back to article User spent 20 minutes trying to move mouse cursor, without success

Welcome again to On-Call, in which The Register brings you readers’ tales of tech support traumas. This week, meet “Wanda”, who found herself called upon to some citizen sysadminnery when shopping. Wanda’s story started with a broken mobile phone and a desire to replace it. Said desire took her into a retail outlet where a …

  1. John G Imrie Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    eeeww - gross

    Just don't tell them to turn the keyboard over and shake it.

    1. AndyS

      Re: eeeww - gross

      Relevant XKCD, as is tradition.

    2. Casca
      Trollface

      Re: eeeww - gross

      AKA breakfast

      1. BoldMan

        Re: eeeww - gross

        Two trivial but important tools as a tech support drone back in the day:

        1) Paper clip, for unbending and ejecting stuck Floppies/CDs

        2) Bic pen top for cleaning the crud off mouse ball rollers, best tool for the job I always found :)

      2. Swarthy Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: eeeww - gross

        Board Chow!

    3. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: eeeww - gross

      A chap I used to work with once complained some of the keys on his keyboard were intermittent. I did what you described and beard hair, and cigar ash fell out. I daren't use the airduster on it.

  2. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Trackball can be worse....

    I still use a trackball as I get chronic pain in my wrist from using standard "mices". It's basically an upside-down mouse and with your sweaty, food, bogey, greasy soaked thumb constantly on the ball all the time, let's say you really don't want be there at the end of the week when it's "ball and socket" clean out time!!

    1. Giovani Tapini
      Joke

      Re: Trackball can be worse....

      Of course you could try washing your hands, both before and after your ball and socket cleanout...

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        Of course you could try washing your hands, both before and after your ball and socket cleanout...

        Of course you still have the problem of secreted oils and skin cells that constantly die and come off, forming that lovely grey or brown crud that gets over everything...

      2. jgarbo

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        No-one heard of the optical mouse? $10 anywhere.

        1. M Mouse

          Re: Trackball can be worse....

          $2 (wireless model) on Ebay! That includes delivery.

          At that price, if it dies after 6 months, (or gets dropped and broken if your office doesn't have carpet, but tiled floor) cheaply replaced !

    2. A K Stiles
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Trackball can be worse....

      Oh jeez - there are some folks with trackballs here - I don't think they've EVER cleaned them...

      My optical mouse generally gets its glidepads cleaned on at least a weekly interval. The keyboard gets a good shake when I know the cleaners are coming to wipe and vacuum round.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        "...when I know the cleaners are coming to wipe..."

        There was a period in our company history when we suspected that the cleaner of that era was wiping down everything down with the same rag. Urinals, toilets, our keyboards, our desk surfaces, our chair armrests...

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Trackball can be worse....

          Some years back we arrived in a school I was visiting one morning to a ghastly stink of urine. Cleaner was using same mop for urinals as for floors.......

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trackball can be worse....

          There was a period in our company when that was actually happening. The cleaner in question received some much needed training...

    3. james_smith

      Re: Trackball can be worse....

      Tsk, tsk. İt's "meeses" not "mices" as any cartoon fan knoes. You also need to see a doctor if you have balls and a socket, as I thought they were mutually exclusive on the same individual.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        @james_smith

        You also need to see a doctor if you have balls and a socket, as I thought they were mutually exclusive on the same individual.

        No, more that you need to see a doctor if you have balls (or not) and don't have several sockets - hips joints? shoulder joints? eye sockets?

      2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        I hate meeces to pieces!

      3. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        And if you don't have both balls and sockets you may have hip dysplasia.

      4. JulieM Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        ou also need to see a doctor if you have balls and a socket, as I thought they were mutually exclusive on the same individual.
        Either you haven't met enough freaks, or I have met way too many .....

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Trackball can be worse....

          Some people will get one of them removed, and the other installed. I guess it's also possible to simply have the missing one installed, for those that want the complete set. On the other hand, being a hermaphrodite isn't usually something you require medical attention for.

    4. corbpm

      Re: Trackball can be worse....

      I wandered into my local CEX and they use trackballs like me for the messy desk solution. I asked them if they had any trackballs in and one drone told me they didn't make them any more since normal mice were so advanced these days.

      I let the other staff members correct the errant youth and purchased a Kindle Fire HD for my very aged mother to misunderstand.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        Trackballs being bigger than mice and upsidedown, I refer to mine as a dead rat.

        They do accumulate a fair amount of crud but are simple to clean if the ball just plops out, some hold the ball captive which makes them a pain to clean.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Trackball can be worse....

          I refer to mine as a dead rat.

          I can offer you a variety of those - what state of decomposition do you require?

          (It's the annual "rats trying to move into the garden" season. Not a career-enhancing move when said garden is home to 7 cats - at least 3 of which hunted for a living before adopting us.. And Senior Cat really, really doesn't like rats..)

          1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

            Re: Trackball can be worse....

            I refer to mine as a dead rat.

            <SQUEAK>

            Doffs cap to Mt Pratchett

    5. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Trackball can be worse....

      I use a Logitech Trackman at home (the same one model CeX used to use), and it doesn't get very grungy and is simplicity itself to clean. It also works with an electrical USB to PS/2 converter (i.e. the little adaptors that just rewire the output rather than change the protocol) if your KVM is PS/2 only.

      My only irritation is that connected through my KVM only three buttons are detected (both small buttons are detected as the same button).

      1. Richard51

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        What has kvm got to do with pointing devices? I thought it stood for kernel virtual machine.

        1. onefang Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Trackball can be worse....

          "What has kvm got to do with pointing devices? I thought it stood for kernel virtual machine."

          In this context KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, Mouse, it's a box that switches one keyboard, monitor, and mouse between multiple computers. So the M has a lot to do with pointing devices.

    6. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Trackball can be worse....

      Oh dear lord my work mouse is discusting.

      Why did this have to make me look at the damn thing, have the clean the damn thing now.

    7. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At FuzzyWuzzys...

      Admit it, you were bragging that you get to play with your balls all day & then complain when you have to clean them! =-)p Plbplbplblblblblbbbbb hahahaha.

    8. FlamingDeath Bronze badge

      Re: Trackball can be worse....

      Speaking of the track ball mouse, does anybody know, what is the point of the wireless track ball mouse?

      It doesnt even move around the desk!

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Trackball can be worse....

        It doesnt even move around the desk!

        Nonsense! Of course it does!

        - Into the foreground when in use.

        - To a different place for use with the other hand.

        - Out of the way to make way for other uses of the desk. Like paper or food.

    9. Haku

      Ahh trackballs....

      I used have a little one I Blu-tacked to the top right corner of my Amiga 2000 keyboard, worked ok as an all-in-one unit but never found trackballs to be as easy to use as mice.

      I also had a Genitizer graphics tablet for my Amiga, loved using that thing because it was so quick & precise compared to a mouse, and quite funny watching other people use it for the first time as they'd pick the pen up and move it as if it were a mouse to move the pointer further in the direction they wanted to go, only to find the pointer instantly jumped to the relative position of the pen on the pad.

      .

      As long as we're travelling down Nostalgia Road, remember hand scanners?

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Optical mice FTW

    until somebody put some prestik over the sensor window ... :D

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was working late once many years ago and put bits of post-it notes with smiley faces on every single mouse in the office. I had the next day booked off but I did get a rollocking when I was next in.

    2. Kimo

      First place I worked that got optical mice I had to replace several people's excessively reflective mousepads that were throwing off the beams.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      FTW ? "prestik" ?

      Write English, man! British English, of course!

  4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    I had to do some" Citizen sysadminnery" while on a Speed Awareness Course and help them get the scratched , overused dvd playing in a laptop.

    Thinking back I should have shown them how to transfer it to the C drive so they didnt have to contend with the optical side of things....

    1. John Sager

      Nope. Definitely not. Their bosses would probably have tried to do you under the Computer Misuse Act.

  5. Mycho Silver badge

    Speaking of which,

    Anybody got any hot tips on how to clean mousewheels?

    They seem to be manufactured to be as unserviceable as possible in most models.

    1. Chozo
      Joke

      Re: how to clean mousewheels?

      Tell the kids to clean the cage or else...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Speaking of which,

      any hot tips on how to clean mousewheels?

      First find your most hated colleague and tell them you would like to massage them. When they lay down with their back facing upward, proceed to rub them with the mousewheel. Apply the mousewheel in small circular motions to increase the effectiveness of the cleaning. Similarly, the mouse ball can be cleaned in similar manner. After the mousewheel is cleaned, proceed toward the exit as fast as you humanly could to avoid withdraw effect from your colleague.

      Warning: do not make any sudden sound or reaction when you see disgusting particulars coming out.

      /joke

    3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of which,

      Take the mouse apart, remove fluff, put mouse back together. Be certain not to lose the little spring that keeps the mouse wheel in. If the mouse isn't easily unscrewed there isn't a magic solution, unfortunately.

      1. Doctor_Wibble
        Facepalm

        Re: Speaking of which,

        > Be certain not to lose the little spring

        The instruction equivalent of "a miracle occurs" like we see on those flowcharts.

    4. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Speaking of which,

      > "Anybody got any hot tips on how to clean mousewheels?"

      Dishwasher, if it doesn't survive get a new mouse.

      1. Mycho Silver badge

        Dishwasher

        That is worth a try.

        If I get a spare mouse out of it I'll report back.

        1. Gordon861

          Re: Dishwasher

          Or you want one of the little bags you used to put washing tablets in and add them to your next washing machine load.

    5. Grant Fromage

      Re: Speaking of which,

      @ mycho et al this will be lengthy. and to many here old hat mostly. Ramble on..........

      Have a plastic washing up bowl or better a higher sided plastic storage box to contain things that go ping, things that drop and all the bits, do the dissasembly inside.

      Have either a bit of double sided or a length of gaffertape looped back stuck to the side to attach bits to in the order of dismantle, so as to reverse on reassembly.

      Screws and things are hidden under labels and pads. Prodding with a pin finds under labels. A cocktail stick is good for getting bearing pads or rubber feet off. These will have a sticky layer which usually wont be good enough to reattach,* see later.

      You need a guitar plectrum or old credit card sanded at about 45 degrees to a finer edge for when it all sticks together with latches when the screws are out, look at the moulding and you will see tiny tiny dimples where the little bastards lie, Mostly, YMMV.

      For cleaning you need a plastic cup of water with 2 drops of washing up liquid and isopropyl alcohol, (* see later) cheap soft tooth brushe , cotton buds, ktchen towel, running water for the only plastic bits.

      Do your worst, but write down any connectors or odd things for memory fail on reassembly.

      If it is really gunky and has had coffee or worse coke spilt then wash it in plain water as there is nothing to lose, blow it dry with a hairdryer on cold or a heat I can keep my hand in indefinitely until no visible moisture, then stick it overnight over the back of the freezer.

      Use of alcohol: if you click go for it, if not don`t.

      Mice generally heve mech switches that click. Some keyboards are elastomer and may be short or long term damaged by exposure to alcohols. Anything with any sort of elastomer switch can only safely be water cleaned. They can also be damaged by new green water washable flux removers getting in.

      There was a Colclene product safe on anything except the ozone layer it was a Freon derivative! (TF?)

      *#1 Sticky feet, once taken off and exposed to air for the hours ( ahem,days) taken to fix something they lose their urge and go inert or gooey, alcohol wipe clean and use germany`s secret weapon UHU.

      If you coat them and another sample to tacky test, when ok leave it a liitle longer , if still tacky stick em on, if you do it too soon the solvent may make it pretty permanent with some plastics.

      *#2 IPA, why not Meths? The structure of isopropyl alcohol means it is better at dissolving grease and other non polar soils,( flux) while about as good as methylated spirits on the rest. It is highly refined and less likely to contaminate very expensive rubber components like the pinch wheels on on a 24 or 32 track audio recorder... If you cant get it buy polish spiritus 95% which is purer than meths as the 4.99% is water.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Speaking of which,

        "*#2 IPA, why not Meths?"

        Meths is "mostly ethanol" - but the part that isn't is "mostly methanol" along with some particularly nasty petroleum compounds that really do nasty things to rubber.

        The fun part is that some parts of the world, IPA is universally used as rubbing alcohol and whilst you might think you're buying IPA, you find that it has some oil mixed in.

        1. jake Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Speaking of which,

          In this part of the world, IPA is made from water, malt, hops and yeast. Isopropyl alcohol is called isopropanol.

          You can call me anything you like, as long as it's not late for the first round.

        2. Grant Fromage

          Re: Speaking of which,

          @ alan brown, absolutely, and I stand by the polish vodka recommend, and my other IPA used to be Deuchars before the taste was ruin`d by contract brewin`. funny how often that happens.

          An assisted by crap attitude outmoved ex person I worked nearby, not a colleague, nothing in common apart from breathing, applied "rubbing alcohol" to a pinch roller that IPA didn`t scrub up rather than go through replacement and an hours worth of alignment and checks. all tapes run on that machine were contaminated and had to be dubbed across.

          And of course pinch replacement after, DOH

      2. Doctor_Wibble
        Thumb Up

        Re: Speaking of which,

        Good advice there, familiar but worth repeating, except the one assumption that you still somehow have the bit that went 'ping' and sounded like it bounced off at least two walls and some unknown thing that might be a lampshade but surely couldn't have been because the only one of those in here is metal and that would have gone 'ting' or 'ding' at the very least...

    6. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At Mycho, re: mouse wheels...

      First you engage the parking brake so it doesn't roll away. Next you use an itty bitty jack to lift up one corner so you can get to the lug nuts with an itty bitty tire iron...

      *Cough*

      I'll get my coat, it's the one with the pockets full of stolen mouse wheels in it. =-)p

      1. Montreal Sean

        Re: At Mycho, re: mouse wheels...

        @Shadow Systems

        I replaced my stock mouse wheels with alloy rims made by Fast.

        The traking speed really improved!

    7. mickaroo

      Re: Speaking of which,

      I used to clean my mousewheel with a Q-Tip dipped in Windex.

      The challenge was like peeling a tangerine... see if I could remove the crud from the mouse-wheel in one long strip.

      1. Chands

        Re: Speaking of which,

        yes, pulling off the crud in one long strip was most satisfying until you thought about what it was made of and you gag slightly.

        My cleaning implement of choice was a pair of tweezers (even though I only used one).

        1. BoldMan

          Re: Speaking of which,

          Top of a Bic Pen was the perfect tool to clean the crud from the mouse wheels.

    8. onefang Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of which,

      Buy a decent mouse that isn't designed to be as unserviceable as possible.

    9. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Speaking of which,

      Funnily enough that actually came up this week with a users mouse, along with the original & leaking batteries on the inside - Leading to the whole set of wireless KB& Mouse being replaced.

      Five minutes later another user in accounting stuck her head in the door complaining that the web based application was slow & laggy in response, my reply was is it the app or in general & then she replied that she couldn't even log in to her machine now.

      Arriving at her desk to establish that her wireless keyboard was unresponsive & my query of have you tried changing the batteries I got "Oh I didn't know they had those, I knew the (Part of the same set) mouse did!".

      She's not a millennial, but someone of a slightly more advanced age than myself.

      1. JohnBoyNC

        Re: Speaking of which,

        @The Oncoming Scorn:

        I (used to) work on the road a lot...for years. Couple years ago, my (non-technical) wife called me reporting that her computer wasn't working....couldn't enter typed input. And then testily stated "and yes, she'd rebooted it (before I could ask for the 10,000th time). After a few seconds thought I asked, did you check/replace batteries in the keyboard?

        Short silence on the other end of the phone, then she said "You never told me it had batteries." True....so this immediately became all my fault. (We'd been married 40+ years at that point. I'll say no more.)

        Walked her through flipping it over and opening the compartment bit, replacing the batteries and she was back in the game.

    10. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

      Re: Speaking of which,

      The software I rely on thrashes the mousewheel/middle button.. bought a replacement after the middle button started bouncing/echoing, after a month or two the replacements wheel decided to intermittedly reverse direction (effectively, guessing its loose contacts)

      Solution.. plug the original into a spare USB socket, and have one mouse for clicking and the other for scrolling..

      I will eventually get to a place where I can get a third mouse, whereupon the two cripples will be put back into reserve.

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Speaking of which,

        My mouse had the intermittent scroll wheel reversals too, until I got a can of electronic contact cleaner and (with the corded mouse unplugged) liberally sprayed it in to the area where the wheel position sensor would be (in this model, under the left mouse button). Roll the wheel around in both directions before the cleaner evaporates, and once it does, see if that didn't fix it. You could try the same on the mouse with clicking problems too (on the other side of the wheel, obviously).

        If my mouse could be opened without destroying it, I would have done so for its cleaning/repair, but it has an aluminium base plate that is riveted to... well, something, and I don't want to drill the rivets out, 'cause I may not be able to get it reattached. I had to just spray it all around through the tiny hole where the axle for the scroll wheel enters the mouse body and hope for the best.

        The mouse wheel worked better for a short bit, but then the reversing returned. Another dousing with the cleaner and it again worked flawlessly, and has been great ever since, for probably five months now. Since I could not see what I was squirting at, I was not even sure if I was going to get it in the right place, but I guess it did.

        The stuff I used is CRC branded "Electronic contact cleaner," and it specifically says it is plastic safe on the can (which was important as I was about to shoot it into a partially plastic mouse). Of course, there are lots of kinds of plastic, but it has lived up to its billing so far for me. I've used it quite successfully on other things, including a laptop whose touchpad buttons (discrete buttons, like the all used to have back in the day) sometimes required excessive pressure to work. It sometimes works on the first try, but just as many times, it seems to require two (but so far, no more than that). It's good stuff to have around, but be sure to use it in a well ventilated area.

    11. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      First

      make sure that your mouse isn't using its wheel. . .

  6. sandman

    Keyboard ecosystems

    I worked for an organisation where I had to provide unofficial IT support. One of the secretaries (it was some time ago) complained that her much loved keyboard wasn't working properly anymore...

    Me: "How long have you been using it?"

    She: "About 5 years."

    Me: "Have you ever cleaned it?"

    She: "No, I didn't know you could."

    It wasn't just a matter of turning it upside down and banging it on the desk (although that was mildly horrifying). All the keys had to be taken off to get at the thick padding of dead hair, skin and food debris that was stopping them depressing far enough to work. It was alive I tell you, alive!

    1. Olivier2553

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      "It was alive I tell you, alive!"

      That may be a good thing actually. Consider storing the keyboard during one week-end close to an ants' nest, they'l do a good job at cleaning anything that they can eat. Come Monday, a good shake to remove the remaining dust...

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        Come Monday, a good shake to remove the remaining dust...

        And the ants!

    2. Nattrash
      Facepalm

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      When still teaching medical students, one of the standard microbiology work shops was to teach them to do (agar) bacterial cultures, a thing that becomes handy when they ever have to do patient cultures (e.g. bronchitis, urinary infections). For the work shop that always translated to a "wipe test", basically the students going round, wiping surfaces, and putting those wipes on culture. And every year the winner was... keyboards. Always holding more bacteria (especially E. coli, for the non-medical people among us, the one that lives north of uranus) than toilet seats, or surprisingly, the inside door handle of the loo. So, I'm afraid a good shake is not going to cover it... Alcohol any one?

      1. monty75

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        Alcohol any one?

        For cleaning the keyboard or for making you not care?

        1. imanidiot Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          @ Monty

          Alcohol any one?

          For cleaning the keyboard or for making you not care?

          Yes! Both.

      2. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        When I was getting my zymurgy degree at Davis, the instructor had us all take a couple agar plates home to swab anything that caught our eye. The idea was to impress on the youngsters in the class that cleanliness is vital when making drinkable fermentables, and that almost nothing that you deal with day-to-day is actually clean from a clinical point of view.

        I won the sweepstakes with a kitchen sponge. I also took second ... with the tea towel. Makes sense, when you think about it. They stay nice and damp, in a nice warm place, with lots of goodies on them.

        Beer, because thankfully brewing works in spite of us filthy humans.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          Beer, because thankfully brewing works in spite of us filthy humans.

          It even works if you don't add yeast - lots of wild yeasts in the air y'know..

          (An old recipe for Elderflower Champagne^W sparkling wine doesn't use added yeast - there's enough on the flowers and in the air to do the job - results can be somewhat... inconsistent though.)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            "An old recipe for Elderflower Champagne^W sparkling wine doesn't use added yeast - there's enough on the flowers and in the air to do the job - results can be somewhat... inconsistent though."

            Explosive, even. And that was cordial which isn't even supposed to ferment.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Keyboard ecosystems

              Re: yeast in the air ... Most of my bread is made with wild-caught yeast. So is some of my wine ... and some of my beer is made from re-purposed proven wild-caught wine yeast. Lovely thingies, yeasties.

              1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

                At Jake, re: yeast...

                Did you hear the one about the young lady whom liked to brew everything?

                Beauty & the yeast.

                *Runs away*

        2. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          cleanliness is vital when making drinkable fermentables

          Isn't the fermentation and associated alcohol meant to kill off the nasties?

          Which is why we drank it instead of water in the middle ages.

          1. Updraft102 Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            Which is why we drank it instead of water in the middle ages.

            How old ARE you?

        3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          I shared a flat with one of the lab researchers at the Pharma co I worked at, one morning I thought she had gone to work, dived into the loo & then on finishing realised I hadn't taken my shaver & toothbrush etc for the rest of my morning ablutions did a 20 second round trip to gather said items.

          On return from work I needed a presidential meeting & on taking my position in the not so oval office there was a post-it note at the seating position at eye level saying Now Wash Your Hands".

          Same woman also pointed out her displeasure to me of the hairs shed by the young female african-american drama student in the shower. area.

          "Well clearly shes not a natural blonde" was the only response I could come up with.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        "And every year the winner was... keyboards."

        In my student days it was hand towels but I don't think we tried the keyboards of the Marchant calculators.

        "Alcohol any one?"

        Don't mind if I do, even if it is a tad early.

      4. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        When still teaching medical students, one of the standard microbiology work shops was to teach them to do (agar) bacterial cultures, a thing that becomes handy when they ever have to do patient cultures (e.g. bronchitis, urinary infections). For the work shop that always translated to a "wipe test", basically the students going round, wiping surfaces, and putting those wipes on culture. And every year the winner was... keyboards. Always holding more bacteria (especially E. coli, for the non-medical people among us, the one that lives north of uranus) than toilet seats, or surprisingly, the inside door handle of the loo. So, I'm afraid a good shake is not going to cover it... Alcohol any one?

        At my school one biology lesson was on bacteria and mould. To demonstrate the fact that we are surrounded by both a practical was held. Pairs of students were given an agar coated petri dish and some scissors. One of the pair cut a small section of hair from the other which was then placed on the agar and the dish sealed. After a week of incubation (including a control dish) they were returned to us so we could see what had grown. It was obvious who had not washed their hair for quite some time as their entire agar was covered in horrible looking growths. Someone asked if we could open them and the teacher said "No absolutely not that's very dangerous given we don't know what has grown inside."

        Didn't stop one guy trying though......

        1. Richard51

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          What did thiat teacher use for intelligence? When I was growing bacteria in clinical laboratories the plates had to be opened. It did not matter what the bacteria were it was quite safe, even culturing typhoid (Salmonella typhi, now enteriditis var typhi) or T.B. We even at times smelt the cultures at close range as an aid to identification.

      5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        Alcohol any one?

        Don't mind if I do. A bottle of Springbank 15-year old single malt should do it.

        1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          Washing disassembled keyboards - be carefully soaking them in hot water. Most keys will be fine, but the space bar is long enough that if it softens too much it can easily warp.

    3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      Having suffered the occasional coffee-on-keyboard incident I found that a good cure was sometimes to just put it on the radiator until it dried out. That doesn't work if there was sugar in the coffee. I have heard tell that in this case (and for any generally gunked up keyboard) then a quick trip through the dishwasher can work wonders! I suspect best without detergent, and on a low temperature, but why not? Let it dry thoroughly before plugging back in. And given that basic keyboards cost about a tenner, what have you to lose?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        Basic keyboards "for a tenner" die in dishwashers. I have a model M that's been thru' the wash a few times, still works fine.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          "Basic keyboards [...] die in dishwashers"

          Usually you can undo a bunch of screws and detach the electronics from the keys, then just wash the keys (and dry thoroughly).

        2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          Basic keyboards "for a tenner" die in dishwashers. I have a model M that's been thru' the wash a few times, still works fine.

          Stripped one down a couple weeks and gave it a thorough cleaning (no RetroBrite though), but unfortunately even though they'll work with a PS/2-USB adapter, the adapted connection won't work on a KVM switch (at least mine; perhaps a powered one from BlackBox might).

      2. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        And given that basic keyboards cost about a tenner, what have you to lose?

        Back in the day when keyboards cost considerably more than a tenner (in excess of £100 in some cases) washing them to try and save them was a frequent occurrence. The worst we had was caused by spillage of Tango (other sugary orange fizzy drinks are available!) That one was dismantled and scrubbed under the tap for a while - it did survive.

        Now they're a consumable item.

        Glen

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          "Now they're a consumable item."

          What flavours do they come in? A choice of coffee or Tango?

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            "coffee or Tango"

            Mine tend to be merlot flavoured.

          2. the Jim bloke Bronze badge
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: what flavours do they come in?

            Lick them to find out

        2. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          "Now they're a consumable item."

          It's perhaps an economic thing. Keyboards these days are pretty cheap, and you're paid how much per hour?

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            Keyboards these days are pretty cheap, and you're paid how much per hour?

            Which was precisely my arguement with a well-paid site manager who insisted on making their own network cables.

            Plus, the shop-bought ones tend to work reliably.

        3. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          Back in the day when keyboards cost considerably more than a tenner (in excess of £100 in some cases)

          The one I am using now to type this goes for about £150 in the UK, and it's about three years old! Only the cheap ones are cheap.

      3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        Buying a basic keyboard for a tenner is your mistake - you spend literally hours using it. Money should be prioritised for keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Everything else is likely to be changed, but those will last.

        I've spent my own money on my (buckling spring) keyboard and a reasonably inexpensive claw grip 'gaming' mouse (comfy, has multiple buttons) at work. I'm not about to suffer shite for 35 hours a week.

        Once I've finished my study at home the priority will not be yet more computers(*), but a really nice chair.

        (*) who am I kidding, I'll probably get more anyway, although it's a small room and already has a lot of shelves..

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          Regarding spills - my keyboard (DIN5 plug, none of this newfangled PS2 nonsense) was proudly proclaiming on its box at the time that it was spill-proof (post-Y2K translation: "spill-resistant") thanks to the small "wells" in the plastic top surrounding the key stems. I do believe it would indeed handle a modest, peripheral splash but probably not a point-blank full cup knock-over. Luckily, it seems to endure occasional full tear-downs for cleaning purposes just fine though, otherwise it would not only be alive by now but probably properly artificially intelligent as well, which is a hella scary thought for a device that not only literally controls my computer but would also know all my passwords...

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            "proudly proclaiming on its box at the time that it was spill-proof"

            A local shop has a keyboard that claims waterproof to a depth of a metre, and up to 30 minutes.

            Looking at the keyboard (in a clear plastic case with translucent plastic moulding), it's pretty clear to see that the controller logic and radio transmitter are in a little sealed compartment. The membrane and the batteries are not. I can't imagine that'll work particularly well in or around water...

      4. JulieM Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        I suspect the dishwasher would end up coming off worst, if you tried that with one of the classic IBM keyboards .....

        1. Giovani Tapini

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          I had a keyboard that claimed to have been doped with Silver Nitrate to keep the livestock under control. I have no idea if it has any genuine effect in this use case though.

          and for the students, buttons on lift, hand rail in carpark stairs (you know - the smelly one), and your car's steering wheel. Nature always finds a way :)

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            doped with Silver Nitrate to keep the livestock under control. I have no idea if it has any genuine effect in this use case though

            Well - silver compounds do have an anti-bacterial action so it might. But I suspect that the bacterial load would soon overcome the action sooner or later.

            1. Alistair Silver badge
              Windows

              Re: Keyboard ecosystems

              @CoCM:

              Ask your vet what the most effective treatment for feline herpes is. (In cats it crops up as an eye infection) -- Silver Nitrate 0.5%USP drops.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Keyboard ecosystems

                > Ask your vet what the most effective treatment for feline herpes is. (In cats it crops up as an eye infection) -- Silver Nitrate 0.5%USP drops.

                Fun fact: silver nitrate drops in the eyes of newborns used to be standard treatment if the mother was suspected of having an STD. (Otherwise the baby could go blind.)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Keyboard ecosystems

          Yesterday I spilt a glass of water on my IBM SK-8815 keyboard. I haven't rebooted yet and it didn't miss a beat, I think my heart did though.

          Quality beats cheap.

          1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Re: Keyboard ecosystems

            That doesn't apply to all keyboards. I like my Unicomp keyboards, and they're a decent evolution of the IBM Model M, but unfortunately not quite as maintainable. The casing can be unscrewed, and the keys individually cleaned, but the circuit board is almost impossible to disassemble.

            After a drink accident it didn't survive, and I had to resort to the spare which I'd bought just in case. Hopefully I won't make the same mistake again; the keyboards are reasonably priced, but shipping from the US is a bit spendy.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: Keyboard ecosystems

              "Hopefully I won't make the same mistake again;"

              A place I used to work at, one of the company owners made that mistake, spilling their drink, on their laptop. Sometime after their laptop was replaced, they made the same mistake again.

      5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        then a quick trip through the dishwasher can work wonders

        Or even a couple of minutes in the shower - anything that can dissolve the sticky gunk.

        Followed by drying off in the airing cupboard (or other warm place)

      6. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Keyboard ecosystems

        National Rail Enquiry Service - On replacing the Win3.1 systems for Win98, under one PC I found the remains of spilled coffee under one PC that looked like the mould had achieved sentience discovered nuclear physics & engaged in a renactment of Futuramas GodFellas* & left the remains of their MAD for me to discover generations later.

        Only a full on replacement of that desk would clean that away (I did try), so I did what any self-respecting contractor would do - Put the new system back over it.

        *Malachi: Fear not, my Lord. We shall be with you soon.

        Bender: You're with me now! This is the maximum level of being with me!

        Malachi: We will solve our own problems, as you commanded. The time has come to convert the unbelievers.

        Bender: Convert them?

        Malachi: To radioactive vapor!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      I may have dropped 3 course meals on mine, and it's not that bad. What had they done?

    5. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      It was alive I tell you, alive!

      In that past, I found more than a few of those around the office that were growing entirely new civilizations inside. There were some that really shouldn't have been opened unless one was wearing a full hazmat suit. It took some doing (like getting the boss to help clean some) to get to the point where we didn't clean them but binned them and gave the user a new keyboard. Heaven knows what's growing underground at the dump site where these things went to.

    6. CanadianMacFan
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Keyboard ecosystems

      "It was alive I tell you, alive!"

      How many new antibiotics and cures for cancers did you just throw away?

  7. jake Silver badge

    Purchasing tractor parts last week.

    The owner was having trouble with his ancient POS system. After a couple minutes of swearing at technical help, and at least one "turn it off and then on again", he hung up the phone and dug under the counter and came up with an old pad of blank invoices. He allowed as to how he would have to hand write it because the computer was broken. Being me, I asked if I could have a look at it. He looked at me funny, because he's only known me as a rancher/farmer, but said OK.

    I came around the counter & eyeballed the situation. Turned out the mouse didn't work. At all. Just an immobile mouse pointer in the center of the screen. I showed the guy the tab key and a couple other keyboard shortcuts for future reference, and eyeballed the system. The drivers were loaded, and running. Probably a dead mouse (tractor parts counters are rough on everthing). I just happened to have a spare serial mouse out in the truck (don't you?). Pulled the mini-maglite out of my pocket & dove under the counter to swap 'em out ... only to discover that the original mouse had managed to work itself loose. So I plugged it back in, and all was well with the world.

    Well over ten years of daily use, and the computer had to wait until I was in the shop to spit out it's mouse. Now one of the biggest gossips in the county knows I'm a computer guy. Hopefully he'll keep it to himself ...

    1. imanidiot Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Purchasing tractor parts last week.

      He won't...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Purchasing tractor parts last week.

      I've always liked the acronym POS. Given that I've seen several point-of-sale systems, and read about a few more, and without exception every single one was indeed a complet pile o' shite.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Purchasing tractor parts last week.

        every single one was indeed a complet pile o' shite

        You forgot a couple of words: insecure, badly-written, confusing, fragile..

  8. wolfetone Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "and two millennials now had a history lesson in mouse balls."

    Excuse me, but the millennials you speak of were using and interacting with computers with mouse balls long before they were replaced with optical mice.

    Maybe, just maybe, those two went to a school that didn't have computers. Which is more common than you think. The wife, who's around my age, went to a different school and she told me they only had the one computer in her secondary school and it was a "BBC something".

    1. adam payne Silver badge

      I remember when my school got it's first PCs replacing some of the old BBC model B's. After a spate of mouse ball thefts they glued the plate shut to stop people from opening them.

    2. M E H
      FAIL

      Not Millennials!

      I think you might misunderstand the term Millennials. It refers to kids born in the 21st century.

      Anyone who used a BBC micro at school is undoubtedly from Generation X.

      1. The Mole

        Re: Not Millennials!

        You think it would but it doesn't, apparently it's those who 'come of age' near or after the millennium ("a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century." according to google).

        This means that those born in the early 80's are counted at millennial - which I personally take great offence at being born in the early 80s and not wanting to be associated with them. I do remember the BBC micro so perhaps that is the better definition?

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Not Millennials!

          Generation X seems to have quite a flexible definition with a range of starting and ending dates.

          If you choose the Harvard definition you can make it stretch to 1984, and might be able to call yourself a Gen Xer instead of a millennial.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_X

        2. Killfalcon Bronze badge

          Re: Not Millennials!

          Yup - millennials are currently late 20s-mid 30s (but most defintions, given the whole demographic generation thing was made up for advertising purposes).

          As a *general* rule, Millenials were born before the internet got into everything, but finished school after Eternal September had already ended, and AOL was already starting to fade. So they were _very_ bored as small children but have decent odds of having seen BASIC programming In junior school, and probably had GSCE Computer Science as an option.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Not Millennials!

            Millenials don't exist a presentation from Adam Connover about millennials, and why it's a bullshit term in terms of how most people thing about it.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: Not Millennials!

              "Millenials don't exist"

              Damn, half the people living in my building just vanished. I wont miss the drunk or the unsocial bike guy, but the others where perfectly OK people.

              1. Updraft102 Silver badge

                Re: Not Millennials!

                Indeed. There's a difference between "The stereotype is wrong!" and "They don't even exist!"

                Think of all of the demographic groups that must not exist if that were not true... none of us would, since we're all stereotyped in one way or another.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Not Millennials!

            "finished school after Eternal September had already ended"

            Oh no it hasn't. There's a new infestation of newsgroups from Google Groupies who think they're posting a reply direct to their OP despite the fact that the OP hasn't been heard of in the group this side of Y2K.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Not Millennials!

              $ sdate

              Fri Sep 9054 13:43:38 PDT 1993

              $

              Yep. Looks like it's still September 1993, alas. (Was that really 25 years ago? Geebus.)

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: Not Millennials!

              Bastardizing United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote: I shall not today attempt further to define the exact age of persons I understand to be embraced within the shorthand description "Millennial", and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know them when I interact with them.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Not Millennials!

                "But I know them when I interact with them."

                I must admit, when I think or hear "millennials" I usual mentally picture a bloke (or blokes) in check shirts, beards and fancy waxed moustaches. Maybe it's a large overlap in the Venn diagram.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Not Millennials!

                  Millennial not the same as hipster. All hipsters ( read "prat") may be from the generation of the millennials. But most of these are no more hipsters than you or I. Any more than my generation are all "gammons".

                  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/shortcuts/2018/may/14/is-it-offensive-to-call-ruddy-faced-middle-aged-tories-gammons

        3. Trilkhai

          Re: Not Millennials!

          The math-challenged** demographers finally admitted a year or two ago that people born in in the mid-late 70s & early 80s are a separate generation due to the immense technological/cultural shifts that took place. Unfortunately, instead of giving us a cool name that references technology*** they decided to name us Xennials, which sounds like a houseplant with a seasonal-blooming identity disorder.

          **According to them, Gen X is the offspring of the Silent Generation (which had its first kids in its late teens/early 20s) & Millennials are the kids of the Boomers (which had their first kids in their early 20s), yet the SG & Boomers were each respectively 25+ years old at the time.

          ***like the "Micro Generation", which at least would reference micro-computers (orig. term for the 8-bit home computers released when we were infants/little kids) and microwaves. I can't speak for you, but I'd rather be called "Gen M" or "a Micro" than a dysfunctional houseplant.

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        Re: Not Millennials!

        I never know what label they apply to my generation. I was born in the 80's... 8086BCE.

        *Blows a feisty raspberry through age cracked lips*

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Children and computers

      I taught my 5yr old to type (circa 1994), and she had some of the last opportunities to use dial-up and floppys disks.

      Her games were Math Blaster and Byond...

      I don't recall if I taught her about mouse balls. I'll check the next time she visits.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    My first mouse was the boxy Genius mouse. Worked well until it had a case of ball fuzz. Opened it, cleaned it, and continued.

    Dunno where it is now.

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      @ASAC:

      Uhhhm..... I still have a Genius Mouse in the box with the 30 year old working cables and connectors.....

    2. onefang Silver badge

      I'd say to ask your cat, but you said it was a Genius mouse, it probably moved out to study at university.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "My first mouse was the boxy Genius mouse. Worked well until it had a case of ball fuzz. Opened it, cleaned it, and continued."

      My first was the AMX mouse on a BBC "B" computer. It also was "boxy" and the mouse ball was a bare steel ball bearing about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the later more standardised rubber coated balls.

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Mine was the Commodore 1350, which was really more of a joystick with a ball inside.

  11. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

    Sun optical mice, circa 1985

    How many here remember the optical mice on early '80s Sun worksations?

    Mouse Systems

    There was a special mouse pad with horizontal and vertical lines on it.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      The one connected to my 1988 Sun 3/470 "Pegasus" still works, despite the small dent in one corner of the metal pad.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      I had one of those on an Apricot. I don't think Mouse Systems were anything to do with Sun?

      Two colours I think and it was an aluminium pad, slightly too small, though maybe my memory is faulty as the wikipedia shows a single colour. Maybe there was another version.

      Isn't there a handwriting capture/mouse pen that uses paper printed with a very fine grid for a similar reason?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        Mouse Systems weren't anything to do with Sun, but Sun contracted them to build the critters to Sun's specs.

        Yes, the horizontal & vertical lines are different colo(u)rs.

      2. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        "Isn't there a handwriting capture/mouse pen that uses paper printed with a very fine grid for a similar reason?"

        Yep. It's called Livescribe. Or at least the one I've got is. From the little usage I've put it to, it works perfectly. Unfortunately it didnt exist when I was at uni (where I might have actually put it to good use), and I dont really have a day to day use for it anymore. But it works great.

    3. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      There was a special mouse pad with horizontal and vertical lines on it.

      Yes - though my experience of them was rather later than that (most of the 1990s).

      Cold to the touch, and rather unpleasant even at times when cold should have been good. Also moved according to a rather coarse grid, meaning you couldn't steer the pointer between grid points but only move in multi-pixel jumps. Put me right off optical mice for many years, and may have contributed to my RSI.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        That was the first type of mouse I used (Mouse Systems Mouse) - I don't remember it being particularly jumpy though - I used to use it for schematic capture and PCB design with P-CAD in 1986/87. It came bundled with a painting program too.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

          From Wikipedia...

          "Early Sun workstations used MSC optical mice exclusively. Initial models came with large mousepads with well-spaced lines, while later models were smaller and used a much tighter grid."

          They must have been using the tighter grid on the mousepad I had.

      2. ChrisC

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        "Put me right off optical mice for many years"

        My experience of the early/mid 90's era optical mice on the Sun workstations at uni had a similar effect on me - couldn't believe just how utterly crap they were compared with even a somewhat gunked-up mechanical mouse, let alone one that was maintained properly, at generating smooth pointer motion, nor just how dead they felt as you moved them across the mousepad. The only mice I hated even more than those were the ergonomic disasters that HP provided with their Unix workstations.

        Modern optical mice have at least got the motion accuracy thing sorted, but I do still occasionally find myself missing the subtle tactile clues you used to get from a mechanical mouse as it moved around.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

          HP provided with their Unix workstations

          I only worked very briefly with HPUx and that was too long. Although, the prize for "the worst variant of unix" that I've ever used goes to AIX.

          AIX is the result of an S/370 mating with a Unix box and the child inheriting all the flaws of the parents but none of the virtues.

      3. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

        The Sun stations I used in uni in the early 1990s had those, but I mostly just ignored the Solaris and did my coding in vi (as opposed to a graphical text editor... we weren't using IDEs by any means in that class). Yeah, I was even a dinosaur then, as one of my classmates told me, which I interpreted as more of a compliment than he had probably intended!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

          To be fair, in the early '90s most Sun gear at Unis world-wide was still running SunTools or SunView, with a few lucky(?) systems running the new-fangled OpenWindows (and that's if they ran a GUI at all, many systems were CLI only) ... regardless, for the most part these GUIs were all pretty much only used to run Xclock and multiple xterms ... at least until NCSA Mosaic came around, putting a graphical interface on things like email, FTP, NNTP, and Gopher. (Sorry, kiddies, the WWW was seen as a mostly useless toy back in those days. Still is, in some ways, when you think about it.)

          Sure, there was plenty of software that made use of a GUI back then, but it was all bespoke, for a particular need, or to run specific hardware, or a student project that was mostly useless. Mosaic played a large part in making general purpose GUI software a thing in the un*x world.

          As for IDEs, most folks used vi or EMACS (the later is arguably better suited as an IDE; I still prefer vi). The first true modern IDE for un*x was Softbench in about 1990, but it wasn't really usable until the mid '90s (IMO, of course).

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

            Ah, who can forget the OpenWindows Help pages, which for some reason used pop-art cartoons and some women ended up dancing in Club Soda.

    4. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      There was a special mouse pad with horizontal and vertical lines on it.

      Yep, and if you rotated the pad by 90 degrees the mouse would only work intermittently in one direction. It's amazing how many Computer Science undergrads gave up on them.

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Sun optical mice, circa 1985

      How many here remember the optical mice on early '80s Sun worksations?

      Yup. I think I probably have a few in the garage still...

      (I got given[1] a load of old Sun Sparcstation & Sun 1 stuff that the office I worked for at the time was throwing out. I've junked some but I think there's still a box of stuff in the garage..)

      [1] My car got between the back door and the skip and the boot was conveniently open. I also got a small fireproof tape safe[2] at the same time on the basis that "it was missing the key and it's special type that you can't get hold of". Well, not unless you were friends with a locksmith..

      [2] It's small but very, very heavy. Took 3 of us to carry it out to the car. Since our house isn't sat on a concrete raft, recovering it from the underfloor void after the floor burns out will be fun..

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the others in the tray?

      Next week the "On Call" column will be temporarily substituted by an "In Tray" piece, where a harassed and under-refreshed IT journalist has to construct something at least superficially worthwhile out of some really dull stories submitted by readers, and then suffer the complaints made by not-only those same readers, but also the ones whose careers are so dull they didn't even have a /boring/ story to suggest.

      :-)

      For myself, I thought the story was ok.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How are the others in the tray?

      We removed all those coffee cups out of the tray, because only cd and dvd are allowed.

      /coat

      1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

        ON-CALL is mostly an excuse to ship-toast in the forums anyway, the story barely matters.

        "I remember mice... in my day, people still thought they were rodents, but of course nowadays we all know they're really Legumes."

  13. Peter Clarke 1

    The more unruly school kids soon found/find the mouse ball is an excellent missile. IT support would normally superglue the ring shut so stopping any more investigation of the inner working

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: superglue the ring shut

      Dude, that's a tad harsh.

      1. JakeMS Silver badge

        Re: superglue the ring shut

        In my school the teacher had the genious idea to superglue their balls in place, so it they be taken out and thrown at him.

        Suffice to say the mice didn't work after that and the IT guys were not happy.

        It was funny though.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: superglue the ring shut

        Dude, that's a tad harsh.

        Not if you went to the school that I did..

  14. David Gosnell

    Rubber bands

    Going back 25-odd years, I remember overhearing a conversation in a computer shop, where the customer explained that they had cleaned the mouse-ball mechanism. Well all apart from the little rubber bands round the rollers.

    1. Andy A

      Re: Rubber bands

      Last century I spent a while dealing with end-users and their faults. We tried to avoid sending an engineer half way across London for simple calls, such as "erratic mouse" reports.

      Most of the mice were Microsoft ones, which were quite decent quality. The rollers were actually metal rather than the cheapo plastic ones.

      Speak to the user and introduce them to the extraction of the ball of their mouse. "You see the two metal rollers?" "Yes." "You see the two little rubber wheels in the middle of them?" "Yes." "That isn't rubber. It's gunge."

      Shortly thereafter, they could wander round their office earning themselves brownie points for sorting out everyone else's erratic mice, thus keeping our profits up.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Rubber bands

        I used to clean mice bals & rollers, while waiting for NT to finish whatever user install\reboot I was performing at the time as a courtesy detail (Pharma company again) - Saving me time & effort on future calls to replace mice across two connected sites.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Rubber bands

          "I used to clean mice bals & rollers, while waiting for NT to finish whatever user install\reboot I was performing at the time as a courtesy detail "

          Similar here. Part of the field engineers kit was foam cleaner and screen cleaner. It was normal for the cleaners to never, ever be allowed to touch computers so they were often quite mucky. I did one call to a factory where the computer screen was almost too dull to see, even with brightness and contrast turned up. Normally that would be an EOL CRT or an HT driver issue. In this case it was just a matter of cleaning the screen then turning the now blindingly bright screen down to more normal levels.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had to show some kids how to load paper properly in the printers in a build-a-bear last year, they were very happy as the IT support was based in America and they had to wait till the afternoon with lots of unhappy parents and kids unable to print the certificates. They even gave me a 20% discount which was nice, so it was now only slightly overpriced.

  16. GlenP Silver badge

    Minor Citizen sysadminnery

    I recently had to assist some museum staff to get an audio system working (it basically consisted of an iPad and headphones) as the person "who knows all about it" had taken the day off. I didn't mind, 10 minutes out of my holiday wasn't an issue.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One-finger typing bobby

    I once had to go behind a police officer's desk and type my own complaint, as he wasn't being able to type in the text fields of a Word template. After some 10 minutes of seeing the guy mumbling curses and do everything (at least) twice over, I asked him (the most politely way I could manage by then) to move over and assumed command of the keyboard. Besides not having to fill my complaint using only his right index finger, he also found out he could use tab to jump from one field to the next. And before you ask, this was the late noughties, so he probably had been doing that job for some years!

  18. DJO Silver badge

    Training the trainer

    Last time I was "between jobs" I was sent on a compulsory computer course.

    Twas a joke, the training material was absolute garbage, once the poorly trained trainers worked out I really did know a lot more than they did I spent the entire time there correcting the course material.

    That was interesting but I pity the poor sods who took the course before me, from the content I think at a pinch they could open an Excel document but little more.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Training the trainer

      You think that's bad - I took a SANS training course that was written and recorded by one of the worlds top experts in the subject and had been used for years - and I still ended up correcting him in a few places!

      1. Giovani Tapini

        Re: Training the trainer

        I had great fun doing this once or twice in the past. Scared one by saying my reason to be on his course was simply to review it - classic expression on his face. A second time where I was pointing out inaccurate information in the notes, and bits cut and pasted from previous versions of courses.

        I was eventually allowed (I suspect encouraged) to do the final test early, take my certificate, and have the rest of the day off. Those were the days....

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          Re: Training the trainer

          Can happen in any walk of life. One day you're helping bail out of a BSOD, the next it might be fixing a wobbly chair.

          English language O-level, we had a "teacher" who was borderline-illiterate. One minor recollection from that was a spelling test she had prepared for us. When it came to marking it, I had to correct her on three (of twenty) words. Each was a long argument before she finally looked it up and confirmed I was right.

          1. lglethal Silver badge
            Go

            Re: Training the trainer

            In the first year of my bachelor degree (Aerospace engineering in the early 2000's), we had a mandatory computing course.

            In the very first lecture, the professor started explaining what was a mouse, a keyboard, etc., etc. After about 10 minutes of this, he began to show us how to open a Word document. At this point, he proudly announced that by clicking on the X in the corner you could close the document (all spoken in a tone of voice that left no doubt to anyone that this was amazing magical bleeding edge computing technology). He clicked the X, a pop up appeared "Would you like to save the changes you made to this document befoe closing". 3 options were available - Yes, No and Cancel.

            The professor clicked Cancel. The document did not Close. He clicked the X again. Up came the Pop-up. He clicked Cancel. The document did not Close. He clicked the X again. Up came the Pop-up. He clicked Cancel. And so on for a full 5 minutes. At which point I got up and left.

            I didnt bother going back to that class. I just turned up for the exams and still got a high distinction. To this day, I have no idea how long the professor kept clicking close before someone eventually took pity on him, or perhaps he did it until the end of the lesson. I have no idea.

            1. onefang Silver badge

              Re: Training the trainer

              "To this day, I have no idea how long the professor kept clicking close"

              Until the computer got bored and decided it was a good time to update and reboot.

          2. ChrisC

            Re: Training the trainer

            "English language O-level, we had a "teacher" who was borderline-illiterate"

            My GCSE IT teacher knew barely enough about computers (and bearing in mind we're talking about BBC micros here, so nothing terribly complex to deal with) to cope with the practical sessions during our course, and wasn't all that much better on the theoretical side of things either. When you're having to explain to your teacher how to load something from floppy disc, it sets the bar pretty low in terms of what you expect them to be able to teach you in return.

            That I still ended up getting an A grade (back in the days before all these newfangled starred grades came along to confuddle matters somewhat) says as much about how relatively easy most GCSE subjects were as it does about how much I already knew about the subject...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Training the trainer

              "I had great fun doing this once or twice in the past. Scared one by saying my reason to be on his course was simply to review it - classic expression on his face"

              Not quite the same thing, but I was on a LEAN course, and they were asking why we'd all signed up. Usual mix of "I want to do my job better" and "my boss told me to". Me?

              "I worked for the Inland Revenue a few years back, when they did LEAN first time".

              The instructor just stopped and said "Really?"

              "Yes. I was on the LEAN pilot that went so badly it made the national news."

              Turned out the instructor had one of his grad students do a PhD thesis on that particular disaster, and we had a great conversation later on about how LEAN can go wrong, and what had been learned from such things.

        2. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

          Re: Training the trainer

          "I was eventually allowed (I suspect encouraged) to do the final test early, take my certificate, and have the rest of the day off. Those were the days...."

          Except when the test is looking for the wrong answer taught in the course. Bits and bytes are not interchangeable terms...

          1. onefang Silver badge

            Re: Training the trainer

            I've mentioned this some time ago, but it fits here, so time to trot this little anecdote out once more.

            Many decades ago, during a period of unemployment, the government decided it was a good idea to fund one year of a two year computer course. Despite the fact that I had lots of experience as a computer programmer.

            One of the subjects was "Desktop Computing", basically how to use Windows / Word / etc. It was well known amongst the faculty that I was an experienced computer professional. On the first day of this subject, before the teacher started doing the actual teaching, and while every one else was getting settled, she took me aside and asked "Can you teach me how to use a mouse please?".

          2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

            Re: Training the trainer

            > Except when the test is looking for the wrong answer taught in the course.

            I remember nearly failing the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) course. Not because I couldn't work a computer, but because the "interactive" test expected you to achieve things exactly the way it was taught in the course (the long way round).

            The one that really sticks in memory was "Create a shortcut to file foo.doc on the desktop". Explorer was already open in the directory, with foo.doc there.

            Right-click. Wrong. Fuck. Left click, Edit menu, Copy. Right click on desktop. Wrong. Fuck.

            Ultimately what the test expected you to do, was (using the menus in explorer), copy the file, paste as shortcut into the same directory as foo.doc, then relocate that shortcut to the desktop (via Explorer, not by minimising explorer and being on, you know, the desktop). So I got that question wrong, because you only got 3 opportunities to say fuck before it moved onto the next one.

            In a weird way, it's one of the hardest tests I've ever sat. Not because the challenges themselves were in any way complex or difficult, but because they'd taken the view there was only one way to complete any given task, and that way was the most bone-headed inefficient way you could possibly think of.

  19. Douchus McBagg

    good times...

    another little gem i'm sure you're all aware of:-

    transparent cello tape (scotch tape) over the optical "eye". initial eyeball mk1 inspection can easily miss it, but there is enough I/R reflection off the adhesive side to blind the pickup sensor rendering the mouse cursor motionless.

    also one or two stray cat hairs in the sensor hole (or substitute as necessary), also renders an optical mouse non functional.

    had a PHB fall for the tape variant and reboot his machine as it "must have crashed, losing a couple of days of work" apparently. God knows how much work he lost every weekend and had to re-do on Monday when the machines all got a scripted restart on Sunday night.

    A lot of serial mouse connectors had locking bolts and cable strain relief built into the plug. None of this "falls apart after a year" apple connector rubbish. IIRC those aluminium mouse pads flew beautifully spinning in a long lazy cork-screw arc. usually to end up sticking in the plasterboard walls. RIP proper built kit (Sun/Sgi etc.).

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: good times...

      also one or two stray cat hairs in the sensor hole (or substitute as necessary), also renders an optical mouse non functional

      Hmm.. I've never been subject to that - and my house has more than it's fair share of cat hair (we have cat hair in every shade, available to blend in with every style of clothing).

      I just hope that whoever has our about-to-be-traded-in car isn't violently allergic to cats. There's probably a whole cats-worth of hair inextricably woven into the fabric seats..

      1. gotes

        Re: good times...

        My mouse has been disabled on several occasions with very small fine cat hairs, and I only have one cat.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: good times...

          Then you know which cat to thank for the thoughtful present of their personal fur, .. er I mean blame.

  20. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Devil

    Mouse balls.

    In the old days, if I was feeling particularly mean to someone I might substitute their mouse ball for one from another mouse that was slightly smaller.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Mouse balls.

      In the old days, if I was feeling particularly mean to someone I might substitute their mouse ball for one from another mouse that was slightly smaller.\

      Ever tried a grape? The funny shape of the grape will make the mouse go all funny.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Mouse balls.

        If it's someone you really don't like, try a chocolate ball.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Mouse balls.

          Give chocolate to a non-friend? For any reason at all???

          BURN THE HERETIC!

          1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

            Re: Mouse balls.

            There used to be these small plastic spheres about the size of a marble. The plastic was clear, there was clear liquid inside, & a smaller sphere inside floating in the liquid. Some places sell things of that design with the inner sphere being a compass for navigation. The toy was a "floating eyeball". I used to have fun swapping the mouse ball for an "eyeball" & wedging it in place so the mouse wouldn't track. The owner would flip it over to check for gunk, see the eyeball looking back at them, scream & throw the mouse away as they scrambled from their desk chair like their ass was on fire. I'd "go check what was wrong", replace the eye with the ball, & feign innocence when the person returned gibbering about eyeballs.

            I'm not evil, I prefer the term "creatively vindictive". ;-D

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mouse balls.

      Back when we were in middle school a friend of mine & I went through our local electronics megastore & swapped all the mouse balls for ones of different sizes. It was fun to watch customers twitching the mice & getting no reaction from the computer, then the employees trying to fix them by banging them on the counter. While the employee went back to get replacement mice, my friend & I switched the balls back. We left before they caught on & ejected us. We did this a few more times before we got bored & went on to other mischief. We started swapping to which computer each mouse was attached, thus making the mouse gestures in front of one computer twiddle the mouse on the screen of another. Ahhhh... good times!

  21. Terry Barnes

    Mouse cursor?

    It’s WIMP, not WIMC...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Re: Mouse cursor?

      Yes, but the stories here are more gooey.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Mouse cursor?

      TBH I'm happy with "mouse cursor" to annoy the pedants.

      C.

  22. Peter27x
    Coffee/keyboard

    As others have mentioned keyboards and mouses^h^h^h^h^hices are cheep, I suspect that replacing them annually in offices would reduce the cost of illness in offices more than enough to offset the cost.

  23. heyrick Silver badge

    Done that a bunch of times

    In various shops, a library, and a bank (in the days before the rampant paranoia).

    All you need to do is explain in really simple terms, reassure them that it won't blow up, and be certain to never actually touch (or attempt to touch) anything yourself. Most people are grateful because although you're just one person, it's probably been "on the blink" for days/weeks and they're the ones stuck attempting to carry on using the thing.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Done that a bunch of times

      I second this one.

      The CSR's at my bank recognize me by name & understand that I did IT support work for a living before I lost my sight. If they're having a problem with their machine they can describe the issue to me, I'll think about it for a moment, then patiently, politely explain how to fix it. It works more often than not, they're happy that they don't have to wait for "official help", & then they're all too eager to help me do whatever I need to do that brought me to the bank in the first place.

      A little kindness, a bit of patience, & you can relate your computer know how to someone for whom computers might as well be unknowable arcane wizardry requiring incantations, magic circles, & sacraficial animals to shed blood in order to work properly.

      The last time it was because the plug on the cable to the digitizer tablet (the part where you sign with the stylus) had come loose from the back of their tower. A simple push back in, tightening of the retention knobs, & it worked - it took maybe five minutes of my time, saved them an hour on the phone to hell desk, & the problem was no more.

      It's little things like that, random acts of kindness, that help the world become a nicer place for us all.

    2. Robert Sneddon

      Re: Done that a bunch of times

      A while back I was picking up some exhaust bits for my van from a local branch of a well-known chain of repair depots (beings with K, ends in fit) near the end of the business day. The guy on the counter was filling out forms rather than typing stuff into the workshop's online system. I bent my head around and saw a classic BSOD on the monitor.

      "Do you know something about these things then? I got to write all the jobs up tonight 'cause it's bust. I'll be here for ages."

      I nodded, gave the keyboard a three-fingered salute and after it thought about it for a minute the screen cleared and displayed an NT4WS login followed by a burst of activity from the modem followed by a functional data entry screen followed by a thirty quid discount off my order.

  24. Andy Taylor

    The old Apple (Mighty) Mouse scroll wheel was easily clogged with dirt. The "fix" was to hold upside down and rub said wheel on a sheet of paper. Sometimes isopropyl alcohol was required to shift particularly troublesome dirt.

  25. A K Stiles
    Coffee/keyboard

    fuzzy balls

    In a previous existence I used to regularly get someone complain that their "mouse isn't working!!!!"

    For a while I would attempt to clean the things there and then, but that nearly always got the chorus of "Ew" and "humph", so instead I used to fetch a 'spare' from the stores, swap them out and then clean the previous one whilst waiting for something to load/install/compile, before returning it to the stores for the next time. We only actually had a couple of 'spares' and about 5 new mice in the stores. After 3 years we still had 5 brand new mice in their boxes.

    Now don't get me started on the phone headset ear-sponges! (bleurgh!)

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: fuzzy balls

      Headsets should be considered personal (single user) equipment. I have walked out on a job as a student because they refused to provide me with a new (sealed in box) unit and instead insisted I used an over-ear unit that looked like it had been worn by a pig the previous day (Judging from the other people there, it can't have been far off). Hearing stories from others that got talked into staying I'm glad I refused that particular job.

      Heck, desk phones are just as gross. First thing I did at my last internship at the time when I got issued a desk phone was to late in the day take the receiver apart and clean with alcohol. My supervisor initially started making a fuss, until I showed him the inside. I lent him my cleaning kit the next day. I had enough experience at that point to know the intern gets the old, grungy and barely functional stuff from the back of the closet.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Fuzzy Balls & Telephone Sanitizers

        Ahhhh the Golgafrincham is strong in you.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: fuzzy balls

      "For a while I would attempt to clean the things there and then, but that nearly always got the chorus of "Ew" and "humph", "

      Whenever I got that reaction I took a little sly pleasure in pointing out the vast majority of the gunk was their own sweat, grease and skin flakes with a dash of their lunches from the last 6 months.

  26. H in The Hague Silver badge
    Pint

    Prevention at the pharmacy

    Accompanied our elderly Dutch friend to the pharmacy. Pharmacist apologised for the slow service due to a new computer system being set up. Wandered over to have a look and noticed that the label printer's network cable was bent double right by the connector. Figured that might eventually damage the cable. Mentioned it to the pharmacist who immediately understood the issue, rerouted the cable and secured it with a sticky bandage (effective strain relief, but not a pretty sight).

    Here's one for the weekend.

  27. Wilseus

    Not too long ago

    I was at customer the customer services counter at my local supermarket asking them to add some points onto my loyalty card. They can't scan the card there, they have to key in the long serial number.

    "Sorry we can't do this today, the number keys have stopped working, We can't understand it!"

    I asked, "have you tried pressing the Num Lock key?"

    That's all it was.

    1. onefang Silver badge

      Re: Not too long ago

      A friend of mine, long ago in the days of dial up, couldn't get her shiny new university computer account to work, so she asked me to have a look. So we sat down at her computer, she fired up the software, showing me it's complete failure to work, I reached out slowly and dramatically, then pressed the break key. The thing burst into life.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I spent the evening in a police station in Ireland once because of reasons, and they couldn't discharge me as their printer wasn't working so I eventually got fed up of waiting and asked if I could fix it, (reinstalling drivers etc.) which I did and was able to very shortly go on my merry way!

    1. Steve Aubrey

      There's always reasons . . .

    2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Joke

      Did you fix it without charge?

  29. Ken Mitchell

    Very Similar Problem

    I spent 20 years as a computer trainer. I was sent out to do software training for a company where everybody had their own laptops with built-in trackballs. (LONG ago.) One user could make the cursor move up and down, but not side-to-side. Classic dirty mouse symptoms. So I turned the retaining ring, popped out the trackball, and looked in. This model laptop was light gray plastic, but hers was orange, and gritty.

    I asked her "What have you been eating?". She held up her (orange) fingers and said "Cheetos". It took about 15 minutes to scrape the Cheeto-dust off the rollers in that trackball well. .

  30. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    Pint

    A pint for Wanda

    Any lady willing to manipulate a perfect stranger's fuzzy balls is okay. Just sayin'

  31. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I used to occasionally work in a clean room

    where microchips were made. Air was filtered, everyone wore suits covering everything and you had to tear your feet off the sticky mat in the airlock that sucked every last piece of shit off the suit and very nearly the suit too.

    You could open the PCs in there and not see a trace of dust after a couple of years even on the outgoing filters. The mice rollers would still get covered in blue grey lint. I think it must be created by quantum fluctuations and dark matter is really the stuff that doesnt stick to mice rollers.

  32. Grant Fromage

    I have too many Words and i must share. God bless Harlan Ellison.

    I have no shock reactions to keyboards left. A work colleague was sorting out a very expensive keyboard and it was clogged with pubes, the lady in that position was a perfect hair colour match and I had to ask her what was going on and she came up with some rubbish about eyebrows.Eyebrow hair isn`t thick and curtly

    The head of Cleaning had told me of a whoops when she had been caught bush trimming at early am, There was a high def ( by late 90`s standards) camera on a very flexible mount for letter and newspaper and other capture, she had been using this to give a view to trim the lower bits of her lady garden and that combined with time of deleted frames when turned on explains all. There were still 2 frames of her lady parts in splendid formation that were somehow locked ( not me)

    I got a beer out with her to delete these, the cosmetics were ok but there was no-one home, "having sex with a dim woman remains the first step on the downward staircase towards bestiality"

    1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge
      Alert

      Re: I have too many Words and i must share. God bless Harlan Ellison.

      upvote partly for the brain-is-a-sex-organ realisation but mostly for the "I have no mouth but I must scream" reference.

      For everyone else, if you haven't read this CLASSIC sci-fi short-story, take 10mins now:

      "I have no mouth but I must scream"

      by Harlan Ellison

      Possibly THE all-time classic. It will live with you for life...

  33. Floz

    “In a short time the mouse was working properly, and two millennials now had a history lesson in mouse balls.”

    BWAHAHAHA, I can think of a few underlings that could use a lesson or two in "mouse-balls"

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