back to article User dialled his PC into a permanent state of 'Brown Alert'

Why hello there, dear readers, and welcome once again to On-Call, The Register's Friday folly in which we recount readers' tales of being asked to undo the messes that users leave behind. This week, meet “Rick” who told us that in the 1990s he “worked in a security centre that had bespoke hardware and software for monitoring …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    USB makes it possible to have two physical keyboards on one PC - one wired, one wireless.

    Great fun can be had by "bumping" the wireless keyboard/mouse on a random basis. Bonus points if the "bump" goes unnoticed and some lewd swear word is induced into the document the user is working on...

    Regarding monitors - had a small POS monitor once, if you turned its brightness up above a certain value, it trips the power. Just used it as a Novell Netware monitor afterwards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      USB mice are fun...

      ...especially if the other person doesn't know you've plugged it in. Wireless dongle on the back of the tower, wireless mouse on another desk in range, & occaisionally jiggle the mouse to freak them out.

      Same setup with a wireless keyboard allows you to randomly type "haunted messages" to your victim, even if you can't see the screen to correct splelnig mistkaes.

      A wireless dongle to broadcast the screen to another wireless equipped monitor takes care of that last part, so you can make sure to fiddle with them in the middle of their session.

      If they've got a web cam (or you install one without them knowing) then you can record their reactions for later republishing to the company servers.

      Just make sure your health premiums are paid up, they'll probably kill you when they find out what you've done.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: USB mice are fun...

        I remember an intern fighting with a mouse of the usb flavor on our old NT4.0 server !

        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          Re: USB mice are fun...

          @chivo243

          No, you don't remember an intern fighting with a USB mouse on an NT4 server. It didn't support USB, that arrived with Windows 2000.

          (to be very picky, there were some third party USB drivers for NT4. I've never used them, and understood they didn't work very well).

          1. AS1

            Re: USB mice are fun...

            @Binky (USB + NT4 = 0)

            Yes, but that's something you don't tell the intern until after its coffee's cold.

          2. Soruk
            Go

            Re: USB mice are fun...

            There was a driver, one shipped by Dell, but worked on Compaqs too, that would offer some USB support to NT4. I successully used keyboards, mice and USB storage (flash, hard drives and CDs) on it.

            1. dmacleo

              Re: USB mice are fun...

              had a compaq ml350 (g1) running nt that used this

      2. Bernard M. Orwell
        Trollface

        Re: USB mice are fun...

        Once worked on a site where users were organized in "pods" of four with their 21" CRT monitors back to back in the centre of the pod....

        ...ah the fun we used to have swapping the keyboards and mouses around randomly....

        1. Tim 11

          Re: USB mice are fun...

          back in the 90's you used to have sockets on the back of the PC to piggy-back power to the monitor.

          When a colleague was away I put a novell netware server under his desk, connected it to his keyboard and screen, and piggy-backed the power to the server off his PC. Then primed a colleague to mention that we'd had to install netware on his PC due to a customer emergency. At first he laughed it off but when he powered on the PC and saw netware booting up it definitely had him believing it.

      3. Martin
        Happy

        Haunted messages...

        Someone once spotted me in the machine room on a security camera. So they remotely logged into the machine nearest me, made it beep, so I turned towards it - then they typed "Hello Martin..." on the screen.

        I will admit to a slight HAL shiver...

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Haunted messages...

          When servers had proper CD drives, rather than laptop-sized ones... eject and then close them remotely. Bonus points if you can synchronise several servers around a colleague.

          A real joker would hook it up to a PIR sensor. Or so I would imagine ;-)

          1. Peb

            Re: Haunted messages...

            One Christmas many years ago, everyone in the office was playing *their* favourite Christmas song on their state of the art XP desktop. So of course it was bedlam... until I wrote a task to get everyone’s pc to play Fairytale of New York (unfortunately they were all slightly out of phase of it sounded even worse)

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Haunted messages...

              Our Apple lab had 44 iMac CRTs ranged on the benches. Apple Remote Desktop used to have a lovely "play sound" function, as well as the capability of turning the microphone on remotely. We could eavesdrop on suspicious looking groups of students lurking near the back of the lab away from the technician's windows, then play machine gun fire from all around them.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Haunted messages...

                When we got our first Sun workstations one of my colleagues discovered that he could copy audio files to the speaker on any of them via rcp, the device was unprotected.

                Once day he sent the loud bit of the Hallelujah chorus to a system on the floor below. Unknown to him its owner was demoing something new to a visiting director, and his timing was unintentionally perfect. Just as the demo had successfully finished the system burst into "Ha-le-lu-jah! Ha-le-lu-jah!". The demo owner just looked stunned and spluttered "it's never done that before!"

              2. Adam 1 Silver badge

                Re: Haunted messages...

                > Apple Remote Desktop used to have a lovely "play sound" function, as well as the capability of turning the microphone on remotely

                Pretty sure they just brought that feature back. Have you tried logging in as root and pressing the OK button twice?

            2. Wensleydale Cheese
              Unhappy

              Re: Haunted messages...

              "One Christmas many years ago..."

              I'd written a nifty little add-on to our menuing system to display announcements such as "System down for Preventative Maintenance tomorrow from 9am".

              Come Christmas, a colleague put in a rather fine ASCI art Christmas tree.

              All the staff thought it was great, The manager in one department didn't and complained we were wasting company time.

              A foretaste of management ungratitude to come, I suppose. We were all putting in 60+ hour weeks at that point.

        2. Cpt Blue Bear

          Re: Haunted messages...

          "Someone once spotted me in the machine room on a security camera. So they remotely logged into the machine nearest me, made it beep, so I turned towards it - then they typed "Hello Martin..." on the screen.

          I will admit to a slight HAL shiver..."

          This was a mate's favourite prank way back when he was a Novell admin. The joys of Netware messaging...

          When I was a site service monkey, a colleague (that seems like a grand word for another site service monkey) struck up a romance with a Berlin based server admin like that. I have no idea if it worked out but after several months he quit and jumped on a plane for Germany. We never saw him again...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Haunted messages...

          I did some haunted audio - to a Sun workstation in a locked university building where the only people around were the security guards. Borg samples. such as "You will be assimilated" etc. Did this randomly over a period of a few weeks, and heard later that some security staff were subsequently a bit scared of the night shift.......

          1. Criggie

            Re: Haunted messages...

            I had a flatmate who had a budgie - it was dead silent and never made a noise.

            So I found some short WAV file of a bird squirching / tweeting / whatever, and had the house server play that once randomly through the day between 9 am and 5 pm.

            The server had some 1.5W unpowered PC speakers and a SB16 (it was a 486 of some sort sharing a dialup modem amongst the house over 10baseT ethernet) It was several months before Sarah figured out it was the server making the noise, not the bird.

            At that point I killed the cronjob. After a couple of days she asked "did you stop the bird sound?" to which I confirrmed. "So why has Bird started making happy noises?"

            Turns out the bird had started to make bird noises in the day too, and he never shut up again.

      4. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: USB mice are fun...

        > Wireless dongle on the back of the tower, wireless mouse on another desk in range

        Plugging in the receiver to the port inside the case itself is much more fun. So I've heard. Mate of a mate.

      5. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: USB mice are fun...

        I recently had some keyboard problems on my home PC where both the mouse and keyboard functions wouldn't work as expected. For example, I'd click on something, the menu would pop up as expected, then immediately cancel... I was swearing at my (wireless) keyboard, swapping batteries, rebooting the computer...

        Then I remembered the wired keyboard I'd plugged in some time ago and set on the desk above the keyboard drawer (the theory being I could type without repositioning my wireless, which I use for gaming, and not the WASD layout everybody else uses)... which got slowly shoved back and buried in papers and junk. I performed a nice series of facepalms and headdesks when I remembered this and cured the problem by simply unplugging the extra.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Acronym alert...

      POS = Point Of Sale or Piece Of Shit?

      Or both?

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Acronym alert...

        In this case POS = Point Of Sales AND Piece of [brown turd]

      2. fobobob

        Re: Acronym alert...

        Yes.

      3. Chemical Bob

        Re: Acronym alert...

        Poor Old Sod

      4. Louis Schreurs BEng

        Re: Acronym alert...POS = Point Of Sale or Piece Of Shit

        As non native english person it took me quite a while to get to the meaning of the Ford POS that Will Smith declared in Men In Black

        Wondered what type and year that Ford would have to be....................

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Acronym alert...POS = Point Of Sale or Piece Of Shit

          Thanks for prompting me to look up an explanation of why the policeman wizard (!) in Ben Aaronovitch's "Rivers of London" novel series ends up mostly driving a "Ford Asbo".

    3. Cronus

      At the last place I worked a colleague and I used to play pranks on each other. One night after everyone had gone home I unplugged his keyboard and mouse from the back of his Mac (dirty front-end developer) and the same to his nearest co-worker, then plugged his into his co-workers Mac and his co-workers into his Mac. I wasn't in the next day but apparently it took them about half an hour before they figured out what had happened.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Ah, the days of AppleTalk and Apple Serial and PC Serial connectors. All looked very much the same until the you got to the end user who had just spent the last hour pushing a PC serial mouse into the Macintosh AppleTalk port, or tried to push a LocalTalk connector into his/her keyboard port. Then you would be met with completely broken pins in what was then a really expensive cable, IIRC LocalTalk connectors from Apple cost around £50 each from Farallon in the early/mid 90's.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I had an out of hours call from the "top floor" i.e. senior management of a previous employer because the "keyboard isn't working". I was still in the building but getting ready to go home as it was 8pm. When I get there I realise I'm not familiar with the program he's using on screen but a keyboard's a keyboard. I plug in the new keyboard, remove the wireless one for testing and after checking it works in Notepad am about to get on my merry way. Not so fast "The screen looks different to the one I'm used to why is that?" I explained that I wasn't aware of this system and could he explain further? Yes I normally see this whole thing looking differently. So I sit whilst he tells me it's the new keyboard that's caused the problem. Defeated I put a call in to someone who does know about this and he guides me through safely shutting down and restarting the program. Nope it still looks the same "Any other clever thoughts?" "Yeah has he logged in to the program yet" I ask and the sheepish OhmygodI'mthatstupid look on his face was priceless. Once we logged him in (it didn't prompt you for a log in) everything was back where he expected it to be.

      The wireless one just had flat batteries the lights came on but it wouldn't communicate. As it was being returned to him the next day I was tempted to do some ghostly writing but I realised that might not be a good career move.

    5. PPK
      Devil

      Re: Haunted messages

      1990 - my student year at a video broadcast equipment R&D group. Most of the machines were Sun workstations.

      One day, my boss (Dave) foolishly left his office without logging off. On his return an hour later, it took all of 10 seconds before he called my name and said 'what the bloody hell have you done this time?'

      Every command entered into the command line (vi, ls etc.) would result in Douglas Rain's dulcet tones - 'I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that'.

      Lovely what command aliasing can do!

  2. Sequin

    Not the brightest.....

    I once had to jump in a taxi to the datacentre because the operators were trying to run a system that dialled in to prisons to download prison officers' overtime claims for pushing through the payroll system. "If they don't get their overtime, they'll go on work to rule and there'll be prison riots!" I was told. I asked what the problem with the system was and was told "all of the menus have disappeared".

    After a 30 minute taxi trip, clutching manuals and back up disks I eventually got through security into the computer suite. I examined the system (an old CCP/M system with a green screen monitor), turned up the brightness and walked out.

    Somebody had cleaned the screen with alcohol wipes, and in the process managed to turn the rotary brightness knob right dow, so only highlighted text could be seen.

    1. Ralph the Wonder Llama
      FAIL

      Re: Not the brightest.....

      Dim. Dimmer. Dimmest.

      1. gregthecanuck
        Angel

        Re: Not the brightest.....

        Congratulations. You have won LOL of the day!

    2. JimC Silver badge

      Re: so only highlighted text could be seen.

      I once had a call from a very aggrieved user because I'd messed up her PC so only a few random letters were scattered round the screen. DOS Wordperfect highlighted certain letters, I forget details, but I think it may have been the beginning of sentences. You know the rest.

      1. Michael Thibault

        Re: so only highlighted text could be seen.

        "DOS Wordperfect highlighted certain letters, I forget details"

        I had forgotten. And now, this. You've ruined my weekend!

    3. tim 13

      Re: Not the brightest.....

      I've done similar, moving a heavy monitor with rotary controls on the bottom edge, rested the edge on a desk to shift the weight and low and behold, it stopped working...

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Not the brightest.....

        Had someone who had swapped their low end monitor with someone else who had a much more up to date jobbie. These were both CRT and I think the difference in screen size was about an inch. They weren't supposed to do that and therefore it was a worried bloke who called me to say that the screen was now pink shaded. After a trek up to his desk on an otherwise deserted floor (it had gone beer o'clock) I spotted the switch had been made. The monitors were being replaced when the computer was replaced and he had an old computer. So I pointed this out and he admitted to being naughty and wouldn't do it again.

        Now I told him he'd broken a brand new monitor and we paid £300 each for these. After the colour had drained from his cheeks and he'd worried himself some more. I explained that he hadn't broken the monitor just the IT rules. I reached round the back of the display and pushed the cable all the way in. Low and behold the correct colours returned to the monitor and it looked slightly less Barbie like. This was then swapped back to the correct computer and he was given a verbal warning not to unplug stuff he didn't know about.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got a call to replace a monitor...

    I'm on the HellDesk as a level 2 tech when one of the l1 guys kicks a ticket up into my realm.

    The user reported that they could no longer use their monitor. The l1 tech had gone through the entire checklist of steps to try & correct it to no avail. So I get the ticket as the next step in the problem solving process.

    I grab my toolkit, a couple of spare cables (data & power), plus a spare monitor just in case, then head for the user's cubicle. I step around the end partition half-height-wall & stare in disbelief at what I see before me.

    You know that old joke about the person being so dim they used tippex on the screen? I'll give you three guesses to the cause of them "not being able to see the screen" & the first two don't count.

    I tried to patiently explain why you don't do that sort of thing, suggested they carefully clean the screen off of all the crusty blobs, & went back to my desk.

    I pulled a BOFH after that to calm down, and NO I won't post about that part as the statute of limitations hasn't expired on it yet...

  4. LDS Silver badge

    So let's thanks technology...

    ... for removing knobs from monitors!

    1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: So let's thanks technology...

      ...although we are still left to deal with the knobs in front of the monitors!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So let's thanks technology...

        Had a new monitor. It resolutely refused to power up by touching the "power" legend on the bezel.

        Looked at the instruction sheet. A little picture showed the monitor front and a set of annotated lines going to the legends on the bezel.

        Finally gave up and started to lift it off the desk - at which point it powered up. Could only get it to power down by removing the mains cable. Repeated the same lifting action a few times - and suddenly it powered up again. Wait - what was that faint click?

        It wasn't touch sensitive legends - it was a set of very tiny black microswitch buttons under the edge of the black bezel. My hand just happened to lift the screen in the area of the power one.

        The screen could be rotated on its stand to portrait mode. Tthe point you gripped the bezel edge to turn it - was where the power button was placed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So let's thanks technology...

          Had a new monitor. It resolutely refused to power up by touching the "power" legend on the bezel.

          Looked at the instruction sheet. A little picture showed the monitor front and a set of annotated lines going to the legends on the bezel.

          Finally gave up and started to lift it off the desk - at which point it powered up.

          I had almost the same with a brand new monitor, except I got as far as deciding it was DOA, disassembled it and was putting in back in its packaging when I noticed a rocker switch hidden away beside the power socket.

          Black on black of course.

          I scoured the "Quick Start" pamphlet and the fuller instructions that came on a CD but couldn't find a mention of the rocker switch anywhere.

          Naturally, it fired up without problems once I'd reassembled the thing and set the rocker switch to "On".

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: So let's thanks technology...

        "knobs in front of the monitors"

        KIFOM. Another one to join PEBKAC, ID10T and PICNIC.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: So let's thanks technology...

      So let's thanks technology...

      ... for removing knobs from monitors!

      Not a lot technology can do about knobs sitting in front of monitors though...

      1. Blitheringeejit
        Mushroom

        @Teiwaz

        >>Not a lot technology can do about knobs sitting in front of monitors though...

        In an BOFH-inspired moment, I have sketched a design for a device which fits into a conventional desktop PC CDROM slot, which on receiving a remote <clickety> trigger from an admin account, opens the slot door and fires a taser out at the user.

        Kickstarter anyone?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: fires a taser out at the user

          The Zap drive?

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: fires a taser out at the user

            "The Zap drive?"
            And if the luser dies, it would be the clackety of death...

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. PNGuinn
          Facepalm

          Re: @Teiwaz

          No good, my old fruit. Fits a cd rom slot. I guess it'll have (a) rounded corner.

          Someone'll sue the &^$% out of you for that.

          Make a 5 1/4 inch razor sharp brush cutter type blade, preferably out of something like depleted Unobtanium, rev her up and then FIRE! Rotary LART.

          Bullseye!

          >>We need a rotary LART icon.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: @Teiwaz

            "Make a 5 1/4 inch razor sharp brush cutter type blade"
            Believe me, it doesn't need to be sharp...

            Brushcutter attachment

    3. VinceH Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: So let's thanks technology...

      "... for removing knobs from monitors!"

      ...and instead replacing them with just about flush buttons on the side, with nothing to indicate where they are or which one does what. At least clear, visible knobs give you something obvious to try - instead of leaving you with something you obviously need to hunt for.

      Swings. Roundabouts.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: So let's thanks technology...

        My favourite is modern TV's. If you lose the remote you have to fiddle around the back of the screen looking for the buttons, guessing which is which.

        1. SloppyJesse

          Re: So let's thanks technology...

          > If you lose the remote you have

          > to fiddle around the back of the

          > screen looking for the buttons,

          > guessing which is which.

          Place I used to work replaced all the meeting room screens with large panel TVs. Remotes lasted about a week, then every meeting started with someone fumbling behind the screen trying to do some kind of Vulcan neck grip.

          Genius.

        2. Michael Thibault

          Re: So let's thanks technology...

          for micro-lettering and nano-icons embossed in black plastic. Subtle, but too fekkin' subtle! In such cases, liquid corrector and a pencil eraser to the rescue.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: So let's thanks technology...

            "liquid corrector and a pencil eraser to the rescue."
            Not to mention a strong magnifying glass to read the 6 point type!

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: So let's thanks technology...

            "'It's the wild colour scheme that freaks me out,' said Zaphod, whose love affair with the ship had lasted almost three minutes into the flight. 'Every time you try and operate these weird black controls that are labeled in black on a black background, a little black light lights up in black to let you know you've done it.'"

        3. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: So let's thanks technology...

          "My favourite is modern TV's. If you lose the remote you have to fiddle around the back of the screen looking for the buttons, guessing which is which."
          Several months ago, The Gitling swapped our smaller TV for his larger Sony. I suspect that the Sony remote's battery is about to go flat. My Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has recently acquired an app to control the TV. I have absolutely no idea how that happened! Spooky AI?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So let's thanks technology...

            Good job its not a samsung tv, for some reason they destroyed a perfectly good remote control app for their smart tv's

  5. ralphh

    It's all black

    Sydney, November 1990. As a developer on a OS/2 based dealing room system I was onsite for the first few weeks as the software went live.

    Cue a raised hand I went to the assistant of a dealer, the screen was all black. On second look the highlight of the edge of the current control was white.

    It turns out the user has decided to see what would happen if he set every system color, scrollbar, menu, title bar, foreground, background and everything possible to black.

    Had to use the adjacent machine as a guide to key press my way back to default.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: It's all black

      It turns out the user has decided to see what would happen if he set every system color, scrollbar, menu, title bar, foreground, background and everything possible to black.

      Maybe he thought his eyes responded to different wavelengths.

      Or he was just very depressed.

      Sorry, another HHGTTG reference

      1. ralphh

        Re: It's all black

        Never apologize for a HHGTTG reference :)

      2. hopkinse

        Re: It's all black

        Was his name Hotblack? :-)

    2. Joe Harrison

      Re: It's all black

      When mobile phones were new and interesting I was handed a Nokia 2110 to be on standby over xmas. I was fascinated by the dozens of menus including one where you could set it to any language you liked, so I tried Finnish (in honour of it being a Nokia.) Now of course the entire phone is in Finnish, including the menu to set it back to English, which I couldn't find because I don't speak Finnish. Finally managed to get it back halfway through boxing day.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: It's all black

        " I was fascinated by the dozens of menus including one where you could set it to any language you liked..."

        I will admit to having done that.

      2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: It's all black

        I (unknowingly) bought a grey market import of a Windows 8 phone once.

        When upgrading it ( to Windows 8.1? ) it decided to reset to factory settings. Factory settings in this case meant to switch to Chinese.

        How do you spell "Language" in Simplified Chinese?

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: It's all black

          I did exactly this with an android phone a while back. Once changed from Simplified Chinese to Simplified English (US), it required a USB cable and adb on my desktop to install a package that then allowed the change of the language settings to something sensible, such as Traditional English (UK).

      3. J. Cook Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: It's all black

        I kid thee not, one of the applications we used to have at $Company had "Swedish Chef" as a language option for their web UI.

        We only found out about it as we were in the process of figuring out if there was any live data left on the bloody thing so we could decommission it and turn it off. :)

        Beer, because it's pub-o-clock somewhere...

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Swedish Chef

          Google did it too. Not sure if the option is still there. May have been an one-off joke.

          https://www.eberlysystems.com/blog/2010/09/google-swedish-chef-bork-bork-bork/

          Opera released a Bork edition of their browser, 7.03 or thereabouts, that applied the Chef accent only to msn.com pages. Part of a bigger dispute actually - MSN managed to bork pages served to Opera browsers and Opera in return borked MSN.

          www.operasoftware.com/press/releases/desktop/opera-releases-bork-edition

          extremetech.com/extreme/53428-opera-bork-bork-borks-msn-page

          cnet.com/news/opera-says-bork-to-msn-standards/

    3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: It's all black

      Such is the power and flexibility of the WorkPlace Shell - you can configure it any way you like.

      Each folder can have its own color scheme and background and font as well.

      Anybody still remember the "Hotdog Stand" color scheme from Windows 3.1?

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: It's all black

        At high school I got quite adept at customising the Windows 3.1 colour scheme by editing win.ini... the teachers really didn't like it. Also playing the fire alarm sound using qbasic loops.

        When mobile phones first became accessible to students, the first thing I did whenever I got one was to work out the language-change key sequence (eg menu-5-7-2) both so that I could very quickly fiddle with someone else's and so I could reset it when some other bugger did it to me.

        1. Wensleydale Cheese

          Re: It's all black

          "When mobile phones first became accessible to students, the first thing I did whenever I got one was to work out the language-change key sequence (eg menu-5-7-2) both so that I could very quickly fiddle with someone else's and so I could reset it when some other bugger did it to me."

          The Nokia User Manuals in that era contained the full menu structure and the advice that you could go directly to any item by entering something like "menu.11.4.2"

          Of course, that was in the days when User Manuals were worth reading and had a typeface you could read without a magnifying glass.

      2. Fiddler on the roof

        Re: It's all black

        Remember it? It's still burn into my retinas!!

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: It's all black

        Anybody still remember the "Hotdog Stand" color scheme from Windows 3.1?

        Thankfully, no. Or at least, I didn't until you reminded me..

        So if you'll just let me know your address so I can send you the therapy^W alcohol bill..

      4. J. Cook Silver badge
        Go

        Re: It's all black

        Anybody still remember the "Hotdog Stand" color scheme from Windows 3.1?

        Yes, and I miss it terribly- it was an awesomely annoying color scheme to use on a production server's console, so that you knew instantly if you had accidentally logged into the production app server instead of the test app server.

        (No, I've never had to restore a production server after the vendor accidentally remoted into it and started installing the next version, which was supposed to be installed on the dev server...)

        1. Criggie

          Re: It's all black

          Anything that helps avoid a problem is a good thing.

          At one point I was working at a cash-strapped school, and ended up with four servers in my office for 4 months, because of emergency building works.

          The KVM was off limits and hadn't been rescued along with the servers, but I had a rotary VGA switch and spare keyboards/mice. So all servers got hideous backgrounds, keyboards and mice were all colour-labelled clearly.

          And it was all for naught.... I still managed to CAD on a linux server's keyboard console by mistake, thinking it was the screen in front of me. Yes it rebooted, and yes I disabled that in inittab immediately it finished booting.

      5. PNGuinn
        Trollface

        Re: It's all black

        "Anybody still remember the "Hotdog Stand" color scheme from Windows 3.1?"

        No, but I do remember a screensaver from back in the days when microshaft could still write an os, all 16 bits of it.

        Someone correct me if they remember it and I'm wrong, but I think it was called "Leaking Roof" or somesuch. When it kicked in drops of condensation appeared inside the crt and ran down inside, slowly smudging the desktop.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          @PNGuinn -- Re: It's all black

          That (Leaking Roof) and the one (I forget the name) that dropped all the letters randomly to the bottom of the screen.

  6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  7. TRT Silver badge

    At a college of design...

    a favourite cry was that the keyboard or mouse had stopped working in the PC lab. Never happened in the Apple lab, oddly. But the usual cause was that the lazy buggers had slouched further and further back on the chairs, stretching their legs further and further under the desks until their toes had caught the excessively long USB keyboard/mouse cables hanging down the gap at the back of the desk and yanked them out of the rear of the machine. The iMacs were of the all-in-one CRT design, and the USBs plugged in at the side, so it was obvious when they started pulling loose.

    Stingy old estates wouldn't buy us the properly designed cantilever desks with cable management trays and toe boards - we had to use the solid oak 4 leg tables that had served the design department for the last 50 years since when the college buildings were finally finished off after the end of WW2. I secretly didn't mind plugging the keyboards back in if it meant we could keep all the oak tables, the wainscotting, flock wallpaper, cat 2 suspended billiard hall style lighting, oak window shutters and gilt framed portraits of former principals on the wall - it made the place more like a cut price country club than the late 70s / early 1980s drab office, vertical blind, plastic potted plant, room dividers open plan labs in the newer building extension.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At a college of design...

      "[...] it made the place more like a cut price country club than the late 70s / early 1980s drab office, [...]"

      In the 1970s the company acquired a lease on an ancient country house in Scotland as a software development centre. The house had been neglected since been used as a billet for soldiers in the 1940s. Part of the deal was for it to be refurbished by the company. This involved renovating panelling which was now intricately carved with graffiti.

      Any modernisation was limited by the rules on "listed" buildings.

      Most of the rooms were very large with enormous Adam-style fireplaces. In the first winter there was as yet no central heating - so large log fires were the order of the day. One room had once been converted to a gymnasium for the soldiers - its lighting was powerful mercury arc lamps inset in the high ceiling. Once they warmed up it was very bright.

      The most desirable office was the compact "armoury" room at the top of the building which was accessed via a spiral stone staircase.

      Light switches were in apparently arbitrary positions - marked with a neon indicator. Leaving our office at night you had to switch off the lights before descending the magnificent stairway in the dark. Then you aimed for the neon indicator of the hall light switch by groping along the wall - being mindful of the fixed marble tables along the wall en route. The tables' sharp corners were at crotch height.

      On a moonlit winter's night the stairs would have a ghostly illumination from a large window - and windblown tree branches would cast ominous swaying shadows. That was usually the point when the resident cat would choose to scamper past you.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: At a college of design...

        That was usually the point when the resident cat would choose to scamper past you.

        They are specially trained for that y'know. Especially the black[1] ones..

        [1] Apart from mine. She has lesser cats to do that for her. And anyway, she isn't really the shape to scamper..

    2. gotes

      Re: At a college of design...

      I use a twist tie to shorten mouse/keyboard cables, I find it's a lot cheaper than buying a fancy new desk.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: I use a twist tie to shorten [...] cables

        They kept taking them off because they liked propping the keyboard on their tummy at the ultimate stage of relaxation / slouch (I tried it - it takes more energy to maintain that kind of extreme slouch than sitting properly!).

  8. foo_bar_baz
    Coffee/keyboard

    Unplugged cable

    As a junior techie I got an emergency phone call once about a "broken scanner" threatening to break a deadline. The error message was apparently to the tune of "scanner not found or disconnected".

    Cue travelling across the city for the better part of an hour, to find - you guessed it - the SCSI cable was disconnected.

    It was an important lesson for me, and demonstrates the reason why remote support make you walk through their annoying checklists. Not everyone can understand even the most explicit error messages.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Unplugged cable

      I deal with a lot of, shall we say 'non-technical' users. My stance now is that no cable is plugged in unless someone competent has been on site to verify it, because I can't trust any of the users to answer the question correctly.

      They'll tell you a hundred times that they've never touched the cables and that they're all plugged in correctly, just as I've asked, and yet when someone pops round to have a look...

      I'm yet to find a way around them classifying cables by colour, rather than type. So a USB cable and an ethernet cable are assumed to be identical because they're both black, where as the red networking cable must be something different. I've tried focusing on the connectors but apparently they're too small to see properly.

      I'd assumed that the child's toy of 'square block goes in square hole, round block goes in round hole' would have equipped most adults to correctly plug different cables into the correctly shaped sockets, but apparently the general population has forgotten the lessons they learnt as a child.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: Unplugged cable

        There's a marketable toy idea. Baby's first USB Hub.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unplugged cable

        A few weeks ago I spent 5min on Facetalk failing to get my mother in law to press the TV button on her remote control, half of it asking her to point the camera at the remote so I could tell her exactly which button had TV written on it. That went exactly as well as the previous phone calls telling her the same thing.

        Something about remote support turns people into deaf and blind idiots incapable of anything. Sadly not dumb.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Unplugged cable

          Got one better. in my days of doing DSL support ATT had this brilliant idea to color code things. The made the RJ11 cable green and the rRJ45 cable yellow. Then even had the genius idea to put a green square on the DSL modem were the RJ11 cable went and a made the RJ45 ports yellow.

          Now people could not figure this out. You ass them to grab the green cable and the would grab the yellow cable. You tell people to plug the green cable into the green square and the would plug it into the yellow RJ45 ports. then say well the green cable fits.

          My favorite is the dsl modem turn on or plugged in. Of course the answer is yes. Next question. are any of the lights amber, no. Are any of the lights blinking, no. Are any of the lights on no. Lets do a special reset . Unplug the power supply to from the wall and the DSL modem , wait 30 seconds and then plug it back in. usually silence when they realize that it's unplug. But then you get some extra thick block head that says I do not know how to do that or I can't. At that point we offer to send a tech out but tell them if it's not a fault with our equipment there is a $75 service charged.

          I did have one guy insist on having a tech out, would not trouble shoot. Later found out he had a Boss that would love to try his ideas out first. he would even tried to tell the onsite tech what to do. tech notes read customer needs professional help that I can not give. Customer goes to bad web sites with no AV.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Unplugged cable

            I can't understand why designer idiots pick green and yellow as they are just about the two colours closest to each other in the colour spectrum. Which cable? The smudgy mucky off-brown one or the mucky smudgy off-brown one? If you're imparting information through colour you must use colours that are as distinctive as possible from each other. Blue and Yellow. Black and White. Not late morning grass and early afternoon grass.

            1. H in The Hague

              Re: Unplugged cable

              "If you're imparting information through colour you must use colours that are as distinctive as possible from each other. "

              And consider colour blindness. I gather that's one of the things they considered when deciding on international standards for mains cable colours.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Unplugged cable

                "And consider colour blindness"

                A colleague was severely red/green colour blind. We used him as a guinea pig to check out our GUI developments.

                Then again - there are some people who suffer the rarer blue or yellow colour blindness.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Unplugged cable

                "I gather that's one of the things they considered when deciding on international standards for mains cable colours."

                The previous British standard for mains cable was red (L), black (N), green (E). Just about the worst combination possible. It seems that red (+) and black (-) are still used for DC.

                1. Corp-Rat

                  Re: Unplugged cable

                  The new DC colours are Brown for positive, Blue for 0V or middle and Grey for negative

          2. Keith Smith 1

            Re: Unplugged cable

            Unfortunately, many people are somewhat green/yellow colorblind.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Unplugged cable

        would have equipped most adults to correctly plug different cables into the correctly shaped sockets

        You haven't lived until you've had to extract a modem cable plug from an RJ-45 socket.. (user was complaining that he couldn't get on the network and got quite vocal when I suggested that he might have plugged the grey modem cable in rather than the yellow ethernet cable.. Some embarrased silence was observed after I arrived and pointed out the mistake. For the remainder of his (thankfully short - he was definately light on people skills) time there he apparently slagged me off for being snooty and sarcastic..)

        It was the snooty bit I objected to - sarcastic was a job requirement at that place.

      4. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Unplugged cable

        I've found that a USB cable will fit reasonably well in an RJ45 socket ( trying to plug things in when you can't see the sockets ).

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Unplugged cable

          (USB in rj45)

          Yes but when it didn't work, you actually checked why and fixed it.

          Now, how does a user manage to put a USB plug into an eSATA socket?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Unplugged cable

            Now, how does a user manage to put a USB plug into an eSATA socket?

            There are combo eSata/USB sockets that can take either connector, I had one on my last laptop.

        2. Criggie

          Re: Unplugged cable

          Even more fun - the metal shield on USB can short pins in the RJ45 jack, which can really confuse the switch at the other end.

      5. bobajob12

        Re: Unplugged cable

        Re: the "square block in square hole" theory, yes, but I've noticed a disturbing uptick in the number of cases where people have plugged a USB cable into what they thought was the USB port...but turned out to be the oh-so-forgiving RJ45 Ethernet port. Anyone else seeing this?

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Unplugged cable

          turned out to be the oh-so-forgiving RJ45 Ethernet port.

          It's easier that way, because it can go in either way up...

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Unplugged cable

            last company I worked at did group homes for the mentally challanged. they tended to buy the cheapest consumer-grade specials that the local Big box office supply store had and expected me to keep them working.

            One of these computers was an eMachine. (you know, the ones with the sticker on the front that said "Never needs to be upgraded!") it had *TWO* USB ports- one on the front, one on the back.

            I got called out because the mouse had stopped working on it. Turns out some numpty unplugged the USB mouse from the rear port, then tried to plug it back in. Upside down. And when it wouldn't go, forced it, completely destroying the port.

            Fortunately, they had a front USB port, so I was able to get them up and running until I could scrounge an add-in card with four ports on it.

      6. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Unplugged cable

        I've tried focusing on the connectors but apparently they're too small to see properly.

        There's also the matter that an USB A connector more or less fits an RJ45 socket.

  9. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    2 Keyboards...

    We have all done the "wait, why is it not working" one when using 2 keyboard on 2 systems when troubleshooting/file copying/rebuilding hardware... right? Right? It's not just me?!

    Oh, and even worse when the second keyboard is connected to the Laptop, and I'm wondering why the PC is not working...

    (Solved by using an actual remote desktop solution ;) )

    1. Fink-Nottle
      Facepalm

      Re: 2 Keyboards...

      Still worse is the sinking feeling when you find you've accidentally hit "disable remote input" on VNC to a remotely located PC ...

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: 2 Keyboards...

        you've accidentally hit "disable remote input" on VNC to a remotely located PC

        Or the worse feeling when you realise that you have typed in that delete command on the production system rather than the test system..

        (They were supposed to have different desktop colours and a big "production system" watermark on the live system but a previous sysadmin had reset the desktop to default because he didn't like the colours..)

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: 2 Keyboards...

          "They were supposed to have different desktop colours and a big "production system" watermark on the live system "

          I always liked the way that OS/2 had a red background covered in bombs when you were logged in as admin.

          Subtle but effective.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: 2 Keyboards...

      PS/2 KVM switch

      PC that doen't have PS/2 ports.

      Plug in USB keyboard & mouse.

      Switch monitor with KVM switch (actually just a __M switch now)

      Forget which keyboard to use.

      Try to use USB keyboard on system that the monitor is showing and vice versa.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: 2 Keyboards...

        Just last night, I was on the Playstation and needed to send a message, so I opened the text chat, put down the controller and started to type on the keyboard.

        Which, obviously, is connected to my PC, and not my PS4...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2 Keyboards...

        "Plug in USB keyboard & mouse.

        Switch monitor with KVM switch (actually just a __M switch now)"

        No, actually just a _V_ switch now. (But we all knew what you meant.)

      3. Wensleydale Cheese

        KVMs...

        "PS/2 KVM switch

        PC that doen't have PS/2 ports.

        Plug in USB keyboard & mouse.

        Switch monitor with KVM switch (actually just a __M switch now)"

        Memories of the time I tried to share a keyboard and mouse across two systems that had their own monitors. The KVM device was an intelligent one, which meant it required power. It took me a while to work out that it must gets its power from one of the video ports, and then another bit of cable swapping to work out which video port that was.

        I think I used a third system to provide the video port concerned with power.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2 Keyboards...

        'PS/2 KVM switch

        PC that doesn't have PS/2 ports...'Forget which keyboard to use.

        Oh yes, been there, done that, is a bigger problem at work than at home though, thanks to the more homogeneous mix of keyboards there.

        At home, I eventually replaced my somewhat expensive-when-new PS/2 KVM switch with a cheap USB one for all my machines, truth be told, not because I kept forgetting which keyboard was which (the PS/2 one is a Model M, the USB is a HP Smartcard one) it was more the case that one night there was a certain amount of 'cat typing' by my furry overlords going on with the USB keyboard connected to the Dev machine that I didn't spot, as the monitor was switched to the GP machine....who knew that cats could figure out the joys of bash history searches? and then use them to blindly cause, ahem, mischief of the rm -f * variety?

        and, why yes, my little furry overlords, I've always wanted a Chrome bookmark folder called 'dssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss;'[''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''[p;nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbn09nj' however did you know?

    3. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: 2 Keyboards...

      "Oh, and even worse when the second keyboard is connected to the Laptop, and I'm wondering why the PC is not working..."

      Or just when your laptop is in front of your desktop monitor. I often type onto my laptop keyboard looking at the desktop monitor, or vice versa, and it takes about five seconds before I realize what is up.

  10. Richard 26

    Out of paper

    I was called to fix a printer that wasn't feeding paper. The user pointed at the paper tray, saying "it says it's out of paper but it isn't". I opened the printed, extracted the jammed paper from the fusing unit, and it sprang back into life.

    "You might have worked that out for yourself, had you not changed the printer UI to Norwegian", I said, on my way out.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Out of paper

      I opened the printed, extracted the jammed paper from the fusing unit, and it sprang back into life.

      At least it was paper? 2nd day in at the last place, they had a paper jam on their brand new, box had just been thrown out, color laser printer. They had fed it an ink-jet iron-on sheet, and it had wrapped itself around the fuser. I managed to not scratch the fuser roller un-jamming the thing, thankfully, because repairing that would not have been a warranty issue.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Out of paper

        "I managed to not scratch the fuser roller un-jamming the thing, thankfully, because repairing that would not have been a warranty issue."

        There are arguably good reasons for allowing that to become "Needs repair - and not under warranty" issue.

        The single fastest way for people to learn lessons is when it directly affects their wallet.

  11. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Stop

    Brownouts

    My sympathy here is with the operator who turned the brightness down to spare his eyes. The story as told may have been glossing over very good medical reasons for adjusting a working environment - especially if it was back in the days of flickering VDUs. And strain on the eyes could have seriously affected his brain, to the point of failing to notice the wrong keyboard - even if calling helpdesk might possibly be stretching the point.

    Indeed, it was trouble with petty office managers[1] that drove me out of an office environment and into working from home.

    [1] OK, that wasn't monitor settings, it was things like standardised desks forcing me into a posture that my back couldn't cope with.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Brownouts

      Agreed - if brightness fucks with the colour, thats a hardware issue not user error

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Brownouts

        thats a hardware issue not user error

        Well - except for the fact that the rods and cones in the eyes have different sensitivities and dim light won't always cause the colour perception to trigger..

        (Which is why things look grey at night)

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Brownouts

          Brown is actually a yellow that is much darker than something else yellow.

          1. Fihart

            Re: Brownouts

            Reminds me of user manual included with a graphics card. Perhaps translated from Chinese by the only person in the company who spoke any English, but who evidently to had little idea about the product.

            There were various vaguely comprehensible suggestions on remedies if no image appeared on the attached monitor. The last was advice to check that the monitor's screen was not so dirty that you couldn't see anything !

            1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

              Re: Brownouts

              @Fihart - That might have been from experience, have you seen the pollution levels in China?

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Brownouts

              "The last was advice to check that the monitor's screen was not so dirty that you couldn't see anything !"

              Some kit had been installed in the London Underground in an area very close to the tracks. After only a few months the monitor was already coated in grime as if it had been there for centuries. That's why they employ "fluffers" to keep the tracks clean.

            3. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Brownouts

              Perhaps translated from Chinese by the only person in the company who spoke any English, but who evidently to had little idea about the product.

              Back in the seventies my sister bought a portable B/W TV. Made in Korea. Mind that the seventies are sufficiently far back in time that 'Korea' was associated with 'cheap cruddy stuff' instead of 'technologically advanced stuff'.

              The manual for that TV had apparently been translated from Korean into Dutch via more than one intermediate language, with the translator just picking the first meaning listed from the dictionary. This resulted in gems such as 'beeldbinnenband' for 'picture tube' ('tube' translates to 'binnenband' if it's of the tyre variety). It also had the noun 'set' (as in television set) translated as a verb throughout.

              1. albegadeep

                Re: Brownouts

                My most memorable bad translation was from putting together a model helicopter for a college project. "Insert M2 rod end pin type" it said. Being Americans, it took a bit of head-scratching to realize that M2 meant 2 millimeter, and "pin type" was a bare threaded rod as opposed to a ball link. In other words, "Insert pin end of pin-type (not ball link), 2 mm rod."

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Brownouts

                Google Translate came up with an interesting one the other day.

                "Allehelgenskonsert" in Norwegian should mean "All Saints [day] Concert" - or possibly "Halloween Concert" without an explicit "Eve".

                Google Translate detects it as "Western Frisian" and translates it as "Privacy statement".

                1. Robert Baker

                  Re: Brownouts

                  "Google Translate came up with an interesting one the other day."

                  Yesterday, I was watching a YouTube video about twisty puzzles, with auto-generated captions. It made numerous gaffes, such as "mirror cube" being subtitled as "American cube", but far more alarming was that one instance of "floppy cube" became "fucking", and another became "fuck you".

                  Needless to say, I have now submitted a set of manually edited subtitles for that video.

            4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Brownouts

              The last was advice to check that the monitor's screen was not so dirty that you couldn't see anything !"

              Had a call out to a factory site once for exactly that reason. In my defence and that of the tech support who allocated the engineer call out, it was not uncommon back then for CRT screens to be used well past their sell-by date such that a dim screen was "fixed" by adjusting the HT voltage up a bit.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Brownouts

                "CRT screens to be used well past their sell-by date such that a dim screen was "fixed" by adjusting the HT voltage up a bit."

                Which was ok until they caught fire due to to the tweaked HT causing a breakdown or the grime (or a combination of both)

                I saw a couple of results of this mentality. It usually cost a lot more than simply replacing the CRT in the first place.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Brownouts

      "standardised desks forcing me into a posture that my back couldn't cope with."

      That's an easy one. HSE complaint and $LARGE_FINE

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Brownouts

        "standardised desks forcing me into a posture that my back couldn't cope with."

        That's an easy one. HSE complaint and $LARGE_FINE

        Careful with doing that in Kiwiland. Under current legislation workers are also responsible for safety. Instead of the old days of "Boss, I don't want to run this machine with the guards off" "You'll be fine, it's safe, do your job or leave" it's now "Boss, if I turn this machine on and get caught I can be fined up to $50,000 (I believe - been a year since I last looked) so get stuffed" - and boss can't fire on those grounds any more.

        It was thought that making the workers responsible for their own safety would reduce the workplace accidents. I guess it also helps keep the Accident Compensation bills low - "here's your $49,000 compensation, and a fine for $50,000"....

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Brownouts

          @Kiwi - "It was thought that making the workers responsible for their own safety would reduce the workplace accidents."

          Can't that lead to employers demanding bribes from workers?

          "Here's your work station"

          "The safety guards don't work"

          "It's your work station, I'm going to have to report you... unless..."

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Brownouts

            Can't that lead to employers demanding bribes from workers?

            "Here's your work station"

            "The safety guards don't work"

            "It's your work station, I'm going to have to report you... unless..."

            So what you're saying is... That furniture making shop I've wanted to set up for a wee while now (try something new) - you've just given me a way I can buy cheap old scrap metal and turn a profit on it before my staff even turn it on for the first time? Cool! Thanks!

            (we don't have an icon that expresses evil enough!)

            1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
              Angel

              Re: Brownouts

              Wait! No! I wasn't trying to teach you...

              WTH, update CV: "2017: Coached Evil Mastermind"

              1. Kiwi Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: Brownouts

                Wait! No! I wasn't trying to teach you...

                WTH, update CV: "2017: Coached Evil Mastermind"

                You could also add "undertook study from evil mastermind" (I did teach you to think more carefully :) ), "instrumental in creating new business opportunities for overseas investors", "helped a small nation increase it's job growth potential" (At 4million population NZ is puny, and if even one potential1 job comes out of it... )

                1 Assuming I get off my arse and do something about it.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Brownouts

          I'm very well aware of the rules in kiwiland as they've been around a long time.

          Bosses sack people anyway - and then find themselves facing criminal charges + larger fines for failing to provide safety training. One of the advantages of a state-run compulsary accident insurance system is that workers actually do get compensated and dodgy company operators get nailed to the wall.

          In the UK, IT and office workers are required to self-assess, but manglement who ignore the results are in deep doo-doo.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Brownouts

            I'm very well aware of the rules in kiwiland as they've been around a long time.

            I wouldn't really call less than 2 years "a long time" in the scheme of things. Hell, it's not even 1/10th of the time since i left school!

            Bosses sack people anyway - and then find themselves facing criminal charges + larger fines for failing to provide safety training.

            The bosses don't provide safety training. They used to, but we now have schemes that screw over everyone involved "train" people in safety and. No I can't do this. Sorry. It's not in me. These are not schemes they're SCAMS. The safety training I did last year to gain my certification to be able to enter various types of work sites (eg "sitesafe certification for building" or whatever it's called) was a long way below par, and while spending a lot of time on different ways to tie ladders down and how to inspect the certification on scaffolding (not how to safely put up scaffolding, or check it's secure, merely how to look at a label and say that yes the label is there and carries a not-yet-passed date that can be filled in by any one at any time). The thing was an absolute fucking joke, a total waste of time and money, and I would be surprised if any of the younger people who did the course (who don't have real life work experience) are still alive - likely they followed the tutor's advice and suffered a quick and violent death.

            One of the advantages of a state-run compulsary accident insurance system is that workers actually do get compensated and dodgy company operators get nailed to the wall.

            Not today. Everyone involved gets fined (unless it's something the worker could not reasonably have known about). If I'm testing a power supply and zap myself then I get fined as does my boss for not providing adequate supervision. It could be that my boss told me to leave the thing alone, or it could be that he was telling me to do things in a dangerous manner.

            ACC also fines every employer. Every single one - the fines are in the form of "levies". I say they're fines because eg the electrical industry - wiring houses etc. A "home handyman" gets a bit extra crispy because he screws up wiring up an extension lead - the cost of that accident is taken out of the levies that companies, not home owners, pay. And as it's an "electrical accident" then the electricians find their levies going up, even though the person wasn't employed.

            But I digress. The laws changed last year when the new health and safety act (2015) came into force (in May IIRC, not the more appropriate April 1st (given some of the act). I haven't read it in detail but from what I do know of it much of it deserves a very large WTF icon to be plastered over the walls of the homes of whoever signed off on it.

  12. Snapper

    What do they teach.....

    I was having a chat to a team head at a clients. Told him the (by then) decades old story of watching a new girl at another clients trying to get the yellow highlighter off the screen of a CRT display with a brillo pad.

    Carried on with the time I saw someone put several dozen rows of info into a spreadsheet followed by a price in the next column, followed by opening a drawer, grabbing a calculator and adding all the prices up to type in at the bottom.

    At this point everyone close by went silent, and one girl went very, very red.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: What do they teach.....

      "At this point everyone close by went silent, and one girl went very, very red."

      A true BOFH would have taken this as an opportunity for a little one-on-one "spreadsheet coaching session" (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) with said red-faced young lady.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: What do they teach.....

        an opportunity for a little one-on-one "spreadsheet coaching session"

        .. followed by a nice time at the jobcentre after getting fired for gross misconduct..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: spreadsheets and calculators

      A colleague who can happily bend Matlab (or Octave) to his will, or write C to solve a knotty numerical problem, still has a habit of using Excel as a tabular repository of unconnected data.

      Anon, because.

      1. albegadeep

        Re: spreadsheets and calculators

        "A colleague who can happily bend Matlab (or Octave) to his will, or write C to solve a knotty numerical problem, still has a habit of using Excel as a tabular repository of unconnected data."

        I've coded in Java, C, C++, VBA, Perl, Smalltalk, Pentium assembler, and several more, own and operate my own Linux server, etc ect. - and I still do this all the time. Excel (or OO/LO Calc) is a convenient medium for storing tables of information. Use what works.

      2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: spreadsheets and calculators

        "has a habit of using Excel as a tabular repository of unconnected data."

        Joel Spolsky has commented that it was one of design goals for Excel 5 - a convenient way of keeping lists.

        OK, found the actual quote:

        "Over the next two weeks we visited dozens of Excel customers, and did not see anyone using Excel to actually perform what you would call “calculations.” Almost all of them were using Excel because it was a convenient way to create a table."

        "(Irrelevant sidenote: the few customers we could find who were doing calculations were banks, devising explosive devices called “derivatives.” They used Excel to maximize the bankers’ bonuses on nine out of ten years, and to cause western civilization to nearly collapse every tenth year. Something about black swans. Probably just a floating point rounding error.)"

        "What was I talking about? Oh yeah… most people just used Excel to make lists. Suddenly we understood why Lotus Improv, which was this fancy futuristic spreadsheet that was going to make Excel obsolete, had failed completely: because it was great at calculations, but terrible at creating tables, and everyone was using Excel for tables, not calculations."

    3. Paul

      Re: What do they teach.....

      Someone once cleaned their crt with nail varnish remover. It also removed quite a large area of the anti-glare-reflection coating, leaving a smeared mess.

      The monitor was basically f'd, and ended up in the computer room for the rare times the kvm cart was in use.

  13. GerM

    Back when I was doing L1 support I was called by a user who's keyboard had stopped working. Everything was connected ok and it seemed to have just died so I brought a replacement to swap it out.

    As soon as I picked up the old one to take away sugar starts falling out from between the keys. I tipped it upside down over the desk and the sugar just kept streaming out while he sits there saying nothing and smiling like an idiot.

    Later one of his co workers told me that he had a habit of eating donuts at his desk and had been doing so pretty much every day for the last 3 years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Same thing happens with pubic hairs on home workers' keyboards.

      1. My Alter Ego

        Ugh - pretty much had that happen. Colleague dumped his laptop on my desk and asked if I could have a look at it. After lifting the lid I decided I wasn't touching it and whilst deciding whether I just hand it back with the comment "clean it first", I opted to dig out a keyboard and mouse.

        I did make the point of leaving it on his desk and then immediately washing my hands.

  14. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
  15. Fihart

    latest user folly

    Called out a few days ago to home of friend of friend. She reported that her internet was down and Sky had suggested she borrow another Sky router to see if that fixed it. I actually had the same model kicking around so set off. Check her router -- power LED not lighting. Tried another mains socket, same result. Tried my router -- again no power LED.

    Checked the fuse box, jumper needed resetting. Then search for the phone cable -- seems to be several alternatives from different directions in the flat. Locate the correct one and as I'm sitting down at the PC, notice the user is stuffing the spare phone cable connectors into the empty network sockets on the router. Can't help but wonder if this is what blew the mains fuse.

  16. GX5000

    Windex FTW

    On Call, On Road Tech in the late 90's...

    Private Sector IT Corp Client...

    Client: I need new Monitors, biggest ones you can get...

    ME: You don't have the Deskspace for those, let me come over and check your new setup...

    Client: See? Plenty of space...

    ME: What's wrong with your Monitors they look fine...

    Client: They've faded out...blurry as shit.

    ME: OK, I'll tweak the psu and...hold up ...wipe...this must be three year's worth of cigarette smoke on here...

    Client: Well whatdyaknow...ok we're good.

  17. davidp231

    "Sir, are you absolutely sure... it doesn mean changing the bulb."

  18. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Always try putting up an RGB pattern first

    Granted, not necessary in these days of TFTs, but I still have a CRT at home that has a slightly dodgy DVI port (yep, DVI-A. Rare, but existed). Often it loses the red, and last night it was displaying everything in a lovely shade of green. I'm going to have to resort to the HD15 port instead, or finally send the CRT to the home for old tubes and grab a new 1440p monitor.

    The closest thing I've seen with modern tech is a TFT CFL backlight on the fritz, starts almost black and takes twenty seconds before it kicks in and illuminates the panel. It was attached to a KVM and not used very often, but finally died earlier this year.

    1. Keith Smith 1

      Re: Always try putting up an RGB pattern first

      Red always seems to be the issue. Pop cover, smear flux on passthru pins from connector. Heat pins one at a time with 40w pencil iron. If solder drops on pin add some, then clean off excess flux. (Water soluable fluxes tend to be very active) VGA notorius also for cold joints at the external ports, even on panels.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: Always try putting up an RGB pattern first

        I'll bear it in mind! I took the easy way out and resorted to the HD15 port..It's a tiny bit more fuzzy, but only a little, I think.

  19. MisterHappy

    Silent laptops

    Going back a few years one of the Toshiba laptop models (Tecra A2 I think) had a volume control dial on the side of the casing, in just the right place for it to be dialled to 0 when pulling the laptop from the bag. Because the were lightweight for the time they were popular with execs & said execs demanded a visit instead of going through the usual help desk script.

    Cue a technician turning up and rotating the little dial slightly to 'fix' the problem.

  20. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Magic Magnets

    The old CRT monitors were calibrated with a complex stack of sliding ring magnets to align the three electron beams through the mask and onto the matching phosphor. Dynamic defects in mask alignment were fixed by taping weak magnets to the back of the tube. Of course, the magnets fall off as soon as the warranty is up. An amazing Facilities lead has been changing the HVAC filters regularly so you find a perfectly clean CRT tube when the cover is removed - and you're screwed because there are no spots of missing dust where the magnets belong.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Magic Magnets

      I almost don't want to believe this story. I mean what kind of freak actually changes the filters on hvac systems.

      Bh it's just that i'm so use to people saying you mean you actually have change filters or clean them.

  21. OohAahVicar

    I worked as a help desk drudge at a county council in the 90s. Three wonderful calls stick in my memory:

    1) The IT Dev manager switching both foreground and background colours to white on Windows 3.11 just "to see what happens"

    2) The Finance Director who called me up because she couldn't get her network plug to stay fixed in the wall after moving her PC (seriously trying to plug a square token ring plug into a round ethernet port...)

    3) The Chief Solicitor who complained how every time he finished a Word doc and went to save it, it disappeared. After many visits I stopped to watch the entire process - after finishing a doc, pleased with his work he would lean back in his chair and knock the token ring cable in the wall behind him just enough to lose the connection...

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      I had one person complain that after saving a document, logging off, shutting down, powering off, powering on, logging on, and opening the document, the areas he had selected were no longer selected.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once had a client that complained about not being able to use fire fox and having to look a endless ads, buggy web sites that crashed to java script abuse. Oh and she was forced to use XP ?

    Oh wait that is me. What kills me is that we have mix of OS. Chrome OS, Xp,windows 7 and windows 8.1. Every thing is web based. I could be running Linux no difference.

  23. Paul

    There was a brief time when you had separate bnc connectors for red blue and green, so I swapped round the red and blue channels* on a colleagues computer whilst he had a coffee break. After he spent ten minutes fiddling with colour settings on the windows control panel, I swapped them back.

    * sync on green.

  24. elDog Silver badge

    Still nothing better than Ctrl-Alt-Up Arrow to addle80 pates

    With the Intel graphics lot there are some hot keys that will rotate the screens - 90/180/270.

    Nothing better than when someone steps away from their desk than to quicly press Alt-Ctrl-UpArrow before they return.

    I was able to convince one very nice chap that he must have plugged in his monitor upside down, and the only solution for the time being was to place the monitor on its top. The giggles of the accumulating staff must have been a giveaway since someone shortly came to his rescue.

  25. Ray Merrall

    Screen brightness!

    True story, just wished it wasn't. Went into the call centre part of a large administration department, and it was just like walking into a WW2 submarine movie, you know, reduced lighting, which as it was in the centre of a large open plan office was an achievement in itself. Yep, the section manager hadn't realised that some of the buttons under the monitor altered the brightness of the screens and nobody had the courage to tell them....

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