back to article User asked help desk to debug a Post-it Note that survived a reboot

Welcome again to On-Call, in which The Register christens each new Friday with a reader-contributed tale of being asked to fix the unthinkable. This week, meet “William” who told us about “a call I had whilst working on the IT Service Desk at my local Hospital.” “A lady called me up to say she had been to lunch and when she …

  1. jake Silver badge

    PBKAC

    It's not Support's issue if the user can't communicate properly.

    Most people would say "I just got back from lunch and found a PostIt on my monitor with an Error message on it." followed by either "Do you know anything about it? Can I use my computer?" or "HELP!!!!!", depending on the user's technical fortitude.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: PBKAC

      Most people, maybe... Printer indicates "no paper". User who sits next to that printer phones me to let me know that she can't print. That moment, more than 20 years ago, I gave up hope on users. And soon became one myself. With the occasional twist of knowing more than the IT support guy - that was before Windows 10/Office 2016 though. Now we're all back to stupid. And probably not long before I myself will try to click away a post-it note stuck to the screen. When that happens, someone please shoot me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PBKAC

        @Evil Auditor

        "Most people, maybe... Printer indicates "no paper". User who sits next to that printer phones me to let me know that she can't print."

        Had one of these - can't print, flashing light on printer. User called Servicedesk, who logged the call with sod all details, raised ticket - than rang me to escalate it.

        Forunately I JetAdmin - can see straight away that it had no paper, even the LCD screen on the front of the printer said Load paper.

        No one could be bothered to check. Once I call it the helpdesk, only for the lazy git to inform me that a helpdesk only logs calls. A service desk resolves them - yeah right

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: PBKAC

          "Once I call it the helpdesk, only for the lazy git to inform me that a helpdesk only logs calls. A service desk resolves them - yeah right"

          Easy one to deal with - for you. Raise a ticket about sod all details on helpdesk ticket.

        2. TomPhan

          Re: PBKAC

          Had something similar - could see remotely that the printer needed paper, so called the user and told them that. He told me he was far too busy to put paper into a printer and an engineer should be sent to fill it, and it needed to be done straight away because without these reports he couldn't do anything...

        3. Loud Speaker

          Re: PBKAC

          What kind of paper is "Load paper"? and where can I buy some?

          We only have Isal Medicated TTY paper - every sheet says "Now please wash your brain"!

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: PBKAC

            What kind of paper is "Load paper"? and where can I buy some?

            That'd be the tissue paper that comes in approx 3" wide strips, on rolls, often found installed on special dispensers in lavatories (not to be confused with laboratories, unless you want to upset a few people!).

            You can buy "Load Paper" at our local supermarket. I suggest a soft 3-ply version myself.

        4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: PBKAC

          "Once I call it the helpdesk, only for the lazy git to inform me that a helpdesk only logs calls. A service desk resolves them - yeah right"

          You should've pointed out that loading paper is not a service call, but explaining to the user how to load paper is giving help.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: PBKAC

            "Once I call it the helpdesk, only for the lazy git to inform me that a helpdesk only logs calls. A service desk resolves them - yeah right"

            You should've pointed out that loading paper is not a service call, but explaining to the user how to load paper is giving help.

            I do try to explain and have shown users how to clear paper jams etc.

            In this particular case, speaking to the user resolved it as they knew how to load the paper, but couldn't be arsed to check in the first place.

      2. el_oscuro

        Re: PBKAC

        Back in 2008, working a new project, I encountered Office 2007 for the first time. I wanted to print the database upgrade plan and I couldn't figure out to do it with the stupid ribbon thing. So I asked the system admin how to print. He admitted he didn't know either, but the old DOS shortcut (control/P) still worked. So I used it, and continue to use it today. Those old DOS shortcuts still work in almost every program, regardless of OS or platform, so I can safely ignore shitty new UI's even today!

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: PBKAC

      Unfortunately it's a support issue if a user calls for support. Because it's only after the intervention that you know it wasn't really a support issue. And you don't want to deter real support calls by being too difficult. It's all part of life.

      As for the turning the monitor on and off, we all know that litany of "The email isn't working " (BSOD)/"The computer won't go on" (Screen is on, but not the box or vice versa).. And my favourite, though I've only had this a couple of times, "I can't find my work" ( They'd saved to a memory stick, a different memory stick!)

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: PBKAC

        I forgot to add the most recent one. A user at the library where I volunteer called me over to the computer she was using to complain that her email wasn't there. Some polite questioning and I found she didn't know she needed to log in to her email (web) account. I didn't venture to explore further- like how she normally got her email; the "don't go there" alarm was ringing too loudly.

        1. CustardGannet
          Facepalm

          Re: PBKAC

          True confession time :

          A few years ago I was issued with a works laptop, to be able to do on-call at home. After a while this became my primary home computer .

          As time went on, I found that the volume on any videos or music was getting lower and lower, to the point of inaudibility. Checked the Windows control-panel: volume set to max. Checked the volume on Youtube, or the media-player (as appropriate) : also set to max. Searched online for other possibilities. No obvious other problem. Eventually concluded that the in-built speakers must be on their way out.

          Mentioned the problem to one of my friends (occupation : phone monkey for a large bank). He took 10 seconds to locate and turn up the physical volume dial, on the right-hand side of the laptop, next to where my mouse hand normally did its mouse-wiggling-stuff.

          I’d been gradually knocking the volume down over several months – but as I had always had a desktop til then, I never realised some laptops had an actual volume dial.

          1. W4YBO

            Re: PBKAC

            "I never realised some laptops had an actual volume dial."

            Watch out for those WiFi slide switches, too.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: PBKAC

              ""I never realised some laptops had an actual volume dial."

              Watch out for those WiFi slide switches, too."

              Yes, multiple times I did investigate hours, forgetting those fucking laptops have a wifi on/off button !

            2. Robert Moore
              Coat

              Re: PBKAC

              "I never realised some laptops had an actual volume dial."

              Watch out for those WiFi slide switches, too.

              When I bought my first laptop, I spent about 10 minutes looking for the WiFi switch. I couldn't find it, and I am deeply ashamed to have to admit I looked in the manual. (Don't judge me!)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Don't judge me!

                Oh Jeez, Robert. Sorry, but we're going to have to do just that. Checking the manual? Are you trying to put the Help Desk folks all out of work?

              2. Ilsa Loving

                Re: PBKAC

                Way back when a manager was complaining he couldn't log into his laptop. It just wouldn't accept his password. After spending more time than I care to admit checking the caps lock, watching him type, etc, I discovered that he had somehow managed to hit the num lock function, which turned half his qwerty keyboard into a ersatz number pad. After figuring out how to disable it again (as I had never in my life used it once), he was able to log in again.

          2. Kiwi Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: PBKAC

            I’d been gradually knocking the volume down over several months – but as I had always had a desktop til then, I never realised some laptops had an actual volume dial.

            Good ol' Toshiba laptops (haven't seen such a dial on others). Has given me many very happy customers where I've been able to show them that and send them away with an instantly "fixed" machine at no charge (I'll get them next time ;) )

            Few laptops have a physical control, and until you know it's there it's easily missed.

          3. Updraft102 Silver badge

            Re: PBKAC

            "I never realised some laptops had an actual volume dial."

            Was it a Fujitsu?

      2. ricardian

        Re: PBKAC

        My first Open University course "PM951 Computers & Computing" in 1977. I was living in a remote village in Sutherland and submitted all my handwritten programs (OU Basic!) to the OU via snail mail (the alternative was to book a session on an unreliable 75 baud link at Thurso tech college, a 2 hour drive away). After a few successful sessions (whereby the OU would type in my program and run it on their mainframe then send me the results, regardless of whether or not the program ran successfully or not) I received an irate, hand-written note saying that they could not find my data. As the data had been created and used on several previous occasions this was rather worrying. After I contacted my tutor it was discovered that the OU had two mainframe centres but the data was not shared.

        I did manage a respectable Grade 2 for that first OU course

        1. Daedalus Silver badge

          Re: PBKAC

          My first Open University course "PM951 Computers & Computing" in 1977. I was living in a remote village in Sutherland and submitted all my handwritten programs (OU Basic!) to the OU via snail mail (the alternative was to book a session on an unreliable 75 baud link at Thurso tech college, a 2 hour drive away).

          You think you had problems. I started a fellowship in '77 at the OU, on site in Milton Keynes, and the "computer centre", such as it was, was located in makeshift huts (the infamous "temporary until we get things built") stuck at the back of the campus. Can't let the visiting VIPs see that the work gets done in shacks... If we wanted to do real computing we had to log in to Cambridge or Oxford, I forget which.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: PBKAC

        "Screen is on, but not the box or vice versa"

        Once upon a time the monitor was usually powered from a take-off point on the back of the box. Couple that with an out-of-the-way placement of the monitor switch and a real mains switch conspicuously placed on the front of the box and either both were on or both were off.

        Then we got ATX so that the box could be sort-of-but-not-really shut down from S/W. Another improvement that wasn't.

        1. leexgx

          Re: PBKAC

          passthrough PSUs are very much discouraged as 1 fuse 2 appliances (in the UK any way) more a safety thing

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: PBKAC

            passthrough PSUs are very much discouraged as 1 fuse 2 appliances (in the UK any way) more a safety thing

            Just out of interest, how so? In all the cases I saw the PSU was rated at 10a max supply (not sure what size fuse inside). Same for the cutouts on the plug boxes - 10a and the whole lot fails.

            If your plug fuse is rated appropriately there shouldn't be any issue.

            1. Mark #255
              Boffin

              Re: passthrough PSUs

              The dearth of passthrough sockets on PC PSUs is actually down to the combination of:

              • Limits on earth leakage currents (so that RCDs can reliably operate)
              • EMC filters on everything (including monitors) which have line-to-earth capacitors, contributing to the overall earth leakage current

              If your PC has a passthrough socket for the monitor, there's additional earth leakage current for the system, but no change in the limit.

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: passthrough PSUs

                If your PC has a passthrough socket for the monitor, there's additional earth leakage current for the system, but no change in the limit.

                That RCD is somewhere in the central fuse box, monitoring the entire circuit that it's wired into. So unless you have your monitor and PC on separate circuits, having the monitor on a pass-through socket from the PC, or just plugged into adjacent sockets (or an extension strip) will make sod-all difference.

              2. Kiwi Silver badge
                WTF?

                Re: passthrough PSUs

                The dearth of passthrough sockets on PC PSUs is actually down to the combination of:

                Limits on earth leakage currents (so that RCDs can reliably operate)

                RCD's for household computers are very very rare here in NZ (never seen one myself, though a rare few breakers use them (mostly garages). But even then, I can't think of why you'd have the computer on one RCD and the monitor on another? Wouldn't they both be on a plug box or double power point, along with the stereo/speakers/amp, printer/scanner. perhaps modem and any other electronics in the same room? How's this any different from the PSU having a passthrough socket?

                How does this apply to AIO machines where the monitor and computer are all in one box?

                I also have a couple of monitors that have power bricks that do not have an earth, and they're not rare models.

                Somehow, it does not compute that stuff around the earth is the reason we lost the passthrough sockets.

                If your PC has a passthrough socket for the monitor, there's additional earth leakage current for the system, but no change in the limit.

                I've only ever seen fuses/cutouts/breakers on the phase line (except in a couple of badly wired devices), never on the earth. And unless there is a fault, earth should NOT be getting anything anyway. It's called EARTH, not LIVE. Earth leakage is a fault condition.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: passthrough PSUs

                  "Somehow, it does not compute that stuff around the earth is the reason we lost the passthrough sockets."

                  Me neither. I bet it's primarily cost cutting. Some Chinese factory pumping out millions of units a year can make significant savings buy cutting a pennies here and there per unit. And then there's the trend for smaller boxes and hence smaller PSUs and hence lack of space to put the pass through connector.

    3. chivo243 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: PBKAC

      Ah, yes, PEBKAC... The computer beeps when I turn it on, but then it shuts down. I can't see anything on the screen. Roll in, immediately see the monitor is not powered up. I push one button and leave with out a word.

      1. sandman

        Re: PBKAC

        Ah yes, the monitor problem. In the distant past I've had users explode with rage when I've asked them if they'd turned the computer on. Then asked them if they'd turned the monitor (the large TV thing) on - more "Do you think I'm stupid?" The final question, "Is it plugged in and turned on at the mains?" usually resulted in a sheepish silence.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: PBKAC

          I once spent an hour trying to work out why a PC wasn't working, until I noticed the contrast wheel on the CRT was at 0, making the entire screen jet black..

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: PBKAC

            Yes, but hopefully you learnt from it?

            Years ago I was struggling with "faulty" keyboards that when you press the "a" key, "q" is displayed. (Down to a visiting French man borrowing various computers.

            Now, when I ever I get a similar fault - that's the first thing I look at!

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: PBKAC

          Ah, my second favourite (most stupid caller) is at this point, but the user indignately refused to go under the desk to check, as it was too dark in their office with the lights off.

          The user was very politiely asked if they could turn the lights on, and replied that they couldn't, because there was a power cut.

          I have very little faith left in humanity.

          1. Trilkhai

            Re: PBKAC

            I think that my faith in humanity's intelligence evaporated when an ER doctor asked me, “have you had your congenital birth defects your entire life?”

            1. Updraft102 Silver badge

              Re: PBKAC

              I once sat in to provide moral support for a friend (at her request) when she saw a psychiatrist for depression. One of the first questions the doctor asked was if she had committed suicide.

              1. Kiwi Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: PBKAC

                I once sat in to provide moral support for a friend (at her request) when she saw a psychiatrist for depression. One of the first questions the doctor asked was if she had committed suicide.

                "No but this session might help make my mind up".

                Are you sure it was a psychiatrist and not a psychologist? Stupidity like that is more fitting with the latter...

                (I'd say depression is no laughing matter, but sometimes when you're waaay down there you need all the laughter you can get (and FTR I have been there)

          2. Syn3rg

            Re: PBKAC

            I hope you asked them if they still had the box in which the computer came.

          3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: PBKAC

            "Ah, my second favourite (most stupid caller) is at this point, but the user indignately refused to go under the desk to check, as it was too dark in their office with the lights off.

            The user was very politiely asked if they could turn the lights on, and replied that they couldn't, because there was a power cut.

            I have very little faith left in humanity."

            So then you married her, right? http://web.archive.org/web/19970209064552/http://www.progress.demon.co.uk/Fun/Trouble-with.html

        3. sandman

          Re: PBKAC

          Of course, users can always try this well-known fix: http://newsthump.com/2013/01/28/major-technological-breakthrough-as-man-fixes-computer-by-shouting-at-it/

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PBKAC

          The way round that problem is to ask them which power port its plugged in, and to ask them to change it. I used to ask if it if was in the left hand socket or the right hand socket. 99/100 there is only one socket but it means they have to check with out asking them questions like "Is it turned on".

          Amazing how many people would suddenly say they changed the socket and it fixed it :)

          1. Paddy

            Re: PBKAC

            | I used to ask if it if was in the left hand socket or the right hand socket

            Pure headology, as Pratchett would have wrote.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PBKAC

          We discovered a fan heater in the server room that someone had obviously plugged in because they were cold. We never discovered the culprit (had a few ideas though) but sent round an email to the entire company stressing that people should not plug anything especially heaters into "IT power sockets". A few days later I picked up a call from a very timid sounding lady I'll call "Jane" who worked at a branch office. She'd recently reorganised her office to get her out of the stream of cold air coming in from the leaky window. Apparently Jane had moved her desk from one side of her room to the other. She wanted to know how we found out that she'd plugged her heater into the socket the computer was previously in. Jane also wanted to know if she could actually use her heater again as the radiator in her room still didn't work and it was very cold.

          After determining that this wasn't a wind up I asked what had happened. Jane told me that she'd finished moving her desk and then plugging her computer equipment back in. Having checked that everything worked she'd plugged in the fan heater and then gone to get a coffee. When she got back there was an email sent to everyone not to plug heaters into IT sockets. Genuinely worried that we had some super spy capability about the power use she'd unplugged her heater immediately. Jane had then spent the next few days in a very cold office with her coat on because she was scared of a telling off by IT.

          I explained that she'd been a victim of an unfortunate coincidence and so long as the heater wasn't:

          a) Pointing at the computer

          and

          b) Plugged into an extension strip

          Then we didn't care what she did to heat her room in the offices.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: PBKAC

            Some years ago at another firm I slaved for I had two computers (each on a separate network) and two monitors. One of the machines is using both monitors and the other is using just one. to make this possible and to allow me to have just one keyboard and mouse I had a KVM switch. One day I was at a trade exhibition in the morning and my boss decided that he would have a stab at something using the software on one of my PC's. Only switches one of the screens on when he sits down and then tries the mouse which doesn't work. So he tries the keyboard which doesn't work either so he gave up and sat back down at his own desk. I get in later on and switch on the other monitor to be greeted with the sight of the word document I'd been working on now punctuated with "Why isn't this fucking keyboard working" several times. I laughed it off but he insisted on apologising for that. The KVM switch was under the monitors but he'd missed the thing in his haste.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PBKAC

          we've started to use AIO's so the monitor is the computer! The users really can't get their heads around it!

          1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

            Re: PBKAC

            Let me tell you a story...

            Not so long ago, I had to hire a long wheel base transit van. Now, I've been a driver for a few decades now, and I've driven a van or two before. I was handed the keys, hopped in and spent a weekend driving the van around happily. On the return trip I had to fuel it up, as per the hire agreement, so I stopped in a petrol station about a thousand yards from the hire shop and filled the van with diesel. Job done, I hopped back in and turned the ignition. Nothing. I turned it again. Still nothing. Again, with the clutch down (as some vans I've experienced need that to start sometimes.). Nope. Not a flicker. Then the van alarm sounded as I got out to check things like fuel cap being closed etc. Now I couldn't get back into the van. Played with the keys a bit and alarm stopped. Finally got back into van, still couldn't start it. Queue of people behind me waiting the fuel pump are starting to get annoyed... it was a commercial petrol station, so its experienced lorry and van drivers behind me too. So, I called the hire place and explained. The guy on the phone *laughed* at me whilst explaining that I'd clearly activated the anti-theft alarm somehow and thus, obviously, I had to hold down the clutch AND the brake whilst turning the ignition key the opposite way from starting. Success. I pulled away. To the applause of the grizzled van driver behind me. What a noob I was eh?!

            No. fuck them all. I used the van the way I had always used a van and was not privy to the specialist knowledge that the experts clearly thought I should obviously know. Arseholes.

            That day, I understood the users plight.

            Let me ask you a question, fellow techs; where is the ON button on your TV? Your microwave? Your kitchen appliances? They're on the front, right? They're not on some other box connected to the device by a cable, are they? In fact, can you think of anything other than a PC that works that way? Even your multi-component stereo has a single on button that switches all the components on, yes?

            Food for thought, and perhaps understanding the users a bit?

            1. smudge Silver badge

              Re: PBKAC

              Even your multi-component stereo has a single on button that switches all the components on, yes?

              No. Because they are completely separate devices that each has its own power supply and can be used with other devices.

              As can a PC box, a monitor, a printer...

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: PBKAC

                Same: My CD player alone has 4 power buttons...

            2. Sparkypatrick

              Re: PBKAC

              Try turning on your DVD player by pressing the power button on your TV.

            3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

              Re: On switch location

              TV: By the plug socket. Microwave: combination of setting the timer and closing the door. Kettle: on the back. Toaster: on the side. Fridge & freezer: by sockets behind the appliances. Cooker & central heating: anonymous switches on the wall to one side.

              The most obvious devices with separate power switches are: VCR+TV and DVD player+TV. VCRs date back to late 70's. PCs (DOS) did not reach PHBs until the early 80s, so there was some hope that people could understand a display device and the device that creates the picture can have separate power switches. At the time it was widely believed that adults were too stupid to program a VCR* and they had to ask a five year old child to do it for them. Perhaps it was hoped that five year olds would grow up and dinosaurs would become extinct leading to the happy situation where everyone would have enough brains to program a VCR with a separate power switch to the TV.

              *Note to millennials: A VCR is a stone age alternative to BBC iPlayer and youtube. Programming involved reading a magazine to find the channel, start and end times of the required show. People had to get off the sofa, walk to the TV, switch it on, and press a button to select the VCR channel. Next the VCR power state had to be set to on, input select to antenna, output select to TV then the frequency knob had to be twiddled to get to the right channel. At this point, the TV becomes superfluous and can be turned off. Press the eject button and remove the cassette (stone age USB memory stick) and put it away. Refer to your notebook (a device made from multiple sheets of compressed pulped dead trees) and pick a page where the last entry is a for a TV show no-one wants to watch again. Cross out the last entry on the page and write in the name of the show you want to record. Look at the number on the top of the page and select the cassette with the same number written on a sticky label on the back. Insert the cassette into the holder and press the holder back into the VCR. Press the rewind button.

              Now things get tricky. Look around for the home's most reliable time source. Probably a battery powered clock. Check the second hand is moving and the time vaguely corresponds to the position of the brightest visible star. Compare this to the time display on the VCR and if necessary set the time selector "Time ADJ" and press the hour and minute buttons so the VCR displays the approximate time. Next select "Timer Set" and press the hour and minute buttons to about five minutes before the advertised start of the required TV show (Stone age technology did not include network time servers so all clocks were off by a few minutes, also broadcasters occasionally started a show a little early to annoy VCR owners). Advanced VCRs had a stop time. If present it had to be set at least half an hour after the scheduled end of the TV show. Failure to do this caused an extended news report that delayed all subsequent programming for the day. Almost there: when the tape has finished rewinding, press "stop", set the power selector to "Timer" and press "Play" and "Record" at the same time (the buttons should lock into place.)

              40 years ago, five year olds were able to do all this. The engineers who came up with separate on switches for computer did not anticipate that a decade later the brains of over half of those five year olds would rot down to the level required to elect Amber Rudd.

            4. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: PBKAC

              Even your multi-component stereo has a single on button that switches all the components on, yes?

              Once upon a time, the company I worked for had PC's with a power port for the monitor. Turn on the computer, the monitor powered up. The first tech refresh came through and suddenly, no one's monitor turned on via the computer. The monitor had a plug in on the power strip. Old habits die hard and it took quite a bit of time to get that change through some of the user's heads.

            5. 10forcash

              Re: PBKAC

              Bullshit

              The transit dash display would state 'press clutch and brake to start'

              not a common error, but common not to 'see' visual clues to the error

            6. leexgx

              Re: PBKAC

              Bernard M. Orwell

              Note Hidden anti-theft device (never heard of that before) your taking things out of context

              any way if you read most posts its about extremely simple things, like sticky note on the screen, its not plugged in,failing to restart the computer and they turn the screen off and on (i known people to be fired for stupid stuff like that) the best one that has me chuckling right now is the power is out post lol (cant turn the computer on if your in a power cut)

              the issue is some people who work at offices actually don't know how to use a computer (or appliances in general) but have to use a computer in there Narrow mind set to work (not actually sure how people like that get employed if they don't have basic understanding of how electricity works)

              the problems MS made in the past with windows Vista when they removed word "start" off the start menu was super perplexing for most lol (why most office computers have there stuff on the desktop)

            7. Kiwi Silver badge

              Re: PBKAC

              They're not on some other box connected to the device by a cable, are they? In fact, can you think of anything other than a PC that works that way? Even your multi-component stereo has a single on button that switches all the components on, yes?

              While I understand and even agree with your post,

              1) The TV is separate to the satellite decoder, which is connected by a cable and has it's own power button. A friend has 2 decoders in his house, and one has to be on for the other to work (LNB power issue, neither decoder can work out that if there is power already for the LNB then don't provide it)

              2) The stereo has a button that does the amp and tuner. The tape, record and CD players are all independently switched. I also had a stereo that had a set of power sockets on the rear for the other components, and had a barely noticeable power switch for that bank (I used to power the components off a plug box till someone showed me...)

              3) Where I'm writing this now, there's a complex set of signals bouncing around a number of disparate devices giving me the media I'm watching on the screen. The elderly gent who lives in the place handles it quite well, even though he confused the ABS and check engine lights on his car because they're both amber and "must mean the same thing". He even uses VNC on his Linux computer to control the media computer (both running Mint/KDE)

              I have to wonder about some users - how do they manage to figure out that they have to lock the door to their house and unlock their car in the morning with DIFFERENT keys!

              But that said, the unfamiliar is sometimes difficult.

            8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: PBKAC

              "Even your multi-component stereo has a single on button that switches all the components on, yes?"

              No. Each component has it's own on/off button. The integrated , all-in-one stereo only has one on/off button, but that's because it's a single unit. My cable box and BluRay play also have separate on/off switch which are in turn septate from the TV which also has it's own on/off switch. It's not rocket science.

              I wonder if the Sky and VirginMedia support desks have the problem of users not knowing the difference between the STB and TV and operating the wrong switch when asked to power off the box?

            9. My Alter Ego

              Re: PBKAC

              I know where you're coming from with the van as it's not standard behaviour.

              Computers and monitors have had separate PSUs (and therefore switches) pretty much from when computers had VDUs.

              It's also quite useful. I lock my session when I leave work and turn my monitors off. That way I can ssh if required.

        7. Cat Sitting

          Re: PBKAC

          Back in the eighties our standard question was "what colour is the light at the bottom of the television bit". That tended to get us an honest answer.

        8. Lilolefrostback

          Re: PBKAC

          Correct answer: No I don't think you're stupid.

          What you're thinking: You're a human being, so, by default, I KNOW you're stupid.

    4. DagD

      Re: PBKAC

      "Ma'am, I believe we have found the problem. Please place the computer back in it's original box and return it to the store".

      Is it that serious?

      "Yes ma'am, you are too stupid to own a computer".

  2. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Dilbert?

    If this isn't a 1990s PHB joke, it jolly well should be!

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Dilbert?

      Very much fodder for Dilbert. I recall an incident where we asked a civil servant to send us a screen shot of her screen. Waited for some hours and called her back asking where the was email. Her response, "I don't know how to do that, so I photocopied the screen of my laptop and have sent it to you in internal mail"

      I emailed that one to Scott Adams.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dilbert?

        "I recall an incident where we asked a civil servant to send us a screen shot of her screen"

        You mean the 'print screen' button that makes no sound when pressed, makes an invisible copy of the screen with no notification of where it is, and requires you to hold down ctrl key then V key but only when you've aligned the cursor to the right point of a newly created blank email.

        Yeah - stupid user....

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Dilbert?

          You mean the 'print screen' button that makes no sound when pressed, makes an invisible copy of the screen with no notification of where it is, and requires you to hold down ctrl key then V key but only when you've aligned the cursor to the right point of a newly created blank email.

          Yeah - stupid user....

          With a "proper system" she'd get the "Take Screenshot" program pop up.

          In which case she then needs to know to save the file somewhere she can reach it, and attach said file to the email. Still beyond many people and not as simple as it is to those of us more technically inclined :)

          It's not the most intuitive thing to do with computing. And "screenshot" isn't the most self-explanatory phrase either really, even if it seems to be to those of us who've been around it for 20 years..

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Dilbert?

            "And "screenshot" isn't the most self-explanatory phrase either really, even if it seems to be to those of us who've been around it for 20 years.."

            Probably from the photography community, ie taking a photo, colloquially known as taking a snapshot and later just taking a shot, mainly on the US end of the English language spectrum where many of the IT terms also come from.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Dilbert?

        send us a screen shot of her screen."

        When doing IT support for the military, never, NEVER, refer to that as "take a screen shot". Some daft twat WILL take it literally!

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Dilbert?

        "I photocopied the screen of my laptop and have sent it to you in internal mail"

        At university I needed to move a big reel-to-reel tape recorder from the studio to somewhere else on campus. So I put it in the internal mail. :)

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Dilbert?

          At university I needed to move a big reel-to-reel tape recorder from the studio to somewhere else on campus. So I put it in the internal mail. :)

          You're probably lucky the "victim" of that didn't track you down and shove it in the male's internals!

      4. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Dilbert?

        Sadly, in the past week I've actually had to email instructions (with screen shots) about how to make a screen shot to a user.

        We really need to do a better job of training our users. Most users really know very little about the hardware or software that they use. A small amount of training would result in fewer hell-desk calls and much better use of the systems sitting in front of their faces.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge

          Re: Dilbert?

          Sadly, in the past week I've actually had to email instructions (with screen shots) about how to make a screen shot to a user.

          Problem is, with the most common way (at least TTBOMK) of pressing the "Prt Scrn" button then pasting it into a document/email/Paint etc etc there is a MASSIVE failing - the pressing of Prt Scrn produces exactly 0 feedback to show that something has actually been achieved.

          Intuitive tools require visual/audible cues as to what they do and how to use them. For most desktop users taking screen shots provides no such cues.

          In this case, we need to do a better job of training our writers.

          (In many other cases, training users is a lost cause, which you realise the 55,000th time you tell your relative "HOLD the alt key and THEN press P" in this phone call, and you had to tell them that last call, and the one before that, and the one before that, and that's not even starting to go into yesterday, or the day before, or last week.........)

          1. Richard Lloyd

            Re: Dilbert?

            > there is a MASSIVE failing - the pressing of Prt Scrn produces exactly 0 feedback to show that something has actually been achieved.

            Funny, I press Prt Scrn and a "Save Screenshot" dialogue box appears with a preview of the screenshot, the ability to name the file (even calls it "Screenshot at <date>,png" by default), a folder picker, "Copy to Clipboard", "Cancel", "Save" and - yes, if you even need it after all this - a "Help" button.

            There again, I'm running Linux - a lot more friendly for screenshots!

            1. Kiwi Silver badge
              Holmes

              Re: Dilbert?

              Funny, I press Prt Scrn and a "Save Screenshot" dialogue box appears with a preview of the screenshot...

              Funny, someone else on this very thread said something similar - 'With a "proper system" she'd get the "Take Screenshot" program pop up.' - over at https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/3344137.

              Wonder if s/he also runs Linux....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh...

    ....maybe the user just had bad eyesight?

    1. Huw D

      Re: Meh...

      So support turn on the Accessibility Settings?

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Meh...

        "So support turn on the Accessibility Settings?"

        To see the post it better?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh...

      A blind man could tell a post it on the monitor compared to something on screen though.

      1. js.lanshark

        Re: Meh...

        Not from across the room though. We pranked a co-worker that way back in the DOS days. Cut a yellow Post-It note to the right size and made it look like a compile error. The look on his face as he came into the office and saw the "error" was priceless.

  4. Blotto
    Paris Hilton

    You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

    My other half has this annoying habit of saying less words than she needs to describe a problem, for example it won’t work. Some context and a few more words and I can resolve most issues half asleep or while cooking, ironing or doing the dishes or my hair or my nails or other stereotypical manly tasks.

    Women!!!

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Pirate

      RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

      I prefer the phrase "never underestimate the power of human stupidity,"

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

        If you make something idiot proof, they make a better idiot.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

          You can't make something fool proof, because fools are quite ingenious.

          1. hplasm Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

            "You can't make something fool proof, because fools are quite ingenious."

            The Fool Particle is really really small, making fool-proofing nearly impossible.

          2. brakepad

            Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

            "You can't make something fool proof, because fools are quite ingenious."

            Not only that, if you try to make something foolproof, you only encourage the evolution of an even more advanced type of fool.

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

              We bought an outboard motor in the US and if you consulted the manual there was a large portion of it devoted to what not to do. They were mostly obvious things like don't touch spinning propellers, put water in the fuel tank etc. The bloke selling us the engine said that's what you get when lawyers and a sue you culture going on. The manufacturers have to put all these things in into the manual otherwise they can be sued for failing to say don't do something.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

          If you make something idiot proof, they make a better idiot.

          And then change the spec of the British Standard Idiot to make sure everyone else gets the benefit..

        3. Michael Thibault

          Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

          "If you make something idiot proof, they make a better idiot."

          You clearly misunderstand the situation. To "idiot proof" something means you've advanced the technology to the point where it now acts as a detector.

        4. Lilolefrostback

          Re: RE: You can never under estimate how stupid some people can be.

          There is no such thing as "idiot proof". We idiots are far too ingenious for that.

    2. Aaiieeee
      Mushroom

      CONTEXT PLEASE!

      It amazes me how many people forget that English is context based. It drives me mad when people say "You know that problem we had yesterday?" and I seethe as they tell me nothing but believe they have given me enough to go on.

      I usually say "no", or look at them blankly.

      A couple of extra words and I will know EXACTLY what they are talking about.

      "You know that problem with the firewall blocking access to x yesterday?"

      "Yes, go on.."

      My girlfriend recently said "you know that thing, on the thing?" when trying to describe a wisteria on an arbor in the front garden of a house we walked by.

      Her native tongue is not English (although you wouldn't know it) so I let her off.

      1. W4YBO

        Re: CONTEXT PLEASE!

        My better 1/3 (I'm a big guy) and I have been married 27 years, and that's how most of our conversations go. It frightens me that I understand nearly all of them.

        1. Tim 11

          Re: CONTEXT PLEASE!

          GF has a habit of telling me about a dream she's had but without actually mentioning it was a dream, leaving me rather confused most of the time.

          The other day she said "I had a weird dream last night" and then proceeded to tell me about something that had happened the previous day - apparently it was supposed to be two unrelated sentences.

      2. Trilkhai

        Accuracy, for the love of dogs, accuracy!

        I think that I could handle my mother using fewer words than necessary for me to figure out the problem *if* she managed to use the correct freaking words. For some reason, even though she's been using computers and the Web for 25 years, sometime after she turned 60 she began randomly mixing up Internet & desktop terminology, like “I clicked on the Windows button, but a window said my program couldn't be found, so I tried a different bookmark and now I can't get to my genealogy site!"

        I've tried to get her to understand that it's important for her to use the right words so I can understand what's wrong, but she always uses the same argument people who mangle English online do — "as long as you can figure out what I meant, then that's good enough."

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: CONTEXT PLEASE!

        I've got family who will call and for example tell me that Sky doesn't work in the bedroom anymore. The bedroom tv is fed by the UHF output of the Sky box in the living room so I then ask if that's working.

        "Oh that's got a fault too".

        "So the Sky box is faulty is it?"

        "Erm yes"

        "So I just need to fix the Sky box not test the cable for breaks or anything else?"

        "Probably but can you fix it?"

        Some little fingers had unplugged the cable from the satellite dish and plugging that back in worked.

      4. hardboiledphil

        Re: CONTEXT PLEASE!

        How can a language not be context based? Doesn't sound possible but I'm only used to a few western languages.

      5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: CONTEXT PLEASE!

        My cousin and his wife sometimes hold conversations like that and finish off each other's sentences. It freaks their daughter out.

      6. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: CONTEXT PLEASE!

        My girlfriend recently said "you know that thing, on the thing?" when trying to describe a wisteria on an arbor in the front garden of a house we walked by.

        In my house it's "why is my laptop doing this" or "some message keeps popping upon the screen" (while I'm sitting on the other side of the room, where I can only see the back of the laptop lid).

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: CONTEXT PLEASE!

        --> My girlfriend recently said "you know that thing, on the thing?" when trying to describe a wisteria on an arbor in the front garden of a house we walked by.

        In one of C S Lewis's books a scientist describes exactly this phenomenon as an example of why men and women should not try to work in the kitchen together. Sadly, despite all my excellent intentions, history of support for women in engineering and determined egalitarianism this is true in my own household.

        But it's me, the male half, who gets accused of using the word "wossname".

    3. jake Silver badge

      "saying less words"

      Fewer.

      1. 's water music Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "saying less words"

        Fewer.

        Every time you correct my grammar I love you fewer.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: "saying less words"

        "Fewer"

        I was going to point out the same mistake but my underlying empathy for its originator was enough to overcome the urge.

        You are free to conclude that I experience more or less the same thing from Mrs Commswonk, often augmented by a lot of hand and arm waving that are somehow supposed to substitute for spoken words. "I haven't the faintest idea what you are talking about" rarely if ever earns any Brownie Points.

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: "saying less words"

          There's a reason people don't explain fully. I had a very junior cleaner in a hotel I worked out who was always 'the thing about the thing', until I realised that she was so anxiously not to sound cocky or that she was stating orders that she retreated into generalities. I think that if my other half was the eye-rolling "Women!" type, I'd be backed into a corner too. Nothing like knowing anything you might say has already been pre-judge to be stupid and 'typical woman'. Why do you guys marry, anyway? The free sex? Why do you spend your lives with women you only have contempt for?

          1. Alistair Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: "saying less words"

            @Hollerithevo

            Personally I married my best friend. Its worked out rather well I think. I, however don't tend to get the generalizations -- I've worked with some spectacularly competent folks of several genders (although it can take some effort to decode that) and some terribly incompetent folks of all sorts and types. I've found that listening well to the original statement is the key.

            While I get that running into "I can't do this" or "That doesn't work" from someone who should be equipped (i.e. this is your employment, you should have some basics under your belt) to provide at least some better detail is a massively frustrating event, I have the experience of making my name by being able to decode "the thing on the top isn't blinking the way it should" into the fact that a quad pack of 9600kbp/s dedicated links were deserialized. -- Patience, something I've found is in short suppy in pretty much every human these days, is an absolute requirement in life.

            And incompetence occurs in all humans, even myself. It is the willingness to challenge one's own incompetence that I find honourable.

          2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: Why do you guys marry, anyway?

            Because we run out of other things to talk about.

          3. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: "Why do you guys marry, anyway? The free sex?"

            It's never ever free. Marriage just means you keep on paying for it even after the divorce.

          4. Ivan Headache

            And another.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "saying less words"

          " I experience more or less the same thing "

          Or more or fewer.

      3. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: "saying less words"

        Or the same number of words just fewer informative. (Or was that less informative?...)

        "That thing on the thing by the thing." I know someone who does this and you can only stand by patiently and wait for some information that can be seized to try to move the conversation on.

        1. Commswonk Silver badge

          Re: "saying less words"

          Or the same number of words just fewer informative. (Or was that less informative?...)

          Interesting... either can be correct, but the meaning is different.

          Fewer informative words suggests that the words were indeed informative, but that there were fewer of them.

          Less informative words suggests that the words themselves were inherently not all that informative.

          1. Stratman

            Re: "saying less words"

            Indeed.

            Less:- not as much

            Fewer:- not as many

          2. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: "saying less words"

            "Interesting.....either can be correct, but the meaning is different."

            If you can count the quantity of something it's fewer, but if you can't then its less.

            e.g. There is less milk in fewer bottles.

            1. ibmalone Silver badge

              Re: "saying less words"

              As Commswonk noticed (you know you've missed when the explanation gets more upvotes than the joke itself...), the trick was that if "fewer" then it must apply to the words and if it's "less" then then it describes their informativeness. (So "words [...] fewer informative" just about passes on that rule, but sounds wrong because it's at least stylistically poor and breaks even the non-pedant's sense of the fewer/less distinction. Making it the obvious choice of phrasing :) )

              Less water = fewer molecules.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "saying less words"

        "Fewer."

        Fewer is bigger, less is less.

      5. Kiwi Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: "saying less words"

        "saying less words"

        Fewer.

        Actually "less" could be more grammaticality right.

        "That box thingy in the office isn't going right" users more words than "My computer isn't working", but the words involved are somewhat "less" than the more proper phrasing.

        (my own phrasing words chosen specifically for the pissing off of grandma nazis... )

      6. Lilolefrostback

        Re: "saying less words"

        Thank-you. I hate being the grammar Nazi.

      7. Blotto

        Re: "saying less words"

        @jake

        Fewer

        The issue isn’t the general quantity of words or words themselves, it’s that extra words of description are needed to begin to diagnose an issue.

        For example

        it doesn’t work

        Vs

        The lamp doesn’t work

        Vs

        The light in here is not working (assume several different types of lights in that location)

        The second quote has 1 extra word more than the first and makes all the difference.

        The third quote has 4 more words than the first and is just as meaningless as the first quote.

        So just 1 more word was required to begin to make sense of the quote.

        The problem is people saying less words than are needed, not fewer words in general.

    4. Tom 38 Silver badge

      The problem is critical thinking. We tried to educate users to root cause analysis using the "five why's" . Now, as non technicals, they won't get down to the 5th why, but even if they think a little about it, they might get to the first or second why.

      Of course, some users cannot be improved, so you will still get "can't print" instead of "can't print; out of paper", but sometimes you get "can't print; out of paper; we use 4x as much paper at end of month"

    5. 's water music Silver badge
      1. Commswonk Silver badge
        Facepalm

        @ 's water music: dilbert detects human stupidity

        Actually it's Dogbert detects human stupidity.

    6. VinceH Silver badge

      "My other half has this annoying habit of saying less words than she needs to describe a problem, for example it won’t work."

      Someone I know has a broadly similar, but not quite the same annoyance. When asking for help with a problem over the phone, I tell him to read out what it says on screen, but he'll skip bits. So I tell him to read it exactly and he'll re-read it, and now the skipped bits become "blah blah".

      The words he's skipping are usually the important ones that'll give me a clue - he's skipping them because they're the ones he understands least.

      1. Mooseman Bronze badge

        "now the skipped bits become "blah blah"."

        I once lent my elderly parents a PC (I know, I know). My mother rang up one day to say there was a problem. I asked her if there was an error message and she said "error something something blah blah blah - do you know what it is?"

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Flame

        So I tell him to read it exactly and he'll re-read it, and now the skipped bits become "blah blah".

        One of these days I'll figure out how to reach through the phone and slam his fucking head into the fucking screen! And next time he does that just might be the trigger I need!

        (had one of those calls a day ago. Still not over it. I need another lie down I think!).

        Oh. and there's the "click the round button at the bottom of your screen" (while you're on a view-only thing like Skype shared screen) and you see their mouse move towards the top, while they say there is no such button yet you can see it or... Those who say "there are no stupid questions" never met a user!

    7. DuchessofDukeStreet
      Happy

      I confess to being very amused that you are complaining that the women in your lives don't talk enough...surely you should only be grateful?

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        How on earth could you conclude that? Comments so far have been about the quality of the communication, not its quantity.

        This has made me remember that my stepdaughter used to speak in a continuous stream of words right up into adulthood; it was more or less incomprehensible. My stating that I had not been called upon to punctuate a paragraph of prose since my schooldays and I wasn't going to start again now neither went down well nor had any noticeable effect.

        The worrisome thing is that she now has a PhD in something exotic and is lecturing university students; I just hope that she has learnt the art of marshalling her thoughts sufficiently to communicate in comprehensible, punctuated speech.

        1. Ivan Headache

          The lovely Ivan has the habit of starting a sentence and then fading away before she reaches the bit that contains the information.

          And then complains when I haven't done what she has told me to do.

          Then she does finish the sentence.

          And starts another.

          And another.

          And another.

      2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        How's the woman in your life, Duchess?

      3. John 110

        @amused of DukeStreet

        They still talk as much, but the actual information content drops the longer they talk...

    8. Kiwi Silver badge
      Facepalm

      My other half has this annoying habit of saying less words than she needs to describe a problem, for example it won’t work.

      Mate of mine does that constantly, and I'm sure most of us have had that problem.

      Them "My computer doesn't work"

      Us "What's not working with it?"

      T "I don't know. It doesn't work"

      U "Has it started up normally?"

      T "I don't know".

      U "Can you see stuff on your screen?"

      T "Yes, all looks normal".

      U "So what isn't working?"

      I'm sure you know the rest of the conversation from there

      (Yes, I do get kickbacks from psychiatrists who deal with PTSD, why'd you ask? :) )

    9. Andy 68

      Pah - all I ask for is a complete sentence....

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Pah - all I ask for is a complete sentence....

        Okay.

  5. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Is this a test of our credulity?

    Well?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Is this a test of our credulity?

      Said the person who has never had a 'help' call...

      Or-

      Said every HellDesk operative ever, shaking their head and replacing the phone, despairing at the human condition.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Is this a test of our credulity?

        Is this to be an empathy test?

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Is this a test of our credulity?

          Nah, it's a Voight-Kampff test to confirm you're actually human...

  6. dave 81

    It finally happened.

    After 20 years working in IT, I was at a users desk, investigating a shitrix issue, and he showed me he had rebooted his computer by turning the monitor off and on, and it would still not connect. He was a recent graduate hire.

    1. gregthecanuck
      Facepalm

      Re: It finally happened.

      Classic management material.

    2. Detective Emil

      Re: It finally happened.

      My outfit is aggressively reequipping with all-in-one desktops…

      1. leexgx

        Re: It finally happened.

        they still find a way to turn the monitor off and on only

  7. dnicholas Bronze badge

    I got brought an electric wheelchair to have a look at about 10 years ago. Said to the chap it wasn't really my area of expertise but he insisted I have a look.

    "It has computery bits on the green board, I've seen them!"

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My bro...

        Is a graduate networking degree holder working as IT management/servicing in a private school on double what I get with extended school holiday hours...

        ... yet I'm the one using my memory of seeing a photo 3 months previous just by chance on Ebay while browsing of his model of PC, to tell him *where his own expansion ports are* when it is right in front of him and I'm calling on the phone.

        I still have to go to him for anything involving ip addresses though, those things are black magic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My bro...

          That's because IP addresses are black magic.

          Along with WiFi and BT email.

  8. IanRS

    Incompetent users

    I used to help run a semi-official (i.e. management approves of it, but will not dedicate any resources to running it) anti-virus service. A honey-pot system ran on a spare PC and whenever something tried to contact it we checked what was the cause. Normally a virus that had somehow found its way onto the internal network. We then tracked down the normal user of that PC and called them to tell them of the problem and that they should shut down their computer and ring the local helpdesk. After one contact proved particularly IT inept and could not be talked through the steps to shut her PC down cleanly we just told her to press the power button. She did so, and the ping to her PC we were running kept going. Presumably she had just turned the monitor off. We debated telling her to pull the network cable out, but decided she would probably electrocute herself with the power lead instead, so we called her helpdesk for her. It was only an major IT systems integration and out-sourcing company. No real reason to expect internal competence.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Incompetent users

      "It was only an major IT systems integration and out-sourcing company. No real reason to expect internal competence."

      Our company is an IT company too. But we still have clerical, sales, HR etc type people who have little clue about the business, the technology or the tools on their desks. (yes, yes, the tools are on the seats)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @John Brown

        IT people should NEVER be allowed anywhere near a computer.

        Or anything else.

        In fact it would probably be better if they worked in a diffrerent building

        In another country

        For a differnet company

        With no relationship to ones own comony, building or country.

  9. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    I'd like to think..

    ..that pretty much anyone, even someone with a severe learning disability, could tell a physical piece of paper from an image being generated on a screen. My cat understands the difference. But I've worked in IT for a long time now, so I'll reserve judgment.

    Things that just make me sad:

    A Legal contractor making over 6 figures for a 6-month stint, angrily complaining that her monitor was dead. I asked the obvious question, "Are you sure it's turned on?" To which I got a rather nasty reply "Of course I've checked that!" I walked across the facility to her office, pressed the power button, and walked back out. No words were spoken by either of us. No eye contact was made.

    Someone promoted to a "Team Lead" in IT that I had to walk through using IPCONFIG to get an IP address from a machine. <sigh>

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I'd like to think..

      "A Legal contractor..."

      You missed the chance to say - "No further questions, M'Lud."

  10. Arctic fox
    Headmaster

    This kind of idiocy is not confined to matters IT

    I was supervising a laboratory course in general chemistry at the uni where we live in the back end of arctic nowhwere. The experiment concerned required the students to start by heating up some water to boiling point. I turned round to see that one of these geniuses had gotten hold of a polystyrene bowl, filled it with water, put it on the hotplate in his extraction dood and switched the plate on! I got to it just in time to stop it from melting and sticking to the plate.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: This kind of idiocy is not confined to matters IT

      If the polystyrene was quite thin then you might have been ok, because it would have only heated up as much as the water (ie to 100C). In the same way, if you're careful, you can make a cup of tea in a paper bag using an open flame.

      what happens if you're not careful >>>>>>>

    2. Andy Miller

      Re: This kind of idiocy is not confined to matters IT

      I recall an undergraduate experiment that required refluxing from boiling petrol. The instruction clearly said to use a water bath. Most of us used the electric water baths. One genius got a large (glass) water bath, and stuck a Bunsen under it. The fumes crept over the edge, and soon his desk, his lab-book and his hair was alight. He was put out before he suffered any lasting damage....

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: This kind of idiocy is not confined to matters IT

        "I recall an undergraduate experiment that required refluxing from boiling petrol."

        Arrived in the lab one morning to find a post-grad already in (he seemed to run on a 25-hour clock so this wasn't surprising). For some time previously he'd been doing benzene extractions and was now trying to recover his dirty benzene by distilling it. A couple of litres or so were boiling vigorously in a large round-bottom flask heated by a couple of bunsens.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: This kind of idiocy is not confined to matters IT

          Doing an enzyme/starch/iodine reaction test: warm the sample to get the enzymes to the body temperature they normally live at. Spotted one student's sample merrily boiling away.

          1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

            Re: This kind of idiocy is not confined to matters IT

            This guy's site is pretty amusing. I'm not a chemical engineer, but it's good to hear insanity from other fields: Things I won't work with

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: This kind of idiocy is not confined to matters IT

              I forgot about that guy ... Ta for the reminder. (Re-)Bookmarked.

              I think the last one I read was 2008's "Sand won't save you this time".

  11. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    Meh

    Hmmmm.....

    This reminds me of the (probably apocryphal) tale about a user ringing a help desk to report that his printer wouldn't print any yellow text everything else was printed perfectly but anything yellow was missing. There was much too-ing and fro-ing between helpdesk operative and user until the helpdesk operative decided to actually visit the user. Turns out the user was using yellow paper "because it's pretty and makes a change from boring white paper"

    1. The Real Tony Smith

      Re: Hmmmm.....

      Reminds me of when we had problems with one of the mains phases going off in the building where I was working.

      We got an electrician in to put a box with lamps connected to each phase to monitor the problem. These shone through Red Yellow and Blue lenses on the lid of the box.

      He couldn't figure out why the blue phase kept blowing when he put the cover on the box, then magically it was on again whenever he took the box lid off.

      It turned out he was using neon lamps...........

  12. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Pint

    My 2p

    Guessing said user is very attractive to have gotten the job...

  13. Paul Cooper

    Way back, when we used BBC Micros with a Z80 board to run CP/M, the connection between the BBC and the monitor tended to be a bit shaky. Despite me saying again and again "check the monitor connection" I STILL got called about 2-3 times a week to point out to someone that the monitor cable had come loose! That was in the mid 80s; nothing changes!

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      " the connection between the BBC and the monitor tended to be a bit shaky. "

      The connection between the users and reality, doubly so.

  14. 45RPM Silver badge

    Yeah. I did that.

    I used to be in the habit of using virtual sticky notes to remind me what changes I needed make / what functionality had been asked for. Eventually, of course, I’d have so many notes that they’d begin to get in the way of the development environment that I was using - so I’d overflow onto the bezel of the monitor using the real sticky deal.

    One morning (the very wee small hours) whilst pulling an all nighter and successfully closing my sticky notes as I completed my actions I came across one which wouldn’t close. Damn thing was stuck. And worse yet, I couldn’t get my mouse pointer over to its top left corner in order to close it.

    I don’t think that I need to say any more. You’ve already worked out the problem, and that I am a massive eejit.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      No you didn't ...

      The story wasn't about someone getting confused. It was about failing to figure it out, and escalating to a helpdesk.

      Upvote anyway, for the chuckle.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was working on a large software project a few years ago. The morning of the Go Live we've got our top people at the Pilot site. They were on the phone because they could not print delivery tickets. I was in the central IT office and we could find no issues with Citrix, print queues etc. It looked like a major software issue and we would need to pull the plug on the go live. Being a sarcastic b#####d I jokingly asked if the printer was turned on... next thing I hear is the printer in the background! Turned out the printer was on, but it was offline...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At university you could sign up to be a volunteer student IT helper for the computer section of the libraries if you were competent enough. Cue one rainy thundery day a nice girl approached me and asked if I knew why her printing wasn't coming out. She suggested that it might be the lightning causing the problem? After a quick check of the printer I discovered it was working and her pages were coming out just without the required content. There was a web address at the top of the page and a page number at the bottom just nothing in between. When I checked the pages which were being printed they were from a lovely site where the text was on a black background and had all been written in yellow. There weren't colour printers in the libraries and the ones we had didn't print if your text was in colour. (well that's not true they'd print but only if the text was dark enough, yellow, pink, white etc. did not print.)

      After copying the text to Notepad and then cutting and pasting that text into a Word document it came out in black not yellow. Then when you hit print it printed everything and she was very happy. A notice was placed above each printer explaining that coloured text wouldn't print

  16. fran 2

    Wireless mice/keyboards...Yesterday a rather snotty finance person saunters up to my desk "is there any reason why my mouse is not working?" In a passive aggressive tone

    Yes, because you took the mouse from your sick colleague's desk which is not paired to your PC

    Red face time

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @fran 2 - I was surprised that many programmers did know that each keyboard/mouse is tied to a specific dongle.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        I was surprised that many programmers did know that each keyboard/mouse is tied to a specific dongle.

        They might be confused by the various models that aren't tied to one dongle? Commonly detected by the presence of "connect" buttons on the mouse/kb and dongle (press "connect" on each within a few seconds and they start the pairing process).

        I even have a couple of A4Tech models that have multiple channels for the mice and keyboards so you can have even more devices of the same model in the same area!

  17. Aids

    "Help the office is sinking!" is still my favorite support call I have EVER worked.

    Back when I worked for a small MSP one of our customers had an office on a boat. It was indeed sinking.

    A colleague and I waded in and retrieved all their gear, most of which still worked once it had dried out and the silt removed

  18. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Immovable window

    So how many of you have tried to move the monitor's on-screen-display with a mouse ?

    1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

      Re: Immovable window

      I've also tried to minimise windows inside screenshots I've just taken.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Immovable window

        Yup, been there, done that...

        Windows snipping tool has been the cause of many an abrupt "stop and think" moment working out which was actually the live window and which was the screengrab it was displaying, having just taken and pasted into PowerPoint or something...

      2. Michael Thibault

        Re: Immovable window

        It's with some pride I say I've never tried to minimise a window inside a screenshot I've just taken. Close, yes, but never minimise.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Immovable window

      I have to admit one instance during a priod of particularly intense concentration on a particularly knotty problem, I had beeen thinking so long without doing anything computery that the display timed out and went blank.

      A simple move of the mouse was all that was required to wake Windows up again. I had closed my fingers around the smooth object adjacent to the keyboard and managed to move it in about a half circhle, vaguely puzzled why the disaplay hadn't woken up.

      It then dawned on me that I had slowly and with great deliberation, just moved my cup of tea in a half circle.

  19. Snarf Junky

    Are these written by the same person as Dear Deidre?

  20. Oh Matron!

    PICNIC

    Problem in chair, Not in computer

    1. Michael Thibault

      Re: PICNIC

      "Problem in chair, Not in computer"

      Excellent! The opposite also works, and quite well:

      No PICNIC - Problem In Computer, Not In Chair.

  21. Steve Kerr
    FAIL

    Xerox photcopiers

    One company I worked for had those huge Xerox photocopies with 1/2 dozen trays, scanning facilities, remote connections - the full works, all the bells and whistles.

    Could I get it to do photocopy a sheet of paper? No......

    10 minutes later and with the user manual managed to finally work out how to go through the menu settings to actually photocopy something.

    So much for sticking the paper on the glass and pressing the glowing green button (didn't do anything).

    That was the day I realised that photocopiers had become too complex to copy a page of paper! 23 years ago that was

    1. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

      Re: Xerox photcopiers

      After 40+ years as a techie in the IT industry, I can make a million£ computer sing, sit, bark, play dead (plenty of experience at that one!)...

      But a fax machine or photocopier can normally bring me to my knees, weeping, in less than a minute.

    2. Richard Gray 1
      Coat

      Re: Xerox photcopiers

      Even worse old washing machines!!

      who knew the secret codes of the A wash C wash 1 wash all on the rotary mechanical dial.

      Clothes say 40c colour wash

      washing machine required the square root of Pi the blood of a virgin in the pre wash tray whichever one that was.

      Usually ended up with boiled shrunk laundry soaking wet because it didn't have the spin cycle enabled..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Xerox photcopiers

        "who knew the secret codes of the A wash C wash 1 wash all on the rotary mechanical dial."

        Usually printed on the underside of the washer lid.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Xerox photcopiers

          "who knew the secret codes of the A wash C wash 1 wash all on the rotary mechanical dial."
          Usually printed on the underside of the washer lid.

          Right where you couldn't read it and operate the dial at the same time? Sounds about right.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Xerox photcopiers

            "who knew the secret codes of the A wash C wash 1 wash all on the rotary mechanical dial."

            Usually printed on the underside of the washer lid.

            Right where you couldn't read it and operate the dial at the same time? Sounds about right.

            I know. So bloody hard to remember the setting for the time needed to drop the lid enough to reach the dial, and so much hard work lifting the lid again to re-check if you forget! :)

            (OTOH, #1 RealMen(TM) don't read the instructions and #2 most of the time the label has faded to nothing 5 minutes after the 2nd use (well, actually the ink faded in light levels the male eye can detect, while being perfectly visible to the female eye even 30 years later!))

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Xerox photcopiers

        Even worse old washing machines!!

        My microwave! It has a dial - turn it one way, you get the time. Turn it the other way and you get these codes like "A-1" which is some sort of program that has something to do with weight/time/food.

        I would think it would be easier having a microwave that used hexadecimal to set it....

    3. Shooter

      Re: Xerox photcopiers

      And yet another relevant Dilbert comic...

      http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-4-25

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Xerox photcopiers

        Many years ago I was the IT specialist in a west London prep school (teacher, problem solver you name it - if it had a button I had to fix it).

        All the classrooms had an inkjet printer and im my lab (?) I had a networked laserwriter.

        When a teacher wanted to print multiples they sent it down and the printer would spring into life and do its stuff.

        Except that now and again I would get a teacher coming down to collect something that hadn't come out, then another and possibly another.

        Checking the printer queue would show a bunch of jobs queued up with an error message.

        Turned out that a kid (and sometimes a teacher) somewhere in the school was attempting to print to American letter paper.

        The printer only had an A4 tray.

        It was still happening after I left. Some people never learn.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Xerox photcopiers

          AC. No

          Some programmes/templates/resources automatically generate American sized pages, either as a default or in some cases as the only option (Yeah , we all know Americans forget about the rest of the planet - think World Series ). If it is trying to send to Letter and failing, rather than just sending a warning message or printing over > 1 page then the fault is at the set-up end.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Xerox photcopiers

            Ahem the world series does include Canada. Also the world series was the name of the paper that created it .

            Ps Canada does use the correct letter format :)

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Xerox photcopiers

              world series does include Canada

              Er, the bit of North America sandwiched between Alaska and the rest of the USA hardly makes it a <b< world </b> series. A North American series, OK, Yes. And the "Letter" format isn't the " correct " one. It's not even used for letters, come to that. A4 is the standard used most places. And having devices/software that default or require to create documents in Letter format is a real PITA at times.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Xerox photcopiers

                This old canard again? C'mon, people, this is TehIntraWebTubes. Could you at least attempt to learn your meme before commenting?

                The name "World Series" is just a traditional name left over from turn of the last century advertising hype. The only people who believe that Yanks and Canucks think of it as truly a "World" series are folks from countries where American baseball isn't played.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Xerox photcopiers

                  Don't confuse the example with the point. Arguably "Fall Edition" tells the same story.

                  ( BTW Sorry about the misplaced character )

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Xerox photcopiers

      "That was the day I realised that photocopiers had become too complex to copy a page of paper! 23 years ago that was"

      I wonder how many of a certain age know the relevance of 1.414 and 0.707?

      1. JPeasmould

        Re: Xerox photcopiers

        The same ones who remember line level as +4dBm as opposed to +4dBu.

    5. Lilolefrostback

      Re: Xerox photcopiers

      I've been saying for years, only partially jokingly, that photocopiers ought to come with a 10 year old boy as tech support.

  22. Comic Book Guy
    Facepalm

    Transparent stupidity

    Many years ago, I was dispatched to the CEO's office bright and early one morning because his PA's brand new computer wasn't working, and "her time is far more valuable than yours!". Always nice to know.

    Turns out whoever set it up had put the protective transparent plastic cover that the keyboard had been packaged in into her rubbish bin. She'd dutifully fished it out, because her previous keyboard had a cloth dust cover that she always put over it at night (in case it got cold?!?), and she'd assumed this was the new version - and then forgot that it was there. Trying to type through semi-rigid plastic is hard, but not impossible, as she proceeded to demonstrate.

    In all fairness, she was about one year from retirement.

    1. InNY

      Re: Transparent stupidity

      "...her previous keyboard had a cloth dust cover that she always put over it at night (in case it got cold?!?),..."

      Because at any decent Secretary School you were told to cover the typewriter keyboard every evening. If you didn't do this you usually got a thoroughly disapproving look (almost enough to sink a career) from the instructor.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some years ago when I rejoiced in the title of IT director, a non-tech colleague on the exec management team asked me for a new PC, stating firmly that she required the latest sexy slim Mac notebook. I pointed out that there would be compatibility issues (for ours was a Windows network), that she would be bound to have some problems, and would also be setting an awkward example to her many reports, but that as she was an executive Director I could hardly refuse the request. Alas, too gallant, and too polite, for I was taken at my word, and said Mac was duly ordered, delivered and installed with a magic Mac mouse.

    ....fast forward a few months (including much hand holding from tech support), and a colleague of mine greets me speechless one morning, barely able to stand up, and states as follows:

    He has had a desperate call from said director at 08h00 sharp, recounting that every time she moves her mouse away from her it goes down the page, whilst when she pulls it towards her it goes up the page. This momentarily foxes him, but then he remembers one of those undocumented technical essentials: that said director is the only person on the campus (600 PCs) with a magic Mac mouse. And then comes the light-bulb moment: Eureka! it's up-side-down, at which point he falls off his chair unable to speak while trying (very hard) not to laugh uncontrollably, eventually suggesting as soberly as possible that she turn it by 180 degrees and repeat the same gestures.

    I love Mac users.

  24. Richard Gray 1
    FAIL

    Wrong monitor

    Very early in my IT career I worked for PC world in the tech department.

    Someone phoned through saying that they had the wrong monitor.. I politely asked if he had a 14inch rather than a 15 inch (yes THAT long ago)...

    No it was just the wring monitor and wouldn't fit on his new PC.

    Packard Bell had just come up with the amazing idea of colour coding the the plugs at the back of the PC, so went through the usual:-

    correct port -"yes but it won't fit"

    correct orientation -"yes but it won't fit"

    I asked any bent pins "no but it won't fit"

    Aha... not all the pins on the VGA are used so some manufacturers would leave them out...

    "no it is not the same size I've held it next to it and it won't fit..."

    I asked if he had actually tried it...

    "no because it won't fit"

    several minutes of asking cajoling before finally demanding he try it later

    ".... I've been a bit silly haven't I??"

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Wrong monitor

      +1 purely because I have also fought the good fight in the PC World tech department. Wasn't it fun when a family brought the computer in for repair and you could see how sheepish the eldest son looked because he knew there were lots of pictures of naked girlies in a hidden folder? And he knew that you knew.

      Packard Bell - that's a name I've not heard in a long time... A long time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong monitor

        Brilliantly a family member suggested I go round and have a look at a computer belonging to a friend of a friend back in the days of dial up. The lady I met told me she was concerned that her (son 10-11yrs old from memory) was viewing porn on the family computer. She'd discounted her daughter so it had to be her son. She told me that she'd clicked on Internet Explorer one morning and found it was still open and there was a topless woman on the website offering a tour of the site.

        She wanted proof it was him so she could confront and scold her male offspring. Well whoever it was doing this was smutty surfing was deleting the browser history and there was only IE on the machine. So digging a bit deeper I looked at the .dat file and was surprised to find that there was only one smutty site surfed before 9pm and only one page. After nine however there was tons of them covering a "broad range" of interests.

        I asked when the son went to bed and he was never up past 8pm so wasn't him. The daughter stayed up later but not past 9pm so I told her that she could discount the kids. Her daughter came in to use the computer and admitted that she'd clicked on an altavista link days earlier that had looked innocuous but wasn't. I said she would need to talk to whoever used the computer after the children had gone to bed. She said "Oh I wish you could be here when my husband gets home he's going to get such a bollocking." I then had to explain how she could present this discovery to her nearest and dearest so that he couldn't get out of it. We also did a virus scan and thankfully it was clean.

  25. Sideways
    FAIL

    ...sigh...

    And as if speaking of the Devil, as i am reading this one of my techs takes a call from a user saying there pc will not come on.

    A few seconds later it turns out that there is also a cable flopping around under the desk. Is it a kettle type cable? "dont know", How big is it? "abount 3 times the size of a usb cable...

    Can you just plug it back in? "ohh i dont know how to do that".

    And now a walk of 500+ m to another building to plug a pc in that some sloppy prat has knocked the power cable out...

    Education.. where we train the next generation of genius with this generations idiots.

  26. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Non-standard non-intuitive

    To be fair ( why not for once) too many users will have had experience of non-standard or illogical equipment and software with controls and switches that aren't anywhere you'd expect them to be, or that can be triggered by accident. I have a drop down resource monitor that appears on my screen from time to time, I think when I've dragged the mouse down from the top. I'll be bugg***d if I can make it work at will*. Or prevent it appearing. It hasn't got a name on it so that I can Google it, and it vanishes when I move my mouse towards it. I guess it was designed on the Windows 8.x model, of the stupid invisible "charms". But common sense would have been to at least put the name in the sodding thing so that the user can identify it.

    *I've just taken the time to experiment. It appears when the cursor is about 1mm below the corner on the top right. I assume top left would be the same, but who knows.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Non-standard non-intuitive

      It hasn't got a name on it so that I can Google it, and it vanishes when I move my mouse towards it.

      As a suggestion - screenshot when it is present (assuming it doesn't hide from such things), cut out all but the relevant bit, then wander over to Google's image search or something like that. Maybe you'll get some more info on it.

      HTH, HANWE

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Non-standard non-intuitive

        The point was I shouldn't need to. Designs should be reasonably standard and even more important, controls should be clearly visible or at least easy to locate. This little programme ( and the stupid Win 8.x "charms" ) omit that consideration.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Non-standard non-intuitive

          The point was I shouldn't need to.

          Fully agree. For stuff to be intuitive it needs visual cues as to what it is and how to work it. Stuff like what you mentioned suck and are just annoying.

          More than annoying even.

  27. Jamie Kitson

    Spoiler in Heading :(

    You completely ruined that story by putting the punchline in the header :(

  28. UncleDavid

    Remove the note!

    Who among us hasn't tried to dismiss an actual physical Post-It, which they earlier stuck on the monitor as a reminder, by clicking on the top corner? Repeatedly?

    OK, who was somewhat tired at the time?

    Just me then.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Remove the note!

      I once had a moth go across my screen one late, late night when my brain was utterly frazzled.

      I tried to right click on it to identify it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Remove the note!

        I once had a moth go across my screen one late, late night when my brain was utterly frazzled.

        I was playing a FPS (Alien v Predator IIRC) when that happened to me.... In my panic I launched some sort of rocket/bazooka type weapon at it.

        The moth survived, I didn't....

    2. Lilolefrostback

      Re: Remove the note!

      Haven't done that, but I have, on occasion, thought about highlighting a passage in a Word document with a physical high-lighter.

      To be fair, I was very blond as a child.

  29. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    I once did a home fallout for a blind man. My job was to set up a brand new Dell computer that he had purchased on the very specific advice of a charity who was helping him (it HAD to be Dell). He had also purchased a CD with some special screen reader software. So after he led me to the room (the lights were off!) he explained that his mother had been trying to set it up but there was an error on the screen that she couldn’t quite read, that just would not go away. On close inspection (once he showed me where the lights were) I found there was indeed a message on the screen. It said “remove protective film before use”.

  30. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Oh my oh my

    Just did exactly the same to my boss THIS WEEK. Departmental meeting in Boss office.

    Boss apologises can't bring up workload on big tele as tele has bust and we have to rely on laptop.

    I look across her desk, straight at side of said tele, straight at teensy rocker switch, firmly in "off" position.

    I say "they work a lot better with power", lean forward and turn on.

    It was a much lighter meeting than usual.

    Kwality

  31. bobajob12

    I think we need a set of white lies to tell users

    I have found a set of indirect questions and white lies helps a lot to solve the problem and let the user save face, which makes for a much more peaceful environment...and also helps massively when pay review time comes around, because the users love you. This also ties in with my other cardinal rule of always keeping the admin and janitorial staff happy. Not only is it simple good manners but you'd be amazed how shitty they can make your life.

    So, for example:

    - "sometimes the power is a bit balky. can you try plugging your pc into a different socket?" as opposed to "have you turned it on?"

    - "ah, you use the printer in the break room? sometimes people leave it in a funny state. do me a favor and see if the drawers are all open? you might need to open and close them firmly" as opposed to "fill it with paper you noob"

    1. Andy A

      Re: I think we need a set of white lies to tell users

      I used to use "Can you check the cables round the back - maybe the cleaners have dislodged something", knowing full well that no cleaner ever visited their grimy cave.

      Just giving them a chance to blame someone else (even if fictional) enabled them to save face and admit that their PC had been unplugged all the time.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: I think we need a set of white lies to tell users

      I use "somebody may have been using headed paper and hasn't shut the tray properly, can you just check"

  32. macaroo
    Happy

    I love these stories

    Some of my favorite: The woman who call Support that her coffee cup holder disappeared after rebooting her computer. It turned out she was using the DVD tray as a coffee cup holder. How bout the woman who had trouble controlling her computer using the mouse. After much discussion, support found out the mouse was on the floor under her computer. She was stepping on it as you would a speed petal on a sewing machine. Of course my favorite: the customer who called support about the Fat Al error being displayed on her monitor. She wanted to know who Fat Al was.

  33. HurdImpropriety

    Edgelords

    Came here looking for swarmy Edgelords in their mamas basements poking fun at "normal users" because they "just don't get computers"....

    Leaving here completely satisfied.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Edgelords

      ODFO

  34. 2Fat2Bald

    I used to do helpdesk for a major bank. It was amazing how often we'd get phone calls from users telling us their computer was really, really slow. And we'd check the management software - and it's not been rebooted for 30 days+.

    So. I'd tell them to reboot it at lunchtime or at hometime. Most of the time, though, they just turned the monitor off and on again - or outright lied to us about doing anything at all.

    So I instead asked them to call in when they were going home or going to lunch and I'd do an "administrative shutdown & rebuild" for them (just a reboot from the command prompt in reality). Then I'd log them back in and lock the PC when it came back up. So when they got back, everything was ready for them.

    Sometimes it's the medicine. Sometimes it's the spoon.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019