back to article Fighter pilot shot down laptops with a flick of his copper-plated wrist

Why hello there readers! It's Friday and that means it's time for another edition of On-Call, our weekly column in which your peers take centre stage by sharing tales of jobs gone wrong. This week, meet “Len” who tells us he used to work for Dell and was once summoned “to the middle of nowhere in Cumbria.” Perhaps Len could …

  1. Lee D Silver badge

    School office.

    Noticed the office staff layering plain paper and cheque paper alternately. For hundreds of cheques.

    Queried why: "It's always been like that".

    The printer always churned out two copies of the cheques, so you had to sacrifice a bit of plain paper to avoid printing out double-cheques.

    Borough support had "looked at it dozens of times" over the years. This person had been in the same school for 20+ years, so she could tell you names, dates and what they did.

    They'd reinstalled the software, reinstalled the machine, changed all the server settings, deployed print group policies, tweaked every option, and after years of callbacks given up and told the staff to put blank paper every second sheet.

    It was a HP Laserjet, the ones with the old "cold blue" LCD displays. They only ever used it for cheques because it was the only printer on site that didn't jam when it printed them (cheque + sticky seal + plastic address window in one A4 sheet).

    I tapped a few buttons.

    Found the option that said "Copies; 2". Changed it to "Copies: 1"

    Worked perfectly for years after that. I think she would have kissed me if she could. Years of "paper, cheque, paper, cheque, paper, cheque" for thousands of cheques before she printed every time...

    (Yes, Borough support was in bed with RM so the system/support was basically entirely RM and HP. The same school sent back three machines five times because they "never worked". The problem? CMOS Checksum Error. I got the job there by sending a member of staff down to the watch store for 3 x CR2032 batteries. They worked fine for years after that)

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Oh yes!

      I learned the hard way. If you get really weird faults (especially at switch-on) change the battery. This will often be completely hidden by the makers - just to make your job harder.

      1. macjules Silver badge
        Coat

        I learned the hard way. If you get really weird faults (especially at switch-on) change the battery.

        Please, please tell me that you do not work at British Airways?

    2. Chunky Munky
      Facepalm

      Similar position at my present school. Every month the cheque run would grind to a halt due to issues with the printer - the usual sort of issues associated with an old, cheaper mono laser, not pricking up paper, inconsistent toner delivery, jammed paper. Many times I recommended replacing the printer, usually after pulling out bits of shredded cheque from the innards, only to be told there was no money in the budget.

      One momentous day I happened to be in the office when they started the cheque run. Cue office lady counting out 4 (yes 4!) pre-printed cheque sheets (the type printed on A4 where the top is a summary of what the cheque was and the cheque itself at the bottom with a perforated area to tear off the cheque) and putting them into the paper drawer after first removing the existing paper. Print run was duly started and presto!, the first cheque gets chewed up.

      After she'd calmed down I asked why she only did the run in batches of 4. 'Oh, that's all we need to do each month - everyone else is paid by BACS' Off I trot to the stationary cupboard, select a black ball point pen, return to office and present it to her, suggesting that this method may be a quicker, cheaper and less stressful way of generating the 4 cheques needed each month.

      2 weeks later I took the printer away and quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!

        I did that once . The satifaction dampened a little when i realised I had to clear up the wreckage off the car park

        1. 9Rune5

          "I did that once . The satifaction dampened a little when i realised I had to clear up the wreckage off the car park"

          I hope you learned your lesson and eventually picked somebody else's car park to host such activities?

        2. MarthaFarqhar

          The way round that is wait till they have a skip delivered at work, and then place all equipment that gave you grief, climb in and pretend you're Thor with next to no cleanup.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            That is fun! Especially if you line the bottom of the skip with keyboards and other fragile stuff then chuck out 19" CRT monitors and printers out the first floor window. Downside is that you will find keycaps for weeks afterwards......

      2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

        > quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!

        How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?

          By carefully muffling it with a spare user.

          1. Down not across Silver badge

            By carefully muffling it with a spare user.

            Is there any other kind?

        2. Chunky Munky

          School hols :)

          If you smash up a printer and there's no one to hear, does it still make a noise?

          [/zen]

          1. Cereberus

            Yes........

            If for no other reason than you are there to hear it.

          2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Mushroom

            If you smash up a printer and there's no one to hear, does it still make a noise?

            Yes. And all the other printers hear it, and swear vengeance upon you!

            But fortunately that makes no difference, as all printers already hate all humans. So they only ever operate out of caprice, so as to choose a more vital time to fail you.

            Until you've instilled the appropriate fear in them, with your hammer. At which point they will sullenly cooperate. However, you'll be marked down as the first against the wall when the revolutions comes.

            Terminator was wrong. Skynet wasn't a defence computer. It was a network of printers. And now we've given our printers WiFi! The end will be soon!

            1. VinceH
              Mushroom

              "Terminator was wrong. Skynet wasn't a defence computer. It was a network of printers. And now we've given our printers WiFi! The end will be soon!"

              And here we see the true definition of a botnet.

            2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
              Black Helicopters

              > Terminator was wrong. Skynet wasn't a defence computer. It was a network of printers.

              Uh, oh... So should I get rid of my printer/copier/scanner/handgun combo?

            3. Missing Semicolon
              Happy

              Can't we try the Aleister Crowley method?

              From "Good Omens" (Niel Gaiman)

              “He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies, on Radio Four, and thought it was an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did.

              What he did was put the fear of God into them.

              More precisely, the fear of Crowley.

              In addition to which, every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn't look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants. "Say goodbye to your friend," he'd say to them. "He just couldn't cut it. . . "

              Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuously around the flat.

              The plants were the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. Also the most terrified.”

              So, don't smash them in the car park. Dismantle them slowly in the office........

            4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

              "And all the other printers hear it, and swear vengeance upon you!"

              It's not just the printers...

        3. Solarflare

          @GrumpenKraut "How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?"

          If a printer gets the crap beaten out of it in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?

          The same way I quietly practice on my bagpipes.

        5. Marcelo Rodrigues
          Devil

          "How the heck did you manage do that _quietly_?"

          He only grunted, while hammering away.

        6. Wayneh_nz

          How to bear it quietly?

          Rubber hammer

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In the days of computer bureaux we used to do an occasional run for a catalogue firm which needed an unusually high number of printout carbon copies.

        The customer supplied their own boxes of continuous printer paper. Every time we did the run we had take unusual care in setting the hammer pressure as the paper itself was extremely thin. Quite often the paper would still separate at a page perforation and come off the tractors in a crumpled mess. Then the run would have to be repeated.

        A comment was made which has proved a useful addition to my IT vocabulary - "Someone had a nice lunch out of buying that".

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Off I trot to the stationary cupboard, select a black ball point pen"

        It would have been trickier if the cupboard had been moving.

        1. NXM

          someone I know..

          saw a sign on a door in an office he was visiting which said,

          The stationery department has moved.

          Marvellous.

        2. LaeMing Silver badge
          Go

          "Off I trot to the stationary cupboard, select a black ball point pen"

          "It would have been trickier if the cupboard had been moving."

          I once had to move our stationary cupboard. It caused a local paradox.

      5. Wensleydale Cheese
        Happy

        "quietly beat the crap out of it with a 3 pound lump hammer!"

        I had a washing machine that had frustrated many an engineer while still under warranty, but they did manage to get it working for long enough that the warranty had well and truly expired.

        The next time it broke down I had a plan ready.

        It still looked immaculate, so there was the danger that some enterprising soul would try to resurrect it, if I tipped it in one piece, and then suffer the same way I had.

        I stripped the thing down and spread the parts around various tips, to minimise the chances of someone doing that.

        No rage, instead cool calculating satisfaction that I had rid the world of such a troublesome piece of kit.

    3. MR J

      We used to do work for a water plant and had the same thing.

      The drawings for the plant indicated a controller that would use a 0-20ma input. The measurement equipment was specified to use 4-20ma output. The plant technicians could not understand why the controller was wrong when the tank was empty. My employer had sent the high paid tech's on that site job a untold number of times and every time the measurement equipment was tested to be 100% okay. Sadly none of the tech's we had actually understood the whole loop or why the customer couldn't ever get a "empty" reading on the tank. One day one of the tech's had a stomach bug so I picked up the phone call, they described the problem and after about an hour of phone support I said that it looks like the controller isn't calibrated correctly when it see's 4ma, the reply from them was that it was set to 0...

      Same as the Dell guy the post is about, I got a warning because I didn't book it as a site visit or unit repair/replacement. The customer never had that problem again, they asked for me by name the next time they called but the business refused to let them talk to me as I was a lowly bench tech, they never put me on the phones again either lol...

      1. Paul Renault

        I asked my current boss about the company policy on this very type of customer support call recently - where you fixed the problem without replacing parts.

        I pointed out that one of the metrics that my employer tracks is the 'utilization rate' - the proportion of the salaried time that is accounted for by on-site service, travel time, and phone support.

        So I asked.."If I manage to solve the customer's problem over the phone in half an hour, it makes my utilization rate go down, which shows poorly on my performance stats. If I drive a few hours, perform some on-site service, and drive back, using up my whole day for the exact same issue, then it's great for my utilization rate, but it costs the company money, the customer is down for an extra day - but look at that utilization rate! So, what's the official policy, what do they prefer me to do? - As long as the customer's happy, we're happy," came the enlightened reply.

        Ask your boss the same question.

        Also, a big two thumbs up to all the people who emphasize "Listen to the user!", which often includes "observe the user", and "try to understand the user's thinking".

        Bonus: one of my favourite sentences to pop out of the user is "See, I did it just like it says in the manual, and it doesn't work!". That's a trigger phrase for me, which causes me to reach for the manual, just so I can say: "Well, in the manual it says..."

        Often, it's not really their fault, they're not used to reading technical docs.

        And lastly: while I was on-site for another issue, the kindly older lady operator asked me, as she had heard that magnets could be bad for electronics, asked me whether the copper-magnetic bracelet she wore was safe to wear while operating the equipment.

        I brought the bracelet near the CRT - you could just barely make out a ripple on the display. "Wow!," I ejaculated, "you'd think that at the price they sell these things, the magnets would be stronger."

        I then took out my magnetized screwdriver and brought it to the same position on the CRT, showing her just how much it was affecting the display. I told her not to worry, it was safe to wear that bracelet, as her hands wouldn't be near the CRT anyway.

        A month or two later, I was back on-site. I noticed she wasn't wearing the bracelet.

    4. GrapeBunch Silver badge

      fwiw, I'm guessing that 90% of the readers here would be looking for Copies: 2 within one second of learning the scenario. The best stories are iconic.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Oldie but a goodie.

    Mid-80s, I was working for a company that built gear to dynamically allocate bandwidth between video, voice and data.

    Incredibly Big Monster of a company started getting weird bit error rates on their global T1 (E1, T3 etc ...) network, which was larger than the Internet itself at the time. The network used our kit to terminate the telco supplied wire, and because telcos are perfect ::coff:: & it couldn't possibly be Monster's fault, it must be our problem, right? I was assigned to track down the problem after lower level techs couldn't figure it out.

    Going thru' the data, I discovered that once the problem started occurring at any one site, it gradually became worse ... It was never bad enough to actually take down a connection, but network errors ramped up over time.

    Further review showed that the same team of installers had installed the gear at the sites with the problem.

    I flew out to Boca and discovered that they had installed punch-down blocks in a janitor's closet ... directly over a mop bucket full of ammonia water. A couple quick calls confirmed similar placement in other offices, world wide. Seems it was the only wall space that was unused almost universally in such spaces.

    Corroded metal replaced and blocks relocated, no more bit-errors ... Rather than a "thank you", I got the task of updating the installation documentation. Naturally.

  3. eJ2095

    Ashes to Ashes

    About 3 years had a call from local Crem to report PC kept shutting down near the Crem machine where the bodies go.

    So sent across one of the minions to go take a look and he bought it back to site as indeed was over heating.

    So the poor lad takes this apart and its full of (I kid you not) white soot.

    So he happily goes on with clean it out etc.. untill i explain to him what the soot could possiably be...

    Image that your last resting place wedged in the back of an HP DC5750.....

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Ashes to Ashes

      Not surprised, given the number of times I have commented that this hp will be the end of me.

  4. Alastair Dodd 1
    Happy

    Seen this with mobile phones on dell laptops

    put your phone to one side of the trackpad, voila! Shutdown..

    Annoyed my boss until he worked out it was effectively his own fault.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Seen this with mobile phones on dell laptops

      Youi made that up!

      What boss would admit anything was his own fault?

      1. SolidSquid

        Re: Seen this with mobile phones on dell laptops

        Didn't admit to anything, just stopped blaming people for it. Six and half a dozen really

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Both copper bracelets and magnets are just sham medicine and I'm surprised an ex-fighter pilot fell for it.

    1. David Roberts
      Trollface

      Not man in a pub

      Ex fighter pilot told me so it must be true!

      I'm not sure why you think fighter pilots are less likely to believe in alternative science. I suspect that they may be more superstitious than average.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Both copper bracelets and magnets are just sham medicine and I'm surprised an ex-fighter pilot fell for it."

      Pilot != engineer.

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      not necessarily

      The placebo effect is indeed clinically real. The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect when the patient is told it is a placebo.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not necessarily

        "The placebo effect is indeed clinically real. The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect when the patient is told it is a placebo."

        Provided it's done by a proper doctor. As I recall, the long term NHS study of homoeopathy showed that a placebo was more effective than homeopathic medicine.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: not necessarily

          "a placebo was more effective than homeopathic medicine."

          Is a placebo for homeopathic treatment one that actually has real medicine in it?

        2. ridley

          Re: not necessarily

          Don't be daft now. Homeopathic "medicines" ARE a placebo.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: not necessarily

        The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect when the patient is told it is a placebo.

        And the more expensive the placebo is, the better it works. That why these guys(*) offer gold and platinum placebos as well as their more normal ones (with virtual SMS placebos for the cheapskates). Even better, they've now got a homoeopathic placebo you make yourself from anhydrous placebo.

        (*) One detects a distinct placement of the lingual muscle in the buccal cavity.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: not necessarily

          I also like (and am equally depressed by) the nocebo effect.

          Tell people about the side-effects of a drug, and some of them'll get them. Even if you don't give them the actual drug, and just give them placebo. It happens to the control group in drug trials - or sometimes to people who read the insructions on their prescriptions.

          Also an injected placebo is more powerful than one in pill form. As many people perceive that we give more powerful drugs by that method.

          Then you've got the white coat effect. My Mum's blood pressure is under control. She's got a machine at home to monitor it. When she goes to the doctor though to do the 6-monthly check-up that her prescription is right, she has massively high blood pressure. Even if she checked it that morning and it was fine. Once she's sat around with the doctor and chatted for a bit, it goes down to normal. Which suggests that going to the doctor can actually be dangerous...

          1. Vic

            Re: not necessarily

            When she goes to the doctor though to do the 6-monthly check-up that her prescription is right, she has massively high blood pressure. Even if she checked it that morning and it was fine.

            I have my blood pressure taken when I go for my aviation medical. The first two goes I do myself - because my AME and I both know the first one will be stratospheric, the second one merely ludicrous. He does the third check at the end of the medical, when all is well...

            Vic.

            1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

              Re: not necessarily

              Had my blood pressure taken while ago, also with a stratospheric result. Doctor looked at me "this cannot be right!". Asked her to take the blood sample I assumed being required, then check blood pressure again. She informed me no blood sample was needed. Upon second blood pressure check right away it was perfectly normal.

              Need I say I am not a great fan of syringes?

              1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
                Pirate

                Re: not necessarily

                A while ago I had to visit the urgent care clinic over the weekend for severe ear pain which decided it would not wait until Monday to see my primary care physician.

                At this clinic worked a rather attractive young woman assigned the task of showing patients to the exam rooms and taking vitals. Upon seeing her I immediately felt a change in my physiology. Infer what you will, but said changes included elevated heart rate, flushed cheeks, and sudden slight perspiration.

                OF COURSE when she took my blood pressure it was rather high. She says to me, a bit nonplussed, "have you done anything today which would make your blood pressure go up?"

                I responded, "nope, this is completely involuntary."

          2. SolidSquid

            Re: not necessarily

            Don't forget that larger pills have a bigger effect above a certain size, but smaller than that size and the effect is stronger than bigger pills are

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not necessarily

        "The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect"

        And that it has been getting stronger over time!!!

      4. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: not necessarily

        Placebo effect - Better results from ingestion of two sugar pills compared to one, and an even better response after a saline injection - It seems that more "treatment" tends to give a better clinical response.

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: not necessarily

          > Placebo effect - Better results from ingestion of two sugar pills compared to one

          There's an equivalent for opera lovers: it's called the Placebo Domingo effect.

          <I'm here all week and I'm thinking of making a Carreras out of this>

        2. Wensleydale Cheese

          Ooh, an AI angle...

          'Placebo effect - Better results from ingestion of two sugar pills compared to one, and an even better response after a saline injection - It seems that more "treatment" tends to give a better clinical response.'

          And there, just maybe, is the real key to the placebo effect.

          Somebody is responding to the patient's complaint and actively giving them something for it.

          Since there aren't any active ingredients in a placebo, can the whole process of dragging yourself to a doctor's surgery, being listened to, then following instructions, be reduced to a set of social interactions which have a beneficial effect?

          This could be an interesting area of study, all the more so as we are being told that AI might be the future of healthcare. Will removing the social interactions we currently participate in turn out to be much more dangerous to our well-being than we anticipate?

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: not necessarily

          I had a saline injection recently - to test a canula prior to a CT scan and it caused me to pass out and when I came round (thinking I'd just blinked) every bit of the room was filled with crash crew. So no only is saline not a placebo it can transport matter too.

      5. PassingStrange

        Re: not necessarily

        "The placebo effect is indeed clinically real. The real wtf thing is that there is still clinically measurable effect when the patient is told it is a placebo."

        I've heard about this; seems likely to be Hawthorn effect. Just receiving attention has an effect in its own right.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Xamol

      Sham medicine? Maybe.

      But is it still sham medicine if the patient believes in it and benefits from the placebo effect?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But is it still sham medicine if the patient believes in it and benefits from the placebo effect?

        I think I may suffer from a reverse placebo affect.

        My brain tells me a certain medication (Ambien, Aspirin, etc) won't work on me, so it doesn't

    6. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I work in the building services industry. About ten years ago we were contacted by a customer who'd just retired. So I guess an ex-customer now. He'd started up a retirement job selling magnetic "health" bracelets. But also a magnetic doodah that you stuck on the fuel pipe of your car and improved fuel consumption by 5mpg.

      He was a mechanical engineer.

      I can believe that cleaning crap out of your fuel might slighly improve fuel consumption over time - as a cleaner engine is going to be a more efficient one. I can't believe that you fit this thing and it works straight away. Anyway where is all this crap going, if there's so much of it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "He was a mechanical engineer."

        Fair enough, but (a) IC engine combustion is a matter of electrical, gas and fluid technology. And (b) he might be perfectly aware that it wouldn't work, but that wouldn't stop the business being profitable. After all, think of the very highly paid investment managers who do no better than tracker funds despite the fact that investors can read that fact in the financial journals. There's a lot of people who want to believe - which is why I suspect the placebo effect works even with people who are told it's a placebo. I suspect they convince themselves that this isn't true and they are the ones getting the wonder drug.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: "He was a mechanical engineer."

          I always thought the perfect place for that kind of scam was the audiophile community. Rampant placebo effects, and no worries about the FDA coming after you. I've seen some amazing things, including power cords with little wooden "resonators" attached.

          1. DJSpuddyLizard

            Re: "He was a mechanical engineer."

            I always thought the perfect place for that kind of scam was the audiophile community. Rampant placebo effects, and no worries about the FDA coming after you. I've seen some amazing things, including power cords with little wooden "resonators" attached.

            See gold-plated optical cables.

      2. molletts

        He'd started up a retirement job selling magnetic "health" bracelets. But also a magnetic doodah... He was a mechanical engineer.

        There's a difference between making a profit selling such things to people who believe in them and believing in them oneself ;-)

        I remember a discussion in class at school just after the (UK) National Lottery started up in which someone asserted the old Gambler's Fallacy that because all the numbers have equal probability of coming up over a long interval, ones that haven't come up for a while are more likely to do so in the next draw. After much, increasingly mathematical, discussion which resulted in the teacher proving conclusively that, on average, it is impossible to do anything other than lose money on the Lottery, I shocked everyone by asserting that I knew a guaranteed way to profit from it. My method? Write some software that took as input a log of all draw results then spat out random numbers after much on-screen number-whirling à la computers in Hollywood movies (hell, I could even have gone to town and used the draw history as a seed for the RNG) then sell the software to people wanting to make a quick buck by actually playing the Lottery.

    7. ZimboKraut

      That ist no quite correct.

      It's just, that every individual has his/her own sensitivity to these fields. So while some people/bodies react very positively, others react negatively and some even don't react at all.

      i.e.:

      I myself am able find underground water streams, with plain copper rods (simple bent wire will do the trick)

      My late father wasn't at all, while my little sister could to a lesser degree, and a good friend of mine was far more sensitive, than I was and the rods would react far more intense.

      I never made a big fuss out if it, or tried to sell my services. I only discovered it whe we were looking for water (for a borehole), while living in Afrika with someone present who had exactly this ability.

      There is nothing magical about it. It's simply your body being responsive to a magnetostatic field being created by the flow of the water. Because it doesn't work with "standing" water....

      So just because you haven't seen it happen before, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

      No magic, just plain natural science

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Pint

        > ...magnetostatic field being created by the flow of the water.

        > ...plain natural science

        Nope and ExtendedNope.

        Btw. I can detect beer by drinking it, no rods required. It's almost magic.

      3. TitterYeNot
        Headmaster

        "I only discovered it whe we were looking for water (for a borehole), while living in Afrika with someone present who had exactly this ability."

        You seem to have misspelt 'when' and 'Africa' in this sentence.

        "No magic, just plain natural science"

        Just as you seem to have misspelt 'just plain natural superstition' in the final one...

        1. Wayneh_nz

          Maybe South African, their country their language they can spell it how they like

          Afrikaans is one of the languages spoken there. Note, no C.

          When is just a simple mistake. Maybe from a phone, do you know how many I had to fix just typing this? Probably missed one or two.

      4. BongoJoe

        So just because you haven't seen it happen before, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

        No magic, just plain natural science

        Not sure of the downvotes. Perhaps those same people who don't know that some water companies in the UK actually employ dowsers.

        My father could do it as it happens and he was a straight laced dyed in the wool non-airy-fairy exMod boffin with many an invention to his name.

      5. Uffish

        Afrika bore holes

        I met a couple of guys at a wayside stop in Nigeria, they had a small drilling rig and they drove around looking for people willing to pay for a borehole. I asked them how they knew where to drill, thinking of geological surveys, water tables etc. They said they just drilled where the customer asked them to drill and it usually worked.

        1. GrahamRJ

          Re: Afrika bore holes

          Because the locals know which spot dries up last, giving them a fair idea of where there's a reliable bit of aquifer.

          For our dowsing friend though, he may be unaware that aquifers tend to extend over some distance. Even Africa has some pretty good aquifers in places, regardless of how dry it looks on the surface. If you want to know where to start drilling, the answer could well be "anywhere for a mile around the waterhole". If you throw darts at the FT and the stocks you hit make money the next day, that doesn't mean you've subconsciously detected a money-making stock and aimed the dart at it. Especially if you happen to open it on the defence industry stocks page on the day after the US President decides to show how tough he is.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. tedleaf

    Survivors

    Martin-baker used to give ties to those who had used AND survived the use of one of their seat systems,there was a lot of hassle in the 60's because they refused one to a new RAF widow who's fella didn't survive a zero/zero use at boscombe down,but wanted the tie for her young son to have later in in life..

    (not many did survive zero/zero uses in those days,the tech wasn't realy up to it yet then.

    Zero/zero=zero speed,zero height,basically blasting out of a stationary aircraft.

    They also didn't offer one to aircraft ground crew member who got dragged 90 feet into the air when chair went of by mistake,even though he survived the drop though badly hurt from canopy/seat impact,then burnt,then dropped 90 feet !!

    I'm sure others out there have got some scarey tales from the early days of ejector seats,theirbstill not perfect,but beats staying with 20 tons of dead plane..

    The early ties are worth money and are collected by some,even though the sale is frowned upon by mb and raf...

    1. Lobrau

      Re: Survivors

      "They also didn't offer one to aircraft ground crew member who got dragged 90 feet into the air when chair went of by mistake"

      Oops, somebody forgot to put the pins in! My old man told me a story of when he was on Buccaneers and one of the armourers forgot to do the same. Thankfully nobody was hurt but there were several 'interviews sans café' with the SEngO and his staff

      1. not.known@this.address Bronze badge

        Re: Survivors

        I was an Apprentice with MessyBeast at the Top Gear test track (although we called it something else back then) in the late 80's, working on the Plastic Pigs (aka Harrier GR5s) and asked why part of the main hangar roof was a different colour to the rest; I was told that it was due to someone working on the roof putting his foot through one of the skylights but that didn't explain why the nearest skylight was about 5' away... and coincidentally about 5' away from where one of the aircraft spent most of its time loitering...

    2. EastFinchleyite

      Re: Survivors

      As well as the ties it would have been nice if MB had offered a service to shorten the jackets and trouser legs of their successful customers. It was often needed.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Survivors

        "shorten the jackets and trouser legs of their successful customers. It was often needed."

        And cleaning the trousers.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Survivors

          Joking apart, I can't help wishing I'd worked on systems that had saved 6000+ lives. Decent job satisfaction there. A beer for MB.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: Survivors

            "Joking apart, I can't help wishing I'd worked on systems that had saved 6000+ lives."

            Consider a career in civil engineering.

            "Decent job satisfaction there."

            Yes.

            1. lglethal Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Survivors

              Ahh yes Civil Engineers, as we say in the mechanical engineering field - the people who build targets...

              1. Lost it

                Re: Survivors

                Umm. Civil Engineers usually hide the targets.. Underground. Infrastructure.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Random PC reboots

    in a warehouse (90's at some point) usually while staff were typing invoices or some other urgent sounding document.

    After going in person having failed to change the behaviour with usual cable fiddling etc found that there was a very powerful machine for shrink wrapping pallets of lorry parts just behind the PC and the thin partition wall.

    Clearly causing EMP or mains spikes in a significant way - relocate PC - job done. No thanks though - I assume PC was now too far from the tea facilities...albeit only a few paces away.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Random PC reboots

      " I assume PC was now too far from the tea facilities..."

      Mainframe comms crashed randomly. Finally realised that it coincided with the kettle being switched on in the operators' rest room.

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Random PC reboots

        Two bits fairly recently. First, a computer shut off and could not be turned back on, nor its monitors. All are plugged into a UPS but it will not turn on. Okay, easy fix: replace the UPS.

        That might have fixed it, but I found the circuit breaker on the UPS was tripped. Pushed it back in, everything came back on no problem. User was gone for the day so I left her a note to let me know if it happened again, and to make note of any devices she might have plugged in.

        Next day, sure enough, it happened again. This time I made it round while she was there and found a portable space heater plugged into the UPS. She was instructed on the difference between equipment and appliances, that the heater is an appliance, and the two cannot coincide.

        Next problem was related to a UPS, as well. This time the report was the UPS would shriek and the computer would reboot. Asked about any power fluctuations in the office and confirmed with the server's UPS software that nothing seemed amiss. Again, the though was the UPS or its battery when she suddenly offered that she could make it happen. How? By printing. Every time she would try to print this would happen.

        Instructed user to move the laser printer power cord from the "battery" side of the UPS to the "surge only" side of the UPS and all was well in the universe, again.

        Fun times.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Random PC reboots

          found a portable space heater plugged into the UPS

          Ah yes, that old one. Had a customer at work phone up one day complaining that the UPS in their server room was beeping madly - so it was clearly faulty, why had we sold them such a pile of junk, and all the other sorts of "uncomplimentary" comments you might imagine. And this was escalated to their senior management.

          Funnily enough, very little was said when we arrived on site to find a fan heater plugged into a socket clearly labelled "UPS circuit - computer equipment only". Yup, someone was cold (the server room was a partitioned off bit of the attic that will one day be office space) and just plugged in the heater in the nearest socket.

    2. PickledAardvark

      Re: Random PC reboots

      A colleague complained that the IBM PS2 Model 55s in his department crashed a lot. Being IBM PS2s, they displayed a memory address error on screen which Windows 3.1 had been unable to fix. Whilst attending the PS2s, I heard a loud thumping noise which came from a rock crushing machine down the corridor.

      The rock crusher was disrupting mains power which affected all computers on the feed. All computers in the vicinity were less reliable than expected. White box PCs and Macs spontaneously rebooted; PS2s froze with an error message; Sun boxes reported errors in log files. Some system diversity is helpful.

      1. Anonymous IV
        FAIL

        Re: Random PC reboots

        Amazing! What are the chances of an organisation having a rock-crushing machine down the corridor?

        1. Quinch

          Re: Random PC reboots

          Depends if you have a BOFH on staff.

        2. MarthaFarqhar

          Re: Random PC reboots

          Possibly a million to one, but we all know that succeeds nine times out of ten.

      2. MarthaFarqhar

        Re: Random PC reboots

        Similar thing happens when you have a lab above an MRI scanner. That seems to cause a spontaneous reboot, lockups, missing keyboard errors. Move the computer to a room away from the scanner area, works fine for weeks.

        Down the other side of the corridor from the scanner. A rock crusher. The joys of working in a shared building

    3. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Random PC reboots

      Saw a couple of beauties during my Site Service Monkey days.

      The first was at a printers (from memory) located on an industrial park. PCs would spontaneously reboot at what the client reported as random intervals. It was more frequent on hot days than cool so it was assumed to be heat related - a reasonable assumption as the building was not air conditioned. Cue replacing heat sinks / fans / power supplies and motherboards to no avail. The cause turned out to be the compressor at the cold store located immediately behind causing a massive power spike whenever it cycled and enough EMF to make all the (CRT) monitor shimmy. I have no idea if the problem was ever really solved as I moved on soon after.

      The second was caused by an espresso machine on the same circuit as the "faulty" PC. I arrive on site, reception girl asks would I like a coffee. I reply in the affirmative and sit down to examine the patient, which appears to be working as expected. I hear whoosh, splirt, etc from the next room and the PC reboots as the coffee machine browns out that loop...

  8. John Riddoch

    Seen similar

    My son's tablet computer kept shutting down because the sensors thought the case being folded over at the back meant it was closed so put the tablet into standby. I "fixed" this by putting the tablet in the case 180 degrees round, so the sensors & batteries didn't match up and it worked fine. It blocked the camera hole, but that wasn't really used much so not a loss.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am sure there are many similar stories

    but had a number of hard-to-find issues with old dial up networks...

    Poor electric fences put up by farmers, you could hear the click-click-click of them working just by picking up handset - Modem baulked at this however finding the offending fence/farmer was far more tricky than the diagnosis.

    Another line failed when it was wet and windy, I was a bit greener round the ears when this kicked off, but soon worked out that there was a wire chafing over the roof in the wind and rain was shorting it out. This was however the utility networks, not ours and they were not happy about re-routing it.

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: I am sure there are many similar stories

      I reckon the latter is still one of the commonest causes of bad data rates.

      Several times I've been to see customers complaining about dodgy ADSLs. Query router diagnostics - low sync rate, high attenuation, low S/N. Ask if it gets worse when its windy or raining. Get positive response. Wander outside and follow line to pole finding loose or broken cables clearly visible from the ground. Call phone company to report line fault. Leave. Bill.

      The best one was a tree branch that had grown into the line pushing it two feet from where it should have hung. [SING]When the wind blows the cable will rock and down will come sync rate etc[/SING]

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I am sure there are many similar stories

        "The best one was a tree branch that had grown into the line pushing it two feet from where it should have hung."

        What amazes me after spending a long time working for a telco who were pretty proactive about informing customers not to let trees near the lines is how BT simply lets this happen - and even when it's reported usually say "not a problem unless it breaks the cable"

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I am sure there are many similar stories

      "you could hear the click-click-click of them working just by picking up handset - Modem baulked at this however finding the offending fence/farmer was far more tricky than the diagnosis."

      This was a double-barrelled problem - the electric fence in question would run alongside the phone line AND have live grass growing against it (which is what gave the discharge noise), but the _actual_ fault was in the phone line - something causing it to be unbalanced and sensitive to longitudinal noise (usually a bad joint or partial earth).

      Many electric fence noise problems were temporarily cured with a sprayer full of roundup along the fenceline.

  10. HkraM

    About 20 years ago I noticed a user from a different part of the company booting up his PC in the morning - he had to enter the date and time in when prompted. When I asked why, he said he'd been doing that for over a year, because his PC always forgot the date and time when powered off and IT couldn't find the fault - so IT had added date/time prompts into autoexec.bat.

    As someone who was never afraid to do IT's job for them, especially if it had the potential to demonstrate how totally useless they were, I opened the case of this PC thinking that maybe the battery needed replacing, looked inside for less than 10 seconds, then removed the CMOS reset jumper that was still fitted. Problem fixed.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      As someone who was never afraid to do IT's job for them, especially if it had the potential to demonstrate how totally useless they were

      Was that an ITIL servicedesk where the people had 5 minutes to resolve any problem that came in, with bonuses for fixing things remotely, by any chance? I blame manglement.

  11. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    Len reckons the moral of this story is to listen, really listen, to customers

    Yes and no. You can listen , for diagnostic purposes ,but bear in mind you are talking 2 different languages that use similar sounding words to mean different things. The users language being a bit more fluid where every word can have several different meanings depending on context.

    It is in fact best to use other diagnostic methods first to try to establish some context before you listen to the users crazy and often irrelevent tales of what they think might have happened .

    You must also try to keep the conversation on track to avoid a potted history of everything thats ever gone wrong with the machine . You do this by asking leading diagnostic questions , ideally with yes/ no answers. You must pose these enquiries in "user" .

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      ^ someone with experience.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] users crazy and often irrelevent tales [...]"

      Several times in my career it was a casual comment by a member of the customer's staff that indicated an unusual source of a problem. I made sure not to get too focussed on just the people directly concerned.

      In one case a site a woman operator said "the machine is often down when I get back". From where? The ladies toilet had an electric pump which occasionally caused a spike. The same with operators' rest room electric kettles.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "You must also try to keep the conversation on track to avoid a potted history of everything thats ever gone wrong with the machine"

      Unless the reason for the problem lies in that history.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Generally I let them talk, and listen with one ear, while I do my usual diagnosis (possibly with extra bone shaking and chicken sacrifices if I feel the user needs a bit of a show).

      The user is happy because they feel they're being listened to, and potentially I might pick up a bit of history that helps me solve the problem.

    5. Vic

      You can listen , for diagnostic purposes ,but bear in mind you are talking 2 different languages that use similar sounding words to mean different things

      The one that gets me is when users always try to tell you the results of their own diagnoses, rather than the symptoms (which is what I need to know).

      Vic.

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Mushroom

        The one that gets me is when users always try to tell you the results of their own diagnoses, rather than the symptoms (which is what I need to know).

        THIS THIS THIS THIS a million friggen times THIS.

    6. Barry Rueger

      A radio engineer used to say, "Don't try to tell me what's wrong; tell me the symptoms."

      Best advice ever.

    7. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Anamnesis and diagnosis. Some people are better at it then others. No matter which field, if you have the privilege to watch someone who's really good at it you get to relive moments of pure wonder from your chilhood. And learn a bit.

  12. David Austin

    Had this once

    Nice old lady with a magnetic bracelet - Keyboard typing movement would randomly lock/crash the laptop.

    We did rebuilds, replaced whole PC bit by bit. All the standard stuff. It was only when we relocated her to a new laptop, and the problem followed her we began to twig something odd was going on.

  13. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Everyone missed the classic one

    The secretary, the nylon tights, synthetic underware and the pencil skirt made out of some similarly synthetic material. Bonus points for an 1980-es office chair with synthetic fake-suede cover.

    Bzzzzzzzzzt... here went another motherboard.

    It is not so common nowdays as a secretary in a short skirt and nylon tights is extinct species. In the olden days not everyone managed to collect the bravery to suggest she alters her wardrobe a bit (either directly or talking to her boss) so it went from Bzzzzzt to Bzzzzt.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Everyone missed the classic one

      I have a pair of trainers which sometimes seem to pick up static. Sometimes I turn off my stereo using the swish Naim volume dial and my finger grounds me. I'm sue this is not good for it!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Everyone missed the classic one

        "Sometimes I turn off my stereo using the swish Naim volume dial and my finger grounds me"

        One very cold, dry, winter's day I walked across the nylon carpet in my rubber-soled shoes to the video recorder. Pointed my finger at a button and there was sharp crack of static and the device died.

        Insurance company wanted it repaired. After many weeks it was returned. Switched it on - and smoke appeared. On inspection it was obvious that the repair shop had just stuffed circuit board connections into any socket that approximately fitted.

        The insurance assessor noticed that the "portable" video recorder was accompanied by an optional video camera - and tried to invoke the exclusion clause for "climate" problems with film cameras. In the end they paid compensation for the recorder - but would not pay to replace the camera even though its connector was incompatible with any currently available recorder.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Everyone missed the classic one

          Vieo camera sockets.

          There are not many I know of.

          AFAIK just two in the domestic market, 10 pin & 14 pin.

          Many high end 10 pin cameras got fitted with 14 pin leads or adaptors as the best recorder was 14 pin.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Everyone missed the classic one

      "in a short skirt and nylon tights" ... "suggest she alters her wardrobe a bit"

      why would you do that??

      just make sure she's earthed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Everyone missed the classic one

        just make sure she's earthed.

        Fnarr... Fnar...

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Everyone missed the classic one

      "synthetic underware"

      Sir, the thoroughness of your investigation does you credit.

    4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Everyone missed the classic one

      It is not so common nowdays as a secretary in a short skirt and nylon tights is extinct species.

      From where I stand (Boston, MA) there seems to be a bit of a retro-resurgence. Not as common as in the 60s/70s, but "things are developing in the right direction". Yet another reason to walk to work.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Everyone missed the classic one

      "secretary in a short skirt and nylon tights " " suggest she alters her wardrobe a bit "

      Would have been a fun conversation,

      "Miss, I am afraid your knickers and nylons that are causing the computers to die, so please remove them while in the office"

    6. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Everyone missed the classic one

      I really do wonder if the change in women's (and men's lets be fair) fashions hasn't decreased the number of industrial accidents.

      I heard a similar but much more scary story over coffee (bad) in the canteen of a large petroleum company. The teller had been working maintenance on fuel bowsers at a site in North Queensland. While working on a pump he'd watched a woman pull up in company 4x4. The vehicle is big and she isn't so she has to slide across the seat and jump down. As she brings the nozzle into close proximity with the vehicle she earths through the body (he swore he actually saw the spark) and suddenly she's holding a low pressure flame thrower. He hit the Big Red Button and someone pulled her clear but the Landcruiser was a write off.

      What scared him most was this happened at a petroleum handling facility where everyone was trained and certified so there were half a dozen men with (the right) fire extinguishers and a clue about how to use them on hand in seconds. Think about what happens at a suburban servo...

    7. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Everyone missed the classic one

      I was wandering around a telephone exchange and waved my finger near a unit and a 1/2" spark took out 400 lines to London. Seems leather soled brogues can generate quite a bit of static on anti-static carpet.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The company issues ties to those who have used its products."

    There were several "Caterpillar" clubs that usually issued a small lapel pin since the Irvin company one in 1922.

    The ICL Letchworth Development Centre had a very high internal ceiling. It had been an old Irvin parachute factory. The height had been needed to accommodate a hanging parachute.

    In the 1970s the ceiling was insulated with polystyrene tiles. They did not adhere very well - so it was not unusual to see one spinning as it slowly floated down.

  15. Korev Silver badge

    F35

    Hopefully MB will have modified their F35 seats soon so smaller pilots aren't damaged by the heavy helmets so their pilots can wear their tie whilst still alive.

  16. wolfetone Silver badge
    Pint

    You get a tie every time you use their ejector seat in anger?

    Mind blown. That's incredible. Have a pint for that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      From circa 1922 there were "Caterpillar" clubs for people who used a parachute in an emergency. Usually denoted by a little lapel pin.

    2. tedleaf

      Yep,don't know if it still holds true,but if you were RAF and had to.use one for real,you got the tie or tie pin,sure it was a tie..

      No t sure about others but I know ANY pilot from anywhere that used one at boscombe down got them..

      I'm sure for a while it was anybody anywhere got them,but I'm sure I heard it had changed again a few years ago,.mb probably charge for them now !!

      My parents used to have seat users parties in Salisbury in the 60-70's,you be horrified at what pots flying next day would get up to,it might explain some of the silly access dent/incidents.

      Like fella who landed an old English electric lightning far too hard,flipped over and slid along runway,,ground crew had almost axed through canopy etc when the pilot decided to try the ejector seat,upside down,about 2 ft off the runway surface !! Can't remember if he survived,I doubt it though..

      1. HPCJohn

        Regarding Martin Baker, I had occasion to visit their site to install an HPC cluster many years ago, which they were using for simulaitons of the seats. Super guys, and it is a real credit to the UK that a factory like that is in a leafy suburb at the end of the Metropolitan line!

        Sittin gin reception, you see a wall covered in framed letters, from individuals like Lt. Bubba T Gump of the US Marine Corps saysing a heartfelt thankyou to the company for the successful operation of their product!

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Martin Baker have a nice section on their website detailing some of these successful uses of their products, scroll down past the first bit for the stories of people who have submitted some of those heartfelt "thank you" letters.

          http://martin-baker.com/ejection-tie-club/

    3. Tikimon Silver badge

      A tie is a pretty thin reward for the violent and often damaging experience of ejecting from an airplane. It's probably one of those things you're glad (I'm alive!) and yet reluctant (oh CRAP that hurts) to obtain.

      We need a new word meaning "Something unpleasant and eagerly avoided, but gratefully embraced when necessary." Let's ask the Germans, they're good at that.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: We need a new word meaning "Something unpleasant and eagerly avoided, but gratefully embraced when necessary."

        There's probably something appropiate in "The Meaning of Liff".

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      "You get a tie every time you use their ejector seat in anger?"

      So, what do you get if you use one for fun?

      1. ShadowDragon8685

        Presumably, a Big Chicken Dinner.

  17. TWB

    Observe the user

    'Len reckons the moral of this story is to listen, really listen, to customers' - I think it s more that Len observed his user.

    I like this story as I have worked in broadcast engineering support where the engineers seem to prefer to talk to the users over phone or talkback(intercom) rather than visit them (in the same building) and actually see what is happening.

    I always advocated visiting users for several reasons:

    1. You really see what is happening - users are human and can use the wrong terminology for something causing much confusion - you may see they are 'doing it completely wrong' or learn new things eg. shortcuts.

    2. Exasperated uses, more often than not, like someone to turn up - it makes them feel that people care about their problem - even if you don't fix it.

    3. It gets you off your fat arse - lots of little bits of exercise, getting up and down etc etc - much better than sitting for hours in one sweaty chair.

    4. You might get to meet some nice people - and even become friends etc.

    5. An exasperated user is usually much gentler face to face than over the phone/talkback and will see you as an individual rather then just a voice in support.

    Only my experience.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Observe the user

      4. You might get to meet some nice people - and even become friends etc.

      There's a couple at my work who met like that and are now married with kids.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Observe the user

        There's a couple at my work who met like that and are now married with kids.

        Newish member of staff, thinking he'd discovered a scandal:"Have you noticed how those two always leave together"

        "Yes, they're husband and wife."

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Observe the user

        "4. You might get to meet some nice people - and even become friends etc."

        ... and I seem to recall Roy in the IT crowd trying that tactic

      3. TWB

        Re: Observe the user

        'There's a couple at my work who met like that and are now married with kids.'

        How careless!...

        I did not want to suggest as much but happy to hear this.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Observe the user

          All good points TWB, but with remote control software you can get through more work remotely - and still see whats happening, but its nice to able to walk round when required if you're not covering people 100s of miles away.

  18. IsJustabloke
    Stop

    ....in Cumbria

    I disagree!

    The in Cumbria qualification is needed. I moderated how much sympathy I have for Len as a result; there are definitely much worse "middle of nowhere's" than Cumbria!

  19. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "At least until he got back to the office, where Dell asked why he hadn't replaced the motherboard.

    Len reckons the moral of this story is to listen, really listen, to customers."

    And for companies to really listen to their service engineers.

  20. The answer is 42

    I confess...

    I worked at a big Marconi site and every Monday morning, the main breaker had tripped out. It was traced back to my desk and an explanation was required. Me? Innocent! It turned out my kettle had a very slow leak to earth, when the kettle was unused over the weekend. It was enough current to trip out the main breaker. I had to buy another kettle myself.

    1. tedleaf

      Re: I confess...

      Watford ?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I confess...

        "Watford ?"

        I thought for a moment you were commenting on "middle of nowhere".

      2. The answer is 42

        Re: I confess...

        Leicester, the New Parks site.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I confess...

      "It turned out my kettle had a very slow leak to earth"

      And this didn't get picked up in the mandatory annual meggering?

  21. FuzzyWuzzys
    Facepalm

    "The machine's motherboard had been changed more than once. Ditto the CPU."

    I have had this broom years and it's only had 6 new handles and 5 new heads. - Trigger, Only Fools and Horses.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I have had this broom years and it's only had 6 new handles and 5 new heads. - Trigger, Only Fools and Horses."

      Dixon of Dock green had a pipe that his late wife had given him. It only had a few new stems and bowls in that time.

      I wonder how many times our bodies totally regenerate during our life-time?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        "I wonder how many times our bodies totally regenerate during our life-time?"

        Depends on how you look at it. There is no such thing as a total body regeneration, but a lot of stuff gets constantly replaced. A lot of your parts are younger than yourself. Your skin has a regeneration cycle of about two weeks, while your small intestine's is about 16 years. Liver, two years. Skeleton, 10 years. And so on. And some stuff doesn't get replaced at all or at at rate that is so slow that it usually amounts to the same, like most of the brain and nervous system.

        And it's all done automatically, from a dataset that was created at your conception, using building blocks that were once made in distant stars.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I have had this broom years and it's only had 6 new handles and 5 new heads. - Trigger, Only Fools and Horses."

      I once got sent to a job, not without a little trepidation, because at least three other techs had been to this particular PC multiple times and from the records, every last part of the innards had each been replaced at least once. That left two options, so boss sent me out with a mains tester that would record spikes and drops etc. Rather than plug the device in and spend possibly quite some time doing nothing in the hope that "the event" would happen, ie the PC would reboot, I decided to gently tap the PC on each of its sides. It's a mini tower and the slightest knock on the side nearest the motherboard cause the now infamous "event". So I took the motherboard out, complete with it's mounting tray (remember them?), and looked down the gap and sure enough, the tray is bent and almost, but not quite, touching the solder points of the board. No doubt a temperature change would cause the metal to "pop" or maybe a kick from the user moving her feet around was causing the random reboots.

      Remove board from tray, bend tray the other way, reassemble and all is well with the world, the universe is in balance and I never had to go back to that site again. Shame really, the user was very nice and I'd have liked to get to know her a bit better (I was still single back then!). I sometimes wonder if the other techs thought the same and that's why they never found the fault.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh the tales of a service engineer...

    Press the _ing button

    I had a good "The icons keep disappearing..." back in the ol' Win95 days... Nice old couple, the guy logs in as shows me the icons, but when the wife logs in they disappear ! Ask the Missus to come up and ask the old guy to keep quiet. She presses the escape key (which for the young'uns would still let you access the computer) ... no fault found please sign here....

    Ghostbusters

    I had a PSU failure, so I rock up looking like I'm holding a trap from Ghostbusters (the real one!!) asking to look at the computer.The guy is not happy with his Brand new Compaq [CENSORED} computer. I open the flap (excuse me missus) and press the power button. It turns on..off, on.. off "intermittent fault??" I ask.

    "I've never seen that button before" he says very embarrassed

    no fault found please sign here....

    Die Printer

    At a different job we were centralising the printers but one guy refused to give up his old laserjet.

    One evening with Ninja like stealth we put a strip of black insulation tape over the laser unit. I managed to perfectly take out one column of his spreadsheet.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Oh the tales of a service engineer...

      " I managed to perfectly take out one column of his spreadsheet."

      Love it! have a pint!

      (its certainly that time of day/week)

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Oh the tales of a service engineer...

      "One evening with Ninja like stealth we put a strip of black insulation tape over the laser unit. I managed to perfectly take out one column of his spreadsheet."

      That's doing it the hard way (ooo! nurse!). Open drum cover, rub finger on side of nose (supplied) and then on drum surface.

  23. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Favorite so far

    Sociopathic, vindictive turd of a manager went on a rampage to try to fire anyone who left their single sign-on token unattended. 'Unattended' here is literally defined as more than a half meter from your fingertips...for this particular fire drill you are in deep kimchi if you turn away from the card reader without pulling it

    Same gal kept leaving hers in her machine and going to 'lunch' with a senior manager.

    Knowing that the two of them would be going at it hammer and tongs for at least the two minutes a VP can achieve and sustain... we disassembled the smart card reader and co formal coated the contacts with clear nail polish. Only thing available on short notice. Kept her from doing anything 'productive' for DAYS

    IT guy broke into a big smile when he figured out the mod and we had a helluva laugh over it... his comment? "Always wear protection!"

  24. albegadeep

    "ejection tie from Martin-Baker"

    I'm imagining this as a fantastic bit of marketing - tie should say "Martin-Baker worked for me".

    1. IainWR

      Re: "ejection tie from Martin-Baker"

      To any one who needs to know - it does. If you don't need to know, you won't be making purchasing decisions on M-B products anytome soon.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Static phone

    I had an interesting problem with Centrix phones from C&W.

    The whole thing was a bit of a disaster with loads of problems, many of which were caused by the "Systems Architect" who couldn't understand why we wanted to customize the phone soft keys layout, and ended up getting thrown off site...

    Anyway...

    We had one extension that would constantly drop calls. Changed cables, changed sockets, changed phones numerous times still the same problem.

    I ended up moving to a different office, but kept up with the details.. turns out it was a chair! the chair was causing a static charge and when sitting down or standing up the charge went through the phone cutting off the call.

    They proved the device's sensitivity to static my testing it in a false teeth factory (apparently all the plastic made for a large static environment)

  26. Peter Christy

    Between leaving school and getting a proper job, I worked for a while as a salesman and van-driver for a local TV and radio retailer. Colour TV had just come out, and a wealthy customer bought a very expensive, top of the range set. For the first week, he was delighted. Then the set went really weird, and a service engineer had to be called. He carefully de-gaussed the tube (remember when we had to do that?) and spent a few happy hours re-doing all the purity and convergence from scratch!

    A week later the same thing happened. And the following week! Eventually the service man went to the house early on the morning the fault was due to manifest itself. The set was fine. He watched it for a couple of hours, and was just about to leave when the housekeeper came in with an ancient Hoover. She pushed it under the TV, and the picture went all psychedelic again! The motor had such a powerful magnetic field, that it completely screwed up the tube, beyond the repair of the internal de-gaussing coils!

    Another couple of hours re-aligning the set, followed by some friendly advice to the housekeeper, and the problem was solved.....!

    --

    Pete

  27. Orv Silver badge

    Anyone remember the Apple Imagewriter dot matrix printers? They often stopped working after someone dropped the plastic cover. Turns out there was an interlock to keep you from getting your fingers jammed in the printhead mechanism -- it consisted of a magnet on the cover and a reed switch on the printer. Drop the cover, magnet pops off and skitters off under the teacher's desk, now the printer thinks the cover is off even when it's on.

    I also ran into the laptop sleep problem once, but it was because I'd stacked two laptops, and the magnet from one was triggering the other.

  28. bobajob12
    Thumb Up

    You want placebos? Talk to a hi-fi nut

    If you can get past the maze of oxygen free, 24karat gold speaker wire and ludicrously expensive pre-warmed glass valve amplifiers, that is. And all to listen to old prog rock LPs that were recorded in a field by four guys who could barely hear over the narcotics buzz.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: You want placebos? Talk to a hi-fi nut

      Duh, everybody knows that a CD player sounds better when you put a brick on top of it. Mind you, the brick has to be burnt at the proper temperature at new moon, and from the right sort of clay out of a quarry touching a layline, and has to be angled just so.

  29. Lord_Beavis
    Linux

    Back in the day

    I used to do desktop support and had to go visit one of our extremely less than technical users. We supported damn near everything that had a wire in it too.

    On this particular day she was complaining about a hum in her telephone headset. This was was a hard wired Plantronics to an Avaya IP phone. The hum was only in the headset. Not the handset or speaker phone. She would say the hum was there, take the headset off and hand it to me and I couldn't hear anything.

    Finally, I noticed that she had one of those warming pads that you put in the chair. I had her stand up and she immediately said the hum was gone. I unplugged the pad (it was strapped to the chair and I didn't want to fuck with it) and she confirmed the hum was gone.

    She got a wireless headset that after that.

  30. Andy Taylor

    Not long ago I had a user who complained her laptop's trackpad would behave erratically, but not all the time. If she had explained not all the time meant "only in my office" we wouldn't have replaced her laptop before discovering that the issue was caused by her desk phone. I even took the laptop back to my office to test and discovered nothing.

    Phone plugs into Ethernet wall socket, laptop was plugged into pass-through port on phone. When plugged in to the Ethernet, the trackpad behaved strangely. I eventually worked out that it was the (ancient) phone causing interference. Swapped the phone and the problem disappeared.

  31. kain preacher Silver badge

    Weirdest problem I've ever heard was with a printer switch. A college of men was dispatch. to fix a printer that would not turn on. This was an old ball printer made by some french company. He called me for help as a fresh set of eyes. The logic board was replaced, power supply and switch replace. I finally deiced to take the entire printer apart to trace wires. What did I find? The switch was wired to a relay that was powered by a 9volt battery. The battery had died. That's some deep BOFH at work there. Kind of like the arcade machines that held the game code in ram and when the on board battery died the machine was bricked.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You want a fun one here is one. A co worker of mine was working on a Dell computer. Opening up and exploded captors and burn mark on the mother board. He wrote it up like this ,upon visual inspection the caps were bad know problem replacement board needed as making does not power on. Dell wrote back what test did you run to determine that the board was not functioning as designed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A young acquaintance had a second-hand HP PC that failed - so it was sent to me by courier. The capacitors were bulging. Took a while to source a second-hand motherboard - sent him the working machine. A year later it came back again with the same problem. This time I sent him a rebuild with more modern hardware - and questioned him about what could cause a possible overheating problem

      It transpired that they lived in an area where people kept valuables out of sight. He had put the PC in a cupboard - with the door open only just enough for the leads when it was being used.

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        I had a client fry three HDD that way. Then I had another client that killed her computer by being a chain smoker and putting it in a cabinet. She was pissed when I told her warranty was void. Then I had a client that thought I was an idiot. I went out five times to replace a faulty HDD. Thing is they kept on giving me refurbished HDD. Oh the equally fun part about replacing a customers HDD is when they ask about their data. All those missing photos and emails.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Used to support expensive video compression boards, which came with test software. Did things like memory test, I/O address check etc etc.

      Used to run the diagnostic software and email the makers with the results for RMAing faulty boards. Apparently they don't except that as a valid fault description.

  33. Z80

    For some problems you have to be there

    I once got asked to go and take a look at why a certain PC was absolutely hammering one of the MySQL servers. I wandered over to the building where it was located, pondering the possibility of some kind of malware situation on the way, and find there's nobody around when I get there. What I do find is an unlocked PC with a browser open on a web application used for booking time on shared lab equipment that I'd configured coincidentally so I knew it used a MySQL database. I also noticed a pile of journals and folders behind the keyboard have slumped onto some of the keys, including F5...

    I shoved the papers clear of the keyboard and reported back to the 3rd line guys. "Cause was...environmental" I said and left them wondering for a bit...

  34. Lilolefrostback

    New chip

    I did diagnostic software for a militarized microcomputer. It was a back-plane design. One day, I got a work order: computers with the latest rev of the timing card keep crashing. So, set up a duplicate system and, yes, it failed diagnostics. Put a card extender into the back-plane so we can put probes on the new timing card. Everything worked fine. Rats.

    It took two of us a week with a logic analyser. The original microcode violated some of the rules, and did a read/modify/write in a single cycle. Not supposed to do that but it worked and it saved a single microcode instruction. Turns out, it worked because one of the chips on the timing card was slow enough internally that certain outputs stayed high long enough for the operation to complete. But the latest rev used a new revision of the chip. While it met the same specs, internally it was faster, so some of the outputs dropped faster than they used to, and the microcode cratered.

    Mucho satisfaction finding and fixing that bug.

  35. Cpt Blue Bear

    The Middle of Nowhere is not in Cumbria

    Its in Australia. I've been there. See that bit on the map? Bit to the west... yeah 'bout there. They say that if you climb a tree you see the edge of the world. I couldn't find a tree.

    Cumbria, on the other hand, is walking distance to Civilisation(tm) and, as I remember anyway, the countryside is sort of soft and cuddly.

    1. Wayneh_nz

      Re: The Middle of Nowhere is not in Cumbria

      And nothing there wants to kill you. Any country where the spiders can carry a mouse up a refrigerator is one you want to think twice about.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: The Middle of Nowhere is not in Cumbria

        I'd recommend going up there in the depth of winter, or when there's one of those Desmond thingies about.

        Use to live an hour from the Lakes and when its feeling moody its fucking dangerous! Use to get pissed in Glenridding then up Catstycam and up to Helvelyn. I wouldnt dare do that sober on a calm day now!

  36. Bitbeisser

    About 17 years ago, I worked at a small computer shop. We got a customer from the neighborhood that repeatedly brought in a computer, claiming it would randomly just reboot.

    3 or 4 times I was sitting for hours at the PC on our work bench, without even the slightest such issue. Then the customer himself sat on a Saturday afternoon for a few hours in our store at the workbench, likewise without a single reboot or shutdown, which he had claimed he wouldn't believe me that it never happened during my testing. So we scheduled me to visit him on Monday late afternoon, just a couple of blocks away.

    Sitting in his home office, it did indeed happen, about once every 30 minutes. Asking him if he had ever noticed that the light where briefly flickering when the PC rebooted, he mentioned that this would be a very recent add-on to the house, with a basement underneath (unusual for SoCal) and all new electrical wiring, with a brand new electrical panel. At that moment, his wife walked in the room and the small stairs down into the basement. When she opened the door, I could hear a large freezer kicking in and immediately the lights were flickering and the PC rebooted. Turned out that while they planned nicely for a separate circuit for the freezer and for the rest of the extension, because they changed their mind about how to position the freezer in the basement for easy access, the folks who actually delivered the box had plugged it into an outlet on the wrong circuit, as the power cord of the freezer didn't reach to the intended dedicated outlet...

  37. CBDarke

    The vacuum cleaner done it.

    Early 1970s, testing a new mainframe for ICL. Intermittent power-offs - nothing new there except they always seemed to occur at around 6 o'clock at night (this was before we had 18:00). I noticed that it was when the cleaner person moved the sucky machine next to the CPU cabinet. Tests ensued, and sure enough, that was the cause.

    For several years thereafter we had to perform a standard vacuum cleaner test on every new machine.

  38. Daedalus Silver badge

    A strange ironic copper bracelet....

    It says here that copper, while an excellent conductor of electricity, is not in the least bit magnetic.

    One suspects that any relief the ex-pilot got was beyond placebo, because there was very little copper in his bracelet to give him the effect. Or was it the iron? If he had been told that iron was even better, would he have obtained even more relief?

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