemetrix CAD machines reminds me of Hot Millions.

    One of the earliest films about computer crimes. The cleaning lady uses the mainframe to warm her tea, which enables Marcus Pendelton aka Ceasar Smith (Peter Ustinov) to finally break into it.

    "Anyone can steal. Everybody does a bit. I've been embezzling!!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The English Electric Deuce mainframe was all valves. Apparently you could walk inside it. A way to warm you up if the room itself was too cold.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re:The English Electric Deuce mainframe

        I have seen pictures of the Colossus workers in Bras and Panties during summer decrypting.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Re: Re:The English Electric Deuce mainframe

          My mum used to be in charge of a decrypting room during WWII, and she told a similar tale. Washington DC gets intolerable in the summer. The room she ran was so tip top secret that she had the authority to keep anyone, including Admirals, out.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re:The English Electric Deuce mainframe

          The assistants in our local Maypole store in the 1960s were all women. They all wore long white cotton coats as they prepared and sold butter and ham. In the summer heat they used to wear just bras and panties underneath the coats as the shops were not air conditioned.

          Then management modernised the outfit to white nylon coats - which the women quickly realised were unfortunately almost see-through.

        3. Andronnicus Block

          Re: Re:The English Electric Deuce mainframe

          Is it just me, or has anyone else now got a terrible image in their minds of flabby hairy middle aged men in bras and panties?

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I've just looked at the Wikipedia page for Hot Millions (1968), it could well be of interest to fans of late sixties London culture... apparently one character shops at Apple Boutique (a clothing store owned by the Beatles), and another drives a Jensen Interceptor.

      Hmm, I now have images in my noggin from the film Bedazzled (1967) starring Dudley Moore, and featuring Peter Cook as the Devil, Raquel Welch as Lust, and Barry Humphries as Envy. Naturally!

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Maggie Smith (as Patty Terwilliger Smith), Bob Newhart (Willard C. Gnatpole). Even the Jensen can't help him in his clumsy attempt to seduce Patty.

        Classic: the scene between Marcus Pendleton aka Caesar Smith (Peter Ustinov) and the french real estate agent. All the time they talk completely at cross purposes and yet arrive at exactly the deal both want to achieve.

        Oh, and Heathrow airport. New, shiny, very few passengers, lots of parking space... incredible.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Raquel Welch as Lust, "

        sold !

      3. lorisarvendu

        Hmm, I now have images in my noggin from the film Bedazzled (1967) starring Dudley Moore, and featuring Peter Cook as the Devil, Raquel Welch as Lust, and Barry Humphries as Envy. Naturally!

        Spot the reflection of the TARDIS in a shop window in that film!

    3. AndyD 8-)₹

      IBM 2260 (display) control units had things called NiCr delay lines (basically electric-fire wire in a flat metal box) made great toast - no problems either.

      A factory in Worcester in the early 60's had a Leo II which ran on 'acorn' valves - they installed ducting from the computer room and heated the whole factory.

      1. HWwiz

        I work in a UK Bank DC which also has a emergency failover office. Should there be a major event.

        The DC provides all the heating for the office holding over 400 staff. Does all the hot water too.

        But generally all that free heat is just for me and about 10 other shift workers. Yay !.

  5. Mr Dogshit
    Headmaster

    There is no such verb as "to helm"

    Repeat after me: there is no such verb as "to helm"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

      Except that there is....

      https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/helm

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

      Regardless of the mis-directed pedantry, you get a downvote for the using the phrase "Repeat after me". Such requirement to condescend is rarely warranted and just elicits schadenfreude when also wrong.

      1. Glenturret Single Malt

        Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

        OK, but what about the contributor (above) who refers to "dissembling" a computer?

        This reminds me of a chemical equivalent (no pun there for chemists); one particular lecturer I recall was always very insistent that ionic compounds disassociate in aqueous solution rather than the slightly shortened version that was in common use.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

      landlubber

    4. notchas

      Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

      Yes there is, and now the fog's cleared I'm off to do it.

    5. Doc Ock

      Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

      Looks like Mr Dogshit has stepped in a mess of his own making.

    6. Mpeler
      Pirate

      Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

      Go to helm.

    7. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: There is no such verb as "to helm"

      Avast behind

  6. Mark Dempster

    It's the EM field!

    Many years ago, in the early days of PCs in the workplace, I worked for the local County Council.

    There was one young guy in the office who, after finishing whatever he was doing on the one PC (a genuine green-screen IBM AT!) would always push himself away from the computer desk, & ride his chair as far as he could towards his own desk.

    One day I found myself stood right behind the machine as he did so, and quickly pulled the monitor power lead out of the socket on the PC; he noticed the screen go blank as he was rolling away, and expressed his surprise.

    \I moved around to the front of the machine & pretended to investigate the problem without success, before the penny dropped that I'd read about this sort of thing happening. I explained to him that a PC monitor creates a strong electromagnetic field around itself when it's working, and that it can extend out from the equipment by up to 2 or 3 feet. By moving away from the PC so quickly while fully-immersed in the field, he'd actually pulled it away from the computer and broken it! If we were really lucky it might still be enveloping him while sat on the chair...

    For the next 10 minutes or so I had him flinging himself and chair at the PC at various speeds and angles in the hope that the EM field would be hurled from him back into the monitor - which it eventually was, when I slipped the cable back in...

    He still believed what I'd told him years later, probably still does.... ;-)

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      It really was the EM field!

      Scene: 1994, office with synthetic fibre carpet and wheeled office chairs with which to sit at desks bearing computers running Windows 3.11.

      If one scooted the chair across even a moderate stretch of carpet, a static charge built up which was quite painfully discharged once one touched an earthed surface. I got into the habit of discharging by touching my wedding ring to the metal desk frame, (which produced a nice fat spark but no pain!), and noticed that doing so would frequently lock up my PC. For a while we worried about the quality of the electrical earthing, but all was well there. We conclusively demonstrated that moving the keyboard a foot or so up off the desk prevented the lockups: apparently the discharge through the frame induced a voltage spike in the keyboard that was transferred to the PC (keyboards had PS/2 connectors then, not USB) and the motherboard didn't like it.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: It really was the EM field!

        Talking of EM fields, in 1987/88 I was doing an MSc at a London hospital. My lab was 2 floors below ground and I'd just acquired a new crt monitor for my project. At regular intervals the picture would get distorted with a quite noticeable tilt to one side.

        I was all set to box it up and send it back as faulty when I realised that the hospital's MRI scanner was directly above me two floors away.

  7. streaky Silver badge

    First Line

    But first line support had to sign off on every job

    Revenge of the dumb processes. If your first line support is so smart why are they in first line. That's not how this works.

    "sign off" yeah thanks bruh.

    1. DaLo

      Re: First Line

      I presumed it was actually meant to read "the user had to sign off on every job" - as in the user had to agree the job was completed to their satisfaction. It was probably first line that they sent around to collect the signature.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: First Line

      Many years ago we diagnosed that the problem with support was that the first line tended to misdirect problems they couldn't solve themselves. The specialists then misdirected them to other specialists. So they rattled pillar to post round the system queues until they finally arrived at the correct specialist.

      It became obvious that first line support needed to be your most experienced generalists who could either solve the problem very quickly - or pass it to the correct specialists. However that went against management's taught model - so was quickly overridden in a mistaken cost saving exercise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Line

        I spent many a year moaning about this. Being the amateur guy who knew how to fix the computers, in the days when there just weren't any full-time IT support staff in education I can handle most things and know when and who to pass problems to if it was beyond me. But when we were given an IT support team I found myself, on an almost monthly basis, being passed around to lots of wrong people by a sequence of front line IT staff who didn't know anything about our ( standard education issue) PCs or network and software. I got to know the proper professionals well - so they gave me their mobile/extension numbers and told me to call them first. They then logged the call with the first line guys while they were already at our site.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: First Line

          I got to know the proper professionals well - so they gave me their mobile/extension numbers and told me to call them first.

          I think this is common in a lot of industries. When I worked at a small(ish) local radio station, my boss made a point of collecting such numbers. It was always quicker and easier, for example, to call the telephone which was next to the rack in the exchange which held our circuits (i.e. telephone cables which carried our Outside Broadcast lines and even the to-be-broadcast audio for our a.m. service) than it was to call the official help line.

          Analogue days, of course. I remember very clearly my first OB; it was ridiculously early in the morning (this was an OB of the breakfast show), it was my first "proper" job after graduating and I'd been in post only a few weeks.

          Turned up on site and went to find the BT engineer who was providing us with our temporary OB line. A head and shoulders appeared out of a hole in the road, proffering me a scraggy bit of cable with one pair untwisted and stripped. That was it, our 7.5kHz line back to the office :-)

          M.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Line

        "first line tended to misdirect problems"

        Worked third level DSL support for one time at ATT and saw that all the time.

        What first line did was walk the user through pointless scripted routines that could take literally hours, just so the poor customer would be good and spitting mad when they got to us.

        I always thought it would make more sense to send them to us first so we could determine if there was a fault we could address quickly (reconfigure in our router perhaps) - and then hand them off to first line support for needless torture as prescribed.

  8. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Gadget influenced by waving something in front of it?

    My dad complained that his phone, a Nexus 5, kept making bleeping noises. At first I assumed it was some notification that he didn't understand (such as Update Pending, or Google Wants to Know Where You Took A Photo, or some other useless crap), but the phone wasn't displaying anything. Hmm, weird.

    Eventually the penny dropped: his phone case was the sort that doubled as a credit card holder. Every time he closed it, the phone would read the NFC chip on his credit card and make a beep, but not actually display a message to the effect of "I can read an NFC chip but I can't make sense of it". Turned off NFC, problem solved.

    1. Tabor
      Pint

      Re: Gadget influenced by waving something in front of it?

      Thanks for that post, have an upvote and a pint. I haven't experienced it (yet), but when it occurs I will definitely remember it. I see plenty of folk with those cases, so far none of them use NFC but once they do I won't have to think long.

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Gadget influenced by waving something in front of it?

        Mother !@#$er!

        My uncle is complaining of this exact problem with his Galaxy something. It started yesterday. Wanna guess what he got for Christmas? Go on - take a wild shot in the dark...

  9. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    Sonic Screwdriver

    Love that last one. There's nothing more satisfying than silencing a total arsehole.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] had been told, repeatedly, to stop warming his lunchtime pie on top of the boards"

    The air conditioning in a new computer room in southern Africa was not keeping the place cool - although the design spec showed two units should have been enough. These were big free-standing units - very tall to take in warm air and the top and releasing cold air under the false floor. So an extra unit was added and the problem went away.

    On a visit to update the O/S we were greeted by the very friendly operators - who offered us a beer. They then used a tile lifter to reveal their cache of crates of beer and water melons - lined up across the cold outlet of an air conditioner.

    Major maintenance in the machine rooms there was usually on a weekend or public holiday. That meant we could dispense with the formal suits. In summer we soon learned to carry a jumper as we moved from the concrete canyon street's 30C+ to what felt like sub-zero. When waiting to continue a task we would stand behind the exchangeable disk drives for the benefit of the warm air coming from their heat exhausts.

    Working all day on Christmas Day was an essential major maintenance slot. We soon learned that cooking a turkey with trimmings - even in the evening - was just masochistic at the height of summer.

    One day in June the local radio station played "White Christmas" - which the locals found very strange even though the public fountains were a cascade of ice until about midday.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "One day in June the local radio station played "White Christmas" - which the locals found very strange even though the public fountains were a cascade of ice until about midday.'

      Ah, brings back memories of the Australian "mid-year Christmas", which found me eating turkey, xmas pud & all the trimmings on a business trip to Melbourne, on June 25th a few years back.

      1. Hazmoid

        It's called "Christmas in July" and it is an excuse to get hammered whilst eating all the hot foods that are totally ridiculous for Christmas in Australia (December is mid summer for us)

        1. Captain Badmouth
          Happy

          Private eye record

          Back in the 60's, on one of the Xmas 45's, private eye had a report from Melbourne - " the Luton of the Southern hemisphere" about Xmas day down south.

          From what I remember ;

          " My wife, Beryl, has just plunged her electric mulling poker into my delicious ice-cold beer and we're all gathered about the blazing yule-tide log with nothing on, telling the odd spine-chilling ghost story..."

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Ahhh. Brings back memories of working in Hong Kong in the 1990s. Walking from 40'C heat outside into 10'C in the server room. I kept a thick jumper at work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Brings back memories of working in Hong Kong in the 1990s. "

        Had a holiday in HK. When leaving a big shopping mall I would instinctively brace myself to enter the cold dark night outside ...but it was like walking from the air conditioned cool into a warm bath.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        "I kept a thick jumper at work."

        "Why are you packing a thick jumper to go to the tropics?", enquired the girlfriend.

        The light summer suit is for the office.

        The thick jumper, thick socks and thick jeans are the order of the day when working in a tropical computer room.

  11. M E H

    Magic hands

    A former employer had taken on a tech refresh and outsource contract at a government funded "charity".

    Part of the tech refresh involved supplying Dell 15" LCD monitors, which were quite a novelty at the time.

    Randomly users would come in in the morning to find that their monitors weren't working. Cue irate phone calls to the Hell Desk about the shoddy kit we had supplied.

    As desktop support we would go to the users' desks and wail, "work, work, WORK", while waving our hands around the bezel of the monitor. At which point the monitors would spring to life.

    We kept this up for a few weeks until the users twigged that there was a physical switch on the right hand side of the monitors as well as a soft switch on the front. The cleaners would accidentally turn off the switch and we were just turning them on again.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Magic hands

      Magic hands sounds fun. But behind that stands a piece of truly mindless crap design, by the sounds of it. Why the f**k make even turning the damn thing on and off that much more complicated for the poor bloody infantry ( i.e. users)? Who thinks of these things? Two different types of on/off switch in two different places!!!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Magic hands

        "Two different types of on/off switch in two different places!!!"

        You mean like most PCs with the "soft" switch on the front and a main rocker switch on the PSU at the back?

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Magic hands

          Fair point. Though being on the back out of sight or touch means it might as well not exist. And even then, maybe it shouldn't be there either. Unless that does a forced switch off more safely than pulling the plug out, which wouldn't apply to a monitor..

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Magic hands

        Totally agree. I was at my neighbours a couple of days ago house sitting to wait for the telephone people to come round. I thought I'd watch the TV while waiting, so pressed the clearly marked 'power' button on the top of the screen. Nothing happened. Pressed a couple more times, checked the wall socket was switched on. Was wondering whether to pop home and get my toolkit and spare fuses when on the spur of the moment picked it up in frustration to look at the back to check I was following the correct flex to the power socket - and discovered a small black rocker switch recessed into the black surround at the bottom of the back of the casing.

      3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Magic hands

        "Who thinks of these things? Two different types of on/off switch in two different places!!!"

        Had that with a Samsung monitor back in 2010.

        Assembled it, tried switching on as per the instructions. Nothing,

        Checked the instructions again. OK, must be DOA.

        Taking it to bits again I found a conventional switch just by the mains inlet. Black on black of course.

        Checked the instructions yet again. Nope, the mains switch wasn't documented.

        One sentence would have done.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Magic hands

      I was acting as a support tech at a teaching college in the early nineties ( not actually my real job as someone else has alluded to ). I had this art lecturer who was always having problems with his desktop machine. Whenever I sat at it the damn thing would never go wrong! The lecturer was convinced that it was my "aura" and that the computer "wouldn't dare go wrong for you"!

      The problem was finger trouble, of course.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Magic hands

      Don't forget old blokes like us that would dim the brightness all the way down, instead of turning the monitor off, and everybody else would think the bloody thing was broken.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How I miss CRT's

    A decent sized neodynium magnet shaken behind a partition was all it took for the screen display to wobble disturbingly, when you were requested to check out the screen it would be stable, but again as soon as your back was turned (hand in pocket) it would start again.

    Growing up is not something to be proud of.

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: How I miss CRT's

      "Growing up is not something to be proud of".

      Growing OLD is something we can't avoid.

      Growing UP, now that's something some of us never quite managed.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: growing OLD

        "But youth is a quality, and if you have it, you never lose it.

        --- Frank Lloyd Wright, 1957, when he was 88, in an interview with Mike Wallace. Transcript and video here.

      2. Spanners Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: How I miss CRT's

        Growing UP, now that's something some of us never quite managed.

        I have successfully avoided growing up anyway..

        It's easy. Keep looking at interesting aircraft. Smile at fart jokes. Avoid wearing a tie unless its a funeral. Listen to Status Quo.

        1. mkaibear

          Re: How I miss CRT's

          Can you amend to "avoid wearing a tie unless you want to"?

          I like ties. I have a drawer full of interesting and entertaining ones. They go with my braces.

          Plus the wide-ranging ban means I can't do Bow Tie Tuesdays if I want to maintain my youthful* vigor*

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How I miss CRT's

            "I like ties. I have a drawer full of interesting and entertaining ones"

            Now retired - I still have a wardrobe full of white shirts and 150 ties from my office days. As there is rarely a need to dress formally these days - I always wonder if I will remember the tying the knot sequence first learned at about age 7. Dining with friends at Xmas my "god-daughter" appreciates me having a funny seasonal one - preferably with built-in sound. I even dust off the Wedgwood Caesar cuff links and the Omega Seamaster wristwatch to complete the archaic appearance.

            Nowadays schools often favour uniform clip on ties - and ban real ones on safety and potential insubordination grounds.

      3. Triggerfish

        Re: How I miss CRT's

        I'd like to think I am grown up but a couple of years ago when they had an April fool story about square eggs I dedciated a fair bit of the working morning to convincing one of the young, newbie fresh out of uni project co-ordinators, that yes it was true and was perfectly feasible really when you consider the chicken as we know it is nothing more than a creation of man after all.

        Still trying to work out how to put that on my CV as a work achievment.

    2. W4YBO

      Re: How I miss CRT's

      The degauss switch on the back of some NEC CRT monitors was usually good for a laugh.

      1. John 110

        Re: How I miss CRT's

        I hated mine. I had to sneak into the next-door lab after hours and move a waterbath away from the connecting wall. Damn thing's stirrer motor was making my monitor pulse and giving me migraines.

  13. Chris King Silver badge

    Mmmm.. Pies...

    Ahhh, there's nothing like rolling out a lab of shiny new PC's, and watching as the first batch of users comes in to "christen" them.

    I pop out to the gents, and someone is in the stall downloading some rather pungent brownware. This friend of humanity finishes his ablutions, walks out without washing his hands, and heads straight to my lab full of new shinies.

    If that isn't bad enough, he pulls something out of his bag... A (now-lukewarm) pie from the Spar, and proceeds to eat it over a brand-new keyboard.

    I instantly decide that the dirty interloper and his flaky (pastry) sidekick have outstayed their welcome...

    "Excuse me, are you illiterate, blind or just plain stupid ?!"

    "What's the problem ?"

    "You're EATING A PIE right under a sign that says 'NO FOOD OR DRINK TO BE CONSUMED IN THIS LAB' !"

    "That's right, I am !"

    He then eats the pie in the messiest, noisiest way possible (think Cookie Monster - Omnomnomnom), dropping gravy and bits of pastry all over the keyboard, then logs out and walks out leaving a huge trail of pastry flakes in his wake. The only way he could have made matters worse would have been to lickthe gravy off the keyboard.

    A four-week ban and a bill for a new keyboard rapidly wiped the smile off his face.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

      "Ahhh, there's nothing like rolling out a lab of shiny new PC's"

      I dont know, the novelty wears off. I rarely bother tidily arranging the wires and tucking them tidily away , because next week the user will probably demand it moved from A to B in a pointless desk shuffle that is about as productive as a cabinet reshuffle.

      Also I shudder at the amount of cardboard produced by a room full of new computers.

      Luckily the recession we're apparently in has put paid to too much new shinies

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

        "You're EATING A PIE right under a sign that says 'NO FOOD OR DRINK TO BE CONSUMED IN THIS LAB' !"

        "That's right, I am !"

        He then eats the pie in the messiest, noisiest way possible (think Cookie Monster - Omnomnomnom), dropping gravy and bits of pastry all over the keyboard, then logs out and walks out leaving a huge trail of pastry flakes in his wake. The only way he could have made matters worse would have been to lickthe gravy off the keyboard.

        You know that bit in the untouchables when De Niro has the baseball bat...

        1. Chris King Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

          "You know that bit in the untouchables when De Niro has the baseball bat..."

          Nice thought, but mopping up all that blood and snot wouldn't have been fair on the cleaners.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

          "You know that bit in the untouchables when De Niro has the baseball bat..."

          There would be more gravy for him to clean up...from the keyboard...the monitor...the walls...

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

      "A four-week ban and a bill for a new keyboard rapidly wiped the smile off his face."

      Was that back in the days when a keyboard cost more than a week's pay?

      1. Chris King Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Mmmm.. Pies...

        "Was that back in the days when a keyboard cost more than a week's pay?"

        Sadly not, but it still cost more than an undergrad could pay comfortably towards the end of term.

  14. Chris King Silver badge
    Pint

    Nice one, "Baker" !

    Fixing the problem AND winding up a "problem" user in a way he can't touch you for !

    1. John 110

      Re: Nice one, "Baker" !

      Getting the brains out of the keyboard is a bugger!!

  15. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    remote fix?

    " so Baker had to visit each PC as well as fix it from afar"

    sounds effecient

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: remote fix?

      To be fair, it's only because first line were too dim to fix it themselves and we got paid for every close so we're not inclined to bat it back - system designed to fail = )

      "Baker" ; )

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laptop locks mysteriously

    I've met that as well. User was wearing magnetic (woo) bracelet and using the trackpad

    Told them to use mouse. Restrained myself from telling them to throw away bracelet as it was waste of money.

    Then within a week, diagnosed another user with same problem.

    1. dbannon
      Holmes

      Re: Laptop locks mysteriously

      ".. User was wearing magnetic (woo) bracelet and using the trackpad.."

      Yep, that makes sense. But I am not convinced about a metal implant, as I understand it they are invariably non-magnetic.

      David

  17. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Clothing related malfunction

    My Dad told me one about a mainframe he worked on back in the 70s that would spontaneously reboot, but only when one particular operator was using it. They eventually traced it to static charge from her nylon stockings...

    1. Anonymous IV

      Re: Clothing related malfunction

      > They eventually traced it to static charge from her nylon stockings...

      You just can't end your anecdote there! HOW?

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Clothing related malfunction

        @Anonymous IV - It's up to us to supply possible endings:

        1. and that's how he met my Mum.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Clothing related malfunction

      I shared a teaching space with new colleague who couldn't get on with the computer. It always went wrong when it was her day in there and I was out in the local schools. On the days I was in and she was out I had no problem and there was nothing she'd told me that helped me to diagnose the issue. Until one day we were both in for some reason. I was on the computer when she walked past and it crashed. Just as she passed. It did the same thing about three times more that day. My only conclusion was that it was static from her really really fluffy jumpers.

  18. RhoganJosh
    Meh

    We have toilets you know....

    A few years ago I strolled into work only to be told...

    "Be careful if you go into the PABX room...there's a BT engineer in there taking a dump of the realtis switch..."

    Well really....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We have toilets you know....

      One of a customer's offices was housed in a row of old domestic houses. There were knocked-through connections between adjacent houses that resulted in something of a rabbit warren. One set of comms kit was shoe-horned into a tiny room that was obviously a recently re-purposed toilet.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pasty warmer

    Oh yes. Computers used to be excellent places to keep things warm for lunch. I always used to keep my pasty in the paper bag, though, to avoid crumbs falling into the innards of said computer.

  20. e-horace

    More than just for warming pies

    These modern low-power monitors are a real disappointment; I miss the days when I could dry my cycling shoes on top of a toasty warm CRT.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: More than just for warming pies

      " I miss the days when I could dry my cycling shoes on top of a toasty warm CRT."

      I know someone who insisted on doing that in an open plan office.

      Shoes disappeared one day (dumpster), and every subsequent pair he left to dry on top ended up mysteriously falling out of the window on the other side of the room.

    2. Hazmoid

      Re: More than just for warming pies

      I used to have a drying rack behind my server rack for my towel and cycling kit. Lenovo servers really pumped out the heat.

    3. Bill B

      Re: More than just for warming pies

      My cat never forgave me for moving from a CRT to LCD screen.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Growing UP, now that's something some of us never quite managed.

    Ahh, speak for yourself.

    And maybe me......

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Serendipity

    According to Fakebook five years ago today I was tinkering inside my old NES (replacing the ageing cartridge reader for a shiny new one I got off ebay) and lo and behold, said IT toolkit in the picture, amazing timing:

    http://imgur.com/XkJQuN1

    (re-shared to imgur as I'm not linking to my profile 'ere = p )

    -"Baker"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Serendipity

      "re-shared to imgur as I'm not linking to my profile 'ere"

      ...and Google image search didn't match it to anything on the web.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Serendipity

        yep, especially if you rescale the image, tends to confuse google image search (not that my fakebook profile is publicly viewable, this isn't my first rodeo)

  23. Jane

    Witchcraft?

    Back in the 1990s I was working in a sixth form college. The science department had a number of Acorn Archimedes and I was called out one day to one where the mouse was behaving oddly. I knew those things had an optical mouse that wasn't light-tight and as soon as I went in to the room I noticed that the whole desk was in bright sunlight.

    So I moved slightly so that I was casting a shadow over the mouse (and still a good ten feet away from it) an said 'I think you'll find it's all right now'. The lecturer's face was a picture as he tried to work out what I'd done!

    I had to tell him, so that he could relocate the desk out of the sun...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Witchcraft?

      A home worker complained that occasionally her screen would suddenly start scrolling erratically when she wasn't at the desk. The problem was the dappled shade caused by the tree outside her window. A combination of sun and wind at particular times of the day and year would activate her optical mouse.

      1. Luiz Abdala

        Re: Witchcraft?

        Glass table.

        I swear the user never thought about putting something under or over the GLASS. TABLE. to make the mouse work.

  24. PAKennedy

    It's the sun

    Mumblty years back we had a Compaq Desktop machine in one lab that would work for a couple of hours and then crash. But not every day. Bring it back to IT and it'd run all day. No magnets, no radiators near it. No damned good reason. Compaq came out and tested it. No fault found.

    As spring turned to summer it got worse. One of the guys looked in every day and eventually it ran all day for no obvious reason until he worked out it was raining outside. We had a couple of rainy days and without telling us he'd worked out why, he'd tell us the machine would run today. First sunny day came along and he told us it would crash. Which it did.

    Turns out the sun was hitting the black case, conducting just enough extra heat into it to warm up some microfracture on the system board and click. It would go. Same would have happened if it had been near a radiator or if the fan had been slightly blocked.

    Compaq engineer came in, we put it next to a radiator, it went click and now failed tests so they happily swapped out the board.

    Toughest diagnostic I ever came across.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's the sun

      We had an M2140 comms processor in Manchester that suffered the same problem. It was in a room with large windows. Occasionally the engineers would leave the door of the cabinet open. If the sun was shining at the right time of day then it heated up a board and a micro-fracture in a chip would cause the fault. It was very intermittent.

    2. John R. Macdonald

      Re: It's the sun

      @PAKennedy

      Heard of a similar story concerning a mainframe (this was back in the 60-70's) that would crash fairly regularly during summer in the afternoon.

      At first it was thought the cause was a defective aircon installation but checks and sensors said everything was okay.

      Turned out that when the sun did its daily stroll across the sky, the computer room had this one particular window which would, in the afternoon, let the sun shine directly on the glass lid of the disk unit housing the system pack.

    3. Rob Daglish

      Re: It's the sun

      We had something similar with a pair of Canon BubbleJet A3 (called "Billy" and "Benny") printers from the local teacher training college - kept getting sent in as they printed, but nothing appeared on the paper, despite multiple new cartridges. We'd fire them up in the workshop, they'd test fine, but back on site, no good. Turns out that the ink used to separate if it got too warm, and they were baking them gently underneath a window...

  25. Haku
    Angel

    My reputation precedes me.

    All too often friends/family have been having trouble with an electrical device (usually computer related) so when I visit they're really glad I'm there because I can fix the device, only for both of us to discover the device is now working perfectly fine without me doing anything other than switching it on.

    So it appears merely the threat of me turning up and delving into its innards (software configuration or physically with a screwdriver) scares these technological devices into working properly again.

    I must be a divine being or something, so icon :)

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: My reputation precedes me.

      I have the same talent . I when users say "oh its working now" i say "yes , computers are scared of me".

      I can often achieve the same effect over the phone without even having to give the pc a good glare in person.

  26. OzBob

    I had a female co-worker

    who was stroppiness personified when she did not get her way (she was a friend of the director who has vaguely promised that her application administrator role could lead to greater things and she was impatient to get to those things). When I complained, my supervisor said she had a medical condition (of the female kind) that caused her to be so short, so could I please excuse her behaviour?

    Next time she kicked off, I pulled out a tape dictaphone (it was the 90s) and switched it on. She clammed up immediately. I took the dictaphone over to my supervisor, gave it to him, and said "I've found the cure for what ails her, it's either EMF or accountability".

    I'm not on linkedin with either of them.

  27. Al S Cook

    Deskside Support for the non-nerd

    I worked in a newsroom and knew just enough about the technology to be the guy who dealt with the technicians who were called in to fix hardware issues. Quite often the problem was the user. There's a Yes\No box waiting on the status bar for a choice and they're frustrated because they can't type anything anywhere else, for example.

    In that case I'd look at the tech solemnly, suggest that this one looked like another of those DEU errors. I'd move the user back from the PC, type a few things and eventually hit the "y" and the machine would work. "What's a DEU" the user might ask. We had some long fake name in our pocket to explain it but the acronym was really for "Defective End User."

  28. Josh 44

    My daughter favors Fantasia and falls asleep during "The Rite of Spring."

  29. JakePepper

    This may not exactly be fooling the user but......

    I used to be the Network Manager in a large business full of knobhead managers.

    When machines were “not working” it was often the fault of the knobhead who could not use the software and whoi chose not to learn properly. This type of person always blamed the machine or the software.

    My technician used to be bullied/harassed by them constantly – especially if he could not fix “the problem” on the spot.

    Even I found it difficult to deal with some of these knobheads because of their seniority in the business.

    My technician and I developed a strategy to “get revenge” on the knobheads.

    When a problem occurred the technician used to ring me and say either “There is a nug” which meant Non-User Generated. We used to do our best to fix the problem on the spot or ASAP. If on the other hand he said “There is an ug” (with a slight pause between the an and the ug). This meant it was User Generated. (Although the grammar was a bit off.) He only did this if the manager was being awkward and harassing him. In such cases we “confiscated” the manager's computer saying it would take a couple of days to fix. In such cases we simply left it on the shelf for a day or two.

    The said manager would then have to scurry around colleagues for a day or two because his won computer was “hors-de-combat”.

  30. AndGregor
    Thumb Up

    a Dave taught me this one.

    PBKC - Problem Between Keyboard and Chair.

    1. Tidosho

      Re: a Dave taught me this one.

      I think you mean PEBKAC: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. And there's also PICNIC: Problem In Chair Not In Computer.

      1. keith_w

        Re: a Dave taught me this one.

        could also be a One D, Ten T error (1d10t)

  31. IJD

    The Apollo DN660 workstation (washing-machine-sized beast with bit-sliced ECL emulation of a 68000 CPU) had a space on top of the card cage just the right size for keeping a pizza hot...

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