back to article Are you sure your disc drive has stopped rotating, or are you just ignoring the messages?

Roll up, roll up, to On Call, your weekly instalment of fellow readers’ tech triumphs and frustrations. This time, we meet "Noel", whose story is bound to make you cringe and scream in equal measure. "Many years ago, when 8-inch floppy disc drives were leading edge technology, I programmed and installed a system for a …

  1. GlenP Silver badge

    I can believe it!

    With one system we stopped using Y to continue as the users would never actually read the messages, sometimes resulting in data loss.

    We started using a random character generator instead, with second character confirmations for more "dangerous" tasks, so, for example:

    "Do you wish to erase all data? Press L to continue"

    "Do you really wish to erase all data? Press T to confirm"

    It worked.

    Glen

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: I can believe it!

      Just to add, 30 years later the users still don't read the messages on the screen!

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: I can believe it!

        Which leads to one of my favs: RTFS much? I once had a "self proclaimed" techy type D level call for a printing problem. I roll up to their desk and see a message balloon on the screen, print job failed, load paper into tray x.... Open tray x, sure enough no paper... my best straight face ~ Do you want me to fill your paper tray?

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: I can believe it!

          Do you want me to fill your paper tray?

          Yup, been there. I tried to be more constructive and instead asked, "Would you like me to show you how to refill the paper tray? I expect they forgot to cover that when you started." The second time (the same person) it was, "Show me how you go about filling the paper tray, and I'll check that everything then works." The third time I struggled to stop myself going full Blackadder -- "The ape creatures of the Indus Valley have mastered this simple task, Baldrick!" Gah. Users.

          1. Nick Kew Silver badge

            Re: I can believe it!

            Hmm. None of you worked in the kind of corporate environment where the printer is/was in a forbidden area? Or simply a completely unknown location that's never the same two jobs running? Out of paper was indeed a problem one couldn't deal with oneself.

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: I can believe it!

              The problem is not that they are *prohibited* from refilling the paper tray, nor is it that each ream of paper must be accounted for (thankfully, we have not descended to that!), but that my cow-orkers are simply too *lazy* to refill the tray.

              Also too lazy to dispose of the remaining food in their dishes, rinse them and place them in the dishwasher, leaving dirty bowls, plates and food remnants in the communal sink.

              Such is life.

              1. cosmogoblin

                Re: I can believe it!

                As a desk jockey, I was once told off by my team leader for replacing the toner cartridge. Apparently my job needed more skills (true enough) so I shouldn't waste 30 seconds doing it myself.

                Instead, I was supposed to go back to my desk, write a support ticket, then wait an hour or two until they got round to my job. In the meantime, do ... nothing.

                From then on, I'd wait for her to get a cup of tea before replacing the toner.

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  " I was once told off by my team leader for replacing the toner cartridge."

                  My objections to users doing this centres around them causing more damage than they solved. Broken/damaged transfer belts is a common one and of course noone will 'fess up to doing it, even by accident.

                  "Tech Savvy" users who think they don't need training are the worst offenders.

                  if you RTFM, I'm happy. if you ask for help, I'm happy, If you cock up and and tell me, I'm happy. If you cover things up, I get pissed off.

                  1. MR J

                    Re: I can believe it!

                    I changed out a power supply once in my work computer, when the IT guy found out he said it needed to be returned to how it was (broken) and then for me to file a repair request. I did as he suggested. A few days later the computer was collected, and a week or so after that they were unable to find the fault or funding to fix the unit, so I had to wait for them to order a new unit for the sales team, and for the sales computer to be formatted and have the os loaded again. All in all it took them about two weeks and then about 6 months more to request the specific software I had to use. Sadly the old software could not be recovered due to the machine non working.

                    Yes, sometimes users cause problems. Sometimes power-hungry idiotic IT departments are worse.

                    None of our computers had CD drives either, so once when the IT department put the service CD in the network drive for us, we copied the whole thing over to our computers. Life was so great. We all received a formal warning for that, as the IT department had not deemed it allowable. They deleted all stored PDF files we had and locked the service CD in the safe. To get a document off of it we had to file a request AND wait for the network CD drive to not be in use. I think at the time the CD cost £12 to buy (Early 2000's). When the IT manager went on vacation we had no access to PDF documents, but there was a warehouse down the road that would photocopy paper documents for us to use :/….

                    1. JimC Silver badge

                      Re: Sometimes power-hungry idiotic IT departments are worse.

                      I've not really come across an IT department that likes making up over restrictive rules for the fun of it. I've come across exasperated IT departments that have over-reacted to constant user idiocy though.

                      OTOH user idiocy is often related to failures in system design and training, but it can also be related to users who believe they are too busy - or at executive level too important - to devote the time to learning how to do the IT related part of their job properly.

                      Its also often the case that if x% of users are capable of doing IT administration tasks correctly, the number of users who believe they are capable is x + n%, where n is a number large enough to cause significant grief. And like Gilbert andSullivan's criminals,

                      The idiot user who cannot be trusted

                      Looks just the same as any able one

                  2. cosmogoblin
                    FAIL

                    Re: I can believe it!

                    Oh, I always own up to my mistakes.

                    Recently, I wanted a high-power fan to demonstrate wind turbines (I'm now a physics teacher). So I modified a hairdryer so that I could turn on the heat and fan independently. I cut the heating element out of the loop and wired it in parallel, instead of series.

                    Turns out (as I'd have known if I'd thought about it) that the resistance of the heating element was an crucial factor in the hairdryer's design ... I plugged it in, turned it on, and it exploded and gave me a 230V shock!

                    I'm thankful for the speed of RCCB, which protected me from serious injury. However I did have to, tail between my legs, to the building manager, having cut off the power to two entire floors of the school ...

                2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  "As a desk jockey, I was once told off by my team leader for replacing the toner cartridge."

                  But these tasks are the equivalent of, well, breathing. It's like going into your office and noticing it's dark, so you turn the light on. Automatically, without thinking. You don't decide that you have to put a request in to authorise a lamp lighter to come along and fiat the lux. Or picking up a pen and realising you can't write anything until you've clicked the point out. It's part of the action of using it.

                  1. JimC Silver badge

                    Re: It's like going into your office and noticing it's dark, so you turn the light on.

                    But when did you last change a light bulb in your office? We may do it automatically at home, but in the office its frowned on because of ladders, insurance, light fittings that are not straightforward etc etc

              2. Oodles of Noodles

                Re: I can believe it!

                Ahhh, life in an A/E staff room :P

              3. illiad

                Re: I can believe it!

                .... and my workplace has got a **dishwasher** with hundreds of notices to say use it, I AM HERE, etc..

                and still dirt stuff is left on the counter, right next to the sink..

                1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  Is it just me or is this sort of thing a LOT more prevalent than it used to be?

                  30yrs ago: nope.

                  20yrs ago: nope.

                  10yrs ago: some idiots.

                  now: wtf!?!!?

                  I have seen several Millenials now, dump their own rubbish on their own floors in their own homes, and walk off. "Someone should sort that out."

                2. error 13

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  sent an allstaff email once with a picture of the dishwasher, door badly outlined in red with pbrush, pile of dirty dishes on the surfaces all around it.

                  email title was "good news. the dishwasher door has been checked and is indeed working"

                  some of them got the point

            2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: I can believe it!

              @Nick Kew - "the printer is/was in a forbidden area? Or simply a completely unknown location"

              Let me ask the stupid question... if you aren't allowed near the printer, or don't know where it is, how do you collect the output? If you don't collect the output, is it necessary to print it?

              And who installed the printer in the reactor core?

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: I can believe it!

                There was a time, in some schools, where all printing had to be done by the admin. Who was part time. And in one I knew, the printer was in a locked room.

                It was less about cost*, more about suspicion.

                *Even these days some organisations make assumptions about cost instead of looking at TCO. e.g. assuming that the precious coloured toner can't be used by ordinary staff member- but the costings show it's not much more expensive for them than the black.

                1. Marshalltown

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  Long ago, the fellow I worked for decided to branch out from the core business into the utterly, totally, absolutely unrelated business of being an ISP. He had no skills or knowledge of the business whatsoever. To accomodate the ISP operation lab space was broken up and a server closet was built to for the routers and oher other necessary hardware and their racks. To oversee this, he initially hired a very gothy young fellow whose apparent ambition was to become a BOFH. The boss had decreed that the entire office be tied into the new system and for some obscure reason, the tie ran through the machine we used as a print server. The side of the business we worked on (when not answering "hell desk" questions) had reports that needed to be printed, deadlines to be met and all the other daya to day things such businesses are faced with. However, our young WBBOFH (would-be BOFH) decided that security required that when he was out of the building direct access between the office side and the ISP side of things had to be cut, which he accomplisged by the simple expedient of powering down the print server, leaving us stuck without an available printer. Within a couple of weeks of this after fruitless complaints and explanations that if he really needed the security he need to install another break point, my partner worked out a work around involving booting the print server from an alternate bootable floppy.

                  This worked fine from our perspective but played merry hell with the link to the ISP side since it left the NT file system in an unstable state which required some work by the WBBOFH every time he started the system "properly." Even though "the boss" told us not to circumvent the little twerp's measures, we simply offered to let him - the boss - explain to his other clients who paid for the majority of the opreation why their work went begging, and continued to "circumvent." Young WWBOFH quit within about six months.

                2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  "*Even these days some organisations make assumptions about cost instead of looking at TCO. "

                  If you want to talk about TCO - "cheap printers"(*) are extraordinarily expensive to run and colour prints are 4-6 times the cost of mono ones.

                  That holds as true now (I just costed up million print operational lives) as it did when I did it a decade ago.

                  (*) The £10k printer with a 1-3 million print lifespan will cost about 2% more to run at 100k prints as the £1k printer, and about 1/2 as much at 1 million prints (you'll have purchased 3 of the cheaper printers by then, or 8 if you didn't buy maintenance kits)

                  If you buy a £500 printer then at 100k prints the $10k printer will cost 50-75% of the $500 printer cost you and you'd be very to try printing 1 million pages on £500 printers because the consumables will bankrupt you.

                  Of course if you're only going to print 1000 pages/year then the £500 printer is a no-brainer, but this demonstrates WHY you don't put a £1k printer in a school resource room (or a single £10k printer - it's a SPOF) and expect it to turn out 500k pages/year.

                  Inkjets are even more stupidly expensive to run and only make sense if you need high quality photographic quality output and are printing at least 2-3 pages/day (else the ink dries out)

                  1. Quinch

                    Re: I can believe it!

                    Good advice - from about half a decade ago.

                    Inkjets have been steadily gaining over lasers over the past few years to the point where quite a few of them are actually cheaper to run. Hell, some of them have even taken a step backwards in the right direction and went with the dirt cheap refillable tanks in exchange for a costlier device at the outset {extra costly depending on features you need}. Likewise, pretty much all manufacturers swapped out water and alcohol-based ink in favor of oil and pigment, so the few days it took them to dry out if not used turned into a few months.

                    Overall, the only thing lasers still have going for them is speed of printing and overall capacity for abuse, which can be crucial for large offices, but less so on smaller scale.

                    Source: Former retail drone {as of yesterday! Hooray!}

                    1. pirxhh

                      Re: I can believe it!

                      Lasers, surprisingly, also are better at very low print volumes. With inkjets, if you do not print every couple of weeks, the ink will dry up and may break the print head. If you print only every other day, the cleaning cycle will empty your ink cartridges rather quickly.

                      Lasers do not have that issue, so I run a laser at home for the few times a year I have to print something, like official letters or tax forms. When not in use, it's completely powered down - another thing most inkjets don't like and penalize by more elaborate (and ink consuming) cleaning cycles every time you turn them on.

                      1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

                        Re: I can believe it!

                        Yep I got sick of cheap inkjet printers burning through cartridges and blocking their own printheads

                        Went and bought a midrange Samsung laser printer for those few times a year I need to print boarding passes etc.

                        Though reliability wise it hasn't been great as it keeps printing little red dots across the page, they sent an engineer out who thought it *might* resolve itself if I change the red toner cartridge, as far as I'm concerned it's unresolved.

                    2. CountCadaver

                      Re: I can believe it!

                      I was browsing the tech stuff in Tesco (I was waiting on the wife and ocassionally they have decent printer paper on offer, while perusing their terrible printers and commenting to the wife (who had then appeared) that you couldn't pay me to use one and why did people buy printers with combined colour cartridges.

                      Random office droid type woman mentions they have an Epson Inktank printer in the office and despite some serious use, its been extremely reliable and dirt cheap to run (well once you buy the printer), perhaps there are still some users out there with some smarts.

                      I was given a Canon IX4000 off freegle, not working, opened it up and discovered a rather large lump of blu tack had been ingested, removed it, put fresh cartridges in and it worked perfectly for about 4 years, where one day it just turned off...Hmmm says I, unplugged it and turned on and then promptly turned off again, no blinking lights

                      Replaced the PSU, no change, replaced something else (I forget what it was), googled various things to no avail then the wife needed another A3 printer so bought the latest iteration from Currys (IX6850 with tiny tanks)

                      I then chucked the IX4000, only to find several weeks later a webpage mentioning that this happens when the printhead wears out and they had had some choice words with Canon about this as it appeared this behaviour was chosen so that it would require a service call or the end user would just chuck it as "broken"

                      Wasn't impressed, particularly as the print quality on the IX4000 is better than the IX6850 by miles and it never clogged either (both ran on compatible cartridges) (The IX6850 keeps drifting out of alignment every other week - text gets blurry mid page, its a piece of junk Albeit the Epson Workforce WF7515 A3 multifunction she still uses as a scanner clogs constantly and is deafening when printing, sounds like its going to fall to pieces, scanning isn't quite either when using the ADF)

                      Thinking about an A4 colour laser and keep the A3 for the rare ocassions she needs A3 prints (seriously if anyone has a sprog on an Art / Graphic Design course, buy them an A3 inkjet and it'll save them a fortune in printing costs (a lot of the coursework requires multiple A3 printed prototype designs and an A2 final submission (I'm told someone on the wife's course had split the cost of an A2 printer with some friends as 4 years of printing costs rapidly add up)

                3. Olivier2553 Silver badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  No need to look at TOC: we rent our printing services (I disagree with renting but that's another debate) colour pages are ten (10) times the cost of B&W (even if the page has only B&W, if you selected colour printing, it is charged at the 10x cost). Easy decision to restrict access to colour printing.

              2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: I can believe it!

                "

                Let me ask the stupid question... if you aren't allowed near the printer, or don't know where it is, how do you collect the output?

                "

                In quite a few organisations I have seen, each print job has a header sheet with the name of the person who sent the job. Each job is looked at by the front-office person when it comes out of the printer to ensure it is bone-fide (e.g. not confidential information an employee is intending to take out of the building), and then the print job is carried to the person who sent it or deposited in their pigeon-hole.

                Of course, that only occurs in companies that take security seriously. In many companies the cleaner could copy the contents of their entire server to a few USB sticks, or even upload it to their home NAS without the company even knowing it had happened.

                1. Nick Kew Silver badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  Security is one possible concern. And simply discouraging printing, so people only do it when there's a real good reason.

                  Back in the days when printers (and 'puters) cost real money, it was also part of office management. Restrict access to trained staff. Admin/secretarial staff to pick up printouts and shove them in $user's intray.

                  Not entirely illogical. Open it to everyone, and someone is sure to mess it up. If not changing the toner, then trying inexpertly to clear a paper jam. Or something.

                  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: I can believe it!

                    "Not entirely illogical. Open it to everyone, and someone is sure to mess it up. If not changing the toner, then trying inexpertly to clear a paper jam. Or something."

                    Like trying to clear a printer jam in the fuser with a kitchen knife and tearing out chunks of the £200-£500 fuser roller?

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  "Let me ask the stupid question... if you aren't allowed near the printer, or don't know where it is, how do you collect the output?"

                  To answer your question -

                  Simple. If you went to the University that I did (where the author of the BOFH stories genuinely was the VAX operator) ... you collected your output from pigeon holes outside the operations centre.

                  1. TeeCee Gold badge

                    Re: I can believe it!

                    where the author of the BOFH stories genuinely was the VAX operator

                    What gave the game away? Mousetraps in the pidgeonholes?

                3. Mephistro Silver badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  In one of my clients where everybody had access to the big format, "fast"* dot matrix printer (An Epson DFX 8000, or similar, as far as I recall) I had frequent calls for reasons like users not closing correctly the paper holders, not aligning the holes in the paper with the pins in the printer or pulling the paper out before printing had ended. The issues were explained several times to the staff without apparent results.

                  Solution: A secretary was trained to become the only interface between the printer and the rest of the Universe and the issues vanished overnight.

                  She quit the company the next year, though. Something to do with the fact that she had already lots of work before they threw these new tasks upon her. 8^(

                4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  "In quite a few organisations I have seen, each print job has a header sheet with the name of the person who sent the job. Each job is looked at by the front-office person when it comes out of the printer to ensure it is bone-fide (e.g. not confidential information an employee is intending to take out of the building), and then the print job is carried to the person who sent it or deposited in their pigeon-hole."

                  Oh FFS! In this era of technology, why don't they just scan it and email it to the person who printed it and save all that physical walking around?

                  1. Ted Treen

                    Re: I can believe it!

                    'Cos having received their scan by email, the first thing they'll do is print out the attachment. This could have ever such a fun effect on the work throughput schedule, and be terrifically profitable to the scanner and paper vendors. I know your suggestion was meant jokingly, but I've seen many dafter suggestions actually implemented.

                    1. David 132 Silver badge
                      Mushroom

                      Re: I can believe it!

                      Try dealing with the US healthcare system some time. To submit a claim for reimbursement: the provider invoice has to be faxed to the insurance company’s claims receiving dept. Who then re-fax it internally to their claims evaluation dept. who then decide that it’s illegible, and print out a copy of the fax^2, which gets mailed back to you.

                      (And ironically, the printed copy of the fax^2 is still perfectly readable to anyone with semi-functional eyeballs). Allow 30 days for this process; repeat, try again. Email is apparently far too advanced for them.

                      Bear that in mind next time you’re cursing the users who print their emailed PDFs.

                    2. Nolveys Silver badge
                      Windows

                      Re: I can believe it!

                      I work for a company that sends out all their invoices in emails in a batch run every month. The procedure is thus:

                      1. Print the invoices

                      2. Scan the printed invoices

                      3. Email the scanned invoices

                      4. Bin the invoices

                      I showed them "print to PDF" once, but there was no interest.

              3. rcxb

                Re: I can believe it!

                Forbidden areas: Go back a few years, and mainframe printers in particular were big open dangerous things that looked like newspaper printing presses. They were behind locked doors, with a window you'd go up to, ring a bell, and stand around for possibly quite a while waiting for someone to come over and hand off your stack of wood-pulp. Relevant to this case, the people who were in the locked room and able to hand over your stack at any given time, weren't always one of the few trained to replace consumables, so wait times could be lengthy.

                Unknown location: It's fairly common to have a couple printers in a rotation, and sometimes many more than that. With a dozen printers on two or three tables, it's easy to spot the one that has papers in the output tray. It may be less easy to find the one out of a dozen that has an alert icon on the LCD, or a sometimes dim red LED somewhere on it. Doubly so if several of those printers are substantially different models that have the alerts in different locations and in different forms.

                I am fully sympathetic to lowly users being dumb and helpless. I am less sympathetic when the supervisors/managers of the groups are similarly slow witted, unable to remember or follow instructions, and unable to filter the dumb, helpless and repetitive requests from their users before wasting the IT dept's time on such trivialities.

                1. swm Bronze badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  At Dartmouth we had a room full of a huge mainframe computer. The machine room was alwasy open for students to wander in and out. One day, the insurance company insisted that all of the windows looking into the machine room be covered with bullet proof lexan. The doors to the machine room were still left open for the students to freely wander in and out though.

              4. vincent himpe

                Re: I can believe it!

                if there is nobody to watch the printer print : are you sure it really prints ?

                i often find that it does not start printing unless you walk up to it.

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  "i often find that it does not start printing unless you walk up to it."

                  You haven't terrified it enough. Try downloading and printing brochures for a replacement printer.

                2. TSM

                  Re: I can believe it!

                  Very much the case here, since we got fancy "Follow Me" printers - you can go to any printer you like, tap your keypass on the sensor to log in, and get it to print out any jobs you may have waiting. Of course, people tend to want to pick up their print jobs from the closest printer to their location, so it doesn't really provide much benefit over the old model of just sending your job to that printer, and as an added bonus it's now impossible to send off a large print job and wait for it to be processed before you go and pick it up, because you have to do the keypass thing at the printer to start your job actually printing. (I think the rationale is more about security - since you have to be at the printer to print your document, there's little chance that someone else will see it before you collect it.)

                  But I hardly have to print off anything nowadays (and when I do it's usually no more than one sheet of paper) so it doesn't bother me unduly.

              5. pirxhh

                Re: I can believe it!

                With special printers (large format, special certificate paper...), either the output is brought to you (inhouse mail) or you pick it up at some kind of cubbyhole.

                In large-scale operations, many hardcopies are mailed or used directly - e.g. letters to customers or pay slips that get sent out directly, so the user generating them never sees the final hardcopy and does not care where the printer is located - it may be even offsite, in a mail depot somewhere.

              6. waldo kitty
                Paris Hilton

                Re: I can believe it!

                "Let me ask the stupid question... if you aren't allowed near the printer, or don't know where it is, how do you collect the output?"

                Have you ever seen one of the mail room folks coming around with their little cart delivering the mail? They deliver more than just the postal mail. This is also why there are banner and closing pages on print jobs. The banner page states who the print job belongs to and where they are located. The closing page indicates the end of that job. Someone, maybe the mail room personnel, collects the print jobs from the printers and delivers them to the originator of the job when they bring the rest of the "mail".

                TLDR; You don't collect the job from the printer. It is delivered to you.

          2. chivo243 Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: I can believe it!

            I was about to start rummaging through their desk looking for staples, "Looks like your stapler is about out of staples too!"

          3. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Gah. Users.

            Bah and double bah. I work in a large office with literally dozens of people, all of whom have a piece of paper to say they are clever and know stuff. Many of them have the nerve to add the words "engineer" or "architect" after the word software to indicate to all comers how clever they are. But these fine fellows seem to have missed out on portions of their expensive educations, to whit:

            A printer will not replace its own toner even if you tape a notice on it saying "out of toner".

            Ditto "out of paper". This one is doubly annoying as the supply department is on our floor, about 75 feet from the furthest printer.

            A printer repairman will not appear as if by magic if one writes "This printer is broken! REPAIR IT!" on a sheet of letter paper left by said printer, because the repair man does not have The Force strong in him and requires a ticket from the help desk to get moving. The help desk phone number has four digits, three of them the same digit to make it easy to remember and dial.

            The seat on a toilet is fitted with a hinge. Even though I venture to guess that this most simple of machines pre-dates the wheel by several centuries, my "engineer" colleagues seem ignorant of the workings of it to judge by the quantities of urine splashed about on the seats.

            The pipe connecting the commodes to the sewer line is about three inches in diameter and will not accommodate the flushing of an entire roll of toilet paper without clogging. My 'engineer" co-workers seem unable to extrapolate that if the bog jammed solid when they tried this on Friday last week, the week before, the week before that and the week before that, *this* Friday's attempt will likely end up in wet feet and angry people.

            My fellow "architects" seem unable to understand that once the bog has been blocked by a rather thick experimenter, taking a crap on the resulting mess is not a good idea, and flushing after one does will not end well.

            The microwave oven does not have the power of speech. A notice reading "is this microwave oven dangerous?" will likely receive no answer unless I see it, when the answer will not be considered helpful or polite.

            The said microwave is not self repairing, nor do the facilities staff show any signs of possessing ESP powers. Taping a note to the oven reading "This microwave is broken" will not result in a miraculous repair or replacement.

            Between the lift doors is not a good place to begin a lengthy a-la-Google meeting at 5:30 pm.

            The revolving door is not a good place to reply to a text if you are incapable of walking in a circle and typing, especially at 9:30 am or 5:30 pm.

            Please, do talk about the innate stupidity of users, but don't imagine for one second that our own are any less idiotic and selfish.

            1. Alistair Silver badge
              Windows

              Re: Gah. Users.

              @Stevie:

              The sum total of intelligence on the planet is a constant. I think, since my early teens, the population has doubled.

            2. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Gah. Users.

              Much of that sounds selfish rather than stupid. These are "me me" actions. I will leave a note that the microwave doesn't work. Someone else can make the effort to report it. If I need to send a text I will stop where I am and everyone else can just work round me or sod off. And so on.

              1. Lilolefrostback

                Re: Gah. Users.

                It's okay to leave a note on the machine, so that other users don't waste their time, but DO open a ticket and write the ticket number on the note so that other users know that service has been requested.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Gah. Users.

                "Much of that sounds selfish rather than stupid. These are "me me" actions. I will leave a note that the microwave doesn't work. Someone else can make the effort to report it. If I need to send a text I will stop where I am and everyone else can just work round me or sod off. And so on."

                I happen to wander through gaming forums, and the other day, there was question X, and question X is asked every single 5 threads on this forum. The forum is literally invaded by this very point, which was answered hundreds of times.

                To one specific user posting yet another X thread, I asked why he couldn't be bothered using the search button or even look at the title of the thread from one hour ago.

                To which he answered "I have better things to do than loose my time with search"

                Yes, selfish. No doubt.

              3. Maelstorm Bronze badge

                Re: Gah. Users.

                "I will leave a note that the microwave doesn't work. Someone else can make the effort to report it."

                Unless you're like me who can fix the microwave. Besides, I was working on a microwave at the job and the boss comes in. He sees what I'm doing and want's to know why I didn't just call a ticket in. He also lectures me to leave it for qualified technicians.

                That's when I tell him that I am a license and qualified technician. I showed him my licenses. He left me alone after that.

            3. Wellyboot Silver badge

              Re: Gah. Users.

              And... Relax...

              Pub's open.

            4. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Gah. Users.

              "But these fine fellows seem to have missed out on portions of their expensive educations,"

              From the descriptions, these appear to be escapees from the social sciences or journalism schools at your local polytechnic. Kindly round them up and send them home.

            5. keithpeter
              Windows

              Re: Gah. Users.

              "The help desk phone number has four digits, three of them the same digit to make it easy to remember and dial."

              In my (brief, mercifully) career as a PHB, I spent a lot of time simply encouraging people to 'log a job'. That simple mantra was amazingly powerful when scaled across an organisation that employed 3 thousand people.

            6. Lilolefrostback

              Re: Gah. Users.

              This is why I do not believe that SETI will ever find intelligent life: based on Earth's experience, there is NO evidence of intelligent life in this universe. At all. Ever.

              1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
                Alien

                Re: Gah. Users.

                @Lilolefrostback - and with that I now have the Galaxy Song stuck in my brain (again) - especially the last line...

                https://youtu.be/buqtdpuZxvk

            7. Olivier2553 Silver badge

              Re: Gah. Users.

              I always thought that 3" line for the bog is kind of silly, 6" sound much more reasonable.

        2. a cynic writes...
          Facepalm

          Re: I can believe it!

          My lot can usually manage to fill the tray. Realising that they sent something to print in Letter format rather than A4, not so much.

          I find asking what the error message says is a good start - they don't know (obviously) but at least they realise they don't know. That said I still occasionally have to resolve issues by actually switching things on..

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: I can believe it!

            "Realising that they sent something to print in Letter format rather than A4, not so much."

            A lot of printers can be set not to care about such things (Letter/A4 override).

            For everything else I put a substitution filter on the print server.

          2. vulture65537

            Re: I can believe it!

            How about "There was an error message but I deleted it unread." ?

            1. Disk0
              Pint

              Re: I can believe it!

              "i'm getting an error message so I figured that was a thing for you IT guys to deal with"

              "What's the error?"

              "No idea, I closed it because I have you on the line now."

              "What were you trying to do? Did something not work?"

              "Oh i don't remember, it wasn't very important, I just thought you'd like to know I got an error, since you guys like looking at those."

              At that point the caveman in me had a considerable urge to turn the caller into a cavepainting. Lucky for her however she had set me up with fresh coffee and pastries ftom the kitchen on numerous occasions, so instead I thanked her profusely for chipping in so excellently, and trying to me with my work, but that it really wasn't neccesary to call in every single error: only the ones that jam up your work. The other error bucket we empty out weekly, so you don't have to worry.

            2. Disk0
              Pint

              Re: I can believe it!

              "i'm getting an error message so I figured that was a thing for you IT guys to deal with"

              "What's the error?"

              "No idea, I closed it because I have you on the line now."

              "What were you trying to do? Did something not work?"

              "Oh i don't remember, it wasn't very important, I just thought you'd like to know I got an error, since you guys like looking at those."

              At that point the caveman in me had a considerable urge to turn the caller into a cavepainting. Lucky for her however she had set me up with fresh coffee and pastries ftom the kitchen on numerous occasions, so instead I thanked her profusely for chipping in so excellently, and trying to help me with my work, but that it really wasn't neccesary to call in every single error: only the ones that jam up your work. The other error bucket we empty out weekly, so you don't have to worry.

        3. Admiral Grace Hopper

          Re: I can believe it!

          If it was a bloke, it may well have been the first time that the printer didn't just do the job itself. I used to work in an office where only the women seemed to have the necessary skills to replenish printers with paper or toner. I assumed that the men's penises and or testes must have prevented them from bending down far enough to do the job. A terrible handicap, to be sure.

        4. usbac

          Re: I can believe it!

          I once had a call out at 3:00am and had to drive an hour in the middle of the night to put paper in a printer. We had a full time help desk (24/7) with four techs on each shift, and somehow they couldn't figure out that the paper was out, and had to call in a senior admin!!!

          Needless to say I started looking for a new job that same day. Horrible place to work. The other two senior admins left within a year of me leaving. I should have known how bad it was when I found out that the person I replaced only worked there for six months.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I can believe it!

          At a former employer, where some 400-500 women worked closely together, they sure as hell knew how to fill the paper trays.

          Human nature being what it is, how else would they have been able to buy one copy of the D. Mirror, D, Sun etc and distribute the blank crosswords to each other? Knitting patterns too. And plenty more. The look on one manager's face when he discovered this was happening was priceless.

        6. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I can believe it!

          The other annoying kind are the ones who open a whole bloody ream of paper and load in _just enough_ for their job to complete.

          Never mind that the printer takes an entire ream.

          The paper left laying around quickly gets spoiled/damaged by the other office twats and can't go into the printer.

          These are the same ones who take jobs off the running printer, find it's not theirs and toss it back down, resulting in prints that are out of order (a common helpdesk complaint - remember printers usually output face down), or worse, yank it out of the duplexer and cause the printer to panic (another common helpdesk complaint)

          There are times when I just sit by the printer to observe who the culprits are (they don't care who's watching) and wish I had a cattle prod. Instead I restrict their access and make them go and collect their jobs from under the baleful gaze of the Office Rottweiler.

          1. VikiAi Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: I can believe it!

            Both the printers I stock take exactly 2.934 reams in their trays!

            1. whitepines Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: I can believe it!

              And after rounding down, that means you open and load 2 reams. Not scatter the last few sheets from the third ream around the printer. RIGHT??

              *cattle prod zapping sounds*

              1. VikiAi Silver badge
                Unhappy

                Re: I can believe it!

                No, scattering paper all around is the users' job.

        7. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I can believe it!

          "We have custom stationary with an embossed letterhead, but the printer always prints it upside down and on the back rather than the front..."

          Yep, I took that call recently.

          (Turn the paper over in the tray, and ensure the letterhead is the right way up.)

          1. VikiAi Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: I can believe it!

            Heh, a student here, for his art project, had rigged up an old color copier so you could scan your face (it was installed in public, so no butts please!) and it would output the scan with a comment about your apparent mood printed across it.

            Being a tech head, I was racking my brain trying to think of how a smart, but relatively non-technical, user had managed to hack that feature into the copier!

            The answer was he had loaded the paper tray with paper pre-printed with words sufficiently wishy-washy that they could relate to any face scanned on to them, printed-side-down and oriented so it came out correct-way-up to look like the word was printed at the same time as the face-scan was.

            I'm just the tech. support, so don't assess student work, but I hope he got full marks for that piece of simple genius!

      2. MiguelC Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I can believe it!

        Some years ago I was designing a piece of software that would replace a commercial offering we were using then but that was incompatible with Windows 7.

        The user showed me how it worked and what they did daily, "press F3 once then type something then press F3 twice and check the values, then press F3 n times", etc.

        Each time F3 was pressed, the program advanced to the next part of the workflow.

        I then asked how to go back to the previous screen in case you wanted to recheck something.

        "Well, you press F3 until you get to main screen again and restart pressing F3 until the screen you missed is shown", was the answer.

        I looked a bit closer for a second, then pressed F2. And, to the amazement of the user, the previous screen was presented.

        Yes, although the user had been using that program for over 10 years, they had never read the instructions shown at the bottom of every screen!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I can believe it!

          I would have thought that with the age of the system, and that it had been running day in, day out, that the instructions would have been permanently burnt into the CRT screen!

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: I can believe it!

          "I looked a bit closer for a second, then pressed F2. And, to the amazement of the user, the previous screen was presented."

          more or less the same story - tab - shift-tab (and ctrl-tab -shiift-ctrl-tab)

          You really have to wonder how some people remember to breathe.

          1. Quando

            Re: I can believe it!

            Evolution worked out that they couldn’t be relied on to remember to breathe and came up with the autonomic nervous system.

            1. ATeal

              Re: I can believe it!

              Thanks, I'll be taking credit for that.

    2. David Knapman

      Re: I can believe it!

      But surely that just trains the operators to look for the character that appears in row 1, column 38 and press that. It's still not going to make them read the message, let alone think about what it's trying to tell them.

      1. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: I can believe it!

        They you make the prompt: "Type the nth letter of the previous sentence to continue".

        1. Matthew1471!

          Re: I can believe it!

          Netgear has a better system for their ReadyNAS.. to delete a volume one has to type in "DESTROY" into a text area and click okay. Can hardly ring up Netgear and complain that your disk volume has been erased then can you?

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: I can believe it!

          "They you make the prompt: 'Type the nth letter of the previous sentence to continue'."

          Hell, make it like old school copy protection on a game, where they tell you to go to page 'N' in the printed manual and type the 4th word on the 2nd line of paragraph 2 and enter it to continue.

          (yeah, that'll teach those users!)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I can believe it!

            That has the added advantage that it gets them to RTFM albeit in small snatches.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can believe it!

        David Knapman,

        The simple answer is you print the 'Prompt' at a random location on an 'empty' screen.

        This forces the user to scan the screen for the prompt and they are more likely to read it.

        If you really want to force the user to 'pay attention' you could also use a different font and/or colour for each new 'prompt'.

        Simples !!! :)

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: I can believe it!

          I found putting a cartoon face by the prompt message made people look at it, as people tend to spot and focus on faces, even cartoon faces, as long as they are pretty human.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: I can believe it!

            cartoon face? like an emoji? [ew]

            Perhaps a pair of tits instead... that'd work! (no wait people would stare at the tits and not read the trext...)

            1. ATeal

              Re: I can believe it!

              Yeah that'd be the problem - you must come from simpler times.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can believe it!

      I used to randomize command aliases on Linux on a workmate's /etc/bash_aliases. The guy lost his nerve all too quickly when writing software, and was too keen to delete the whole development tree and start from scratch when things didn't work the way he wanted.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can believe it!

        "I used to randomize command aliases on Linux on a workmate's /etc/bash_aliases."

        You evil bastard! I love it!

    4. commonsense

      Re: I can believe it!

      "Do you wish to erase all data? Press L to continue"

      "Do you really wish to erase all data? Press T to confirm"

      It worked.

      2019 version: "Click each of the blurry images below with what resembles a shop front on it."

      1. A. N. Onymouse

        Re: I can believe it!

        2019 version: "Click each of the blurry images below with what resembles a shop front on it."

        I had one of those. Click each image containing a crosswalk.

        WTF?

        Google what a crosswalk is and then click on the pictures of a pedestrian crossing.

        mumble grumble! US English/UK English. mumble grumble....

    5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I can believe it!

      On the form for giving blood, you have to answer various health questions. Are you currently ill Y/N, have you ever had a blood transfusion Y/N etc. The correct answer to all of them was no - which is obviously too tempting to just tick all the NOs on the list in a nice easy line and so avoid any complex reading.

      So they bunged a new question in the middle of the list, where the answer that didn't send you to be interviewed in private by the doctor was YES. I'm not sure if this was an accident, or someone being clever.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can believe it!

        Unfortunately you could end up with the guy recently refused access to the US because he had (accidently?) answered 'Y' to the 'are you a terrorist?' question when applying for his visa

        I recently had to deal with a colleague who couldn't print to the network printer... turned out he had been cancelling all those pesky 'script/file not found. continue y/n' errors that had been appearing at boot-up for the last couple of days

    6. ma1010 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: I can believe it!

      It's a pity, the lusers you meet when you don't have a fully charged cattle prod set to "stir-fry."

    7. tatatata

      Re: I can believe it!

      Read it somewhere before, don't remember where:

      "Press any key to quit the program"

      a

      "Do you want to save your data?"

      n

      "Are you absolutely sure you want to destroy a complete day of work?"

      y

      key

      "bash: key: command not found"

  2. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Partly our own fault - or our bosses'

    When we/they treat staff as both stupid and expendable, and don't bother to train or explain they don't take any responsibility. No one has said they're responsible for what happens, no one has explained what it's all about, so they go through the motions. They do as they're told. And if you haven't told it to them they don't do it.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Partly our own fault - or our bosses'

      Indeed. I once attended a site to try and restore lost data. This is the late 90's

      They had a backup regime which consisted of an elderly secretary who's PC had a tape drive.

      Her written instructions were very clear - each morning, take the [previous days'] tape out of her computer and replace with the one that had that had today's day written on it.

      Don't mess with anything and don't do anything other than this.

      Which the lady had followed religiously.

      Alas the backup software hadn't run so there were no backups.

      The poor lady was close to tears as their "IT guy" was trying to give her hell. I don't think he appreciated my putting the blame squarely back onto his shoulders in front of the MD.

      He then, of course, tried to allude that the fault was mine. I genuinely laughed in his face.

      1. Joel 1

        Re: Partly our own fault - or our bosses'

        I remember the time when I was shown by a customer how all the tapes were kept securely organised with an old style telephone sat on top - one of the old ones which had loud bell ringers - you know, the ones with a hammer that is pulled by rapidly alternately pulsing electromagnets to pull the hammer alternately into each bell...

        rapidly pulsing magnetic fields on top of backups on magnetic media...

        Oh.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Partly our own fault - or our bosses'

        "They had a backup regime which consisted of an elderly secretary who's PC had a tape drive."

        Ah, the years where backups of remote (no IT staff) sites equaled tape rotations by the PA (in general, the most IT literate of the site) !

        It was in Paris and we were in north of Paris, and indeed local backups were done, I was told, on 4 sets of 5 tapes (4 sets for the whole month, and 5 tapes for each day of the week), manually rotated by the said PA.

        Pro-tip, always make a reality check vs. anything on remote sites.

        Turned out, going one day there, a *single* tape had been used for the last year, over and over again. No, the backup SW was too primitive to even notice (no labels). And no, there was no hope of restoring anything in case of need. It was DDS 2 if I remember.

        And of course, the first day of the first period of vacation of the IT PA was also the date of the death of the DDS drive: I have no idea with what tool (hammer, wrench ...) she pushed the tape in the drive, but, for sure, the whole mechanism was destroyed that day !

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Partly our own fault - or our bosses'

        To be fair, there have been cases where the backups have been taken religiously and following the instructions correctly, only for the inevitable crash to happen and it be discovered that no one had ever bothered to check that the tapes could be read back correctly and were capable of restoring the previous day/week/month's work

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Partly our own fault - or our bosses'

      A: I just wish I could stop worrying!

      B: I've found that remembering I'm paid the same whether or not I give a shit helps

      https://www.somethingpositive.net/sp01172019.shtml

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Yes but...

      I wonder how some people get through the day not running away from the shadowy thing chasing them... and how they manage to get through the night having lost the ability to see...

  3. Fred M

    To be fair, if the door wasn't closed then the disc had stopped rotating. His diagnosis of the problem (if not the cause or solution) was spot on.

    1. DaLo
      Headmaster

      Well to fair the disc hadn't stopped rotating, it had never started rotating in the first place. It was just sat there filling a gap and awaiting its destiny.

      1. FIA

        It was just sat there filling a gap and awaiting its destiny.

        Single or double destiny?

        1. David 18
          Pint

          "Single or double destiny?"

          Bravo, sir! (Or madam)

          1. John Arthur

            Bravo, sir or Brava madam!

            1. David 18
              Headmaster

              I stand corrected, thank you. I hate making mistakes like that.

              I don't speak Italian, but it does make me wince when I see sandwich shops advertising Paninis, doubly so when it's Panini's

  4. Adam 1 Silver badge

    I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

    Encountered a prompt in a piece of software along the lines

    Confirmation

    This will cancel the operation? Please confirm.

    [Ok][Cancel]

    But I won't name and shame the large Washington based software behemoth.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

      In other software, many buttons just produce a message "Not implemented yet"... and still do 20 years later.

    2. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

      While cancelling a ticket in Jira, you are confronted with the options to:

      [Cancel] [Cancel]

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

        In their defense, you wanted to cancel it, didn't you?

      2. phuzz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

        When you're altering a custom field in Jira you're given two options: Edit and Configure, one of which just lets you change the name, the other allows you to actually alter it's parameters, and no, I can't remember which is which, but it's always the opposite of the one you think.

        I swear that they swap which option does what at random just to fsck with me.

      3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

        Shouldn't it be:

        [Cancel][Cancel cancel]

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

          Or:

          [Cancel cancel][Cancel] ?

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

          Or maybe [cancel][kill it with fire] would be good also.

    3. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

      I've made confirmation requesters with nice, helpful messages like "Selected start time is after finish time! Machine will not run at all. Press OK if this is really what you want, or Cancel to leave things as they were".

      (I've probably also left the odd button lying around that does nothing but print "WIBBLE" or "BLAH", because that is just something I do as one of my program development stages.)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

        I've probably also left the odd button lying around that does nothing but print "WIBBLE" or "BLAH", because that is just something I do as one of my program development stages.

        Years ago I wrote a code generator. It dug into the database's system catalogs for a table descriptor, generated a data structure to hold a row, added code to emulate a scroll cursor which the database engine didn't have at that time, added a menu including some stubs and default code for queries, updates etc. The generated code had a default but harmless name on the menu with the idea that the generated code would then be edited to give the menu, prompts etc sensible text and flesh out the stubs as required. I took it with me on various jobs.

        I was working with it on one job when I got an offer elsewhere I wasn't going to refuse and left PDQ.

        Forward 11 years, now freelance, I had a gig to oversee some acceptance testing prior to a machine migration (Y2K). It turned out that they were using the now mature product from that old job. And there was a menu with the unchanged default text. I didn't look too deep but they were probably still running the no longer needed emulated scroll cursors. (We had the source on site and I suppose I could have finished that little task from way back but it would probably have caused confusion.)

        1. VikiAi Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

          I've implemented an "Error - Please don't press that!", though only on a student project.

    4. Stork Bronze badge

      Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

      - and messages along the lines "Are you sure you want to stop not cancelling this?"

      Another nuisance: "The program has Quit. Press OK" when the situation is not at all OK. In Danish we wanted the Button to say "Nå!" (roughly, "Well, right then"

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: I'm not even sure that half the developers read the prompts they are adding

        Some new tax regulations rolled out this year, and there were a couple of new pages when I did my HMRC online return. One of which contained (something like): Overpayment £0 if this is not correct select Yes. I'm still not sure I picked the right option.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Similar but different experience

    Many years ago we had a rather similar thing happen. In this case the supervisor never read the messages, simply had a list of which Y and N to press in turn. Then one day an error message came up.

    By the time we arrived the problem was fixed - because a new employee, a 17 year old girl, had wandered over, looked at the screen, read "Please shut the green door and press Y" and had done so.

    I then had the pleasure of explaining to the manufacturing manager that instead of sacking her for "interfering with stuff that was none of her business", she should be marked for promotion. Years later this same young woman came up with a suggestion that nearly doubled the throughput of a section which had a severe production bottleneck - and again was attacked, this time by a middle aged woman supervisor.

    Unions and traditional management - if a nail sticks up and is shiny, paint it black and bash it with a lump hammer.

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Similar but different experience

      Had this happen to me, came up with an idea that would save the company about NINETY PERCENT on its electricity bill (and was something I could install piece-meal during the loads of slack time I had).

      Even better, the cost of implementing it would be covered by the savings in only 6 months.

      Drew it all up, costed out the hardware with our suppliers, factored in replacement parts and MTBF comparisons to the current set up; ease of use and repair etc.

      Bound it all up in a binder and took it to my immediate boss, for his approval before sending up the line.

      He glanced at it, threw it in the bin and called me a "smart arse".

      (This is my boss, an alcoholic who used to wander in pissed as a newt after the pubs closed, to check on the night shift)

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Similar but different experience

        With these sorts of issues, ALWAYS allow your boss a way to share in the credit. If your boss had been smart (or you explained how to appear smart to him) he'd have gone to his superiors binder in hand, and told them: "I had my underling work out some cost savings ideas, here's what he came up with". That way he gets to share in the credit instead of feeling stupid for not coming up with it himself.

        ALWAYS give your boss (undeserved) credit. Just be sure to keep some evidence in hand of how much he ACTUALLY did in case he ever tries to screw you over with it.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Similar but different experience

          "ALWAYS give your boss (undeserved) credit."

          Alternatively just go over his head. It's a judgement call based on knowledge of the boss and boss's boss.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Similar but different experience - Alternatively just go over his head.

            I found going over the boss's head to the customer worked quite well. (The customer may be internal).

            For instance with an obvious cost saving the boss doesn't want to implement (hold on to his budget) a quiet word with the finance department may lead to the FD remarking in a board meeting "We seem to be spending an awful lot on xyz" and the result follows.

            Make friends with finance and HR.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Similar but different experience

          Unless your boss is so clueless that they've not even the wit to present something up the food chain. Then you look for another job.

        3. fromxyzzy
          Trollface

          Re: Similar but different experience

          The true lesson to take from this is to always resist the urge to fix something and simply let it go on even if you know how it can be done better. It made British Leyland what it is today.

    2. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: Similar but different experience

      I once got a telling-off for spending all afternoon writing a program to automate a task that I could have done by hand in half an hour (and which would need to be done rather more than eight times in total).

      People were still using that program when I left that company, though.

      1. gojump

        Re: Similar but different experience

        I will often do the opposite with people in my team; I'll give someone responsibility for a task that is repetitive as I know the individual should have the skills to automate said task.

        I have found over the years it is an effective way to free up time spent on internal IT tasks that often just get assigned to the new or less experienced members of the team as they are boring.

        1. fromxyzzy

          Re: Similar but different experience

          It's an effective solution but at this point in time we're definitely automating people out of jobs since those tasks back in the 70s-80s were how people got used to actually doing IT work.

  6. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
    Meh

    3rd-line support

    i.e. supposed to be at least slightly aware of How Things Work. One of my "most experienced" co-workers, upon receiving an SOS from first-line support citing hundreds of complains about an expired certificate preventing access to a critical online application, insisted on getting an answer to "is it reproducible with another browser?" and would not act upon it before getting said answer. As everyone knew, strictly enforced company policy was that no other browser than MSIE could be installed on end-user machines. When I got in I simply asked the Big Cheese for this application to check their certificates, which got the issue solved in a little less than an hour (yes, they had forgotten to renew the certificate).

    We lost half a day of worldwide productivity on this one. The person responsible for the cockup got promoted, altough they apparently didn't do too well in their new role and got downgraded a few month later. Karma, I guess.

  7. handle bars

    Then you give these people a second referendum and claim it has significance

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Way to go off topic.

    2. lybad

      That depends - parts of the country have already had 2 referendum votes, and are now looking for a 3rd and possibly 4th...

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "That depends - parts of the country have already had 2 referendum votes"

        All of the country has had two referendum votes. One in the 1970s, one a couple of years back. One yes, one no. So far it looks like the country has changed its mind once, so why wouldn't it change its mind again? And why shouldn't it be allowed to do so, given it was already allowed a second referendum in case it had changed its mind?

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge
          Joke

          Having votes is undemocratic!

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
            Joke

            Having votes is undemocratic!

            Ban it, it just encourages politicians.

        2. lybad
          Meh

          Sorry - I meant to say in the last 5 years.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          One in the 1970s, one a couple of years back.

          For two different organizations

          And why shouldn't it be allowed to do so,

          In another 40 years? Sure, why not.

        4. John Sager

          Circumstances, and treaties, have changed out of recognition since the 70s.

        5. Steevee

          Yes, you are waaaay off topic, but since you’re here.

          We have NOT had 2 referenda on being part of the EU, we had a say on the matter 40 years ago about joined a trading bloc called the EEC, nothing more. If we had known then (I use the proverbial “we”, personally I was still in cloth nappies at the time) what we were signing up to, would we have still voted yes?

          1. Def Silver badge

            Whether we would have or not, we should have. The EU has brought countless benefits to the UK.

            1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

              yeah massively OT.

              but like wossname said: while you're here

              > Whether we would have or not, we should have. The EU has brought countless benefits to the UK.

              This intrigues me.

              See, I'm Australian so don't have a dog in the fight. But I DID spend 20yrs in the UK & EU so got to see it all up close in practice.

              In all that time, I could not for the life of me see anything other than negative for the UK from EU membership. Massive cash extraction, hijacking of even larger amounts of tax money to be redirected from UK pref to EU bureau-prefs, massive additional fiscal drag, serious political and legal drag and/or hijacking, etc.

              In return for: slight smoothing&speeding of cross-border traffic&trade. Which is NOT an EU benefit, rather an EEC benefit.

              I was baffled.

              .

              Tell me: WHAT are these "countless benefits"?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            LOL

            A 'trading bloc' with a charter larded full of references to 'federation' and with a funny thing called a PARLIAMENT, which the UK would be sending members to, where they would sit in a chamber full of other EEC members of parliament, seated left-to-right by political inclination rather than by national origin.

            But it's not like the British could be expected to understand the implications of a Parliament, funny french-sounding word that it is.

            1. phuzz Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: LOL

              "But it's not like the British could be expected to understand the implications of a Parliament, funny french-sounding word that it is."

              In our defence, it sounded like all the members of that parliament were going to be elected, which doesn't really sound like a proper British parliament. Why couldn't members receive their place just because their great-great-great-grandad had kill a bunch of foreigners (and his own soldiers), or just because they were an arch-bishop or any of the other totally sensible and modern reasons that our betters are in the house of Lords.

              1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

                Re: LOL

                "other totally sensible and modern reasons that our betters are in the house of Lords."

                While having your upper chamber be mainly appointments by previous governments can sound terrible, in practice it actually works quite well. It's one of the various compromises that occur in a constitutional monarchy, whereby certain groups wield a lot of theoretical power, as long as they only use when the other institutions have failed.

                Most of the appointments are to individuals who have been involved in politics for years. So picking senators as political veterans means they might actually have a spot more knowledge about the wider ramifications of a policy.

                Hence why much of the anti-Brexit activity in the lords wasn't about Brexit per sec, since that's up to the government, but about the government overruling parliament. Which is literally changing sovereignty, as parliament is sovereign in the UK.

                The hereditary and ecclesiastical peerages are bollocks. Plus there are plenty of never-been-convicted-so-we-can't call-them-criminals that make their way in there too. The former are at least good for a laugh, as people have to apply for them. The applications have a hard word limit, thus some are truncated in an amusing fashion.

                So in theory, terrible for democracy. In practice, quite good at protecting the country from the government.

          3. Outski

            Not quite

            "we had a say on the matter 40 years ago about joined a trading bloc called the EEC,"

            The 1975 referendum was about staying in the European Community, ie, the EEC, the Coal & Steel Community, and the EAEA (Euratom), not joining.

          4. ridley

            The 1975 referendum was not about whether we should join the EEC, we joined the EEC in 1973.

            It was, like the 2016 referendum, on whether we wanted to stay a member.

          5. DavCrav Silver badge

            "We have NOT had 2 referenda [sic] on being part of the EU, we had a say on the matter 40 years ago about joined a trading bloc called the EEC, nothing more. If we had known then (I use the proverbial “we”, personally I was still in cloth nappies at the time) what we were signing up to, would we have still voted yes?"

            By the sound of it, the best way to satisfy both referendums (it isn't referenda, it's not a Latin noun) is to leave the EU and stay in EFTA/CU.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              to leave the EU and stay in EFTA/CU.

              Unfortunately Norway is the current big fish in EFTA and doesn't want a monster shark like the UK moving in and taking over, so it vetoes that option.

          6. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I was still in school too young to vote. I knew about the political objectives and it seemed like a damn good idea. Anyone that wanted to know could have known, anyone that simply listened to the lies coming out of downing St doesn't get to complain about anything but British politicians. Nothing has changed.

            And the equally splitn2016 result is a clear demand to break up the UK and partition it's quarreling inhabitants.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Headmaster

        "2 referendum votes"

        Well swerved! Adding "vote" to carry the plural.

    3. Def Silver badge
      WTF?

      Then you give these people a second referendum and claim it has significance

      Yeah, because allowing people the opportunity to change their mind once all the facts are known would be totally insane, wouldn't it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You've already had a second vote

        First we voted for Brexit.

        Then we had a General Election to provide a mandate.

        87% voted for parties that supported Brexit

        Only 12.7% voted for parties that wanted to scrap Brexit or have a second vote.

        That is fairly resounding, but then people have short memories!

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: You've already had a second vote

          Not as short as politicians would like though.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: You've already had a second vote

          87% voted for parties of whom some supported Brexit and some opposed it.

          FTFY

          1. Trainee grumpy old ****
            FAIL

            Re: You've already had a second vote

            87% voted for parties of whom some supported Brexit and some opposed it.

            FTFY

            87% voted for candidates who stood for parties whose manifestos committed them to implementing Brexit.

            FYFFY

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: You've already had a second vote

          "87% voted for parties that supported Brexit"

          So, when you vote for a party you fully support their entire manifesto without question? Most of us are just voting for the least worst option that most aligns with what we think. Personally , I voted for an candidate who is against Brexit. His party is for it. What I a quandary!!! Should I have voted for a different candidate who I didn't agree with just because his/her party was anti-Brexit?

          Of course not. That would be silly. It was a General Election, not another referendum!!!

          1. Trainee grumpy old ****
            Flame

            Re: You've already had a second vote

            So, when you vote for a party you fully support their entire manifesto without question?

            I may not support the entire manifesto of the party that I vote for but if there is a manifesto pledge on a policy which I have very strong disagreement with then I do not vote for that party. I try and find another party which does agree with my views on that policy and vote for them.

            If remaining in the EU was really that important for so many people then I would have expected the Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and PC to have done much better in 2017 election as ISTR they were all quite vocal in their pro-Remain stance. As it happens they all saw a very small fall in their vote share at the national level from the 2015 election (even if some of them picked up a few additional seats).

            If a candidate stands for election on a manifesto with their fingers figuratively crossed behind their back then they probably should consider whether they are in the right party.

            And BTW, in the 2016 referendum I voted to stay in the EU. By the time of the 2017 GE I had got so fed up with the constant carping by the remain lobby that I became a leaver. For some strange and unfathomable reason, being constantly disparaged as a thick, knuckle dragging Neanderthal has not yet convinced me to change my mind back.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: You've already had a second vote

              "would have expected the Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and PC to have done much better in 2017 election"

              The LibDems were still being punished by their erst-while protest-voting supporters for actually taking responsibility and joining a coalition government rather than being ineffective.

    4. Kane Silver badge
      Boffin

      "Then you give these people a second referendum and claim it has significance"

      Well, if you're going off topic...

      Welcome to Otter Facts!

      • Thirteen different species of otter exist all around the world. Some are small river otters, and some are bigger sea otters.
      • 90% of all sea otters live on the coast of Alaska.
      • They're hungry animals! Sea otters eat 25% of their body weight in food every day.
      • They like to eat sea urchins, clams, mussels and crabs. They use their sea whiskers to find small creatures to eat, and their paws to dig for clams.
      • Clever creatures, they'll use rocks to crack open the clams. They carry rocks and store food in the loose skin under their armpits - who needs carrier bags!
      • Unlike most marine mammals, they don't have a layer of blubber. But, they do have the thickest fur of all animals.
      • Baby otters are called pups. Newborn pups need lots of attention, and will stay close to their mum's until they've developed enough skills to go it alone - usually at 6 months.
      • An otter pup's fur is too dense for it to swim underwater. So, their mother leaves them floating while she searches for food, until their adult fur grows in.
      • Don't challenge an otter to a holding-your-breath competition! Sea otters can stay underwater for 5 minutes, and river otters can hold their breath for even longer - 8 minutes!
      • Otters like to stick together, so when they sleep they will wrap themselves in seaweed and float together in a group. A group of resting otters is called a raft. We wouldn't go drifting away on one of these rafts, however! Otters have a nasty bite!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That's just otter nonsense..

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Waiting for /u/bananafacts now...

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          "Waiting for /u/bananafacts now..."

          Blah blah, bananas were invented in Britain, Ireland has one of the largest banana companies in the world, etc. Good enough?

      3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Coat

        I don't believe it. Pull the otter one.

        1. Martin
          Happy

          "Pull the otter one..."

          I was once at London Zoo in early Spring, and we were near the otter enclosure. No sign of any otters. My daughter, eight, said brightly "I expect they are waiting for the otter weather!"

          Talk about you reap what you sow....!

      4. Wellyboot Silver badge

        not really Godwins...

        Can we call the previous change of topic the invocation of Brexwins law?

        but this is Otterly interesting :)

        1. Andytug

          Re: not really Godwins...

          Nope - it's known as Farage's Law.

          (- well it should be)

      5. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

        But what do they taste like?

        1. Nunyabiznes

          Taste

          Chicken of course!

      6. Cheshire Cat
        Trollface

        Another little-known fact

        - In the North of England, Water Otters are colloquially referred to as 'kettles'

    5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Actually this gives me an idea. I've just solved Brexit!

      We have the so-called "people's vote". Ugh! As if calling things the "people's anything" isn't automatically either nauseating or suspiciously dictatorial. See People's Princess, Democratic People's Republic of anywhere.

      So we have the vote and the question is simply:

      Are you sure?

      OK

      CANCEL

      For extra fun we don't tell people what either of these two options mean, and the Queen then just tosses a coin and either enacts a law cancelling Article 50 or allows no-deal Brexit to happen as is the current default.

      This is transparent, democratic and simple. Everyone's a winner!

    6. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Please everybody report this post.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        This post, 'this' post (yours), or the one that you replied to?

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          The wildly off topic bit of trolling that I replied to.

      2. Paul 129

        @disgusted.....

        Done ;-)

    7. Bill Gray

      "Then you give these people a second referendum and claim it has significance"

      By that logic, how can you claim the _first_ referendum had significance? Presumably, because it came up with the "right" answer?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Presumably, because it came up with the "right" answer?"

        The "right" answer, according to the same people who were loudly huffing and puffing that "it won't be the end of it if there's a 52:48 result" - in the other direction.

        At this point I suspect that allowing Brexit is the right choice. After 5-10 years Britain will be so utterly trashed that it'll be _begging_ to rejoin the EU and most surviving(*) breixteers will be happily driven into the sea, the NI problem having been solved by reuniting with the rest of Ireland and Scotland, Wales and Cornwall/Devon (aka West Wales) having declared indepdeence in order to rejoin earlier.

        (*) The ones whose heads aren't impaled over Traitors' Gate

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        At least with the first one they'd put the legislation in place *before* asking the public to ratify it.

    8. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Coat

      I'm totally surprised that Trump hasn't come into this..... I know, I should have scrolled past all this stuff. but the post on otters was worth it.

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        "...but the post on otters was worth it."

        You're most welcome!

    9. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Then you give these people a second referendum and claim it has significance

      The problem with the electorate is that we have short memories and occasionally we need a jolt to surface what is buried deep within.

      In the lead-up to the referendum I don't recall anyone citing "The Troubles" as a reason to stay as we are. Perhaps they considered that as an exaggeration of consequences of leaving the EU. Perhaps nobody envisaged the issue of the island of Ireland on Brexit. Perhaps those that remember The Troubles wrongly thought that it was NIMBY, so of no consequence to "mainland" Britain. A lot of Brexiteers have irresponsibly papered over the issues with assurances that "it's ok, we can sort this one out as we move forward."

      On the news last night. A bomb exploded on the streets of Derry. Whether this was designed to make a statement about the state of Brexit, or something else, I don't know. What I do know is that we do not want a return to those days of conflict which, for those with short memories, affected England too.

      Careful what you wish for...

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-46934277

      1. Jediben

        Re: Then you give these people a second referendum and claim it has significance

        Just like the cry from most of the aggressive millenial Remain voters, you would have thought that most of the people involved in the "Troubles" (wonderful bit of British underplay) would have died off from old age by now. What sort of fuck wit do you need to be to try to reignite campaigns of terrorism for delights you were not even present in an embryonic state to experience? Ireland really needs to get over it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Then you give these people a second referendum and claim it has significance

          you would have thought that most of the people involved in the "Troubles" (wonderful bit of British underplay) would have died off from old age by now.

          Which "Troubles", 1920s, 1950s, 1970s ?

    10. Adrian Midgley 1

      as much significance as the first.

  8. TWB

    Least effort

    This sounds like the human condition where we want to do as little as possible to get by. It starts young when children ask something like "what is 12 times 3?" - you try to tell them how to work it out but all they want to know is the answer. Later on in their school careers - "will this be in the exam?" - if the answer is no then no need to learn it. 'Grown ups' are similar.

    I met a chap who only could use his computer by following a list of steps - I have no idea how he coped if he clicked on the wrong thing in error. I hope he did not drive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: all they want to know is the answer.

      Many years ago, when I was a grad student, I used to be one of the tutors in mass tutorials. In order to help the students actually learn, I would generally reply to student questions with hints or leading questions, so that they could get the the right method or answer as much under their own power as possible.

      Some time later, I heard from one particular student that they all would only put their hands up for help if I happened to be looking the other way. Other tutors were more likely to provide a more direct answer. :-)

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: all they want to know is the answer.

        "one of the tutors in mass tutorials"

        Vatican University?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: all they want to know is the answer.

          "Vatican University?"

          Probably science practical classes. Been there. Lesson learned as tutor - first set up the microscope properly, even if you only set it up properly 2 minutes ago.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: all they want to know is the answer.

        Hey, you re-invented the Socratic Method. :)

    2. VikiAi Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: I hope he did not drive.

      I can assure you, he certainly does!

  9. Thunderpants

    I'm reminded of the Simpsons episode - King Size Homer ...

    https://giphy.com/gifs/simpsons-dippy-bird-drinking-l41lUJ1YoZB1lHVPG

  10. Charles Calthrop

    These stories always remind me of this

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfK5EqemeZ0

    bad language tbh

  11. Mo'Fo B'dass

    Same issue here: I'm writing an old-fashioned green-screen app for a nameless company

    ...

    "Enter Qty->"

    "Is Qty Correct Y/N->?"

    Person in charge of software testing asks...."But what happens if they press 'Y' by mistake?"

    Hmm...tricky one that. To be fair "Y" and "N" ARE quite close together...

    What chance have we got?

    1. elgarak1

      Consider yourself to be lucky that you're not in Germany... Here, the default keys are "J" for "Ja" and "N" for "Nein"...

      I'm sure a lot will remember the error message that came up in DOS when floppy disks were removed at the wrong time. The options were "[Abort] [Retry] [Ignore]", which according to all my testing would advance to the exact same end state.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Y and N?

        Wow, I've seen some systems where it's F5 for one task, F6 for the opposite, but that's ok, you can find that error after 100s of commits at the end of the day, by hand... :(

        1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

          Re: Y and N?

          This is actually standard on the standard Reuters FX Trading keyboards.

          The BUY and SELL buttons are right next to each other.

          It's not uncommon on the FX markets to see a trade scroll up the markethistory window, followed IMMEDIATELY by the same trade twice in the opposite direction.

    2. Graham 32

      "Are you sure" dialogs are known not to work for common tasks. The user knows the question is coming so answers it automatically. For this case users know to type the number, press enter, press Y.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Person in charge of software testing asks"

      Remember really old versions of Windows when the button on the top left of the window had an icon with a horizontal bar on it? I heard it said that a good software tester could look at that and see a minus sign.

  12. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Favorite prompts

    Some I've seen:

    "Bang a lot of keys to abort."

    "We haven't tested this function, care to have a go?"

    1. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Favorite prompts

      Unexpected condition. Do you feel lucky. Y/N

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Favorite prompts

        Unexpected condition. Do you feel lucky. Y/N

        Message on screen :

        Unexpected condition. Do you feel lucky, punk? Make my day.

        Y/N

        followed by

        >KZERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT< on any keypress (yes, even ^C)

    2. Chris King Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Favorite prompts

      "YOU SHOULD NOT SEE THIS ERROR. STRANGLE RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPER".

      Not really what you want a customer Big Cheese to see, when ceremonially starting up a new system at a launch event...

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: Favorite prompts

        Conditional errors, that leave the user to decide the condition are the most fun.

        "This is not an error message, just a code check pass to confirm everything went well, however if you did not press K, and are seeing this message, be very afraid!"

        When it comes up *every* time, it makes you wonder why they bothered, and what they were really worried about that needed a pre-emptive error message. XD

    3. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Favorite prompts

      There was supposed to be one buried in WinNT that went

      "No Display Detected, Press (I forget the key), to Continue"

      yeah, OK.

      1. Laura Kerr

        Re: Favorite prompts

        "It's all gone horribly wrong. You should not have seen this message. Press OK to continue"

        [CANCEL]

        1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

          Re: It's all gone horribly wrong

          > It's all gone horribly wrong.

          This is actually my standard function-name for error-handling.

          Gave me a bit of a start to see it here.

          .

          a shell example:

          else

          # Carnage. Barf.

          echo "No action taken. Unable to preserve previous config."

          its_all_gone_horribly_wrong

      2. Stevie Silver badge

        Re:No Display Detected

        Headless bootup message to remote network admin console?

        I know for a fact that NT4 would not boot in its default outta the box configuration if you hadn't plugged in the keyboard and mouse.

        1. Jess--

          Re: Re:No Display Detected

          Seen in an API

          "Error 999 - Something seriously fucked up"

        2. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: Re:No Display Detected

          I know for a fact that NT4 would not boot in its default outta the box configuration if you hadn't plugged in the keyboard and mouse.

          Many of us are old enough to remeber "No keyboard detected. Press F1 to continue", which was at BIOS level so entirely OS agnostic. Eventually BIOSes did offer the option on what errors to halt, so you could choose "All errors, except keyboard".

  13. Sequin

    I once had a user, who was a senior electrical engineer, ask me to change the system because when it displayed "Press a key to continue" he had to search the keyboard for the "A" key - "I'm not a typist" he said.

    I changed the prompt to "Press any key to continue", but luckily he never asked me where the "any" key was.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      "he had to search the keyboard for the "A" key - "I'm not a typist" he said."

      Did he have a magical keyboard where the "A" key moves to a different position every day?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        SO...why did he have a computer - with a keyboard??

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      "Bash keyboard to continue" should cover all your bases.

      1. 's water music Silver badge
        Coat

        "Bash keyboard to continue" should cover all your bases.

        You have a keyboard dedicated to bash? My bourne keyboard not good enough for your error messages?

        Screw what's in the pockets, just give me the best coat you've got in the cloakroom please-->

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "My bourne keyboard not good enough for your error messages?"

          I was thinking more along the lines of ksh.

          1. js.lanshark
            Facepalm

            ba-dump, ksh

    3. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      Find the "A" key

      @Sequin,

      I think his twin worked for me. Had an engineer who was a slow, two finger typist. He tempted fate by incessantly talking about an upcoming trip to the Caribbean while the rest of us were prepping for some serious cold weather field test action.

      Prank? Someone with a pocketknife mirrored the alpha keys on his keyboard: qwertyuiop -> poiuytrewq. When he got back, hilarity ensued.

      Prank 2 was filling his cube with balloons, many of which had stink bugs inside, but that's OT

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Find the "A" key

        "Prank 2 was filling his cube with balloons"

        Hah. Student days. Unpopular student was known to be about to take a long weekend away. Preparations were made. When he got back he found his room filled with lightly scrunched up newspaper.

        1. swm Bronze badge

          Re: Find the "A" key

          At college they bricked up the doorway to a student's room and painted over the wall so that there appeared that no door was ever there.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Find the "A" key

        One company I worked for had a Koi pond in one of the cubes. Apparently it was installed while the incumbent was on vacation. It lasted for years, only being dismantled after Big Bad Corp bought the place and their management noticed. Needless to say after a relatively short while B.B.C (not *the* BBC, note) decided their acquisition was surplus to requirements and shuttered the place.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Find the "A" key

          after a relatively short while before buying it B.B.C (not *the* BBC, note) decided their acquisition was surplus to requirements a competitor and shuttered the place.

          Likely alternative version.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Find the "A" key

        Our warehouse crew covered all of the CFO's office windows with Justin Bieber posters while he was on vacation. On the outside of the windows! On the THIRD floor!

        That was some serious ladder work, as due to the trees and boulders, there is no way to get up there with the fork trucks.

        We congratulated them heartily...

    4. A.P. Veening

      Any key

      "but luckily he never asked me where the "any" key was."

      Once, between less important jobs like fixing an invoicing program, I was requested (by the junior help desk operator) to engrave "Any key" on the space bar of a couple of keyboards, so those could be installed for management.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Any key

        I "kind" of touch type, so when some clever swine did the swappy keys trick on my keyboard it took about 4 days for me to notice.

        Then i made a mistake and looked at my keyboard as i typed and noticed and kept quiet, THEN i used the buttons from about 3 keyboards to remodel their keyboard with lots of swearwords.

        They naturally assumed it was me, i just looked surprised and "discovered" that someone had done it to me as well.

        THEN i wireless secondary moused him a little for a bit of subtle missing of buttons and scrolling when he looked away, and adjusted his chair for a few days.

        1. DuchessofDukeStreet

          Re: Any key

          Editing the autocorrect function is far more entertaining, although you do have to have access to an unlocked session to do it. The trick is to ensure that the replaecment word is vaguely similar and the human eye skips over it, eg leave becomes love, shrug becomes shag, etc

          None of my colleagues have ever done such a thing.

  14. daflibble

    So nothing much has changed with people reading error messages.

  15. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Error messages

    Many error messages (even in Windows) tell you exactly what you need to do to solve the problem at hand. Instead of heeding the message to reboot, add paper to printer, enter a missing value where the glaring red line of text tells them to, they call our (only slightly less clueless) helpdesk.

    These are professional people that have advanced degrees (somehow), and are responsible for product designs, safety, and the finances of a large company on which thousands are depending for their paychecks. They also drive cars, vote in elections, breed, and may even (in the USA anyway) own firearms. Many make double or triple my salary, or even more. Sometimes when I solve a problem for one of them, I get "You're a genius!" Um, no, I just apparently did better in reading comprehension when I was in grade school, and sometimes it comes down to knowing how to do a Google search if I don't understand what is going on.

    All of this depresses/frightens me on a daily basis.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Error messages

      To be fair, a lot of the error messages only make sense once you have worked out what is actually wrong. Except for the many, many Microsoft error messages that don't make sense then either of course.

      1. FlossyThePig

        Re: Error messages

        Many years ago I was part of a team testing software that used some very complex mathematics to produce the results. A number of PHd mathematicians were involved in the development. Everything was going well until an undocumented error message was displayed which was something like:

        "The data is not monotonically increasing"

        100% accurate but also 100% useless in the real world (unless you are PHd mathematician).

        P.S. All I need now is to find that "monotonically increasing" has been included in the latest GCSE Maths syllabus.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Error messages

          I'm not sure monotonically increasing is that obscure. It means the amount of gin drunk throughout the day can only increase.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Error messages - I'm not sure monotonically increasing is that obscure.

            Anybody who has ever been involved with A/D and D/A converters knows all about it, no advanced maths needed.

            Unless the spec sheet actually said "Guaranteed monotonic", they needed to be tested for accurate work. It isn't the end of the world (usually) if the jumps are not exactly linear, but they simply must not go backwards.

        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Error messages

          "The data is not monotonically increasing"

          are not, shirley?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Error messages

            They where maths PHDs not English PHDs :-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Error messages

              Reminds me of the old joke of the person approaching the "10 items or less" checkout line in a Boston supermarket with a loaded trolley, and the assistant asking "Are you MIT and can't read or Harvard and can't count?"

              1. Jediben

                Re: Error messages

                I'd have hit back with a classic Stannis Baratheon.

                FEWER.

          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Error messages

            Dunno, *are* the rice increasing, *are* the milk increasing, *are* the sand increasing? What verb *do* you use with a mass noun?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Error messages

      "Many error messages (even in Windows) tell you exactly what you need to do to solve the problem at hand. Instead of heeding the message to reboot, add paper to printer, enter a missing value where the glaring red line of text tells them to, they call our (only slightly less clueless) helpdesk."

      To be fair the users probably have difficulty distinguishing between these error messages and the huge number that don't.

      1. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Error messages

        The meaningless error messages certainly don't help. I think they tend to train our end users that pop-up messages should be ignored.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Error messages

      " Instead of heeding the message to reboot, add paper to printer, enter a missing value where the glaring red line of text tells them to, they call our (only slightly less clueless) helpdesk."

      What does the error message on your screen say?

      "Printer out of paper, add paper to printer and click OK"

      What do you think that might mean?

      "I don't know, I'm not a computer geek! Fix it!"

      yes really - we get calls like that.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Error messages

        Sounds like the sort of person who takes their car in to get the washer bottle re-filled.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Error messages

        Had that recently with a user complaining post Christmas that he was the only person in, couldn't print & he had tried "Everything in his knowledge".

        Given he hadn't specified the exact nature of his problem with the printer, Windows or Parts system printing & not answering his phone:

        He was e-mailed a guide to reinstall the driver, standard fix for 99% of Windows print issues for our users (Local print drivers on each machine in every branch deployed via Software Center, without need of admin rights) & to supply more information.

        He emailed back with a update "Still no joy, parts printing system, panic struck & has checked everything again", lunchtime was upon me, so ticket was passed over to the Information Systems team as a lot of the parts guys only have one printer & can't quickly change to another printer preferring it to be done at IS end.

        On my return we received a third update requesting urgent help, so I was about to assign the ticket to IS again with a request to make it a priority, when IS guy stuck his head around the door.

        Fixed - No paper in the printer.

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Error messages

      Welcome to my life in science. Science is teeming with people with one or more PhDs, M.Scs etc... yet basic comprehension of error messages (or, if you don't understand it, leave it on the screen or take a screenshot of it), is beyond them! And then, when you ask them about it, they launch into a long diatribe how it inconvenienced them.

      That said, the UX (user experience) of some software packages I've dealt with in my time in IT is horrific!

      1. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Error messages

        Ah yes. "screen shot". I'm horrified by the number of "screen shots" I receive wherein the affected user has used his cell phone to photograph the error message on his computer monitor and then emailed me the photograph.

        This is done because the users do not understand how to take an actual screen shot in Windows.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Error messages

          And when copying and pasting the text of the error message would have been substantially more useful than a screenshot of any sort, anyway.

          (Admittedly very much not helped by Windows having many pop-up alert windows whose text is not actually selectable/copyable, whose fscking stupid idea was that? Other OSes are usually more helpful in that regard.)

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Error messages

          "This is done because the users do not understand how to take an actual screen shot in Windows."

          If they don't understand the error message how do you expect them to know how to take a screenshot? Have you tried showing them?

        3. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Error messages

          Actually, a photo of the screen is usually good enough on iPhone/Samsung... At least it also gives you a clue of what else was on the screen too that might possibly have something to do with it (or not).

  16. Tom 7 Silver badge

    It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

    But it does the require the extermination of every idiot.

    1. hopkinse

      Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

      In the early 90s I worked for a company who had systems in John Menzies shops ( UK high street newspaper, stationery, music, books, computer games seller ) across the country that produced copies of 8 bit home computer games on demand.

      The system was just a 286 in a custom case with drives such as 3.5", 5.25", cassette drive and amstrad 3" in bays on the front, plus a bunch of blanked off spare bays for future expansion.

      We used to send out updates on 3.5" floppy disk and the users were supposed to put the disk in the drive then select an update function from an admin menu in the system software and follow the prompts. Should be pretty simple but, when the first update went out we got lots of calls from shop staff saying they were getting disk not present errors or something like that.

      After a lot of head scratching it turned out that they were forcing the disk into the gap between the drive bay blanking plates rather than into the drive itself!

      1. Dynamite

        Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

        The difficulty is that engineers of all kinds are working to make things more and more idiot proof - but at the same time and rate the universe is also working to produce more and worse idiots.

        1. short a sandwich

          Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

          Have an upvote for the DNA paraphrasing

        2. Unicornpiss Silver badge

          People always say "It takes all kinds"

          I'm not sure if that's true. I don't think it takes all kinds, I just think there are all kinds..

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

        To be fair, I worked in John Menzies in the early 1990s, and the people there (while very nice) were not exactly ready to deal with the Computer Revolution. My boss could barely deal with working a till...

        I remember when the Lottery machines came out, and there was an 'issue', which was really a lack of understanding. One of my colleagues was on the phone to Camelot (or whomever) trying to get to the bottom of it, but the machine wouldn't connect. I asked how the machine plugged in - into the phone line. What, the same phone line that you're using for that call...? She finished the call and the machine sprung to life. What a surprise...

        1. hopkinse

          Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

          Sounds familiar :-) Our machines used to live on a shelf under the till counter and I think had Hayes or Akhter 1200 baud modems to transfer sales data back to head office. I think they shared the line with the phone on the counter so comms during shop hours couldn't be relied on, hence why updates were sent out on floppies!

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

            Akhter... Akhter...

            Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time. A long time.

            1. hopkinse

              Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

              We had all the old crap in those machines. Apart from the 1st gen Sony CD drives ( complete with caddy ) that came in at about £400 a pop everything else was pretty long in the tooth for the early 90s - kyocera and various other 25Meg MFM drives, no-name wd1003 controller cards, various no-name MDA cards. If you were lucky you had a white screen monitor rather than the usual orange. Ahhh those were the days :-)

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

                "If you were lucky you had a white screen monitor rather than the usual orange."

                In my day you were lucky if you had an orange screen rather than the usual green.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

      USAian here.

      Re: requirement to exterminate every idiot...

      We missed one.

      Sorry.

      // anon, because the Secret Service has no sense of humor and hasn't been furloughed.

      1. A.P. Veening

        Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

        "// anon, because the Secret Service has no sense of humor and hasn't been furloughed."

        But they don't get paid either, "smart" move from Trump, pissing off the people charged with protecting him.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

        One? The capitol building is full of them.

        1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

          One? The capitol building is full of them

          You forget the apparent majority of the populace that thought voting for him was a great idea.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: It is possible to produce an idiot proof interface.

      But it does the require the extermination of every idiot.

      Sadly, evolution will just produce better ones.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    FAIL

    And you shall know...

    ...your developer by their prompts.

    Years ago I was working a for Uncle Sam and had to use a brand new, custom piece of trusted software. I won't name the developer but the name rhymes with "IBM Federal Systems Division"

    When a guy hotplugged that which should not have been hotplugged, the S/W died and brought up tons of error dialogs. In Mandarin.

    So, I looked to the procurement spec. Must be American firm... coded by American nationals... export controlled... After reading the spec I expected a bald eagle to fly in the room, whistle the Star Spangled Banner, and stare into my soul to make sure my blood is red, white, and blue. But strings and grep said 'Mandarin' and 'German' and 'English written by a 5-year-old'

    American, eh? Police would call the messages "a clue".

    Called the support line about the hotplug problem and spoke with a very courteous and skilled Indian sounding guy improbably named "Bob". Yeah... I'll buy that for a dollar!

  19. Andytug

    Yes, a lot of people are stupid and untrained....

    but if everyone knew how to sort out their IT issues themselves......we wouldn't have a job!

    (there should be a happy medium somewhere, though).

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Trollface

      Re: Yes, a lot of people are stupid and untrained....

      (there should be a happy medium somewhere, though).

      Russell Grant?

      1. VikiAi Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Yes, a lot of people are stupid and untrained....

        Now that's a happy medium you really want to strike!

  20. sisk Silver badge

    Users NEVER read on screen messages

    Even today it's been my experience that users are incapable of reading the messages in the screen. I could retire today if I had a dollar for every time I've gotten a tech support call that could have been easily solved if the user had simply read the error message and followed the instructions it gave them.

    For instance, we've got a system to track a certain subset of student goals. To load a particular student's data you have to have their student ID and be on the permissions list for that record. If you try to load a student who's not yet in the system you get an error message that says "This student is not yet in the system. You may create a record for them by entering their data manually and clicking save.' You would not believe how many calls I get from teachers trying to load data for students who aren't in the system.

    1. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Users NEVER read on screen messages

      I think that technology is exposing a layer of functional illiteracy among people. I'm seeing a lot of examples online of messages popping up that the user simply does not, or can not read. It's as if their comprehension extends to stuff they know about and expect, but stops short of anything new or unexpected.

      Programmers bear some responsibility for this, using unexpected jargon etc., and few companies seem prepared to review all user-facing text for clarity. On the other hand there are a lot of situations where users simply don't see stuff, and not just because they've got a zillion icons on their desktop or too many browser tabs open. We're still using a UX model from the early 90's where the users were expected to have more than a few brain cells, and the ubiquity of software and web pages was just a dream. Unfortunately designers are still hung up on cool animations instead of simplifying what users see so they can't get themselves into trouble.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Users NEVER read on screen messages

        "Programmers bear some responsibility for this, using unexpected jargon etc., and few companies seem prepared to review all user-facing text for clarity."

        They're probably in a cleft stick here. On the one hand you can give a short message and have complaints about jargon or use descriptive terms and have complaints about it being too long to read. A good idea, however it to avoid messages such as "ERROR SJIWEK00000340000SDIJKEW".

        On the whole one probably should be able to expect users to understand the basic terminology of whatever it is they're dealing with. Try driving a car if you don't understand "brake" or "starter", or using your TV if you don't understand the word "channel".

        1. Daedalus Silver badge

          Re: Users NEVER read on screen messages

          Yes, well, funny you should mention driving a car. I once found myself following a guy driving a bit slower than you would expect on the freeway, so I overtook him. We got off at the same exit, and as I was waiting to turn on to the road to my office, he came up behind me and failed to stop before impacting my car in a fairly firm way, but not enough to cause more than a small dent. He turned out to be a flabby desk droid who turned white at the thought of getting the insurance companies involved and offered to settle with me for cash. This, obviously, was not his first recent fender bender. I took the cash.

          So here is someone who, whilst being able to drive, certainly had problems with comprehending the basic controls of his car. For some people, even the simplest thing may be beyond their ability to cope.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Users NEVER read on screen messages

      Now the under-pinnings seem to be fairly common I wonder if it would work better if the error messages were "displayed" as speech.

  21. I Am Spartacus
    Facepalm

    del *.* confirmation

    Long time ago, on a DOS system, I was talking to a new colleague whilst he insisted on typing on the new PC we had provided. Not being totally computer literate, he has was talking to the computer rather than listen to me. At one point he typed that immortal command:

    c:> del *.*

    I asked him to check what he had typed. t. He looked at the screen and said, to the computer "I didn't mean to do that". Sure enough, DOS repsonds with "Are you sure?". "Yes", he replied, "I'm sure I didn't mean to do that".

    And that is why I spent the next hour or so searching for the install floppies and rebuilding his PC and all the application software.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: del *.* confirmation

      Working with both Apricot (remember them?) and IBM compatibles was confusing as the former didn't reserve A: and B: as FD drives, so typically the main HD was A:.

      I shall admit to occasionally starting to format the HD on customer's machines! Fortunately I'd always notice quite quickly and kept a copy of Norton DiskDoctor handy for Undelete.

      1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

        Re: UnDelete

        Never mind Apricot... remember when you could undelete files!

  22. Chris Jasper

    Technical Project Staff

    You know you are on to a loser when you get sent a screenshot from the supposedly technical staff installing a system that needs to email HR type notices asking why the system wont connect to your mail servers and the screenshot clearly states "Unable to connect, please use an authenticated account".

    This went on for 3 months and they still hadn't figured it out despite myself and several others explaining the problem, in writing as well (which may have been further grist for non comprehension since reading comprehension seemed to be part of the issue), I finally left the company and as far as I know the system still cant send emails......

  23. TheOldBear

    Single sided floppies

    Back in the CP/M-80 dark ages, users had a few multiple disk actions [data dump for backup; software update]

    The user was instructed to insert disk # 1, 2, 3 - and then complained that they couldn't insert disk 4 - there was no room in the drive

    Yes, single sided soft sector drive, and the user inserted with each new floppy on top of the previous floppy [and the holes happened to line up]

    This happened more than once, with both customers and our sales/support folks.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Single sided floppies

      Saying from back then: "There are eight ways to insert a disk into a drive. Only one is interesting."

  24. Sequin

    A colleague once asked the boss of the department we were writing a package for what the system should do if the user tried to do a particular thing they were not authorised to do. "it should tell them to bugger off" was the reply. My colleague took this literally and was the subject of an official complaint a few weeks later when the system displayed that exact message!

  25. JulieM Silver badge

    Nobody Reads Error Messages

    The problem with users is, they don't read error messages. Or if they are reading them, they are not paying any mind to them. Also, they somehow expect you to know exactly what is going on, even when you are on the other end of a phone line in a different room.

    On several occasions I have asked a user to read an error message to me down the phone, read it back to them verbatim, and then they understood it.

    Them: It says Username or Password Incorrect.

    Me: Username or password incorrect? That means you've typed either your username or password incorrectly.

    Them: Alright, I'll try again ..... Oh, it worked that time!

    Me: All sorted then?

    Them: Yes, thanks.

    Or:

    Them: It says Load Paper in Tray 1.

    Me: Load Paper in Tray 1. That means it wants you to load some paper into tray 1. Is there any paper in tray 1? That's the top one, with a big figure "1" on it. Pull it gently towards you.

    Them: I'll go and check (retreating footsteps, pause, approaching footsteps) No, there's no paper!

    Me: Ah. OK. Try putting some paper in it.

    Them: OK ..... (retreating footsteps, pause, approaching footsteps) The message went away as soon as I closed it, and it's printing!

    Me: All sorted then?

    Them: Yes! I fixed it all by myself!

    Me: At least you know how to deal with Load Pa ..... (dial tone)

    Then there are all the weird faults where the error message has disappeared before the user gets a chance to read it; but when you go and stand right next to them hoping to reproduce the error, everything mysteriously Just Works First Time. And that only seems to convince the users that "computers daren't misbehave when she's around".

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Nobody Reads Error Messages

      That last one seems common when I get called to help. Misbehaving computers and programs belonging to others begin to work when I touch them.

      My own devices must get jealous then, as they begin to exhibit issues that stump the IT dept for a while each time, and are more commonly solved with a reset to a working state than an actual fix.

  26. beecee

    Return to ...

    This isn't novel to IT, we all know GIGO. Well back in the time when the latest office gear was a Golf Ball typewriter and a photocopier (early Seventies) I was in the rag trade and I heard of this typo. An order for 3000 metres of a satin was ordered by this company. Unfortunately 30,000 metres were delivered to the fabric printers. A few months later the company in question as we used st say, 'went up'. The print in question was named after Elvis's "Return to Sender"! BC

  27. meadowlark

    I know this has nothing to do with IT/computer problems, but it's in the same sort of category. In the early seventies, a friend of mine bought a stereo with a record deck and two speakers from a large department store. It also had a radio built in. After a couple of weeks, it stopped playing his vinyl records so he took it back to the service department of this store and they told him to come in a week later when it should be fixed.

    He got a phone call the same day to say it was ready. When he got back there, he was puzzled as to why it took so little time to repair. "Easy," said the assistant. "You had accidentally pressed the 'radio' button but it wasn't tuned to any station. So it was silent apart from a low buzzing sound !"

    He said he pulled his collar right up when he left in case anyone wondered why his face was now the colour of crimson. When he got home, he permanently taped down the correct button as he never listened to the radio anyway.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      This is where "it isn't working, so poke all the controls" would have helped.

      Or "order out of chaos"

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. Tim99 Silver badge
    Angel

    Sturgeon's Revelation

    Many of us accept that Sturgeon's Revelation applies to equipment, software, manuals, etc. When working in support, I realized that Sturgeon's Revelation could also apply to the people in organizations; in particular: coders, administrators, employers, sales and support staff, and computer users.

    In retirement, I still find it useful in attempting a near Zen-like calm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sturgeon's Revelation

      I vaguely recall on some management course or other a tutor remarking that an AT&T study had suggested that the number of people who really contribute to an organisation varies as the cube root of the number of staff. So a one man band has to be good, but an organisation with 27 people has three real contributors, one with a thousand has ten, and so on.

      This is even more pessimistic than Sturgeon's Revelation, but it does explain a lot.

  30. Kev99 Bronze badge

    Not surprising. Where I used to work we had one lady who insisted on opening the tape drive while it was running. Made such a noise. At another place one worker had such a case of fumble fingers he was discovering key combinations even tech support had no idea existed.

  31. PassingStrange

    Don't blame the user

    Except that this isn't a case of "stupid users". Most times something like this happens, it's design failure. You, being tech-savvy, assumed that your users would understand, and behave in a certain way; they, not being tech-savvy, didn't. Your failure, not theirs. You should have either built things differently, or ensured that everyone had adequate training.

    Two stories I was told from inside IBM.

    Firstly, the lab doing usability testing on a new system, with a user who'd never used a computer before (in a room on his own, being observed and filmed). He struggled through the first few instructions to get the computer turned on OK. Then he came to "Take the floppy disk out of its sleeve". Now - for whatever reason, he'd already done that some time before, but didn't remember or understand that he had. So he takes a good look at the floppy, and decides that the "sleeve" is the protective cardboard layer either side of the recording medium. He then spends 20 minutes trying to work out how to get the floppy out. After much effort and swearing, and with some considerable ingenuity, he removes the magnetic disk. He goes back to his instructions, turns the page, and finds... "Hold the floppy disk by the corner..."

    The other was a guy who simply sat there, staring at the screen, despite people occasionally gently prompting him "When the instructions come up on the screen, do what they say". Instructions duly appear... he sits there. Verbal prompt. He nods and agrees, but still just sits there. Prompt, nod, nothing. Again. After a while, everyone gives up, and the testers go in to find out why he didn't follow the instructions in front of him. "WHAT instructions?!?" "Those!" "I don't see anything..." Coloured text on a coloured screen; colour-blind user. Epic fail, as they used to say.

    1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

      Re: Don't blame the user

      > Most times something like this happens, it's design failure. You, being tech-savvy, assumed that your users would understand, and behave in a certain way; they, not being tech-savvy, didn't. Your failure, not theirs.

      Hear hear. Very much hearhear.

      For a boot-on-other-foot example, compare and contrast the whinge above re a science package's error message re "monotonically increasing" utterly flooring the IT staff.

      "How the hell is ANY non-pointyhead supposed to know what THAT means?!" etc.

      Well it was blindingly obvious to me from my own quant.research days...

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Don't blame the user

      When I was learning to drive the course included a multimedia CR-ROM with test scenious on it. I used my neighbour's PC, popped the CR-ROM it, and it auto-ran. I clicked on the option, and it helpfully ran a five-minute film, at the end of which it said 'FAILED' and went back to the menu. Yeh... so how do I do the interactive test? y'know, respond to the hazards and wotnot.

      At *NO* point was there any indication that the *ENTIRE* interaction was via the speakers - of which this PC had none. It turned out that the five-minute "film" *was* the interactive test, with the testee being prompted audibly. There wasn't even any display information saying anything even close to "Press START and listen to blah blah blah...."

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Don't blame the user

      "Coloured text on a coloured screen; colour-blind user."

      It's surprising how this can get overlooked. In my area of forensic science we tended to do a lot of colour matching of fibres in microscopy. My initial boss couldn't do that part of the job, he was colour blind*. About 4 years later when I'd got to the level of doing recruiting my office-mate & I decided we really should screen candidates for colour vision.

      *He'd come in via a medical lab-tech background where microscopy tended to use red/blue staining.

  32. a_mu

    BS idiot

    I feel the real problem here,

    Is lack of procedures, and documentation...

    The number of times I have heard of things being idiot proof,

    the problem is there is no standard as to what an idiot is for us to test against..

    Now if we had a proper international definition on what an idiot proof interface was,

    we could all build and test to it

    May be the IEEE should take that on as a task force,

    Or may be not.......

    Having just come out of a two day discussion on a similar topic,

    and having a mountain of paper work and procedures,

    and still no idea how its going to work safely.

    Humans will always impress me on their new ways of 'thinking'.

    God help us when its all voice / thought controlled,

  33. theunregistered

    simple instructions

    I have a few computers i tend in various countries. On the phone,(the last resort when all else fails) i have learned to stick to my own tried and tested tree script of problem solving. I have one story that forced me to adopt this. There was no internet connection. I was step by stepping them to navigate on screen after the router check. After around 20 minutes of my wasted time with us both being frustrated to the point of shouting at each other the same laborious instructions time and time again there was a laughing on the phone that steadily got louder and louder and louder. Until they went quiet.....before saying, "oh, i had the mouse upside down". I, my friends, rest my case, and on my gravestone will be , " Here lies Tin, don't mention the damn mouse" just leave me in peace for Christs sake

    1. Smoking Man

      Re: simple instructions

      Ahh, those were the days.. when a Sun workstation came with an optical mouse and some sort of glass panel, a special pattern printed on it, to be used as mousepad.

      It took most people a while, some never understood, why their mousecursor went sidewards when moving the mouse up or down.

      The stared at you with eyes and mouth wide open when you told them to rotate the mousepad (back) 90 degrees..

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: simple instructions

        "rotate the mousepad (back) 90 degrees.."

        ...but it won't fit on my desk that way around!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not only idiotic users, also ediotic support !

    Mutliple time were I victim of idiotic passwd expiration policies, seemingly happening right at Christmas breaks.

    Last couple of times, After issuing the ticket for this, It was promptly closed with a comment: "new password sent by email".

    Of course, having my AD account locked, no access to emails :( ...

    Then, you have the difficult situation of re-opening the ticket without letting anger and despair in humanity get in the way of the text. Then wait more days to get this passwd.

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