back to article User lubed PC with butter, because pressing a button didn't work

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday foray into a mailbag stuffed full of readers' recollections of being asked to fix things that should never have broken. This week, meet “Bill” who can't forget the time, about a decade ago, when someone from the marketing department “couldn't figure out how to eject a floppy disk …

  1. Simulacra75

    Several years ago I had to travel to our French office to try and fix a mail DB that had gone titsup. After fixing the problem the manager there claimed IT had corrupted the DB on purpose so that we'd look like "knights in shining armour" when we came in and fixed it. Complete and utter Twunt.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The "trump" gene again - it springs up everywhere.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        "The "trump" gene again"

        There are utterly incompetent primitives whos only notable skill is an exceedingly keen instinct of self-preservation. As they are idiots they _will_ make howler-level mistakes, and the only way they know how to avoid getting blamed for them accordingly is yelling louder than the other guy - the best defence being an offence and all that. The truly delusional ones might even actually believe it's all the other guy's fault.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "The truly delusional ones might even actually believe it's all the other guy's fault."

          The original article involved marketing. Truly delusional fits the bill.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge
        Go

        @AC

        The "trump" gene again - it springs up everywhere.

        Including those who downvoted you....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It beggars belief how such people think that their attitudes to their colleagues in IT are consequence-free. Reputations stick, word gets round...

      I'm not in IT, I'm an engineer and I depend entirely on my organisation's IT department doing their job, and I make sure to thank them and not overrule them when their generally sensible and understandable policies make something I want slightly awkward. Sure, I could do their job, but I'm not, so what happens needs to be more their decision than mine. And lo, a harmonious relationship bears fruit. It's also tremendously aided by occasionally opening their office door, throwing in a large bar of high quality chocolate, and quickly shutting the door again. When the howls, thumps and bumps have died down, voila; an IT department that's as keen as mustard.

      And, being a normal human being, I know full well what level of cooperation I'd get if I went round bad mouthing them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes there are procedures, yes there are SLA's etc prioritising jobs, but then IT will always respond to bribery and flattery.

      2. Halfmad Silver badge

        There's a balance to be had with IT, I'm sure those who have worked in IT departments know this, there are always bad eggs (like every department).

        If the organisation hero-worships IT then it'll never work properly, the bad eggs will do next to nothing and consider themselves above the rules that apply to other stuff. If the organisation treats IT like sh!t, they'll only have poor staff and a high turn over of decent workers.

        Personally I think IT should always be treated like any core service department, it's given the funds it needs but oversight is fairly strict, importantly that oversight should be by someone who understands how IT functions e.g. a Director who has worked in IT hands on. You'd never have a finance director who'd never worked in payroll or accounting after all.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          " You'd never have a finance director who'd never worked in payroll"

          How do you explain a "Cabinet Reshuffle" then?

          That seems to be a procedure designed to *make sure* the guy at the top has no experience in the field

          1. Wensleydale Cheese

            How do you explain a "Cabinet Reshuffle" then?

            That's politics, where the aim is to maintain the leader's advantage over the others.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ahhhh but you're missing the fact that any halfwit who owns a computer at home think themselves qualified to comment on IT. Most of our users are boffins, I don't go in to their labs and tell them how to do their science, I know a bit about it as my degree and masters are science based but funny enough I don't know more than they do!

        3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          @Halfmad

          "Personally I think IT should always be treated like any core service department" - spot on. IT is one of the core functions in any organization as they could not function without it.

        4. DubyaG

          @Halfmad, I have worked in many organizations where IT reported to HR or Finance. You are correct, they end up being twits.

        5. macjules Silver badge

          Hero worship your IT

          I find that it helps to remind the company that IT is not all about "have you tried restarting the machine?". Every so often I make sure that a specially selected individual, usually chosen for his/her attitude towards IT, gets a copy of their Chrome browsing history sent to to both to their manager and to themselves with a warning that company computers remain the property of the company at all times and must only be used for company business ... which does not include youporn.com or similar.

          Suffice to say I do not do this to accounts, HR or corporate governance.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Hero worship your IT

            Suffice to say I do not do this to accounts, HR or corporate governance.

            Why not? Are they somehow above the others? Are their visits to porn sites somehow less risky to your machines than the others? Are they somehow better people because they are at the top, whereas the lower workers who are putting in much more hours - the people who do the real work for the business - are somehow lower?

            Wouldn't be because they're the ones who can hurt you would it?

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Hero worship your IT

            "Every so often I make sure that [an]individual... gets a copy of their Chrome browsing history sent to to both to their manager and to themselves"

            At some point there's a risk that you'll be taken aside and have it pointed out to you that poking around in staff's computers without authorisation is a breach of security. This conversation is likely to take place somewhere between your desk and the pavement.

        6. Kiwi Silver badge

          If the organisation hero-worships IT then it'll never work properly, the bad eggs will do next to nothing and consider themselves above the rules that apply to other stuff.

          IME that's pretty much mutually-exclusive. Either the "bad eggs" are quickly located and disposed of, or the whole department comes under suspicion and derision, and only when that which is rotten is removed will things improve.

          Of course, sometimes (ok, often) the "bad eggs" are management or higher...

      3. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        In my last job, the accounts department used to make sure that I was included whenever they brought in home made cakes etc. Consequently, they were near the top of my priorities, just after the MD. (It didn't hurt that they were the ones responsible for getting my wages into my bank account.)

        Bribe your IT staff folks :)

        1. quxinot Silver badge

          It's amazing the results you get, not just with IT but any department, when you start with "Cash, flowers, alcohol, or chocolate?" :)

        2. jcitron

          I used to find a good number of discount cards and snacks on my desk all the time at my last job before I retired. :-)

          Then of course there's what I call the "Office Bitch". The one that does absolutely nothing but browse social media all day then complains that their PC is infected with a virus, and then goes as far as blaming IT for not fixing it because they're same ones who are also too busy to be around when their PC needs fixing.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        you my man are a top fella. Please come and work where I work! IT departments are one of those departments that you really, really, REALLY don't want to feck off. I never need any of our users to do anything for me, but 99% of them rely on us for loads of things. The ones who always want everything done right now go to the top of our sh1t list and any job they need doing takes at least twice as long for us to do! My old dad was a stone mason and he had what he called the "Tradesmen's test" If you had worked for a customer who was the biggest twat going, ask yourself this. If you were out of work, your kids were starving, your house is going to be taken back by the bank and they phoned up saying they had a job, would you take it!? Its these kinds of arseholes that try and make our life's hell, but we always get our own back and never forget.

      5. Elf

        If it were but simply rue,

        All the users were just like you,

        IT folk generally tend to be hardwired to be helpful (even if only by accident because we playing with something). Give the front line an excuse (ballistic chocolate is a good one) and they'll move mountains for just a wee Ack of their effort.

        The Other Side ™:

        This brother did not have things properly in hand. There is a Zero Percent chance that I'd allow another department raid *my* budget because Their User poured *butter* in a damn machine. She would have been Frog Marched to the company parking lot ("car park" for my UK friends) with her box of personals in tow. I'd have looked at what my Bullet Stopper (Help Desk) minion showed me (butter in nice boxen) and I'd have personally stripped her company credentials, asked (told) Facilities to drop her access card, and had a meeting with her Department Head (marketing was it? So, it would have been ugly-ER on this intervention) and HR WHEREBY IT WOULD BE EXPLAINED that the user in question isn't qualified to be employed, period, no debate, and no she cannot have access to company resources of a digital nature because look at what she did to hardware: Explination to include business continuity while someone is playing with matches and a few hundred feet of RDX.

        From IT I've had to restructure other departments, against their will, because of twots like this user.

        1. User goes, not a debate or discussion as my deportment simply won't let her log in to anything, ever, period.

        2. Who in your department interviewed this ass and hired them? We having words as well starting with "How the hell did you think this person was qualified... nay, company in any form? It's that person's fault were all getting both barreks today.

        3. Department Head... and you hired This fool? You also think I'm paying for this? (Any department head would know who I am, Director Of IT if I'm corporate, and be aware of my Zero Tolerance For Blatant Stupidity policy)

        4. And to Hr, you signed off on this crap, you get to fix it... next task is the Exit Interview!

        Go Team! Rah-Rah! Get the hell to work fixing this.

        5. Return to IT, take my team for pizza and beer to soothe their PTSD over a user putting $diety-forsaken BUTTER in a machine Of Any Sort, and their inevitable bummed-ness over a nice PC being separated from its preferred warranty status.

        6. Return to IT to enshrine box to mock the user and serve as a warning to others.

        That is Precisely how I'd play it. Distilled down to this simple fact:

        If you microwave butter in a cup and pour that into a computer, you Are Not Qualified to work with computers (the Excel thing is just sprinkles on that cup cake).

        1. Dr. Ellen
          Facepalm

          The March Hare strikes again.

          But it was the best butter!

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          If pour butter into a computer, you Are Not Qualified to work with them

          And the fact that the user is both still employed at the company AND slagging off the IT department is grounds for naming and shaming both.

      6. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Same here

        Also an engineer. I'm lucky to work in a small consulting company. The IT "crowd" numbers three, plus a (female) supervisor, who also isn't averse to grabbing a cable or a keyboard and running off to keep a user happy. I know them all by name, and they get a little something from me every Christmas..

        If you keep on the good side of IT, it's laughter when you screw up something and need their help, instead of tears :-)

        ...and you might just get first crack at some surplus gear, as well...

        1. Anonymous IV
          Alert

          Re: Same here

          > ... a (female) supervisor, who also isn't averse to grabbing a cable or a keyboard and running off to keep a user happy...

          Am I alone in thinking that this might be extremely dubious?

          1. VanguardG

            Re: Same here

            Pretty much, yeah. If its just walking over with replacement parts, I'd rather see a supervisor willing to do that from time to time instead of just delegating everything. Rest of staff can concentrate on the other problems instead of being stuck with making sure the keyboard is placed "just so" and dealing with "this keyboard isn't the same size as the old one. Don't you have one a little bigger?". Or discovering the computer cable routes underneath a fully-loaded file cabinet, behind 2 tables, and wraps around the leg of the desk 22 times. Then the supervisor well knows the pain her staff deals with.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Same here

            "Am I alone in thinking that this might be extremely dubious?"

            Looks like the International Womens Day crowd didn't see the funny side of the accidental connotations.

      7. OwenMc64

        In a previous job I travelled a lot to customer sites, & I made sure to get on with "Systems, Security & Secretaries" - duty-free chocolate smoothed many a trip.

        And then there was the time Security had to escort me from a customer site - it sort of spoiled the effect when I was on first-name terms with the guy who turned up :-D

      8. Steve Hersey

        Always be nice to the IT folks.

        I've done IT support as a many-hats activity from time to time, and I know how that world feels on the inside. So for many years I've made it a practice to ALWAYS establish a friendly, supportive relationship with the IT and facilities people. (Not that it's a *good* idea to make enemies anywhere, for that matter.) And always admit your mistakes to IT, especially the bonehead ones.

        Aside from making everyone's life easier, this approach yields immense benefits when you really, really need some help from IT or the facilities crew. What goes around, comes around, and when it comes around with a replacement hard drive and a friendly greeting, you'll be glad.

        1. Glenturret Single Malt

          Re: Always be nice to the IT folks.

          In a chemistry laboratory, the equivalents, I found were the Stores and the glassblowing service.

      9. 2460 Something
        Joke

        I think you may have misunderstood your relationship with them. Launching projectiles at the IT team seems a tad unfair, the howls, thumps and bumps were probably the poor sod who took the brunt of your attack. They were probably "keen as mustard" as they were scared if they didn't keep you happy you would launch other dangerous projectiles their way. High quality chocolate bars have nasty sharp corners!

    3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      It's not unheard of. In one of my former lives, at a large bank, the on-call personnel used to be paid extra per time for each incident during nights and weekends. Some of them got sports cars, extended their house, built swimming pools... Until the on-call compensation scheme was changed.

      From the moment those guys got paid extra just for being on-call but didn't get any additional compensation for solving problems, the number of incidents dropped dramatically.

      1. Jedit
        Big Brother

        "... the number of incidents dropped dramatically."

        Reported incidents, or resolved incidents? It doesn't make a difference from the point of view of that IT department being chancers, but there's quite a difference between slacking off because your performance bonus got cut and actively faking incidents for profit.

        1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: "... the number of incidents dropped dramatically."

          Jedit, the number of incidents that occurred out of hours dropped.

          It was neither that they slacked off nor about actively faking incidents. What happened was, that they maintained the system at a certain level of instability where at one point an incident would occur, such as a predictable batch job abort (there was no proof of actively causing incidents though). After the incentives changed, they built more robust procedures and programs and also improved their monitoring system to get early warnings for predictable incidents.

          Must have been a fun time though before. They got the huge extra pay and the praise ("the IT wizards saved the Bank. Again!")

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "... the number of incidents dropped dramatically."

            @Evil auditor

            There's an alternative scenario that could bring about the same outcome. If the out-of-hours incentives were dropped there'd out-of-hours reports might get ignored until normal hours. The users would then learn to wait before reporting the issue.

            The correct incentive structure, of course, is one that primarily measures and rewards fire prevention rather than fire fighting.

            1. Wensleydale Cheese

              Re: "... the number of incidents dropped dramatically."

              " If the out-of-hours incentives were dropped there'd out-of-hours reports might get ignored until normal hours."

              This is exactly what happened when the hardware maintenance contract on a bunch of systems got reduced to normal working hours only.

              The reporting of problems likely to require the presence of a hardware engineer was simply delayed until the next 'in contracted hours' window.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I get paid when ever i get called out, I also get paid for each call, and paid for being on call. The number of incidents probably decreased not because they were made up but due to various other reasons, first being there is less incentive to make sure things are running ok and there are no possible problems before you leave for home. Also when there are smaller things that really could wait until the morning if you are paid to fix it, you go, if you are not paid, you just wait until the morning.

        I try not to have to go in when called as i live 40 minutes from where I work (no remote access to the production systems), usually it occurs in the middle of the night and i still have to go in the next day. But if its a few hours before i have to get up, and i know i will not get back to sleep or its pointless trying i will go in, get the pay for fixing it and then start the days work and go home early.

    4. Mpeler
      Joke

      Time for the BOFH

      Or even the PFY.....

      British or French hospitality?

      An American tourist is visiting London. As he walks, he feels the urge to pee. He searches and searches, but does not find a toilet. Ever more desperate, he enters a tiny street, looks for a narrow and darker place, beside a tall wall and starts to unzip his pants. Suddenly from behind somebody taps his shoulder. He turns around and sees a policeman there.

      "Sorry sir," says the policeman, "it is forbidden to urinate in public places."

      The American apologizes, tells him that he had no luck in finding a toilet and just couldn't hold on anymore.

      "Follow me, I will help you," says the policeman. He guides the tourist towards a gate in the wall and shows him the way inside. The tourist is amazed, as he sees himself in a gorgeous garden, full of flowers, arrangements, bushes and trees. The policeman leads him to one of the trees and says, "You can pee here without any problem."

      The American does the job, and after he finishes, asks the policeman, "Tell me, is this what is called British hospitality?"

      "No," answers the Policeman, "we call this the French Embassy!"

      (gets me waterproof coat)...

  2. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Sounds all too familiar

    and still complains about “the time a little shit in IT broke her top of the range PC, and blames me for her perpetual mistrust of techies.”

    Pass the cattleprod.

    The last time this happened to me the twat made the mistake of turning up at a retirement do a few weeks later. "I'll just have the one pint," we overheard him say, "Because I'm driving." He did make the pint last, long enough for us to spike it with three vodkas and to get someone to tell him before he left. That cost him a £40 taxi fare home.

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: Sounds all too familiar

      "and still complains about “the time a little shit in IT broke her top of the range PC, and blames me for her perpetual mistrust of techies.”

      Telling users head-on that they caused a problem through their own idiocy rarely ends well. And their moaning will always hold more sway with their own colleagues than anything you might come up with.

      So smile - be nice as pie to their face - fix the problem with a gullible look on your face - maybe even give them a plausible get out of jail free excuse to tell their colleagues so they don't feel like they've been made to look like a fool ("hmm - greasy residue - you see that sometimes...")

      Then pop the hard plain truth in writing to whoever matters afterwards.

    2. Dan 10

      Re: Sounds all too familiar

      A real BOFH would have simply tipped off the Police...

      1. not.known@this.address

        Re: Sounds all too familiar

        Which is all very well as long as said retiree doesn't hit anyone or anything on the way home whilst under the impression he is fit to drive...

        1. VanguardG

          Re: Sounds all too familiar

          Poster did say they tipped the twit off *before* he drove home so he took a pricey taxi ride.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge

            Re: Sounds all too familiar

            Poster did say they tipped the twit off *before* he drove home so he took a pricey taxi ride.

            And if the guy had thought they were joking? Or had been so far gone that he'd only been registering that he'd "only had one" and would thus normally be OK to drive?

            People who spike drinks are among the lowest scum on earth, and get a nice long time behind bars. At least there should be some sort of "attempted manslaughter" if not attempted murder charge when they're spiking drink of someone who is intending to drive.

            I write this as one of the far-too-many who've lost loved ones because of idiots abusing alcohol. People have died as a result of scum spiking drinks, and the offenders should be locked up appropriately.

            </rant>

      2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Sounds all too familiar

        "A real BOFH would have simply tipped off the Police..."

        Or used a high-power, fast-working laxative instead of vodka

      3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Sounds all too familiar

        A real BOFH would have simply tipped off the Police...

        ...and removed a valve stem from their car, so they *couldn't* drive home.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Sounds all too familiar

      "and to get someone to tell him before he left. "

      You're kind.

      Some people would have told the police to be waiting instead.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I use excel to put my list of DVDs in.

    Should I be using something else? mysql?

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Libreoffice Calc

      1. Horridbloke

        No, Deluxe Paint.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I prefer Barrow & Fall. The colours are so unusual (plus it cost more so it must be better).

        2. Adrian Jones

          I drew an application in Microsoft Paint once...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I drew an application in Microsoft Paint once...

            Ahh, the Chuck Norris School of Programming.

            You WILL work....

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Deluxe Paint."

          Doesn't it make a mess of the DVD?

          1. Down not across Silver badge

            "Deluxe Paint."

            Doesn't it make a mess of the DVD?

            Nah. He said Deluxe, not Dulux.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. MakingBacon

          "No, Deluxe Paint."

          Damn you and your uber l33t tools!

        5. PNGuinn
          Coat

          No, Deluxe Paint.

          No, Dulux paint.

          FIFU

          Thanks, it's the one with the sugar soap and white spirit in the pockets.

        6. This post has been deleted by its author

        7. BongoJoe

          I read that as Dulux Paint.

      2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Libreoffice

        I am a user of libreoffice, and was a user of openoffice. I am still a user of Microsoft Office.

        The quality difference is huge, sadly.. and I DO contribute with money to libreoffice.

        1. m0rt Silver badge

          Re: Libreoffice

          "I am a user of libreoffice, and was a user of openoffice. I am still a user of Microsoft Office.

          The quality difference is huge, sadly.. and I DO contribute with money to libreoffice."

          Maybe. But if you ever have to deal with telephone numbers in a spreadsheet, you can be rest assured Excel will make your life a living hell...

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Living hell

            Only if you don't know how spreadsheets actually work, and know the difference between what's stored and what's displayed.

            Living hell. For god's sake get a grip old boy, there are Americans watching.

            1. m0rt Silver badge

              Re: Living hell

              "Only if you don't know how spreadsheets actually work, and know the difference between what's stored and what's displayed.

              Living hell. For god's sake get a grip old boy, there are Americans watching."

              Yes. You would think it was that simple, wouldn't you? And indeed, assuming that I must be ignorant of how spreadsheets work because something this simple MUST be down to user error. Obviously Excel users area a class above LibreOffice users because LO never caused a fuss with my ignorance.

              1. Stevie Silver badge

                Re: Living hell 4 m0rt

                Don't use MS office products unless forced to, only OpenOffice on the Stevielaptop, but that bit of political autocorrection notwithstanding, if you can't make phone numbers appear as phone numbers in any spreadsheet program with consumate ease you should just give it up.

                Seriously.

                Get a grip.

                1. m0rt Silver badge

                  Re: Living hell 4 m0rt

                  This upsets people I see.

                  I suggest you never go into testing as 'works on my machine' is a banned term around here.

                  As is sending a spreadsheet, correctly formatted, from Open/Libre office to a client, who then opens it in excel and complains the hell about the way they can't use the numbers. This is after copying and pasting the numbers to compound the issue.

                  But hey. I should get a grip because, well you know, Excel is just a simple spreadsheet program, right?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Libreoffice

            "Maybe. But if you ever have to deal with telephone numbers in a spreadsheet, you can be rest assured Excel will make your life a living hell..."

            Also, try dealing with a list of Mac addresses that someone set up in Excel.

          3. BongoJoe

            Re: Libreoffice

            Bookmakers' fractional odds cause me no end of merry grief.

    2. MakingBacon

      "I use excel to put my list of DVDs in.

      Should I be using something else? mysql?"

      I always use notepad because I'm a l33t user and so hardcore!

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        DVDs come in cases with writing on the side. Often, this makes a reference to the content. So merely by putting the DVDs next to another on a shelf, you get a self-maintaining list of them.

        1. agurney

          "DVDs come in cases with writing on the side. Often, this makes a reference to the content. So merely by putting the DVDs next to another on a shelf, you get a self-maintaining list of them."

          I tried that, but reordering by title or artist or genre proved to be a bit too time consuming.

          I now just use random access

          1. Simon Harris Silver badge

            I use the shelf DVD management system too...

            however there's an ever increasing local cache pile next to the DVD player.

          2. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pirate

            I tried that, but reordering by title or artist or genre proved to be a bit too time consuming.

            WHAT? You mean you didn't buy a new copy every time you changed your mind? Don't you know that's illegal and that funds terrorists!!!!111!11!1!!111!!!111!!! and is the ultimate in piracy? Do you know that artists are missing out on whole dollars and will only be able to buy two Maserati's for each of their five mansions because you ripped them off?

            For shame. I hope the RIAA sues you for at least 100 gazillion dollars for your illegal piracy!!!!!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "So merely by putting the DVDs next to another on a shelf, you get a self-maintaining list of them."

          I'm currently trying to organise my nearly 2,000 DVD's - so that similar ones are on the same shelf. Now - does "The Rocky Horror Show" go in fantasy, sci-fi, horror, or musicals?

          Then again "Flash Gordon" is definitely for the children's section - but also could go in the sci-fi group. On the other hand "Flesh Gordon".....

          I'll settle for an Excel-style spreadsheet with multiple category tags and an indicator to a physical shelf. With that I can put it on a tablet and check a DVD title in the charity shop - before mistakenly adding it to my collection for the second or more times.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            2,000 DVD's without any compression (assuming DVD=4.7GB) = 9400GB max

            Buy a 10TB NAS storage unit, rip the DVDs to it, the file the DVDs in the loft.

            1. fandom

              "Buy a 10TB NAS storage unit, rip the DVDs to it, the file the DVDs in the loft."

              Why bother? It's not like he will have the time to watch them.

              1. Queasy Rider

                not like he will have the time to watch them.

                Had a thousand dvd collection backed up on the largest hard drives I could buy at the time. Breathed a sigh of relief when hurricanes cost me the originals. Was not quite so pleased when the backups died without warning, but then realized that I never watched the backups so I ceased the practice of backing up (dvd's, not everything) saving me plenty of money not buying any more Seagates.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            2000?

            I used to have the same problem, but with only 400 disks or so.

            My solution was to create a database in the cloud with full info, and queryable by title, multiple categories, actors, etc.

            Then, you remove all the DVD case inserts, and put in plain white ones with the disk # on the spine.

          3. VanguardG

            Collectorz.com. If the newer product is like the one I had a few years ago and neglected to copy over to my new machine before erasing the drives...it does a lot of the work for you. Key in the title, it goes to the Internet (if you let it, of course) and retrieves the cast and crew data, runtime, release year, and in many case, images of the front and back of the DVD case. Serious collectors (in the old version) could use a scanner to read the barcodes directly, so you didn't have to type in each title. If you have 2000 plus, that could get tedious.

            1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

              "use a scanner to read the barcodes directly"

              Or just use cddb. It does require scanning the CD's table of contents (number and length of tracks) so it needs mounting each disk (slower than a barcode read), but I suppose you're going to be ripping them anyway at some point.

              1. Roopee

                Re "I suppose you're going to be ripping them anyway at some point"

                With 2000 DVDs, why would you suppose that? Commercial DVDs average about 6GB each and would take a long time to rip to a streamable format, and it's not as if DVD players are in any danger of becoming obsolete.

                Incidentally I can recommend DVD Profiler instead of Excel, it's cross-platform, networkable, cloudable, reads the barcodes and has a large following. It even has a lending library system built-in so you don't forget who you've lent what to. The Windows version has at least one glaring bug, but nothing new there!

          4. Esme

            @AC - Rocky Horror - musical - no debate (Tip - just because someone is, or claims to be, an alien in a tale does not automatically make it SF. Indeed, most stuff that Hollywood, TV and the theatre call SF is actually either Space Opera or pure Fantasy). Flash Gordon - Space Opera - also no debate, whether you're talking about tehoriginals I recall from childhood at the cinema, the film with Brian Blessed as a winged man, or the TV series with the irritating wee robot for comic relief, and also fantasy in teh case of the former two.

            What? No, I don't need a glass of water, thank you, the shuddering will stop in a few minutes, it's just my OCD over genre categorisations giving me the twitches.. :-}

            1. VanguardG

              The writer-standard is, if you can tell your story by taking known technology and extrapolating it to a reasonable degree, you're writing Science Fiction. If you are inventing new ways around the known laws of physics, its fantasy. There is, really, very little real science fiction...and much of what is out there is just an Earth tale being told with the characters on some other non-Earth planet, maybe with weapons using magnetic fields to accelerate projectiles instead of a chemical explosion, and advanced forms of body armor. But...essentially stuff we humans could pick up and understand without any problem should one suddenly appear in the garden.

      2. elhvb

        notepad, feh. VI FTW

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

            > Emacs?

            M-x dvd-collection-org-mode

            I wouldn't be surprised if that actually exists.

      3. PNGuinn
        Joke

        l33t user

        Hardcore?

        REAL l33t users use EMACS.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: l33t user

          Under DOS the l33t way was

          copy con: c:\config.sys

          No typos, please!

        2. Esme

          Re: l33t user

          pbltpblt - real hardcore users do EVERYTHING from the command line.

          I use application programs, however... :-}

      4. John 110

        Notepad++ surely?

    3. DropBear Silver badge

      Only if you're the OCD type. Then you should use GCstar.

    4. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Devil

      The right answer is obviously LaTeX. Make sure to use absolute positions by using

      \usepackage[absolute]{textpos}

      so you have full control over the layout.

    5. GlenP Silver badge

      Not DVDs

      In my case it's my book list.

      Yes, I could probably develop something but a multi-sheet workbook in Excel with one sheet per author or subject matter and varying data structures works for me. It's also easily portable as it sits in the cloud and can be opened on any device, typically the mobile when I'm browsing the second hand and charity bookshops.

    6. JLV Silver badge
      Trollface

      Hottie - Ooooh, James, sweetie, wonderful evening. Put on some Barry White and join me in the jacuzzi with a glass of that fine champagne.

      James - Hang on, I need to start up my Excel spreadsheet.

      ...

    7. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Devil

      Take a few days and using C++ and/or any other language of choice and write a special database. Extra points for some assembly language tossed into the mix. You're here at El Reg so it shouldn't be hard.

      Oh.. and store it in the cloud so the CIA can give you a restore if your hard drive crashes.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah yes indeed.

    I work with "VIPs" in gubment circles and let me assure you that they are never, ever, ever at fault no matter what stupidity they commit. Regardless of whether its user error or lack of technical awareness (as they never, ever, ever see the need to engage with training), it's always the IT that is faulty, even when they are found trying to use a mouse upside down...

    "You should have better designed mice! These are clearly not fit for purpose! Why is IT so crap?!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes indeed.

      VIPs in gubment circles often treat IT supporrt as if they are waiters and waittresses. I think they should tip them for on-service with a smile.

      1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Ah yes indeed.

        "VIPs in gubment circles often treat IT supporrt as if they are waiters and waittresses. I think they should tip them for on-service with a smile."

        You mean they're permitted to view classified documents whilst illuminating them with their phone cameras?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah yes indeed.

          "You mean they're permitted to view classified documents whilst illuminating them with their phone cameras?"

          At [redacted] Air Force Base, I was an IT contractor. Didn't seem to occur to some of the military staff that maybe they shouldn't leave classified documents on their desk while the foreign national with no clearance was upgrading their web browser. Yes, the Technical Sergeant sometimes with me did have Top Secret clearance, but......

          In fact, on the team, we even joked about the black briefcase I brought to and from work, but was never seen opening....[contained my lunch]

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ah yes indeed.

            Oh dear. If posession/ownership of a briefcase wasn't enough, you only carried it to transport your lunch? No wonder us IT folk get called geeks! :-(

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes indeed.

      "You should have better designed mice! These are clearly not fit for purpose! Why is IT so crap?!"

      Sadly I once worked for a company where I had overall responsibility for an enterprise software product. A client installation was to be carried out at a rather pleasant exotic location so the CEO decided that he would do the install "to impress the client". Unfortunately his knowledge of the product was about as good as that of, I imagine, most CEOs. He had also not troubled to understand a few things about localisation.

      The result was that after several days he came back and ranted at me that the product was "not fit for purpose," and proceeded to undermine me. So I did the only thing possible, which was to become a contractor, wait until there was an all hands to the pump crisis coinciding with the end of a contract period, and not renew my contract. It took a year, but revenge is a dish best served cold.

    3. Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

      Re: Ah yes indeed.

      Conversely, I work for a gov agency and our IT department is truly hopeless. The length of time for requests to get attended to can be measured in weeks and not a single computer in our organisation (and there are at least 400 of them) is configured correctly. The worst was out graphic designer's machine. They were supposed to upgrade Windows to 64-bit version so the whole 8 gigs of RAM could be used and 64-bit Photoshop could be installed. Requested, begged, demanded but nothing. The machine, a quad core i7 should have run well but it was a performance dog because of misconfigurations. If something in my dept needs IT attention I do it myself because its faster and I know it will be done right.

      Not disparaging those IT folk who go above and beyond. I have utmost respect for them. Just saying that my particular one is as useful as the mammaries on a bull.

      1. John 110

        Re: Ah yes indeed.

        The NHS have standardised pay throughout. That means that you can't pay good IT staff extra to make them stay, so they keep getting lured away by the bright lights. I assum gov agencies are the same...

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Ah yes indeed.

          The NHS have standardised pay throughout. That means that you can't pay good IT staff extra to make them stay, so they keep getting lured away by the bright lights. I assum gov agencies are the same...

          Lured away by the bright lights, or driven away by the poor stress:payrate ratio?

          I've worked in some truly shitty jobs* but with great people, so the mess and what you were dealing with didn't really get to you, even when payrates weren't great. And I've worked short-term in a couple of jobs where the office politics were not ever going to be worth the money. I've seen places with quite decent paypackets, but the business quickly fails because of high staff-turnover.

          *One of my first jobs was helping out on a local farm after school. Some of it truly was disgusting and quite shitty in a very literal sense, but the other staff were great and some real bonuses as well - truly fresh milk that was in the cow only seconds ago (though I preferred it from the vat after it'd been chilled, especially on a summer's day) and meat so fresh that it'd been running around the paddock that day. Probably why I can't stand the floor sweepings that is "premium" supermarket meat.

          Icon - something like that might've been useful when cleaning out the pig pens.. Now that is a shitty job!

    4. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes indeed.

      "You should have better designed mice! These are clearly not fit for purpose! Why is IT so crap?!"

      How about a mouse with a self-righting mechanism based on Robot Wars?

      If it also includes a miniature circular saw and randomly removes ministers' fingers, so much the better.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    context of the word "lubed" I have not encountered before...

    and I saw I marketing department try to get away with much the same thing I a firm I worked for where a great deal of "foreign matter" was found inside a PC.

    Saved by an IT director that was equally robust with the description of the matter, and how IT did not have the budget to possess it...

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    For some reason I'm reminded of a French film critic's review of Last Tango in Paris:

    C'est magnifique mais ce n'est pas le beurre

    1. Doc Ock

      Upvoted, thought exactly the same when I read the headline.

      Not a use they promote in the Lurpak or Anchor adverts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Not a use they promote in the Lurpak or Anchor adverts."

        A Clover butter family TV advert from 1989 used the "Roll Me Over In The Clover" song - only slightly modified.

        IIRC We used to sing that at the Boy Scout campfires back in the 1950/60s.

        Here are the words for anyone who doesn't know them. This version is close to the one I learned - there have been many variations from subtle to explicit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >Not a use they promote in the Lurpak or Anchor adverts.

        An advertising slogan that never made it........

        Butt her with Butter.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Upvoted, thought exactly the same when I read the headline.

        I regret to say I first read the headline as "Uber lubes PC..." and I'd better say no more as it might be libellous.

  8. wolfetone Silver badge
    Pint

    Well, we could've forgiven her for that faux pas if it weren't for the fact she thought/thinks Excel is an appropriate tool to design with and that she's just a general jackass.

    To Bill, my glass of lager is raised to you good sir.

    To the idiot you had to deal with: Get Fucked.

    1. ridley

      Well it is obviously the tool of choice to some artists.

      http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2013/05/28/tatsuo-horiuchi-excel-spreadsheet-artist/

      1. BongoJoe

        I could easily imagine Hockney arting in Excel.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "I could easily imagine Hockney arting in Excel."

          That might be an improvement over finger-painting on an iPad.

          1. wolfetone Silver badge

            Yeah but he wouldn't be as good as Andy Warhol using the paint bucket tool on an Amiga.

  9. herman Silver badge
    Windows

    I can understand that one can use Excel for marketing glossies. For organizing text into columns and keeping it aligned with a graph or two, it works much better than doing the same with MS Word. However, using Mac Numbers is much better. Using Mac Pages for this is hopeless, since graphics keep jumping around no matter how hard you try to lock them in place.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Agreed. For some things Excel is better than Word.

      It all depends on what kind of document you want to create.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        re: Excel is perfect for graphics

        Just make a sheet 1024 cells wide by 768 high, go full screen

        and then set the background colour of each cell to make the picture you want

        1. MiguelC Silver badge

          Re: re: Excel is perfect for graphics

          Some long long time ago as I was bored on my job I did a BMP to Excel and a JPG pixel to Excel cell mapper just for fun

          And, best of all, it wasn't completely pointless, as I got to know the innards of JPG compression.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: BMP to Excel

            Ooh. Can I have?

            Since Excel stopped including a data-to maps tool, I craved a map consisting of a thousand Excel cells linked to the geographically correct data, and colour coded according to cell value - that's fairly versatile, so e.g. you could represent Glasgow with a Glasgow-shaped area of cells that would all be coloured magenta by setting an appropriate input number (it's a while since I programmed my Spectrum but I think magenta may have been 3). But I didn't actually make it, because that seemed quite tedious.

      2. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Nah, the like of scribus or reportlab are for financial calculation and the occasional graph. MSPaint is for database administration, and I generally find Firefox is pretty good at molecular structure modelling...

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      I blame the existence of such "contortionists" on the stubborn insistence of every office suite ever that layout in any way, shape or form is Not Their Concern (insert imaginary middle finger here).

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      The last time I used MS Word ...

      ... the layout changed depending on the selected printer driver.

      For the last decade or so I have been using reportlab. Bye bye WYS is POM dependent.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "since graphics keep jumping around no matter how hard you try to lock them in place."

      Bring back Aldus Pagemaker!!!

  10. 's water music Silver badge

    Butter lube?

    I would suspect that the story about a stuck disk was simply a face saving ruse to cover up the real story

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Butter lube?

      That little intro makes me nervous of following your link....

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Stef trying to have his way with a stick of butter? (who can catch the reference?)

    1. oddie

      reference...

      the old days of userfriendly? that takes me back...

    2. Chris King Silver badge
    3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      @ASAC, re: reference.

      As stated by the other commenters ahead of me, that's UserFriendly.

      *Waves*

      Yes it's me.

      *Grins*

    4. Kiwi Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I was wondering if someone else would comment..

      Found UF a couple of weeks back, don't recall seeing it before..Think it was in relation to an El Reg comment though might've been when I was looking for something in relation to something I was posting. Much thanks to whoever inspired me to find it.

      (PS is the author on El Reg? Couple of posters make me wonder, and that at least one UF cartoon refers to El Reg...)

  12. Allonymous Coward

    "Designing marketing materials"

    OK, I think I see the problem here.

  13. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    Acahol in the Caculator, to kill the stench of tom cat piss

    Some years back, my mother worked at a major manufacturer of electronic calculators, when such things were a new 'thing'. OK this is secondhand, but the gist: A customer apparently had a tom cat piss all over his 'Caculator', and he couldn't get the smell out. So he basically dumped a bottle of 'Acahol' all over it. Apparently this caused it to malfunction, so he took it apart and tried to dry it off [possibly with a hair dryer]. He wrote a letter to the company asking advice for getting his 'Caculator' to work again. I guess that's understandable, since they were as expensive as smart phones back then.

    The letter was subsequently copied and circulated. Interoffice humor. Who knew?

    [And in this day and age, it might inspire another youtube video by Craig Turner]

  14. SotarrTheWizard
    Mushroom

    Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

    . . .I had the misfortune of working at the Pentagon's Helldesk for the Air Force.

    And I actually got a "cupholder" call: a 3-star (fighter pilot, of course) had called in to report that his "cupholder" had cracked.

    Yep. He was using the CD-ROM tray for his coffee cup.

    I get there, diagnose the problem ("What, you can't glue it back together ?? How about replacing the tray ?"), call it in to order a new CD drive. Mind you, at the time, a CD Drive was a several hundred dollar piece of gear. And I mark it down as Customer Misuse of Equipment, which meant he PERSONALLY got the bill for parts and labor, about 400 bucks.

    General blows a gasket, demands I retract the report. General ALSO had signed a waiver for training on the box, accepting, under his signature, personal liability to all damage to the computer beyond normal wear and tear. Never got to the end of the matter, as I left for a better job shortly thereafter. . .

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

      The "cupholder" issue is one of the very few where I have sympathy for the end user. It really is quite difficult for normal people - i.e. those outside the industry - to know what a computer should or should not be able to do. It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions.

      iPhones are famously designed to be usable by the nontechnical, and don't have removable storage. I liked Sony phones but I can see that fiddling with the SIM tray and ensuring that the cap seals are properly engaged after replacing the micro-SD card is not something that the general public will want to engage with. This is why one of my relatives, who works in IT, buys Galaxy Notes (but not the catching fire one) but supplies their other half, a lawyer, with an iPhone.

      In this case, I would want to to bill the misused CD to the training department, for failure to teach the general what the bits of a computer did. The same with the example in TFA. No issue of new equipment without training on features should be a rule.

      And an Air Force should know this, after all they don't normally hand a pilot a new aircraft and say "there you are, apparently it's all intuitive."

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it? Back in the 90s, that was everywhere.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it?

          Yes, it does, but, to save money, they stopped doing it in ink, and now, it's just raised plastic, same color as the body of the tray. So when working on a strange machine, you need to shine a light on the drive, at just the right angle, to see if it's a CD, CDRW, DVD, DVD+/-/R or Bluray...and it's almost never the kind you need.

          PITA

        2. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          Does it not have the standard "Compact Disc" logo on it? Back in the 90s, that was everywhere.

          Something from Douglas Adams springs to mind. Black writing on black background and so on...

          (IOW, many CD/DVD trays have the logos just molded into the plastic rather than painted/silkscreened on)

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        "In this case, I would want to to bill the misused CD to the training department, for failure to teach the general what the bits of a computer did."

        On the whole I agree with you but maybe you missed the fact that the general had signed a waiver.

        It's difficult if not impossible to deal with idiocy that's risen to the higher levels of an organisation. After all these are the people who should be exercising wisdom and laying down rules for the rest of the organisation. The first step of this should be understanding why those rules are needed and why they apply to themselves* as much as everyone else.

        *It's doubly important that they follow their own rules. They need to set an example.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          "The first step of this should be understanding why those rules are needed and why they apply to themselves* as much as everyone else."

          I agree with your post - fair comment on mine - except for one thing. It is the job of people at the top of the organisation to know when to break the rules, or to introduce new ones. That's what they are paid for. As a one time technical director, it was part of my job to assess the risk of doing something outside the system and decide whether or not to go ahead. Otherwise, what do you need senior management for?

          But that assumes you are equipped to know what the rules are and why they exist. Under what circumstances would you enter a clean room (or tell someone else to) without full kit? Would you go ahead with a potentially very profitable contract which involves untried new technology? Would you buy a new machine from untried vendor A who can deliver in 3 months or vendor B who is fully certified but will take a year? Will you break the pay scale to retain a scientist who may be on the verge of a breakthrough but may not?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

          "It's difficult if not impossible to deal with idiocy that's risen to the higher levels of an organisation."

          The Peter Principle. "People rise to their level of incompetence".

          Then sometimes they get promoted further to get them out of the way. At a certain magic level they merely enter the pool that circulates round businesses. In each case they leave with a golden handshake - only to be immediately snapped up by another company where they introduce their pet business fad that has failed so many times before.

      3. /dev/null

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        I thought the padding on Cray-1s and X-MPs was there because the technicians working on the rat's nest of wiring inside the chassis had to kneel on them?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions.

        I was in high school when Crays were a thing, and never seen one personally, but yes, I always assumed that was seating.

        I never could figure out why though you'd want people to sit on your multimillion dollar supercomputer.

      5. swm Bronze badge

        Re: Back in the mid-1990s. . . .

        "It's like the stories of people using the insulating pads over the fluorinert tanks on early Crays as seats, because they look like cushions."

        I recall that Crays actually specified "seats 12".

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: It's got a CD player

      If the user doesn't know that it's for CDs or CD-ROMs then he probably doesn't need it to work as a disc player. So you could just tape the thing back together, add in a drip catching mat. Upgrade the device to a working CD drive if it's actually needed. And don't let the guy use anyone else's computer.

      Or: call it a "music player", which it is. Then leave the unlucky user to face the music.

      And why do they have a CD player or cup holder in a fighter plane anyway? Well - I suppose you really don't want your drink to spill in there. A sippy cup may be best.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Cup holders"

    Great fun when the machine reboots, tray retracts and coffee goes into free-fall...

  16. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Facepalm

    abuse Excel especially creatively

    The most staggering abuse I ever witnessed was using it for just running text. Sentences spilled over several cells, the next cell started just when the previous looked full on the individual display.

    No points for creativity, though.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: abuse Excel especially creatively

      In Samsung they use Excel for code diffs... link

      Which explains a lot.

      1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: abuse Excel especially creatively

        > ...Excel for code diffs...

        O.M.F.G. This is fucked on so many levels.

        Brain bleach -------->

    2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: abuse Excel especially creatively

      Back in the late '80s I was working at a place which had embraced IT in the form of an Alphamicro mainframe with a bunch of dumb terminals (big diskpacks stuff - all of 30meg a time).

      One of the sales guys was regularly producing ALL his stuff using the spreadsheet tool:letters, quotes, the lot. Was most surprised when I showed him the text editor.

  17. Binky Hetherington

    ...so that she could continue designing marketing materials in Excel

    I remember a new starter who was of the same mind. I wonder if it was the same woman? No matter how hard I tried to persuade her to use something more relevant, she persisted in creating working instructions in Excel because "it was the best tool for the job". There are some women that I quickly lose the urge to argue with and she was definitely one of them.

    The company has long since closed, but I suspect that out there somewhere is a USB external drive with several hundred working instructions documents on it which are a) really difficult to navigate and b) several times larger than they really should be...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lube isn't going to help if it's floppy. I thought everyone knew that?

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      Lube isn't going to help if it's floppy. I thought everyone knew that?

      The article says about an eject button, these only came on the 3.5 drives, hence the disk was a stiffie.

      In this case, clearly the user was inexperienced and didn't know the required amount of force or technique to get it in and out of the slot properly.

      The 5.25 drives had flaps covering the slot but later ones used knobs to lock the slot closed. Luckily neither suffered with the head-slap problem that was common on their former 8 inch counterparts. This fact alone made it difficult to use them in quiet office environments.

      1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

        Umm, no, there were definitely 5.25" drives that had pushbutton eject, one of the plasma display Compaq portables had one for instance.

        1. jcitron

          That's right I still have an antique with those drives.

          My Visual V1083, aka Commuter Computer, has those push-button floppy drives. It's been sometimes since I repaired those systems, like 32 years, so I can't remember the manufacturer. I think they were Teac floppy drives, but I might be confusing them with the ones in the Visual V1050 CP/M Plus machines which were built a bit earlier.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I worked on a helpdesk, it used to be a regular thing for users in India to report problems to us via email. Any screenshots were attached to the email.

    As an embedded image.

    In an Excel spreadsheet.

    1. Andytug

      Sounds like they were trying to avoid email scanning?

      Image attachments blocked, so embed in Excel file to get it through?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like they were trying to avoid email scanning?

        Nope. This was internal mail with no restrictions.

        It was just their way of doing it. Haven't got a clue why.

  20. David Nash Silver badge

    Seen it loads of times

    Excel is a kind of universal container. You can paste screenshots, text, even columns of numbers!

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Seen it loads of times

      "even columns of numbers!"

      That's crazy, who'd ever want to do that?

      Because, who knows what Paris would try to paste into Excel ------->

  21. wollo

    Firstly, Larry in IT saved my arse this week, persisting through a long, poor quality phone call to fix a remote login issue,. All hail Larry.

    Secondly, I've been in tech comms a long time, rising to consulting writer and info architect. I use Excel all the time for documentation. We write using XML and methodologies such as topic-based authoring for content reuse and re-purposing. I have not found a better tool for doing the initial architecture design and for creating topic lists and outlines. Best of all, under the covers the content is all tagged in XML so I can export and filter it for import to other XML authoring tools.

    I also export content from other sources (even code dumps) to sort and organize in Excel - such as all the error message strings.

    And, yes, Ive done entire documents in excel because it can handle dynamic content that works on virtually any windows box - I don't have to worry whether the user has that tool.

  22. albegadeep

    I'm an Excel abuser

    Definitely, hands-down. Though as much in the drug sense as in using it in unintended ways. Right now I have a macro-based timer running. I once wrote a sudoku-solving spreadsheet - without macros. (Tricky, that. Hint: use iterative calculation and circular references.) Also a Mastermind clone, with variants from the original 4-wide, 6-color to 40-wide, 20-color, also macro-free.

    In more mundane usage, I keep a running list of all my current and previous (complex) tasks, complete with job numbers and current status. Coworkers are always amazed when I can pull up a job number from 5 years ago, on a project I didn't even remember doing, in less than 30 seconds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm an Excel abuser

      At a previous job one of my coworkers was teaching himself advanced excel. He created a monsterously huge spreadsheet with cells barely large enough to see, then did some macro/math wizardry to make all the cells change colours at random. Not the whole sheet a single colour mind, but each individual cell it's own colour. It was a squirrely rainbow mind bending acid trip & he routed it to display on the general office displays normaly reserved for network maps.

      It was a blast watching my coworkers stare like a bunch of trippin' hippies at the wall during their lunch breaks.

      It surprised nobody when he got transfered to Accounting because he could make excel sit up, beg, & dance at his whim. =-J

    2. Herby Silver badge

      Re: I'm an Excel abuser

      "...sudoku-solving spreadsheet..."

      This I want to see. It ought to be VERY interesting. I wonder if it works in LibreOffice Calc as well.

      1. albegadeep

        Re: I'm an Excel abuser

        "I wonder if it works in LibreOffice Calc as well."

        Seems like it did. It just used basic worksheet functions. (I use LO at home, Microsloth at work.) It used blocks of data - one line of 9 columns per sudoku cell - to essentially do the "dot method", where a 0 is "not possible", 1 is "possible", and 2 is "this is the right value". One block checked for a 2 (known value) in that cell, setting the rest to zeros. Another checked to see if it was the only 1 left for that cell. Repeat for row, column, and 3x3 grid. Results of the last check were part of the input for the first one (circular reference, illegal unless running in iterative calculation mode). You entered the starting conditions into a standard-looking sudoku grid, which was used as the other possible input to the first check, and read the results from another standard-looking grid which monitored the last check. The hardest part was writing a reset function - change the N in one cell to a Y, and watch it reinitialize itself.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm an Excel abuser

      A long time ago I used the tax lookup table capability in Lotus to assign refrigeration units based on the load. Anonymous cuz I'm not proud of it.

  23. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    IT Angle

    The Classic Personality Clash + The LUSER Effect

    There are certain computer users who cannot help but inflict chaos upon themselves. They download trash and crash software onto their computers for unreasonable reasons. They must be protected from themselves as if they were children, naive of the big bad world.

    But then there is the classic, historic personality clash that I was taught to describe as the natural repulsion between the Productive personality and the Relater personality. This is very much the collision in companies between R&D and IT versus Marketing. It's the reason that Marketing-As-Management (as I call it) is one of the best ways to destroy a company.

    Productive personalities find the Relater personalities to be strange and annoying. But they tolerate them as best they can, rarely holding a grudge. However, the Relater personality considers the unrelating Productive personality to be something along the lines of an abomination. Relaters not only hold a grudge, they are the masters of undermining and destroying Productive personalities. I think of Relaters as something akin to psychopathic murderers of the Productive psyche. They destroy what is not them. And they call themselves 'people persons'. *ironic*laugh*

    If one thinks about this situation, there are countless examples throughout our personal lives as well as this history of mankind. If you'd like to study an excellent modern example of how this personality clash can take down a company, study the tale of the decline and fall of Eastman Kodak. I was there to watch. (O_o)

    [BTW: I learned about this personality clash as part of what was called 'Beyond Gold' training. The concept has now evolved into 'Platinum Rule' training: "Treat others the way they want to be treated." The hard work is figuring out what that way would be. It can be mind bending.]

  24. Naselus

    Excel art done right

    http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2013/05/28/tatsuo-horiuchi-excel-spreadsheet-artist/

    Before we laugh at Excel artists, consider the stuff this dude produces via Excel. They're hardly photoshop, but you can get pretty cool results if you know what you're doing.

    Not sure if this means we should also be less hasty in our condemnation of buttered floppy disks.

    1. Esme

      Re: Excel art done right

      @Naselus - thank you so much for bringing Tatsuo Horiuchi's work to my attention, I love it! Irrespective of how it was created, he's a good artist, but to think he created such beauty with a piece of software I swear at nearly every working day - that makes my heart sing.

      Oh, and I foudn Libre Office renders his pictures perfectly welll, even on my rather old desktop PC.

      Amazing.

  25. TWB

    Another Excel abuser

    Years ago when I used to train broadcast engineers in analogue TV, I needed a way to show how RGB gets changed to YUV - loses or gains levels and then gets changed back again to RGB in TVs - I could not afford signal generators, coders, processing and waveform monitors, but excel was great as a way to show multiple waveforms and with slider controls I could vary levels.

    1. Palpy

      Re: Another Excel abuser, me too...

      Not nearly as clever as you, TWB, but way back in the day I had a spreadsheet that graphed complex squiggles based on a set of random variables and various math functions. Oh, the happy hours minutes seconds I spent clicking just to see the pattern jump.

      Pretty soon, though, the squiggle-formulas migrated to POV-ray. Back in the days when computers were fun.

      Oh, wait, they still are.

  26. FlamingDeath Bronze badge

    Bill Hicks suggestion

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvp97SMZc6M

  27. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I might have been tempted to replace the drive but send the original machine back with a small piece of meat dropped into the casing.

  28. beeza

    Saudi fun

    About 15 years ago I worked in Saudi Arabia for their Air Force at a training facility. One of the staff rocked up with some dodgy pirate software CD he wanted to use but his CD ROM drive wouldn't open. We eventually forced the draw out and removed the 3 1/2 inch disk (that must have taken some serious force to jam in there), replaced the drive and returned the machine. He was back the next day in a bit of a hump carrying the "still broken" computer except this time it rattled...case off...oh yes...he'd slid a couple of CDs over the top of the drive and into the box.

    I think a Saudi colleague finally showed him how to infect his machine with viruses from the CD ROM in the end.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laura...

    Once upon a time in a former life I had the delight of dealing with a particular sub species of people who I won't name so, for the purposes of this tale (which is related to another that has been published here) I shall call them Those Workers At That Site, or, for brevity, Twats.

    There were high points, I won't deny it but some people just aren't intelligent enough to deserve shoes for fear of hurting themselves when allowed out of the house, let alone a computer.

    One particular young lady, let's call her Laura (because that was her name), was particularly 'IT Phobic' and regularly called me with odd problems like her monitor crackling and going off when she put her handbag on the cable for instance.

    Laura called me one day, with a request that I investigate her computer as it had 'crashed' and displayed an error message.

    Apparently it had bluescreened, she'd turned it off and on again and it was all working just fine now but she wanted to know if I could prevent it happening again so I asked what applications she had open when it crashed (dunno, the usual stuff), if it'd displayed anything when it restarted (Dell apparently) and the clincher, 'Do you know what the error message said or did you write it down?'

    To which I got the immortal anwer 'Dunno, some computery shit so I just switched it off and back on'.

  30. Chris Dugan

    Word's broken...

    I once had a user phone me up complaining that her Word was not working properly and kept on displaying rubbish on her screen.

    As this was back before we had any sort of remote access to users pc's so a desk visit was in order and a short walk to think over the possibilities.

    I arrived, borrowed the mouse, found a Word document on the network drive and opened it with no problems.

    Then I asked the user to show me exactly what she was doing: she went to the file menu, chose open and selected the Word document she wanted to edit which then opened displaying all of the internal document formatting and the plain text of the document..... all in Acrobat Reader! :D

    I then spent about 30 minutes training her in how to use Explorer/My Computer icon to find and open files in the correct program and what the file type filter was for in the Open dialogue box. Quite how she had worked for about 5 years in the office using computers without a similar issue cropping up was beyond me.

    When I left the place last year, she had still barely improved her computer skills and still insisted on following along "monkey see, monkey do" style without giving a thought as to what and why she was doing something :)

    Another anecdote from the same user was that she created a letter template in Excel and had terrible trouble with the layout changing each time she updated the text in the letter, the crazy thing was that she used Excel rather than Word because she had no idea how to use tables in Word and didn't want to ask anyone in her department for fear of being seen as IT illiterate... as she said she was IT trained during her interview. Quite how she managed to retain her job I have no idea; she must have had something over the company or just managed to retain a very low profile.

    It still makes me chuckle even now 10 years on from that initial incident and the company still hires people of similar IT skill calibre today :)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How to upset the Marketing department

    Just refer to them wherever and whenever you can as the colouring-in department.

    Works even better if email signatures are generated from AD!

  32. Gobhicks

    Excel abuse?

    Excel is useful for all sorts of things other than its intended purposes. Don't knock a user for finding a tool that works for them.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Excel abuse?

      "Excel is useful for all sorts of things other than its intended purposes. Don't knock a user for finding a tool that works for them."

      Depends. I can put a screw into wood with a hammer, but if there's a screwdriver handy I'd be an idiot not to use it. Choose the best tool available and learn to use it, not the only one you happen to know about. If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Excel abuse?

      "Excel is useful for all sorts of things other than its intended purposes."

      Sort of. But it the task it's bent to can rapidly grow to a point where it doesn't really work. Your single table database may be fine. Try to add what should be a second table and you have to denormalise it. The point where a real RDBMS would be the better tool is reached quite quickly.

      OTOH I still haven't found a better tool than LibreOffice Calc for sorting out genealogical data, even if I keep threatening to write one myself.

  33. Snapper

    Excel can be used to calculate things?

    A few days ago I was at a client's site early and got chatting to one of the guys there, and I told a couple of 'in the early days' tales. He liked the one where I told a young lady to highlight the text on the screen.

    *THOK*

    Yellow highlighter applied to screen!

    Then I told him I once saw another young lady type a column of numbers into Excel, then reach across her desk to grab a calculator, tap the numbers in and then type the total into the spreadsheet.

    At this point he stared past me at yet another young lady who was standing behind me and who usually sat next to him. Her face was bright red.........

    1. Esme

      Re: Excel can be used to calculate things?

      All entirely credible from my own experience, but guys can be just as dim too., like not knowing how to convert from .xls to .csv, or how to sum a column of number, or even how to change the date format in a column of dates. Also, not realising that in an application with a really long list of choice in a drop-down box that if you typed the first 2-3 characters it would be selected (he was scrolling down to the desired one every time), not realising the difference between an application installed on the PC and one they accessed via a browser, the classic cup-holder stuff, ignorance of what the other mouse button does, power-cycling PCs rather than shutting them down nicely back when power-cycling was a Not Good thing to do. And guys are less likely to listen properly to what you;re telling them, in my experience, and more likely to be overconfident in their abailities.

      BUT - the big question is this - why, by all that's holy, are companies NOT ensuring that staff (including Directors) have basic IT literacy skills before letting them loose on IT equipment? Hmmn? Bear in mind, when you consider this, that for most of my working life men have bene far more common in the boardroom than women, so who's been making the bad decisions with regard to IT, eh? (And, yes, I've come across some women that are just as bad, but plenty of blokes are IT numbskulls too!)

      I have a lot of sympathy with users that don't understand IT well or at all, provided they're willing to learn, and it's my experience that the majority are quite happy to learn, provided the instruction is in small does and clearly relevant to them getting their job done, or experiencing less hassle in future. The dangerous ones are the ones that won't listen, the more so the higher up the chain they are, because they will not only suffer stupid problems themselves, they will be the cause of stupid problems for others by not understaning that basic IT literacy is a productivity issue, and lack thereof costs companies millions.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Excel can be used to calculate things?

        "BUT - the big question is this - why, by all that's holy, are companies NOT ensuring that staff (including Directors) have basic IT literacy skills before letting them loose on IT equipment? Hmmn?"

        Incorrect assumptions on the part of HR and line managers.

        1) Young people "know all about computers" and learned how to use them at school.

        2) Older people working in an office already know because they must have got training at their last job.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Excel can be used to calculate things?

        "The dangerous ones are the ones that won't listen, the more so the higher up the chain they are"

        The higher up the chain they are the more they're paid than you. And because they're paid more they must know better than you. Life is much simpler when you take this approach.

  34. gryphon

    Technical ignorance is fine, willful ignorance and an unwillingness to learn for the next time is not fine.

    1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Yes. That.

      MD of a company once told me he didn't want to pay for his staff to learn to use computers, the computers should work the way he wanted them to.

      That's the same company MD who was persuaded by two people on staff that their job was to be on facebook managing the company social media presence.

      Quite how they did that from their personal accounts while posting pictures of holidays, children and tennis club escaped me but I'm sure he felt he got value for money.

  35. ChrisBedford

    It's hard to believe that a clear-cut case of user vandalism as described could not be unequivocally proved to have been exactly that - (a) the drive was full of butter and (b) it worked when the button was pressed properly - so if that's all there was to it, the techie in question should have been able to prove his innocence beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt. If not, I have to question either the truthfulness of the story or the competence of the techie - sure, I know there are dumb-ass companies that will allow (or attempt to allow) marketing drones to get away with s#!t like that, but, seriously now...

  36. Howard Winter
    Happy

    Notepad?

    Notepad++?

    EMACS?

    VI?

    Amateurs - EDLIN for the win!

  37. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    Both Sides Then

    I was on the other side of this fun once. Cast your minds back to the pre-internet days of monochrome displays. I bought an application which was written in 16-colors, but I ran it on a four shades of green monitor. Up to then, and afterwards, every 16-color pay-for or free or shareware app I had encountered, rendered OK on a 4-shade of monochrome monitor. Except this one. He had managed to burn-in (no user color settings) two display colors that mapped to the same shade, meaning that much of the information was illegible, encrypted if you like. I pointed this out to the author. He didn't fix the app, but he did diss one of his customers on a discussion group. This was pre-internet, so it might have been Leisure Linc. Something like: "You think you have stupid customers. I got one who complained about the colors of my app, but it turned out he was trying to run it in monochrome. What an idiot !" Endearing, to the hilt.

  38. jcitron

    Classic!

    This is one of the best I've read yet and must pass this article on to some tech friends. :-)

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