back to article Hello, tech support? Yes, I've run out of desk... Yes, DESK... space

The weekend is nearly upon us again, and there's just Friday between you and some cold, cold beers. Let's ease the transition with On Call, in which readers regale us with tales of well-solved tech conundrums. This time, we meet "Franklin", who figured out a real head-scratcher of a problem for a talented mechanical engineer …

  1. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Hmm

    Both Franklin and the user were missing some obvious points that they should have figured out, and at the time mouse handling wasn't as obvious as it is now.

    The user should have thought things through before panicking. But Franklin et al should have introduced the principles of using a mouse to the users, and made sure that the mouse was itself calibrated to work easily.

    And yes, I'd met that issue back in the Olden Days (can't remember much about it now though) and I can understand a user getting in a muddle with it.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      A similar complaint - with the same cause - was "my mouse mat isn't big enough".

      Similar re-education was required.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Hmm

        We just issue mouse pads the size of golfing greens...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm

          I knew a man who took a sheet from a flip chart, taped it to his desk and declared that to be his mouse pad.

          1. keithpeter
            Windows

            Re: Hmm

            Lucky him, my entire desk area is about half a sheet of flip chart paper if that (a good unit of area there by the way). And that includes the PC box, the monitor stand, keyboard, mouse area, and the actual paperwork I need to find space for (college, teacher, marking) and the phone and one of those mains adaptor blocks - both plugs taken up by PC/monitor.

            I have admiration for whoever installed the PC and phone as they have managed to reduce the cable lengths to the absolute limit, making it impossible to actually move anything.

        2. Zarno

          Re: Hmm

          I've got an 800x300x3 mouse mat I bought for the workplace.

          Acts as a "keep-out" zone for the rest of the creeping clutter that dares try and invade the space occupied by my M13 and scrollpoint III.

          B0788LMLZL on the rainforest tat bazaar if anyone is interested.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmm

            "I've got an 800x300x3 mouse mat"

            .... I strongly suspect that isn't a mouse mat - things that size are called "gaming surfaces"

            1. Zarno

              Re: Hmm

              True, but it's listed in the "clickbait buzzword description from Hades", so I claim it's a mouse mat. :D

              "Mouse Mat for Gamer, Office & Home"

          2. GrumpyKiwi

            Re: Hmm

            Awesome. I've just ordered one for the office for "testing".

            1. Zarno
              Thumb Up

              Re: Hmm

              Happy to help!

              Now that it should have came in, opinions?

      2. tfewster Silver badge
        1. 0laf Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Hmm

          sounds like the usual story of explaining a PC to Mum. "Move the mouse up the screen" and invariably she would lift it off the desk. Totally logical really.

          1. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            I've told this before, but I once had to explain which way the mouse should be handled, as the user was using it with the cord going under her wrist (as if it was the little bugger's tail)

          2. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            I've seen a first-time computer user pick up the mouse, and place it on the screen, in order to move the cursor.

            To be fair, it did move the cursor, and generally in the direction they intended, even if they couldn't actually see the icon they were clicking on.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hmm

              Yep, seen that too...at a major international law firm...

              Someone once said that using a mouse is only intuitive once you have been shown how to use it :)

              1. Paul Shirley

                Re: Hmm

                Not sure double clicking is intuitive in any way!

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Hmm

                  "Intuitive" is a vasty overused word in the world of computing. Even those of use who've been in the business since before the mouse was invented still have issues now and then when the GUI or the app interface changes, especially since the W10 flat interface where the clickable items are often not highlighted in anyway, leaving the users to "intuitively" guess. Where's Bob and his FLATSO complaints?

          3. ROC

            Re: Hmm

            Would make even more sense now with touch screens ;-}

        2. 0laf Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Hmm

          Dogbert Tech abuse desk. Brilliant

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            BOFH before BOFH

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hmm

              The BOFH solution would be to sell him the recording of the support call for $20... unless Phil wants it on his boss' desk...

        3. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          Back in the day when Windows 95 was yet to be a thing I was doing work experience. One of the old timers had a gigantic mousemat that was a free gift/piece of merchandise tat from another company. It was about four times the size of the pathetic regular one IT supplied. He was very proud of that as it was the biggest in the office. Quite annoyed then when somebody produced a bigger one they'd made from an old wetsuit over the weekend. Apparently they'd measured the 'biggest one' on Friday night so they could make theirs bigger.

        4. d2

          Re: Hmm

          'toon Transcript

          Dogbert answers the phone and says,

          "This is Dogbert. How may I abuse you?"

          The Boss sits at his desk and says into the telephone, "I need to move my cursor to the right but my mouse is at the edge of the mousepad."

          Dogbert asks, "Have you tried rebooting without saving your files?"

          The Boss replies, "Yeah, several times."

          Dogbert asks, "Have you tried moving your desk?"

          The Boss pushes his desk.

          The Boss says, "It didn't work."

          Dogbert says, "You need my $800 mousepad upgrade."

          The Boss asks Carol, "What account does this get charged to?"

          Carol replies, "'Idiot Expense,' just like everything else."

        5. Aernoud

          Re: Hmm

          That Dilbert was in my head just reading the heading....

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      My first "mouse" was actually a magnetic tablet thingie. Even if you lifted it, when you placed it back on the mat the cursor would jump back to the absolute position.

      There were many of these WAAAY before the 90's

      1. Caffeinated Sponge

        Re: Hmm

        That sounds like the sort of thing I was using in XWindows on SPARCs at college...

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Hmm

          Probably similar. Mine was actually on a Perq 1 unix workstation, running its own version of windowing software.

          It was one of these: https://www.computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/102674684

          Used with one of these: https://www.computerhistory.org/collections/catalog/102673876

          Attached to one of these: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~pmaydell/PERQ/ !!

    3. Robert Sneddon

      Microsoft Mouse Training Tools programs

      MS actually bundled some mouse-training tools for naive users into Win 95 -- Minesweeper and Solitaire. Some admins eliminated these essential programs in the builds and rollouts in an attempt to prevent time-wasting but suffered the consequences later in more tech support calls and loss of productivity due to the inability of many users to manipulate a mouse proficiently.

  2. drand

    It's harsh to blame users when they're faced with new kit and a totally alien way of working but what kind of engineer is 'Phil' if he hasn't taken his shiny new mouse apart to see how it works? Any new stuff arrives here I have to lock it away or else someone will be sneaking towards it with a screwdriver before I've even had chance to break out the set up guide.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Set up Guide?

      What kind of engineer are you that you would follow some non-entities opinion on how this should work before you have had a go yourself?

      I don't know, in my day an real engineer would look at some new kit and instantly know the correct way to handle it, use it and disassemble it into it's component pieces and even have some redundant parts left on the bench once it was put back together

      1. Joe W Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Set up Guide?

        The difference between a physicist and an engineer: new equipment arrives, physicist plays around with it, inevitably breaking it, and only then looks at the manual. An engineer looks at the manual and then breaks it.

        1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Set up Guide?

          Manual?

          You mean the manufacturer's opinion?

          1. Chris King Silver badge

            Re: Set up Guide?

            Don't you mean "hallucination" ? Some manuals I've seen could only have been written by someone on LSD at the time.

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: Set up Guide?

              Don't you mean "hallucination" ? Some manuals I've seen could only have been written by someone on LSD at the time.

              Manuals? I've seen software which must have been designed with some mind altering substances involved. In one instance our most senior dev guy told me that he'd never seen anything like it. He said that the database structure was peculiar in the extreme and a sane person wouldn't do that.

            2. swm Bronze badge

              Re: Set up Guide?

              The manuals of 50 years ago were quite good - especially from IBM. They told you how things worked in understandably written prose. Then Apple decided that a manual should tell you how to do certain things (but not other things) and you had to puzzle out the underlying model. Now instructions seem to be a mixture of poorly translated instructions peppered with meaningless icons.

          2. eldel

            Re: Set up Guide?

            No no no no no. The manual is an essential item for any new piece of equipment. How else do you know why the magic smoke is coming out of *that* hole as opposed to the other, redundant, ones.

        2. Hamish McNish

          Re: Set up Guide?

          Hmm. A health care analogy worth sharing is point of care testing - eg blood gas machines. The medic goes straight up to the device, uses it, often with a shared pin code, and then breaks it. The clinical scientist RTFMs first and doesn’t break it. Example of the thought process of the former. “I have some blood in a plastic syringe. It takes more than a few minutes to clot. I don’t need a sample with an anti-coagulant added, The machine will analyse it before it clots”. Then the blood hits wet.warm glass inside the instrument. And the young medic gets a lesson on the effects of disseminated intravascular coagulation... (The clinical scientist has to fix the instrument).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Set up Guide?

            Heparinised syringes must be scarce where you're from.

            Take blood.

            Flush bubbles and mix.

            Enter pin.

            Push button.

            Insert little metal pizzle into syringe.

            Click.. click.. bzzzzzzzzzzzz.. clickety tick click...

            (Wait 150 seconds)

            Tear off paper. Hmm, pH 6.90?

            Not exactly rocket surgery. However, in certain profiles, those stubby ones with the metal flea look like something you'd see stuck to the wing of an F-15.

        3. Robert Sneddon

          Re: Set up Guide?

          A fitter uses the manual as a wedge under one leg of the unit to level it up.

      2. MiguelC Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Set up Guide?

        Did that to a brand new electric toy car when a was 3 or 4. My findings is that there are lots of surplus pieces in those buggers

        Did something similar to every door lock in the house resulting in not a single key working thereafter... I'm sure my parents where proud of their little engineer (or at least I like to believe that)

        1. usbac

          Re: Set up Guide?

          I got in serious trouble taking things apart when I was a kid. The worst trouble I ever got into was when I was about 10, I completely disassembled our automatic dishwasher. When I say disassembled, I mean parts all over the kitchen. Solenoid valves in pieces (I thought the little springs inside were cool), wire bundles scattered all over, even the motor was in pieces!

          So, after all of the yelling was over, I decided to try to put it back together. You should have seen the look on face of the poor appliance tech when he first saw it! My mother mode me be the one to tell him what happened as part of my punishment. He did admit that I somehow managed to get most of it back together okay. It was finding all of the little things I didn't get back together right that drove him nuts.

          That was 40 years ago, but at least I can fix our dishwasher now when it breaks. I'm only slightly better at putting it back together now.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Set up Guide?

            How many of us as kits looked under the hood (bonnet to you Brits) of dad's car and came to the conclusion that the wiring was a mess? I know of quite a few, myself included who were proud of the way we straightened out all the wiring and made things better. We also received the appropriate reaction and never opened the hood of his car again.

            1. John R. Macdonald

              Re: Set up Guide?

              Like some fearless users who think the Windows directory and its subdirectories are a mess and need to be rationally organised. You know, put all the .dll's in the dll subdirectory, the .exe's in the exe subdirectory and so on.

              1. 's water music Silver badge

                Re: Set up Guide?

                Like some fearless users who think the Windows directory and its subdirectories are a mess and need to be rationally organised. You know, put all the .dll's in the dll subdirectory, the .exe's in the exe subdirectory and so on.

                Life's too short for that kind of OCD. If it isn't my data and it doesn't contain teh pr0nz then into the recycle bin it goes. Problem solved.

            2. ChrisBedford

              Re: Set up Guide?

              How many of us as kits looked under the hood (bonnet to you Brits) of dad's car and came to the conclusion that the wiring was a mess[...\]

              How many of us kids looked under the cover of Dad's radio and did the same, including tightening all the "loose screws"... resulting in the entire tuning and alignment procedure having to be done from scratch?

              (For those brought up on digital radios, the superhet receivers of 40-50 years ago had several mini coils with ferrite "slug" cores that had to be fine-tuned by a guy with special tools and instruments... a tedious process that as I recall required quite a lot of iteration to get the tuning circuits properly calibrated and receiving clearly while discriminating between nearby stations).

      3. N2 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Set up Guide?

        Having also re-designed it on the back of a fag packet?

        Pint, for all engineers who did so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Set up Guide?

          Having also re-designed it on the back of a fag packet?

          Usually a paper napkin for me. Often while sitting in a restaurant.

          I once worked for a home improvement store, in the lumber section. I had recently gotten my engineering degree, but was having trouble finding work. It was always fun to have a customer come in wanting "some wood" (them not knowing what they wanted). I'd design their project on a tiny notepad, jot down a materials list, then help them get the items. They'd leave with the design, everything they needed, and a great impression.

          1. Nick Kew Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: Set up Guide?

            I've met you. Several of you.

            Go in to DIY store, not knowing exactly what I can get but looking for a 'best available match' to my needs. Shop assistant takes it upon himself to liven up his day improvising design for something bearing little relation to what I want. By the time he's thrust the helpful design on me, I just want to get away, so take the path of least resistance and thank him for the brilliant design.

      4. KittenHuffer

        Taken to the extreme that can be SCARY!!!!

        I shall relate the tale of a laptop ending up at the Helldesk that looked like some alien robot AI had been trying to copulate with the PCMCIA socket. It turned out that the cause was the (l)user trying to remove the drive card that was installed (ultimately with needle nosed pliers) because they were curious about it. The scary part is that the (l)user was a surgeon!

    2. jmch Silver badge

      " taken his shiny new mouse apart to see how it works?"

      I'm assuming this was an old 'ball' mouse and disassembling wasn't even required. A mechanical engineer SHOULD be able to turn the thing over and work out the relation between mouse movement and mouse ball movement, even without having to remove the mouse ball and mess around with the rollers.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        "A mechanical engineer SHOULD be able to turn the thing over and work out the relation between mouse movement and mouse ball movement, even without having to remove the mouse ball and mess around with the rollers."

        Yeah, but where's the fun in that!

        1. JulieM Silver badge
          Boffin

          If you have to ask where the fun is in discovering how something works, even when the destructive potential is a minimum, you're probably not engineer material.

          Hell, if you can look at something without wondering "How does that work?" and not because you already know how it works, you're probably not engineer material.

          If I have seen further than others, it was because I was standing on a huge pile of failed experiments .....

          1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

            Hell, if you can look at something without wondering "How does that work?" and not because you already know how it works, you're probably not engineer material.

            I've always understood the maxim to be "if you can look at a piece of machinery and not figure out a way to weaponise it, then you're not engineer material."

          2. KittenHuffer

            Reminds me of the old joke .....

            The engineering graduate says "How does it work?"

            The business graduate says "How much money can I make from it?"

            The arts graduate says "Would you like fries with that?"

            1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Reminds me of the old joke .....

              What's the difference between a Mechanical Engineer and a Civil Engineer?

              Mechanical Engineers build weapons, Civil Engineers build targets.

            2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

              Re: Reminds me of the old joke .....

              The arts graduate says "Let's make digital art" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RWop0Gln24)

              or

              The arts graduate says "Let's write blogs, stories, online news, tweets, cat memes..."

            3. KittenHuffer

              Re: Reminds me of the old joke .....

              Warning!!!!

              There are at least 2 arts graduates surfing our website!

              If you see them please ask them to leave!

          3. PM from Hell
            Joke

            If I have seen further than others, it was because I was standing on a huge pile of broken kit - ftfy

            1. JulieM Silver badge

              Not quite

              Some of my (everyone's?) successful experiments started out as broken kit. It just ended up less broken when I had finished with it .....

          4. USER100

            Ah yes, Newton's famous quote: "if I have seen further than others, it was because I was using a telescope"

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      It's harsh to blame users when they're faced with new kit and a totally alien way of working but what kind of engineer is 'Phil'

      I wondered the same thing. The first PC's in the company I worked for at the time went to two people: myself (technical writer) and the chief engineer who was gentleman (in the truest form) in his late 60's. First things he did were to open the case and snoop around and then tore apart the mouse. Meantime, I was sorting software out for both of us. When our IT department (mainfraime and terminal types) finally took responsibility for the company PC's (a long drawn out battle but they finally had to), he taught them all they needed to know and then some about the boxen. I worked with them on software up to a point. Didn't go anywhere the accounting department as they were (by their request) the last department to get PC's

    4. swm Bronze badge

      In college on the Dartmouth time sharing system I saw a user enter their user number and patiently wait for the computer to respond. They didn't know that you had to hit "return". This is not stupidity but unfamiliarity with the new technology.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Considering a mouse is a mechanical interface, I wouldhave thought any, even less than average engineer would have looked underneath, seen the ball and waggled with his fingers.

    Seeing that the bsll needed to roll further would be obvious to an engineer. I have never met a mechanical engineer who was afraid to fiddle with things or take them apart, it's what we do.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      I would have said that it should be obvious to non-engineers too.

    2. -tim
      Facepalm

      I use a trackball. I've had people turn it over and try to use it like a mouse.

      My father found a bunch of trackballs cheap that ended up as Christmas presents. After a few weeks of using it, I was wondering why they aren't far more popular. I can't stand to use mice now with the exception of the Blit rat.

  4. Olivier2553 Silver badge

    Maybe talented, but not very curious engineer

    was Phil who did not even look under the mouse to see how it is working.

    Nor very observant either, because during the course of the introduction to the PC, the mouse had been manipulated and raised and lowered several time in front of his eyes. Sure he was focusing more on the screen, but we are talking about people who were already used to computer (replacing one system with a more modern one), so he should have been at ease and able to see outside of the tunnel.

    And the help-desk could have been a bit more enquiring when they received that call.

    1. PM from Hell

      Re: Maybe talented, but not very curious engineer

      The OP did say the call was taken as a lack of Disk space call. He was enquiring but with no remote support tools back then it was always going to require a deskside visit to resolve.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Maybe talented, but not very curious engineer

      I had a very similar problem with someone who had an L-shaped desk and wanted a mousemat big enough to cover the area she needed to work but must follow the contour of the desk.

      Ordered a big mousemat from stores, cut out a square so that it was in an L shape and sent it to her. Heaps of praise for showing such initiative in public service, and all that.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Maybe talented, but not very curious engineer

      Sun workstations - turn the mouse "plate" 90 degrees and watch the fun. The plate was alumin[i]um with different colo[u]red lines vertically and horizontally. The mouse had dual opto sensors, keyed to the lines.

    4. Persona Bronze badge

      Re: Maybe talented, but not very curious engineer

      I've seen smart people use a mouse for the first time and assume from their first few movements that it's an absolute positioning system and not a relative one. They often asked for help when they reached the edge of the mouse mat before the cursor reached the edge of the screen.

  5. ColinPa
    Facepalm

    A modern twist

    We got an amazon fire stick; it looked idiot proof. The first step is to put the batteries in. You obviously press here, and the back should come off. No it didnt. We looked at the instructions - they didn't help, they told us to do what we had already done. So we looked on U-Tube where it had lots of videos of people pressing here, and the back coming off. After about 15 minutes we found it you used the other hand to press here the back comes off really easily - and worked every time. Hold it the original way - and it didnt come off!.

    We have no idea why!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A modern twist

      When I got my first iPhone I spent ages trying to push the mute-switch button into the case to eject the SIM card holder. I had to RTFM to work it out. The shame.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: A modern twist

      I had to Google to work out how to shut a Windows 8 PC down.

      I work in supercomputing...

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: A modern twist

        To be fair, Windows 8 is not the most intuitive of interfaces.

        Of course there is still always Win+R, cmd.exe, shutdown /s /t 0

      2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: A modern twist

        Bah, the first time I had a shufty at Win8, I used win key + R to bring up a command prompt, then typed in shutdown -s -t 00 -f

        Classic Shell sorted the missing shutdown command out.

        1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

          Re: A modern twist

          Classic shell is a disease that needs to be eradicated.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: A modern twist

            Don't confuse the symptom with the disease. I thought it was the need for classic shell that needed to be eradicated.

          2. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: A modern twist

            You spelled "Metro Interface" wrong

          3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: A modern twist

            Why, if a user wants to run a different Shell on Windows then it should be their choice?

      3. defiler Silver badge

        Re: A modern twist

        A dozen upvotes so far. I've worked with Windows servers since 1996, and I had to look up how to shutdown Server 2012 - much the same thing.

        Stupid "charms"... It was so intuitive that they did away with it for 2012R2.

        1. PM from Hell

          Re: A modern twist

          I spent an entertaining 20 minutes watching a Couple of SQL Server DBA's do the same thing. It was the only 2012 server in the whole estate, nothing else was upgraded to 2012 until 2012r2 came out.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: A modern twist

        "I had to Google to work out how to shut a Windows 8 PC down"

        "Phil", being a mechanical engineer, would have used a hammer.

        1. ROC

          Re: A modern twist

          Nah - just turn off the power strip...

      5. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: A modern twist

        "I had to Google to work out how to shut a Windows 8 PC down."

        Please tell me that the solution you settled on was "with an axe"

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: A modern twist

          Yes, an axe is marginally more intuitive than early Windows where to stop the computer, you first click start :-)

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: A modern twist

            @John Brown (no body) - so "early Windows" now encompasses '95? Damn, I'll getting old!

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Windows

              Re: A modern twist

              "Damn, I'll getting old!"

              Yes, we are! Win95 is closer to the birth of Windows than today.

          2. elgarak1

            Re: A modern twist

            "Yes, an axe is marginally more intuitive than early Windows where to stop the computer, you first click start :-)"

            Windows 8 has had NO graphical indicator to reach the 'start screen' on the 'desktop screen', and no graphical indicator to reach the shutdown/lock/sleep etc. functions anywhere.

            Such indicators only appear if you move the mouse to certain areas of the screen, like screen edges or corners, but even then it's far from obvious what those icons that appear do exactly, and it is easy to loose the appearing icons (if memory serves, to reach the start screen, you had to click NEAR the bottom left corner, but not EXACTLY in the corner.)

      6. Lilolefrostback

        Re: A modern twist

        "I had to Google to work out how to shut a Windows 8 PC down.

        I work in supercomputing..."

        There is nothing super about Windows.

        1. lampbus

          Re: A modern twist

          Some years ago my father upgraded from his old cuboid shaped Apple Mac to a new mushroom shaped Apple mac. He assembled it and then found a problem ... how do you turn in ON ?

          He called me in and It took me ages to work it out - including reading the manuals.

          Old Apple computer had a power key on the keyboard. New Applce computer did not. Had no similar marked keys ... had no obvious key combination of 'command'+enter etc...

          New Apple did not have any obvious power button or switch - on the base, screen support stem or screen.

          The OLD way was a large rectangular button on the top corner of the keyboard with a 'play' style triangle on it.

          The NEW way to power it on was a tiny round white button flush with the white casing marked with the ISO? 'O/I' embossed symbol ... on the BACK of the base unit tucked up against a connector (possibly USB, not the power lead?).

          Even more helpful was the manual that simply said 'after connecting up as shown in the diagram, power on and follow the easy on screen instructions'. The set-up diagram had all the ports labelled BUT NOT the power button.

  6. Peter Prof Fox
    Pint

    *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

    You can have fizzy crap as cold or as warm as you like -- why would I care? It's your loss. But the Register shouldn't be perpetuating this myth beloved of corporations. (Budweiser advertise the fact they use rice as an ingredient.)

    As Dr Ian Hornsey writes in his seminal Brewing "The ideal temperature for traditional ale is 12-14C." So stick to cellar temperature.

    You don't (do you? Really?) have cheese straight from the fridge. Cider and beer are the same. The only reason white wines are served chilled is ignorance and an attempt to add piquancy to an everyday product!

    If the Register wants to promote standards then remember standards of decency. (Not to be confused with the Whitehouse, the standard of indecency.) I'm ashamed I can't find a large enough fine china cup so I have to use a pottery pint mug for my tea But I still warm the pot first. I propose the Proppacuppa where for example chilled fizzy-crap rates 0.1.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      I prefer my beer ice cold, preferably in a port on Egypt's Mediterranean coast.

      1. Rudolph Hucker the Third
        Joke

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        Alex, is that you?

        <redacted> with Sylvia Syms in the back of the ambulance.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      Beer shouldn't be too cold, otherwise you can't taste it. It shouldn't be warm either, of course. As you say, chilled to cellar temperature is ideal.

      But you hit the nail on the head with the (American version of) Budweiser remark -- some so-called beers should be served cold, otherwise you can taste them.

      The Czech stuff is different.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        Beer shouldn't be too cold, otherwise you can't taste it.

        A publican friend told me that the 'extra cold' versions of the pale brown liquids which claim to be beer are actually cheaper & inferior versions of the regular product....it's intended to be served so cold that the chilliness will hide shortcomings in the taste.

        (purely an academic exercise so far as I'm concerned though - it has to be cellar temperature ale for me)

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

          I have wondered why Guinness Extra Cold (urgh) exists. I assumed it was to sell it to lager drinkers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

            As a proper beer drinker, I'm much more likely to go for Guinness than lager if confronted with a key-only situation. One use I have found for extra cold Guinness was when drinking with a bit of sore throat - the extra coldness was actually quite soothing.

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

              As a proper beer drinker,

              What in all that's sacred is a "proper beer drinker"? I read that term here on El Reg in reference to edibles and drinkables. I've found personally that their is no "proper"... seems only wine, food, and beer snobs use the term. Am I wrong?

          2. Andrew Moore

            Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

            Guinness have been nickel-and-diming their ingredients for years. If it wasn't served cold, you'd notice that it doesn't have much flavour anymore.

    3. Olivier2553 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      To each his own. It shocked me at first, but I have come to the local tradition of drinking beer on ice, else it would warm way too fast (and beer at 30C is not nice, temperature of a nice evening, here, under the tropic). And beers are brewed bitter enough to stand the watering down.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        Where are you Olivier?

        1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

          Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

          In Thailand.

          For me, beer o'clock is almost there, I usually have my reading of on-call toward the end of Friday afternoon... How convenient!

          1. Korev Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

            Cheers -->

      2. Paul Shirley

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        Most drinks designed to drink with ice are sickly sweet and only the dulling of your tastebuds make them palatable at all. The widespread use of corn syrup in barely fermented American 'beers' would make them undrinkable without super cooling. The alcopop abominations should only be consumed frozen on a stick, with a bowl ready for the vomit.

        1. Andrew Moore

          Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

          Also, macro lagers tend to be brewed and bottled/kegged very fast, so not drinking them cold would reveal the acetalydehyde (green apples) and diacetyl (butterscotch) notes that indicate the beer was taken off the yeast far too quickly.

      3. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        The solution to beer warming up fast is to drink faster!

    4. Korev Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      The best houseshare I had when younger had two fridges, one at 0-5c for meat & milk; the other at 12-14c for ale

      1. Trollslayer Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        Civilisation has arrived.

      2. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        For some of the time I lived in Italy I had a three-compartment Fridge/Freezer/Larder. Compartments at 12, 4, and -18 degrees. The larder was primarily for fruit&veg in the hot Italian summer, but suits many other things like cheese, butter, and those drinks that are neither hot nor chilled..

        Here in Blighty those larder compartments have to be bought separately, under the title of "wine coolers".

    5. Mooseman Bronze badge

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      You only warm the pot because historically the china pots were very thin and boiling water risked cracking them. Pre warming the pot reduced that risk.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        "You only warm the pot because historically the china pots were very thin and boiling water risked cracking them."

        Real china - porcelain - didn't crack. It was European stuff that cracked until they worked out how to make something better. Much the same reason for the vile habit of putting milk in cups.

        1. Paul Shirley

          Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

          The floor sweepings passed off as tea in the UK desperately need milk to lock up excess tannins.

        2. Swarthy Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

          No, adding milk to the cup (and not the tea) keeps the first few drops of milk from potentially curdling. Because of fluid dynamics and surface tension, the leading edge always breaks into small droplets that can suffer from a thermal shock when you pour milk into tea. You can avoid this by adding milk to the cup, and tea to the milk. Or by using heavy cream, which flows differently.

          Using powdered "creamer" is not a solution to anything human consumable.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        No you warm the pot, so that your tea stays warm for longer. That's why you also use a tea cosy. This is because the second mug of tea is the nicest. and you wouldn't want it to have gone cold.

        Extra bonus points for lining your tea cosy with tinfoil, so you can use it as head gear in mind-control emergencies where you wish to disguise yourself as a bishop...

        1. davenewman

          Re: He made one mistake

          I put the tea straight away into a vacuum flask. Preferably a super insulated one from IKEA.

        2. TWB

          Tea Cosies

          Apparently the definition of a genius is: someone who left alone in a room with a tea cosy will not try it on.

          [Back to the original subject....]

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      "seminal Brewing"

      ?!

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      Actually, I do eat cheese straight from the fridge.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

        I don't I put it on a slice of bread and butter first.

    8. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: *BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

      Horses for courses[1]. A good pint at cellar temperature, nice for more-or-less any day. It's still nice on those occasional really hot summer days, but then a properly chilled Weizenbier becomes the greater pleasure.

      And that's in Blighty. When I lived in Italy, I completely lost the taste for English ale. Not just in those hot summers, but all year, including the occasional brief return visit to Blighty. I only re-acquired it when I'd been back long enough for my body re-acclimatise.

      [1] and horsepiss for over-dogmatic beer drinkers.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Geez, if faced with this I would have passed the ticket over to the estates/facilities department just for a laugh. Be interesting to see if they would've ordered a bigger desk or not.

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    Ah c'mon

    My son figured out to pick up the mouse and reposition it when he was 4 years old. I call fluff piece on this one...

    Unless said engineer was trying to duck is duties ;-}

    1. dochego

      Re: Ah c'mon

      4 year olds are much better at learning new things than older people.

      I remember introducing my parents to computers some 20+ years ago. The keyboard wasn't a problem (they both had used typewriters before), but understanding the concept of the mouse took some time...

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Ah c'mon

        I'd like a list of the stuff this "engineer" had any finger in making, so I can avoid it, he's a freaking engineer ffs. Like I said, Fluff or he was playing dumb... nuff said

      2. Roger Kynaston
        Go

        Re: Ah c'mon

        Plus one for that. We got a PC for my In-laws. He refused to look at this new fangled stuff. She still struggles with correlating the mouse movement with the cursor on the screen. Also, as a home help she never used a typewriter so really struggles with a keyboard as well. We get very few emails from Jamaica!

      3. BigSLitleP Silver badge

        Re: Ah c'mon

        Also +1'd. I've met several "older generation" clients that couldn't use a mouse or understand how the pointer and the mouse were related. I've had to explain the whole "pick it up and move it" thing a few times.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah c'mon

        My father is 'Pre War' generation(yes, that war), and worked as a boatbuilder,then a hevy machine operator(diggers mostly) his entire life, and never had anything to do with computers until after he retired.

        Then he started helping out on a local non-profit radio, putting together music playlists for them.

        I gave him my old discarded tower and copied over the rather horrid DataEase DB they used...

        One day when I was visiting it had a new CD-burner installed, and he was ripping LPs, using a shareware program to clean up the sound.

        He had done it all himself after he found the SW on a CD stuck to a magazine. He found something that he felt 'needed doing' so went and did it.

        The fact that the manual for the CD-burner and the manal for the SW were both in English didn't faze him. (He only knows a handful of words in English, and odds are that he got most of those wrong)

        These days there's so many computers and accessories in his little 'office' that I'm getting jealous...

        1. ROC

          Re: Ah c'mon

          Your father SHOULD have been an engineer - sounds like a "natural"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ah c'mon

            He could have been, but never had the inclination to study.

            Back when he owned his own digger, he decided that it 'wasn't right', that the balance of the upper section was off a little bit. He cut it off behind the cab and extended it about 4". That's a monumental welding job...

            And yes, the balance was probably off, since the bearings in the join had been damaged once, already.

            (On some machines you'll find TWO hitchpoints centered around the turning point. fasten chains there and it should be possible to lift the entire upper half of the machine without it tipping)

            He also designed and built wood rowboats and small(up to 28') fishing vessels up until the 70s when fibreglass construction becaame too popular.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Ah c'mon

      A four-year-old watches you *far* more than you realise. (This becomes fairly obvious a few years later when they start using it against youj.)

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Ah c'mon

      "My son figured out to pick up the mouse and reposition it when he was 4 years old. I call fluff piece on this one..."

      Are you sure? Toddlers are VERY observant. It's a primary method of learning. Monkey see, monkey do.

    4. John R. Macdonald

      Re: Ah c'mon

      @chivo243

      I don't. I've personally seen someone freak out when the mouse reached the edge of the pad.

  9. ToFab

    Medival helpdesk

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHX-SjgQvQ

  10. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Hysteric Scotland

    I was told that Historic Scotland ordered a replica desk/table for a 19th. century ex-military *building. These things are made by craftsmen to be as original as possible. I can't remember the exact details but they had got their units wrong, measured in inches but made in millimetres. At great expense the tiny table was delivered!

    *These were built to keep the Yankees out!

    Fun fact. When the original (very heavy) cannons became obsolete the navy used them as moorings. One was fished out of a river somewhere, refurbished and reinstalled on the Martello tower. A big event was going to be the firing of the cannon with people in period costume etc. After a countdown the cannon was fired but unknown to us the people of the adjacent island of Flotta had got hold of some maroons and "retaliated"! Much booms and laughter ensued.

    Worth a visit, these towers are actually quite sophisticated structures.

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

    1. SminkyBazzA

      Re: Hysteric Scotland

      I had no idea what a "maroon" was, so I found this: https://web.archive.org/web/20090515184959/https://www.burnham-on-sea.com/rnli/maroons.html

      1. ChrisC
        Mushroom

        Re: Hysteric Scotland

        As a child of the 70's, my education on what a maroon is came from the Protect and Survive public information films.

        1. Outski

          Re: Hysteric Scotland

          Also a child of the 70's, growing up in a seaside town, the maroons were bloody load bangs that summoned the local lifeboat crew; two bangs, just in case (as if) a crew member missed the first. As explained in BazzA's link, they're not really used anymore

        2. keithpeter
          Windows

          Re: Hysteric Scotland

          Similar age range, grew up along the banks of the Mersey.

          They fired maroons (two, spaced 10 or 15 seconds apart) when they needed the lifeboat crew to assemble. 1960s/70s version of a screen notification?

          Edit: Outski got there first...

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Hysteric Scotland

        And here I thought "maroon" was the way Bugs Bunny pronounced "moron". Learn something new every day here. Have a cold one for the education.

    2. CodyJarrett

      Re: Hysteric Scotland

      "I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem may have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. Alright? That tended to understate the hugeness of the object."

      1. mrbeardy

        Re: Hysteric Scotland

        Its not your job to be as confused as Nigel

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Anybody superglued a mouse to a desk as a prank yet?

    1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

      That would be too easy to spot.

      Now, replace the ball with one that is just slightly undersized...

      When the victim picks-up the mouse and returns it to see what is happening, that should be enough for the ball to get in contact with the rollers and the cursor would move when the ball is rotated. Put the mouse back in the right orientation, the ball falls and loose contact and the cursor is immobile.

      1. DBH

        Any time I'm the last one out of the office I make my last duty to randomly swap about any wireless mice I find. They all look the same, causes chaos the next morning

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          That is an utterly evil and horrible thing to do.

          Thanks for the tip :-)

      2. Swarthy Silver badge
        Devil

        Scotch tape over the mouse ball. Still works on optical mice.

    2. BigSLitleP Silver badge

      Yes. Also switched mice on back-to-back desks. Also swapped mouse balls. Also put a bit of post it note across a laser mouse. Also swapped wireless mice. Much fun to be had in an office while bored.

      1. 0laf Silver badge

        Yep post-it on an optical mouse is always a nice quick and easy prank

        1. defiler Silver badge

          My son drew a troll-face on a bit of paper and taped it to my mouse. 9 years old. Wee bugger...

    3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Anybody superglued a mouse to a desk as a prank yet?

      No, but my brother *did* use double-stick tape on someone's.

  12. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
    Boffin

    Teaching

    Many organisations spent a lot of time and money deleting Solitaire from Windows 95 not realising what a fantastic tool it was to help newbies learn mouse skills.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Teaching

      Many organisations spent a lot of time and money deleting Solitaire from Windows 95 not realising what a fantastic tool it was to help newbies learn mouse skills.

      I vaguely recall hearing that the games in Windows -- it may only have been Minesweeper -- were specially commissioned at Bill Gates's request for that very purpose.

      1. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Teaching

        Minesweeper which requires right click to flag mined squares specifically designed to troll Apple fanbois who only have one mouse button.

        p.s. the games run on Windows 10 if you extract them from the Original 95 CD (I think they lasted up to Windows 7), and yes, while you can get them from the Microsoft Store, they're not the same.

        1. Cynical Pie

          Re: Teaching

          I seem to remember Nokia or some other company did a study back in the 90s/early 00s where they allowed 50% of their staff to use the pre-installed games on windows and the took them off the pcs of the rest when they refreshed their IT kit.

          After an initial drop off the staff with the games ended up being more productive. Makes sense as without something to take your mind off the report your writing or the like you will find other ways to waste time whereas those with the games work far harder as they don't want to be seen to be wasting too much time gaming so put in extra effort to get their work done... well that was the theory anyway!

    2. ROC

      Re: Teaching

      Thinking that started with Windows 3.0 that my workplace started to roll out a bit, but really took off with 3.1, then everyone was "killing" time with it (while I mostly fooled with getting 3270 terminal emulators to do my IBM mainframe VM/XA operating system support....).

  13. Dave559

    Paper mill

    Given that it was the 1990s, I'm hoping that the unfortunate paper mill engineer's full pseudonym was Phil O'Fax?

  14. rpawsey

    Another early mouse example

    I remember rolling win 3.x pcs out and having to run classes in how to use the interface.

    It was common to see people put the poise up to the curser on the screen the first time they tried to navigate.

    1. MCMLXV

      Eh?

      "poise"?

      "curser"?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Devil

        Re: Eh?

        I tried to stand on tiptoes, but I fucking fell over!

  15. MassiveBob
    Angel

    Common Problem

    Running out of desk space to move the mouse is a common problem for me as my desk seems to be perpetually cluttered with "stuff" (rubbish??).

    I have recently mitigated the problem by purchasing a trackball mouse: Since I no longer need to move the mouse, I just need to clear a space big enough to fit the mouse.

    Needless to say, my manager, who is constantly hassling me to tidy my desk, was not impressed.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Common Problem

      I have a similar issue, but mine is a result of my desk-neighbour's stuff encroaching on my side. Every so often I just shove it all back, but that's only temporary.

      The paperless office that was promised us in the 80s is still a fantasy.

      1. KittenHuffer

        Re: Common Problem

        They say that a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind ...... in which case I'm about as sick as it's possible to get.

        I run an A4 notebook and a Dilberts calendar, and that's the limit of paper on my desk. If I can't do it on a screen I ain't interested.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: Common Problem

          If I can't do it on a screen I ain't interested.

          I don't hold with all this sex on television!

          I keep falling off.

          [Mine's the one with the Monty Python script book in the pocket]

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Common Problem

          Very little of the clutter on my desk is paperwork-related, but it's still cluttered nevertheless!

      2. swm Bronze badge

        Re: Common Problem

        When I worked for a living there was a security audit of my very messy office. When I found the audit a week later I noted they checked all of the boxes (papers not locked up etc.) including the box that I passed. So I ignored it. My boss said my office was pretty secure - nobody else could find anything.

      3. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Common Problem

        The Paperless Office was going great, until somebody invented the laser printer. This was a machine for producing lots of high quality scrap paper, as good looking as a Daisy Wheel printer, faster than a Dot Matrix printer, and quietly enough not to be annoying.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Common Problem

      Needless to say, my manager, who is constantly hassling me to tidy my desk, was not impressed

      There's a couple of signs that hung in the right place might help:

      1) "A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind."

      2) "A clean desk is the sign of work not being done."

      Manglement might snort but they usually walk away without interfering again.

      1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
        Angel

        Re: Common Problem

        At one office where I worked, they had a "Clean Desk" policy, you had to remove every scrap of paper and put it away in a drawer before you left the desk for _any_ reason (even to nip to the loo). I solved the problem by obtaining a toughened glass tabletop and placing it on my desk. Any papers I wanted to have easily to hand, such as internal phone directory, reference lists, notes regarding upcoming appointments, were simply arranged tidily underneath the glass top, and current work could then be spread out over the top. When it was time to "clear the desk", all the stuff on top was filed in a drawer, but the stuff underneath stayed put. I was taken to task by the manager, he said I shouldn't be leaving sensitive info on display, but I pointed out that everybody had access to that info anyway, so it was not sensitive. He then said that the cleaners would not be able to clean my desk because of the clutter, so I took a duster and wiped it clean in front of him. I kept that desk as was until I moved to a more enlightened office, where one was not required to keep a clean desk.

    3. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Common Problem

      Needless to say, my manager, who is constantly hassling me to tidy my desk, was not impressed.

      There are two kinds of desks. Empty, and those where work is done at.

  16. Steven Guenther

    Bizarre mouse behaviour

    The company I worked for gave out mouse pads at trade shows.

    They were really cool looking with holograms on the front.

    They worked well with the old mice with balls.

    When the optical mice came along, the holograms played havoc with them.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tale of a user I was tasked to use a mouse, ... and totally failed

    This was early 90s and all those highly trained techs were moving to SUN sparcstation for their daily work.

    I was very junior there, and once tasked to do a mouse/destokp mgmt training for those 6 users.

    I showed them, to move the mouse, click, double click, etc ...

    Went well, then this was this lady's turn to practise (disclaimer, she was very brilliant in her work, had tons of diploms, but this thing was really new for her, and, well, she just happened to be a lady).

    I kind you not, 15 mins she spent, after explanation, and she never reached cursor to icon ! Came 5 cms away once, yes, but never was able to click.

    I think here ability to correlate hand movement and her view was a bit lacking since she spent a considerable time to stare at her hand ...

    But yeah, failed !

  18. williamsth

    Reminds me the time I had a call from a user who insisted the software they were double clicking on just wasn't opening. After climbing 3 flights of stairs and walking across the office, I turned on their second screen which was switched off, turned around and left.

  19. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Joke

    Where's your initiative?

    Obviously, if you run out of desk space, you need to improvise. Find something you can attach to the desk that'll continue over the edge and so extend the surface usable by the mouse!

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Where's your initiative?

      Can't you have a spherical mousemat so you never reach the edge ?

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Where's your initiative?

        I tried that with a Klein bottle, but I couldn't get my hand round it. So I fixed the mouse and rotated the mat instead. Of course that had the mouse pointer going the wrong way, so I had to fix that in software.

  20. earl grey Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    reminds me of the proper way to clean mouse balls

    I just took a hint from her.

  21. JimboZef

    Fun from the old days

    My favourite when we were teaching people how mice work: You know when you're waiting for something to install and you spin the mouse around in circle just for fun? When people asked why I did that I spread the story that you had to do that to keep your mouse charged. Cut to the joyful sight of 30 people all spinning their mice in the office to "keep them charged" Simpler times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fun from the old days

      You know, if we still used ball mice, that might be a viable way to power it. Use the rollers to generate power to recharge the battery. The more you use it, the more power it has. Now, how to adapt that to a laser mouse...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mouse and my dear mom

    My mom is a smart lady, but when she was learning on her first computer, she had the mouse in her hand, waving it around in the air complaining it wouldn't move (on the screen). I had to show her how to move the mouse on a surface. Very funny.

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