That shit happened to me five times a day, for five days a week, for seven and a half years as a field service engineer.
Have you got that Friday feeling? Well if not, there's only one way to get it: reading this week's instalment of On Call, where readers share tech support triumphs and frustrations. This time, a story from “Trent” caught your Vulture’s eye. Now, at the time, Trent categorically did not work in tech support – but that didn’t …
Yep. That situation was basically just 'work' when I did it in the early 2000s. In fact we'd comment if we got out of a building without being roped into additional tasks it was so unusual. It formed a large part of our income.
To this day it still happens, I walk into IT dept to talk about one thing an hour later I've have 6 different conversations about other tasks and issues. It's something I rely on to get the true lay of the land and not the Reader's Digest version of events form managers.
I had one problematic user (really nice person when not breaking stuff) who kept going back and forth between our office and a client site, and had problems with her laptop just about every week, and always something different. So I nicknamed her Computer Killer, or Killer for short. She even used it when calling 'Hi, its Killer...'. I met her husband at the company party, and she'd told him about the nickname, trying to get sympathy. Instead, her husband started calling her that at home too. Apparently, her malfunction-inducing skills were regularly applied to their home machine too.
I used to be polite, but firm with them. Do it a few times, insisting they need to log tickets, then if they continued, explain to them that spending so much time with them without a valid ticket was affecting my performance review, and because they didn't have the courtesy to do things the right way, I am now lacking the courtesy to do favours.
Get the rest of the IT team on-board for "work to rule" for a few months, and you will suddenly find various members of the black hole, will become semi-regular contributors to Friday night drinks. That's when you can go back to doing the odd favour for them.
"To this day it still happens, I walk into IT dept to talk about one thing an hour later I've have 6 different conversations about other tasks and issues."
Spot on, Olaf. Unless I have to be somewhere else in 30 minutes, I assume that a visit will take as long as it takes. My colleagues don't complain because they understand that while I am dealing with the trivial stuff, I'll try to pick up some gossip. Who is shagging whom, how much surplus in the software budget (that we know they'll spent on something mindbendingly awful if left to their own devices), that they are completely dependent on application X which they promised to desist using, that my bosses told them something completely different to what we agreed with the bosses...
Er... no. Ensure any hardware faults are rectified and if replacing the HDD, reinstall the OS and drivers.
Not "When I press SHIFT ALT CTRL F3 on a Tuesday, my mouse cursor disappears, can you fix that?" or "Can you install Sage?" or "When little Johnny gets to level 12 on <random game> a pink pixel appears in the top right-hand corner of the screen for a split second."
(Spends the next four hours dicking about with DirectX, gets home at 20.00 if lucky)
This, is precisely, why when I meet someone for the first time and they ask me what I do for a job, I say “A very interesting job actually! I work at the museum cleaning bones and other artefacts, let me tell you about the intricacies of choosing non-destructive polishes on ancient enamel teeth...”
Because if I mention IT - I’m suddenly in another voluntary support contract for life.
"That shit happened to me five times a day, for five days a week, for seven and a half years as a field service engineer."
Ditto, and, of course, it's my job. But only of it's actually covered by the contract. Hardware only, and if it's a PC we supplied, we'll install the OEM generic image of the OS if they insist on it when an HDD is replaced. 99 times out of a 100, that's a pointless exercise for them and me. Luckily for me, these days we primarily deal with larger customers who have IT departments and network installable images for which I, as an external contractor, am rarely given credentials for.
And, from the article "Do the words “just in case“ also fill you with foreboding?"
In my case, the words I dread most are "While you are here...". Having said that, if it's something I can deal with, it's on contract and I have the parts, great, I'll book the job, do it, and save myself a trip for tomorrow and up my ob count for the day with little effort.
And, from the article "Do the words “just in case“ also fill you with foreboding?"
In my case, the words I dread most are "While you are here...".
for ME, I had been on service desk for a while, and was sort of into the script thing, so on getting a field service contract, some things carried over, and on one job, at the conclusion, I uttered those immortal desk drone words, "and while I'm here, is there anything else I can help you with" ..............
NEVER again ffs :o)
After a big conference in a US city, I had an hour to spare, so I popped into see some guys I had had a lot of dealings with over the phone, put faces to names etc. We went for coffee, when one of the guy's pagers went off. They had an abend in my product, please could I have a quick look before I go...
We went back to the office, met their manager who said "that was quick". "What was quick?" I asked. "We've just raised a problem, and asked for on site support for a performance problem". After two weeks the performance problem "magically went away" (we were not told why) and I managed to escape. We suspect they cleared out 10 years of unwanted "temporary" records in a database. We called this a hostage situation because you have to exchange your passport for a badge to get access to the building, and so they had your passport!
it could be worse a colleague of mine was persuaded to go to Zimbabwe for a 5 day consultancy visit and was kept there for 6 weeks by the Zimbawe division's manager he used the ' i'll look after your passport' ruse. My colleague saw nothing but data centres and a hotel room as it was too dangerous to leave the hotel, he even had to fight for the overtime he accrued as the Zimbabwe division only paid for the first 5 days.
I'll add, never give your passport away to anyone, full stop. You can allow them to inspect it, and many nations make this easier (France and UK have transparent booths so you can see they aren't doing anything funny).
Many many stories of them being stolen. A stolen kiwi passport is worth $10-50k on the black market, so if you leave yours to rent a motorbike in Laos, don't be shocked if you come back and the guy claims some other white dude took it.
Don't sell it either. Knew one of chap who tried that, when Internal Affairs (NZ home office or state department) got wind of that they got his residence revoked, got him deported from Oz when he went there and locked him up for about the same amount of time as killing someone.
It's government property, and you can refuse to give it up to anyone other than the issuing authority.
"Holding on to your passport for safe keeping" is what gang masters do.
If you can get dual passports or dual citizenship if you travel a lot, having a second option is always nice.
Also all it takes to cancel a UK passport is the Name of the person it has been issued to, the issuing office and the passport number..
Now go and look thats handily on 1 page on your passport.. and once its cancelled its not possible to reverse the process
In many countries all sorts of places ask you to hand over your passport. Hotels, car rentals, employers, contractors etc. Never do it. I usually tell them that British law makes it illegal for me to give my UK passport to anyone else (in case it is used for terrorism), so sorry, I cannot do that. But they can have my British library card instead, which is just as good. Another excuse is to tell them that I do not have my passport because the hotel/car rental/police is already holding it (they're not). In quite a few countries you have to take a photocopy of your passport and fill in a form with details of your stay if you want to buy a local SIM card or for several other services & purchases. I always take several photocopies of my passport and a few spare passport photographs with me so that I don't have to hand my passport to the shop to photocopy.
It's also a good idea to store a photo of your passport as a draft email on an online email providers servers - makes it easier for a replacement / emergency passport to be issued in the event you need to use the Embassy option - also keep another draft with Embassy contact details and address so you can quickly priint out in an internet cafe and give to a taxi driver - never assume you will have access to your phone or laptop....
Keeping some local currency in a small slit made on the inside of your belt may also be a good idea - but not if it's a closed currency, if found you may be detained for attempted smuggling!.
"had an abend in my product"
'abend' - there's a term I haven't seen/heard in a long time. I had to remember what it meant...
ABnormal ENDing. Wasn't that an IBM mainframe thing? A quicky google search yields a few other unusual/obscure definitions for 'abend' but the most relevant seems to be this:
IBM mainframe trap/fault codes, basically.
I used to earn a bit of cash on the side by fixing the home computers of staff and students at the college where I used to work. Twenty quid for a couple of hours' work one evening a week kept me in beer and kebabs on a Saturday night, and I was happy to leave it at that level so I sometimes had the luxury of turning people down.
One day a tearful student (we'll call her V) came to talk to me, saying her PC had crashed the night before and she had an assignment due and [insert other heartbreaking elements which I can no longer recall]. Since I vaguely knew her because she was an old school friend of my then-girlfriend, I agreed to get the bus over to the adjacent town with her at the end of the day. We walked to her house, I met her family (to their great credit they did feed me) and I started looking at her PC.
After about half an hour I was making good progress and reckoned I'd have the job finished in another 20-30 minutes. I left the re-install running and went downstairs to have a cup of tea, laughing and joking with V's kids (I think they were 10 and 11). V's partner had left for work and she said she needed to nip to the shops, so she asked me if I'd mind keeping an eye on the kids for ten minutes. No problem, I said.
She was gone three hours.
I was fucking furious, but I couldn't let myself show it because of the kids. I helped them with their homework. I played games with them on the PC. This was before the days of mobile phones so there was no way I could contact V (I couldn't even call my girlfriend because we lived in a flat with no phone at the time). The kids said their Nan lived in town but she was getting on a bit, so I couldn't really ask her to come over and look after the kids. They didn't really know the neighbours. I just sat it out.
When V got back I made my exit. I didn't trust myself to say anything, not with the kids in the house. I cornered her the next day at work and she gave me a sob story about running into a friend in need. I got 25 quid out of her and just resolved to stay well clear of her in future. I know my girlfriend gave her a bollocking a week or two later, and we just let it end there.
Student computers are a pain, they usually crash just as the critical disertation is finished and needs printing and no backup exists.
At one company I worked for, the head of international sales was good friends with the director of a Russian bank. The director's daughter was studying at Oxford and our company loaned her a PC.
Come hand-in day for her diseration, her PC crashed. Completely. The daughter contacted her father, the director, who contacted the head of sales, who jumped on us. The PC was expressed to us, I then set about recovering the disk drive. Eventually managing to get it back in the land of the living long enough to copy a slightly damaged disertation off of it.
I then imported it into WordPerfect (you can see how long ago this was), then reformatted the document, fixed some spelling errors and managed to reconstruct the original wording from the corrupted section.
The document was then printed, bound and expressed back to the student, along with a disk with the document on it. It arrived just in time for her to meet the hand-in deadline.
"Student computers are a pain, they usually crash just as the critical disertation is finished and needs printing and no backup exists."
Even more so when the student's one of your own kids.
Again a long time ago, daughter arrived home after finishing her PhD. Backup was no problem. In fact all she had was the disk with her data on it as she'd used a departmental PC. Trouble is it was one of those proprietary disks so I had to buy a drive to get her data transferred onto something more portable.
My daughter has USB sticks, 1TB of cloud storage and had everything only locally on her MacBook Pro... Which she threw in her backpack along with her coffee flask.
You know where this is going, right?
The coffee flask was still full and she forgot to reseal it before putting it in her backpack.
By the time she got back to her flat, the screen hat a lovely Mandelbrot style pattern across it - only it wasn't on! The whole thing was dripping coffee. And she tried to turn it on...
By the time I got hold of it, the sugar had done its job on the circuits as well. Even the hard drive wasn't in a state to be rescued. She had to re-write the whole of her disertation using notes and a week old printout.
She learnt a bitter lesson and allowed me to install automatic backup software on her replacement machine.
I have great difficulty mustering sympathy for Mac users, considering that it comes with Time Machine.
It is the single most intuitive backup system I have ever used. Hell, it even asks you "Do you want to use this for time machine?" when you plug a USB HDD in. The only way Apple could make it simpler is if they gave you a butler to plug the drive in for you.
My daughter, too. Undergraduate thesis, though. Open Office Writer let me down.
She has a habit of leaving things like this until the last minute. Still does. My wife and I joke about her and her always needing to use someone else's printer because her's isn't working and she needs to print something due today.
"always needing to use someone else's printer because her's isn't working"
Always cheaper to use somebody else's ink. And maybe somebody else bought more expensive paper as well. Are you sure she has a printer?
Said daughter of mine now works from home for a firm based about 150 miles away. They provided her with computers and printer. My HP all-in-one printer is of considerable vintage. Superficially "her" (ie. firm's) new, shiny, printer looks quite like it but all black. The HP badge on mine looks more solid than any component of hers. One day she asked me to look at the printer. There was some problem with the paper tray. It looked like no amount of fiddling with it was going to fix it and would most likely break it. In the end the whole printer got taken back to head office on her next visit and swapped. How are the mighty fallen.
Been there done that for two of my kids. On the positive side, they had actually listened to me (a first for everything) and backed up to both a cloud service and and external USB disk. The downside, I footed the bill for two (secondhand) Mac Laptops and flogged off the remains of theirs for spares (the better financial option for me) and also lost my own laptop in the interim as,. yes, they were finishing dissertations.
I once got a call late one night from a family friend asking me to help with something. As it wasn't too late and it was just a simple thing I said yes. I needed to fix a copy of some university work in a Word document. From memory it might have been a dissertation but not sure. Anyway when I turned up and was shown a folder with a couple of word documents in it. They then double clicked on one of them and it came up with a request for a password. This predates any encryption of password protection on word docs. So all the text was in the document but Word wouldn't open it sans authorisation. So I opened it with wordpad (I think) and there it was to much relief all round. However it wasn't formatted properly as a result and I was then asked to help with this as I'd be 'quicker' doing it. Why did they password protect it? Well yeah they didn't know why they'd done that either but I suspect alcohol was involved. That would also explain why they had no recolection of the password. We then backed up the repaired file to a couple of floppy drives and told her not to do it again. I was asked to help with installing some tricky software 'as I was there and could help'.
Finally our satellite receiver is not getting the channels we were getting could you take a look? That turned out to be the German version of VH1 which previously had been viewable but now was scrambled. I watched as the screen which was initially in the clear went scrambled. That didn't make any sense as it wouldn't show up clear only to then scramble something else was going on. I asked when this had first happened and it was after an equipment change. They'd bought a new IRD (Integrated Reciever and Decoder for our younger readers) to maybe get Sky at some point and had relagated the free to air box to the attic. When this was hooked back up the German version of VH1 came in clear. I said it was obviously being scrambled by the IRD for some reason and wouldn't use that box if possible. The actual reason was that Viacom had inserted an encrypted flag into the clear signal. The Videocrypt decoder/descrambler would see this and scramble the picture. I was taken out for dinner to say thank you for my hours of hard work which was nice.
Words that make me run screaming in the knowledge it will devour all your free time, energy, sanity, & migraine meds in the process.
Boss' that hand you a laptop last thing on Friday claiming it won't take long, except it ends up destroying your life as each fix triggers another fix because the previous one broke something.
Customers that walk in as you're trying to lock up & hand over their desktop with a cry of "Fix it p-p-p-PUHLEEEZE!"
You do all the hardware steps to make sure that's not the cause & then go to fire it up to check software.
Only to heave a huge sigh of relief that you didn't connect it to your network as you watch signs of every known virus, malware, scumware, & 128 different versions of AOL cascading through the damned thing as it powers up.
The boot to an anti virus scan CD & scrub of the bastard requires a day & a half after all the reboots.
You finally get it cleaned & now the fekkin thing won't boot because critical files have just been nuked.
Grab a copy of the OS disk, reboot to repair mode, & have that eat up another half a day or more just fixing all the broken/nuked files.
It finally boots on its own, you get to the desktop, only to find the arsehole is the kind that stores *everything* on the desktop & you can't find the mouse pointer through all the clutter.
You start creating folders into which you can group like items, clean off the desktop until you can find the mouse again, & *NOW* you can finally see the problem that might be the reason the fool brought it in for in the first place.
Namely someone had installed an RDP client, tried to "fix" their computer, & left a ransome note on the desktop with instructions on how to forward the demand money.
But why didn't the computer stay locked up & refuse to let you in at all?
You can thank all the crap on the system that made it impossible for the computer to have enough computational horsepower left over to complete the encryption process.
You delete the RDP client, restore to a previous good state, and jump through all the hoops to get the system working properly...
Only to have the customer ask in confusion "What have you done? All I wanted was for you to figure out why solitare wasn't working! Put it back! WAAAAAHHHH!"
*Deep breath, must. restrain. fists. of. death., relaaaax...*
And you can't refuse to do support for said person because it's your Mum and "I brought you into this world & I can take your ass back out."
When pressed to fix someone's PC I used to ask for whiskey. If I took money, somehow, in their minds, any further issues would be tagged onto the first payment and support at no extra cost expected. If whiskey was bartered, it seemed to act as a full stop to the transaction.
Speaking of trading whisky...
If I were to get roped into doing tech support (again) for someone's computer, I'd tell them my rate is a CROCK of Tullamore Dew (the crock, not the bottle, dangit!) PER HOUR. That works out these days to around $30-40 an hour, a VERY reasonable rate, but like has been said, it just sounds so much more expensive that they usually just take it to Geek Squad in the morning.
MY gather a very keen user of a laptop but at his advanced age, totally bloody useless fixing self generated problems,. The number of evenings I spent on the phone attempting to remote fix (my parents are 300 miles away) were episodes I lost count of. My partner could always get a reaction buy answering the pghone and relying 'you Dad has a problem' message).
Once he asked what my hour rate was - and never ever asked again.
But on the positive side, we always got a very nice case ion Wine Society vison every Christmas :-) So mixed blessings.....
My dad's PC was always getting dropped off at my house, virus infected as hell. This was happening every few weeks. About the fifth time I told him that I will not fix it again. Period!
One of my best friends owns a local computer store. So, when the inevitable happened, I told my dad to take his PC over to Al's shop.
The next day I get a call from my friend Al that goes something like this...
Al: "Why is your dad bringing his PC to my shop?"
Me: "Because I told him I will not fix it anymore. This is the sixth time in three months he's got it infected."
Al: "Well... Okay, but I will give him a big discount because he's your father..."
Me: "NO!! If anything charge him a little extra. You'll hope you did when he brings it back infected in a week or two. Also, he needs to learn his lesson that behaving recklessly is going to cost him money from now on..."
Al: "Ummm.. I'm not sure I would feel right about charging him my full hourly rate..."
Me: "Well, suit yourself."
Al changed his mind about the third time my dad brought the PC in virus infected as hell!. I even tried to put him on Linux, but he just complained that he couldn't run this or that software.
I haven't seen his PC since this all went down, so I don't know he is doing these days?
My method when I eventually became too tired to continue disinfecting the machine of a family member was to take their admin rights away. They really didn't complain too much. Then, they decided to upgrade from windows 7 to 10, didn't like 10, and downgraded via the 7 install disk, creating many problems and incidentally creating a new admin account. I was called in to help them find their critical documents, and I made it clear that I would not be working on this computer anymore if they intended to continue using it like that.
My mother refused to believe that I could actually sort out her PC's and relied on 'a friend' to sell her a laptop at full retail price that was 3 years old and less powerful than the spare I would have given her for free. Used 'the guy down the road' to sort out her broadband connection, refusing the gift of a router 'because xxx said it's not compatible' only to be sold the same router for twice the retail price. Unfortunately the guy was right and it was not compatible until it was reconfigured. Fast forward 3 months and I'm visiting for the evening to be told she has never managed to log in to the internet after the first few days. Guess who got the joy of rebuilding the crap laptop, deleting all the malware that has been installed and removing 20+ viruses, re-configuring the router and getting the broadband connection working, sorting out the password to her isp account etc, and needless to say installing AV and a firewall not to forget installing windows and office service packs which should have been on the PC when it arrived.
Did I get a thank you? of course not, she told me that it was now running slowly, to be honest it probably was because it was such a crap machine, I could have bought her a brand new machine for what she paid or a really nice spec refurbished one, this was at the time where laptops were significantly more expensive than desktops and she only ever used it on the same desk, a desktop with a bigger monitor would have been a much better purchase but hey her 'friends' company only sold laptops.
My other family members were not much better but would at least say thank you (but wouldn't stop their son from disabling AV to make games run faster rather than spend £40 to upgrade the memory)
Yep, that sounds familiar. All my friends ignore the fact that I work in IT. They buy loads of rubbish that just won't work together then turn to me to fix it. If only they had come to me before purchase I could have saved them lots of cash AND got something that would actually do what they wanted.
Mum and I have an agreement when it comes to tech support. If she wants my tech support then she uses my recommendations on software/hardware/ISP etc. As soon as she does her own thing she gets tech support elsewhere as I pick options that are generally easiest to use while also being easiest to support. It’s worked pretty well for the last 20 years when her first computer (for email and web browsing) was my old 486 laptop!
In fairness she’s reasonably good at figuring stuff out for herself and can even help her brother with simple problems. She’s also a (relative) pro at checking windows updates for Microsoft malware like GWX.
I've said this before - when I worked for the Fruit store, I told my mother I was contractually forbidden from working on PCs. Got her to buy a Mac with AppleCare and pointed out that she'd paid for support already, so it was better to call them than me :)
I recently had a call from my father-in-law, wherein his girlfriend's wifi password had been changed. It seems that her "tech guy" (it might have been her son, I wasn't really paying attention) had set it up, including getting her phone on it, but some time later had been doing configuration, and now nothing could get on the wi-fi.
I told them to call her ISP for support, because I could guess at solutions, and have them poke at things until it either worked, or would never work again; but her ISP would (presumably) know the solution off-hand and if they needed a tech on-site, they would be a lot closer than 4 states away.
I actually got thanked for being helpful, because her tech guy would always tell "Don't call them, I'll fix it."
My brother has a Linux machine. He asked me for a computer, I gave him one. Initially had XP or something, he managed to pick up something on it. I told him he was getting Linux.
I love my brother, but I don't want the only time I spend with him to be fixing his computer. Since I got him on a Linux machine, no more problems.
I'm used to be a tech support manager and if anyone outside the family wanted a 'favour' I would tell with disdain that I only worked on 'Big Boys Computers', Nothing less than am IBM ES9000 lol ( and doesn't that show my age). If I want my pc fixing I use a professional I'd tell them.
Any project coordinator worth his salt should have been applying the concept of scope management.
Although of course in certain cases when you get parachuted into an existing project or issue to "fix it", said scope may be mounted on top of the requisite sniper rifle...
At a previous employer I worked for, they resold server kit from a national PC manufacturer.
You could certify yourself as a hardware engineer for their hardware and you got a discount, because you were then responsible for repairs on the hardware. You could also earn extra money by repairing the manufacturers hardware from other dealers.
We didn't want the second part, but the company was very into shaving the margins on the hardware and, well, the hardware usually ran for years without problems.
Only they brought out a new range of servers that had teething problems. The IT (and combined customer IT support) department had not been informed by management or sales, that they had done a deal about the hardware support. So a customer called with a sick server. No problem, we thought, just call the manufacturer and get an engineer sent out. The server was on the other side of the country, behind Berlin.
Not so fast, the manufacturer then informed us that we had taken on responsibility for the hardware support, they would ship us the spare parts (CPU, cooler and PSU), but our certified engineer was responsible for actually carrying out the repair. The problem was, the one certified hardware engineer we had, had left the company 10 years earlier! All that was left were sys admins that never dealt with more at the hardware level than sticking network cables into servers!
One poor apprentice was then given the spare parts, when they arrived per express courier, and stuffed in a pool car and directed to drive to the other side of Berlin to perform the repair, pronto! (The parts arrived around 16:00, the drive was 5 hours and the customer needed the server working again by midnight)
Cap off to the apprentice, I don't know how many screws he had left over after the repair, but the server was back online in time for the next shift at midnight.
Words to strike fear into the heart of any ICT engineer.
Was doing a network equipment audit around the campus we supported and ended up doing the office of the legal department.
Got the usual "oh, you're from IT", followed by "the date and time on our fax machine isn't right...could you just sort it for us while you're here"
Yes...of course...it has a plug so it MUST be IT's responsibility!
So I dug out the manual (which they could have just done themselves) and sorted the darn thing. And therein lies the problem - we're too nice. Should have told them to log a ticket!
Yes...of course...it has a plug so it MUST be IT's responsibility
Having worked for smallish companies for many years I can attest to that.
I also get to make signs (need one for a meeting room doing today as it happens), sort out CCTV and phone systems, etc.
Actually, literally bleeding air out of the radiators.
Also rewiring plugs, setting clocks, changing labels on the entryphone, moving furniture and clearing out cupboards.
Basically the crap jobs that everyone else thought they were too good for.
Lesson learned - leave it broken, that or get a chit from management saying you can remove it from site, fix it and punt it on ebay.
Plus had anyone gotten electrocuted at any point in the future you'd likely be held criminally liable - no PAT test, no current testing qualifications, no calibrated test kit, no public liability insurance etc.
"Plus had anyone gotten electrocuted at any point in the future you'd likely be held criminally liable - no PAT test, no current testing qualifications, no calibrated test kit, no public liability insurance etc."
Once went to a site to quote for replacing a broken network cable from one end of an office to another. Had a look and quoted then £300. They gasped. I pointed out that we don't run network cables under carpets that people walk on and we would be installing and routing trunking up and down walls and through the ceiling void. We'd also not be going anywhere near the old cable as it ran parallel to a main cable that was so worn you could almost see the copper showing through the coloured wires (the outer was already gone in places.) and we'd not even be able to start the job until that mains cable was removed what with it being it being a safety hazard and all. This was a fairly large company. The owner had his own helicopter. At least we figured out how he could afford it. Bloody penny pinchers.
Occy Health and their ilk are the worst.
Went into their office(s), and found cables across the floor. Office next door had a network cable across the middle of the office at waist height. They wanted me to remove a old CRT monitor that was on a high shelf - on my own.
In another part of the hospital, they wanted me to move a printer from one end of a reception desk to the middle so that both receptions can access it - and it was made as a high priority. Two weeks later, walked past and the users had moved it back because there was no space on the desk.
Or the network that went from a desk to a column that was a trip hazard. The gap was less than six inches across.
Same for electricians, whats worse is when your SE people often decide they would rather not pay the full amount and find myriad excuses not to pay. You quickly learn you only do whats in writing, signed by the customer AND accompanied by a signed waiver of their 14 day cooling off rights.
I got burned a few times as I'm too nice and got out of that game (plus there are all manner of unspeakable horrors lurking under house floors, in lofts etc.
"ND accompanied by a signed waiver of their 14 day cooling off rights."
I doubt that would have any standing (I'm assuming this is for UK consumer rather then B2B or anything in that lawless place over there) other than to make them thing again before you go ahead. As has been said here when discussion EULAs, statutory legislation overrules contract law and consumer rights are statutory.
"Should have told them to log a ticket!"
Or logged one yourself - I'm _constantly_ on at our group about this and they think I'm being anally retentive about it but the reality is that by logging all these kinds of requests you either have something to point at when the PHBs start asking you to justify your existence or something for an edict from "on high" to be sent down telling staff to stop abusing the IT geeks' better nature.
(In the case of customers, it's also useful to show how much extra billable work you actually do as an involuntary upsell when onsite)
I remember diagnosing issues with services running on IBM iSeries with IBM field engineer. I also recall teaching him how to use the low level tools to perform the diagnostics at both software and hardware layers.
To be fair on the engineer these tools are fairly obscure on the platform, however obscure low level stuff is what is expected of them!
I don't remember all the discussions but I do recall the engineer saying "Thank you, I really had no idea any of these tools existed. This will be very useful on some of my other sites"
Also in this case they were called because any time there was an issue the management say "call the vendors, call the software suppliers" with no thought that the IT team may already know exactly what is happening but the answer is... er.... unpopular...
Aaah the cyclic argument of the csuite that an engineer is an engineer so can look after anything, without training or documentation and a complete failure to differentiate between a level 3 mainframe systems CPU specialist, who is a god in his domain but knows almost nothing outside the silicon with a more general engineer who's skills are not as deep but go up to the software stack. These 'expensive dinosaurs' were pushed out into the field by both ICL and IBM in the 90's until they started to realise that having the best cpu/disk/ tape guy in Europe fixing minor niggles on mid range equipment suddenly stopped being cost effective when BT, HMRC of one of the water companies stopped dead because of an esoteric hardware fault that the diagnostic software couldn't locate. ICL also pushed the other way taking level one retail engineers who were only qualified to swap out devices to look after small servers. I was on site performing some mainframe updates ( I was Software not h/w) when I had to physically prevent and engineer removing the hard disk unit from a server controlling a wool mil because 'it's hot swappable' only problem was it wasn't there was no disk error and removing the disk in use would have caused a head crash and would have lost all the manufacturing data since the last backup.I watched this happened to 2 generations of engineer, realised I was in the next tier and left to become a tech support manager.
I don't remember all the discussions but I do recall the engineer saying "Thank you, I really had no idea any of these tools existed. This will be very useful on some of my other sites"
Training, or the lack thereof, is rife in the industry, although I'm surprised it's the same with IBM (not the IBM of yore though). One of the vendors I deal with only offer online video "training". You can't touch their stuff until you pass their exams. And if you employer won't stump up for some kit to play with, then the first you see of the kit in real life is when you roll up to a customers site to fix something.
(it's possible they offer proper training too, but I'm not aware of it and no way is my employer going to spend real money on proper training.)
I also recall teaching him how to use the low level tools to perform the diagnostics at both software and hardware layers.
I had a similar situation when Sun released their first Sparc stations in France. Their maintenance engineer knew Sun OS 3 very well, but OS 4 had everything changed, swap place, etc. I had to guide him to find the various configuration files that were no more where they used to be.
I had a similar situation when Sun released their first Sparc stations in France. Their maintenance engineer knew Sun OS 3 very well, but OS 4 had everything changed, swap place, etc. I had to guide him to find the various configuration files that were no more where they used to be.
Even bigger change when Solaris 2 (Sunos 5.x) came out due to the BSD to SysV change. Many were sticking with 4.1.3 and avoiding Solaris 2 for quite a long time.
Is when you've just finished fixing something tricky and long-winded for a customer, and they respond with "oh, while I've got you, I've got this other problem...."
Neatly bypassing all that First Line investigation, all the stuff that's designed to filter out crap, and all the stuff that shares jobs around amongst the team on a fair and impartial basis, so you're basically stuck with looking at whatever it is they've been forgetting to tll anyone about for three months.
I think sometimes, the presence of a IT bod just jogs their memory about the other problems.
What's worse in some ways, is when they see you, memory is jogged, however they don't bloody tell you, but log the call with the service desk instead. You only find out when you get back to the office, with a cup of tea, look at your PC, and "Oh, FFS, I've just come from there!"
"Neatly bypassing all that First Line investigation, all the stuff that's designed to filter out crap"
In a lot of cases, for one very simple reason - that stuff isn't helping the customer, it's actively obstructing him getting it fixed, so when he finally gets someone - _anyone_ - competent onsite he'll grab the opportunity with both hands.
Oh, the number of times I (as a consumer) have called "Tech Support" and known more about the hardware and problem that the Tier 1 support folks. "I've already rebooted it 3 times, but yes I'll do it again just to make you happy. The lights on the modem are out, so why would rebooting my computer help? I see, I have to do it anyway..." Etc. Really makes me wish I could just tell them "shibboleet" and move on...
You know the scenario - at the pub, in the gym or visiting new friends (your SO tells you they will be new friends) and as part of the conversation you are asked what it is you do. As soon as any mention of the word computer is uttered the conversation suddenly switches to - my broadband isn't working, the printer eats all my paper........
So these days I simply say I am in finance.
I'm just a pen pusher, you know shuffling paper all day, typing up boring reports, sitting through dreary meetings - keep it vague and uninteresting, people stop listening
That or if you slip, spew out a pile of ultra technical and extremely nerdy gibberish until they glaze over and make their excuses.....
"I usually say "I'm an office admin assistant". Which ain't no lie as I'm a sysadmin, assist my users and am based in an office."
Nice one! Field service engineer here, and I'm very civil to people. I think I'll starting telling people I'm a civil engineer :-)
I think I'll starting telling people I'm a civil engineer :-)
Be careful with that one. It's a loaded weapon of self-destruction in disguise. At some point, someone will as you to "take a look at these plans for our extra room" or "can you help me make some plans for "x:" where 'x' is whatever they want to do.
"As soon as any mention of the word computer is uttered"
Which is why I tend to describe myself as an IT storage systems specialist and have a script for those questions ("Your ISP is the best outfit to talk to for that, yes I know XYZ helpdesk is bad, have you tried one of the independents such as ABC?", "Printers have rubber pickup tyres that wear out, Have you checked yours aren't glazed and are you checking the curl in your paper to ensure you're putting it in the right way up?","Oh I only use Unix systems. I hardly ever touch Windows, Macs etc".)
My father learned the value of my work when I spent a day or so one visit cleaning up his computer on a visit (and told him he needed more memory at a cost of about $60). After I left, his kids (second marriage) removed the AV to play games & got reinfested. As I wasn't able to visit (10+ hour drive away) he took it to a local shop who charged him $400 for the delousing and quoted $200 for more memory. That entire branch of the family got a lot more respectful of my time afterwards.
Sometimes it's worthwhile, though.
I was working operations support - not hardware, but various flavours of Excel-derived hell, deep in actuarial hell where they work out how dead you are to five decimal places... for each month for the next 100 years. Lots of people with very good degrees and years of further training in deep statistical alchemy.
I had a ticket from the Annuities team about something *dumb*. Like "When I open the spreadsheet there's a yellow bar at the top and the macros don't work" dumb. Read the message, click the "enable macros" button, carry on. But I dont't talk to that team often enough, so it's worth occasionally doing a desk visit just to make sure they know we exist.
When I get there, you can feel the tension in the air. People are visibly stressed, staring are screens full of numbers that refuse to be the right numbers. More than a few are muttering swear words under their breaths. There is a definite sense of a Deadline lurking overhead. So... I start with my ticket, and fix it with a smile and a few words like "anyone can do it, I've done it myself". The next desk over says "can you help with...?", and then so does the desk opposite. I fix a few simple blockers with smiles. Be the second-pair-of-eyes that spots a formula error the author couldn't see after an hour. Mention to one that the same thing happened to that guy over there, ask him how he fixed it. Un-hide a shared folder someone had accidentally Hidden. Easily a dozen small fixes, took maybe an hour, all on the back of a super-stressed maths graduate completely forgetting how "Enable Macros" works, but knowing enough to email IT for help.
You could genuinely feel the mood lift in the room. Days like that make it worth dealing with customers - the machines might be better behaved than people, but even an introvert like me can recognise the value of genuine gratitude.
I think the important thing to take note of here is that you were fixing problems for intellignet people with good degrees, and technical jobs.
Now try the same thig with a room full of salespeople or project managers, and see how much gratitude you get. You'll probably get back to your desk and receive a pile of complaints about how you didn't offer to make anyone a coffee.
"but various flavours of Excel-derived hell, deep in actuarial hell where they work out how dead you are to five decimal places..."
I can understand working as an actuary (or supporting them), but any actuary worth his salt should know that using Excel for this kind of thing is like willingly flagellating oneself with a lemon zester and then taking a bath in rubbing alcohol.
This smacks of "We've been using Excel because that's all we know" - which is similar to the "when you have a hammer every problem is a nail" issue of "I use MySQL because it's the only database I know, never mind my requirement has grown to 5 dimensional JOINs it isn't designed to handle and another DB would be 50 times faster/90% smaller/[not need constant nursemaiding because mysql never shrinks its files] - it's too haaaard to learn 8 extra syntax words or even how to optimize my JOIN and WHERE syntax" (yes, that's my current rant after seeing a sub-2GB dataset causing 8GB+ query memory bloat and 30+ second execution time thanks to poorly chosen database and query syntax.)
Excel (or any spreadsheet) is a useful tool for small tasks - but it doesn't scale up to sizes where a database is a better choice. The problem is that people start using it and keep trying to scale to infinity instead of realising that they've passed the practical limits of what you can do with it - I saw an entire Area Health Board with a bunch of hospitals and thousands of employees run on it - it's no wonder their finances were a mess (and changes took hours to ripple through)
MySQL is a fantastic database for basic queries and small to medium datasets, but it doesn't scale up to multi GB datasets and complex JOINs (If you read High Performance MySQL chapter 4 you'll understand why - the book is 2 inches thick, and it's all about getting MySQL to do stuff that "just WORKS" on Postgres and others.). The problem is that people start using it and keep trying to scale to infinity and don't realise they've gone past its practical limits.
A large part of our job should also be telling people that it's time they graduated from a cargo bicycle to a delivery van or a delivery van to a heavy hauler, because their support/performance/reliability issues are because they've outgrown their software.
You're not wrong! But neither were they. All the serious calculations were being done with serious, built-for-purpose, statistical simulation software on dedicated hardware.
Excel was mostly just mucking around with summary data being prepped for powerpoint slides, and various hacky fudges that high command wanted but wouldn't budget for them to be built into the models properly.
Last I heard (I left that team a few years back now) they are moving towards a proper end-to-end database solution that eats text files and shits slide decks, but the whole environment is something like 40% compensation for inflexible legacy systems and 20% working around flaws in previous attempts so it's been slow going.
We have a customer who asks us to come over to fix something, and then when we get there, they present us with a handwritten list with vague stuff on it like 'Judy's daily mail home page sometimes doesn't appear' or 'our jobs website crashes' or 'some emails aren't getting through'. We then have to give them an emphatic 'NO', and ask them to re-write the list, and email to it to our ticket system, and put some details on it. They then invariably say 'Oh, just one more thing' as we are trying to get out of the door.
Went down to fix - can't remember what. Finished job, tools away ready to go to next job....
"Can you have a look at this printer, makes a funny noise when printing"
It's an inkjet, so you when open a door and it all stops moving. Nornally I would poke a small screwdriver in the sensor hole as I can observe it printing. Spotted a tea spoon on the desk, so used that instead, poking the handle into the hole. I could see that it was a tube that had come loose, so (safety first!) powered off printer and reattached tube.
Arrived back at the office to find my boss waiting for me - user had been on phone.
"Why did you put the spoon in the printer?"
"Because the fork was too big."
"We then have to give them an emphatic 'NO', and ask them to re-write the list, and email to it to our ticket system, and put some details on it. They then invariably say 'Oh, just one more thing' as we are trying to get out of the door."
Tell them that if won't raise the tickets you'll have to and there's an extra charge for every ticket you have to raise. Sorry, company rules. More than my jobsworth etc.
Have you ever ended up being roped into doing more tech support than you’d bargained for? Do the words “just in case“ also fill you with foreboding?
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I was made redundant from my first job: someone in a different country decided on the basis of my job title that the company didn't need me.
After I'd been gone for a couple of weeks I popped back in to say "hi". "What's up?" I asked the forlorn lady on reception? "The VAX is down, engineer has been here all day and no sign of it coming back". "Mind if I pop in the machine room?" "Sure".
In the machine room, the field service engineer was looking blankly at the messages that had been printed on the console as the VAX was in its death throes. I looked over his shoulder. "It's the UDA-50. Look, here, that's the error code you need." (It might not have been, this was 30-odd years ago, but that UDA-50 was a right bugger.)
Five minutes later, replacement card installed, machine up. Everyone happy. I left never to return. No idea what happened next time one of the machines died.
Too be fair, last time I was made redundant, the bigwigs of the company had stood in front of the whole company and explained that there was a management buyout, but don't worry everything is going to be fine, business as usual.
Two days later - a third of the company was made redundant. During the consultation, they offered me a QA management position, because they had made the existing bod redundant - but I wouldn't get a pay rise. So they were trying to do it on the cheap, didn't want to work for a company like that.
First time, was 3 days after my 21st birthday - happy birthday me....
" they offered me a QA management position, because they had made the existing bod redundant "
They broke the law then, you can't make a person redundant, only their job. If they still needed a QA bod, they had to retain him - BY LAW. He should have taken them to a tribunal, and he would have won.
It doesn't make sense anyway redundanting an employee if you actually still need that job filled. But what I think we're talking about is like firing the database administrator then asking the bloke who cleans the telephones to do database administrating too but without a change in job title or money. This is still four-letter-word behaviour but harder for DBA person to be in possession of the facts or prove a breach of the law. It's where a good union should help but that's s bit last century for a lot of IT people.
If a tool or driver or some other 'item' is touched by me or comes to mind while I am preparing to go somewhere, it goes in the bag.
By making sure I have the tool/etc on me, I can gaurantee I will not even come close to needing it.
But if I didn't put it in the bag "just in case", you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be the most critical tool when I am at the other end, and no there will be no one within a day's drive who has one available. If it's software, the net will be down etc etc..
"That bag must get a lot bigger over time ...."
I turned up at a job one day with a stationwagon packed to the brim with test equipment and didn't need any of it (or any screwdrivers). Unplugging the equipment from one outlet and plugging it into another was all was needed.
To be fair the job had been causing trouble for 20+ years and noone had ever gotten to the bottom of it - the reason I was able to solve it was because I'd arrived after 5pm on Friday to find our equipment was plugged into non-essential power (despite the label on the outlet, the circuit number next to it traced to a breaker in the non-essential cabinet) and the batteries were running down. Plugging it into a working essential power circuit 3 feet away solved the problem permanently and the sulfated battery was replaced shortly afterwards, This was very much a "kicking it $1. Knowing where to kick it $9000" job.
It ingrained a habit of not only checking the power for weird faults but where the power is coming from. I've subsequently found things like untightened grubscrews and other stupidity causing supply issues. A rubber mallet isn't a silly thing to carry in your "kit of things" as it can be used to jar loose electrical connections in the building wiring and breaker cabinets... (and is tempting to use on "loose nuts" who won't shut up)
* I've come to update Fred's computer
* Ooo, that was quick, Jim's only just put a request in
* No, Fred not Jim
* Fred's not here, can you do Jim's, and then do Fred's when he gets back?
On that occasion I phoned Dispatch and confirmed it would be booked as two call-outs, and I'd be paid for two call-outs.
That I usually fix such matters with a Linux CD/USB stick (I've been using the same excuse for a while). "Oh yes, it's perfectly user-friendly - look" (shows laptop screen that is entirely black except for a "$" in the top left-hand side and a blinking white square).
Works wonders; I rarely get asked to do "extra stuff" that'll only take like 5 minutes.
Why would you use a Linux CD/USB with OSX when you can just use [Command]+[Space] type in terminal and go to Full Screen? Then type in techy stuff like ls -la ...
I suppose you could also use [Windows]+[R] and type in cmd.exe for Windows, but the punter would still see Windows behind the command screen.
Was waiting at a school for their IT teacher to arrive and unlock the Server room when I heard someone complaining about the padlock on the front gate was very difficult to open. Me doing nothing while being paid borrows pencil from Admin office grabs razor knife from bag and shaves pencil lead (graphite) into lock. Insert key and restored it to brand new functionality. That was Monday. On Friday it was back to the office day and I get ripped a new one for wasting time fixing their padlock. Didn't matter it would cost $60+ to replace and I got it working while waiting for the key holder to arrive. Had 800+ PCs to look after, 41 Servers, 103 printers, 50 odd 3Com SuperStack II switches that like to arrive DOA or died within 6 months of installation and about 120 laptops spread over 16 locations with 3.5 hours per site per fortnight. Bloody ridiculous so I left a few months later.
As soon as I've done what I was there for, "One more thing"..
And I go "Ahhh, the Columbo effect", and most of the time they get what I mean and smile. And for the younger one's I'll explain them how that psychological trick of Columbo works, his "oh, there is one more thing I don't understand. Maybe you can help me clearing it up" and hint them to watch a few episodes...
I was recently accosted at a local office-supply store by someone who apparently knew me from a former job and needed quick advice on which cabling they needed for their network and phone at home. Happy to help since it actually was quick - they had already guessed the correct network cable and had it in their hand, so I just had to say, "Yeah, that looks right", but without knowing what sort of phone they had (VoIP, POTS) the second cable was as much a guess for me as for them.
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