back to article Behold the perils of trying to turn the family and friends support line into a sideline

Friday! At last! And with Friday comes the promise of the weekend and the reality of The Register's weekly dip into the big bag of On Call experiences. Today's tale of callout calamity comes from a reader we'll call "Sam" and deals with a situation familiar to oh so many of our readership: the freebie friends and family …

  1. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Woke up in the morning... Got the On Call blues

    The telecom giant in question has a name that kind of rhymes with "Bum Blast", although Sam suggested a slightly, er, bluer pseudonym.

    Cumcast?

    1. Psmo Bronze badge
      Linux

      Re: Woke up in the morning... Got the On Call blues

      Cumcast?

      That just sounds messier.

      Coldblast or Comfrost might be bluer ?

      1. Evil_Goblin

        Re: Woke up in the morning... Got the On Call blues

        Cnutcast I think is the common one?

    2. sbt Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      I'm gonna say Cumblast.

      Well, I'll whisper it, anyway.

    3. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Woke up in the morning... Got the On Call blues

      Done right a cum blast is fun. A wet bum blast is never fun.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Woke up in the morning... Got the On Call blues

        Depends which direction the wet blast is going relative to the bum.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Woke up in the morning... Got the On Call blues

          Well...

          Your kink is not my kink but, you do you.

  2. A K Stiles Silver badge
    Coat

    F&F discount

    They don't ask so much these days - either 'cos I now live further away from most of them than the nearer tech-savvy relative, or because are either competent themselves, or have their own relative nearby to call on.

    So much so that I don't even have the cable tester resident in my laptop bag any more. (though there is a spare cable in there, just in case - always start with crappy cables!)

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: F&F discount

      "always start with crappy cables"

      Indeed. As Bayesian statistics will tell you, do not always start investigating the most likely fault, if that fault is hard to determine. Less likely, but quick & easy to diagnose faults are best to eliminate first if you want to minimise the average time to fix issues...

    2. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: F&F discount

      I used to live 5 minutes away from my Father. Now I'm about an hour away, I've had a better argument for getting him used to sending remote assistance invitations my way. The downside is I no longer get a free home cooked dinner every time there is a niggle on the network, so to speak.

      Its one of the few reasons that I use Windows still - so I can remember where everything is when I need to do it to F+F machines.

      Now I just need to actually get him to migrate to using the password manager I got him to install. Baby steps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: F&F discount

        My standard rates for friends & family are:

        Phone calls/emails: free

        Have to physically touch the computer: feed me a meal (pizza, something homemade, gift card for a restaurant, whatever)

        Virus removal: cash. Period.

        Only exception is my parents, who have given me enough free meals in my life that they've preemptively paid for a LOT of hands-on support...

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: F&F discount

          Only exception is my parents, who have given me enough free meals in my life that they've preemptively paid for a LOT of hands-on support...

          And if your parents are anything like my mother, they will still insist on feeding you whenever you drop by, whether it is for their computer or not.

          1. jmch Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: F&F discount

            "if your parents are anything like my mother, they will still insist on feeding you whenever you drop by"

            I think that's literally all mothers everywhere. When I first moved out, every time I would visit home teh first question I would get would be "are you eating enough?"

            I love you, mum!

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: F&F discount

          I used to do Virus removal for friends and family. Nowadays I tell them to throw the computer away and buy a new one: it will be cheaper than me spending 3 hours only to find that it was the ‘nice man who swore he was from BT tried to fix my computer and only charged me £200’.

          1. Cirdan
            Linux

            Re: F&F discount

            Throw it away? If it's just a virus?

            NO!

            Nuke and pave with Linux Mint (or your favorite flavour).

            Sorted. Long term.

            ...Cirdan...

            1. MatthewSt
              Devil

              Re: F&F discount

              Definitely. One way to stop being asked to provide tech support is to change things beyond recognition, announce that it's better, then leave

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: F&F discount

                Friends and family don't get that all people that work in IT don't do desktop support. Helping people for me is a lot of googling for solutions. I'm not a first line guy.

                Many hours have been wasted when I've gone for a quick look at something and it turned out to be a nightmare that they've caused by messing with something that they deny ever doing.

                Pity I can't just say "raise a ticket".

              2. Phil W

                Re: F&F discount

                "One way to stop being asked to provide tech support is to change things beyond recognition, announce that it's better, then leave"

                Install Windows 8.1 then

        3. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

          Re: F&F discount

          Virus removal: Reinstall the OS. Full stop.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: F&F discount

        "Its one of the few reasons that I use Windows still - so I can remember where everything is when I need to do it to F+F machines."

        Just convert them to Linux (Zorin for that market). Otherwise they're on their own.

      3. herman Silver badge

        Re: F&F discount

        I bought my mother in law a Macbook Air. Problem solved. Zero support calls in a heck of a long time.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: F&F discount

          I find it doesn't matter what they use. Buying a MacBook air can't avoid network/ISP problems and it definitely doesn't fix problems caused by the website/resource they are trying to access.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Gimp

          Re: F&F discount

          About once per year, my mums AIr decides to jam whatever wifi network it is connected to; so no one else can connect.

          Apple insist there is nothing wrong with it.

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: F&F discount

      We're with Bom Bast in rural New England and their local office isn't bad to be fair. However the technical support from whichever call centre we get routed to has proved to be worse than useless sometimes. For example I had to explain something several times to the last bloke I spoke to because he didn't get it. The supposedly super duper modern/router was not giving acceptable wifi signal. It had a range of one room in a wooden house which is pathetic frankly. I knew the thing was defective but his remote tests were contradicting my evidence. No amount of suggestions from me that a replacement box would be in order worked for him.

      I was told not to take it back to the office because we wouldn't get another one.So we took it back to the office and asked for a new one which when I explained the problem the girl happily agreed to do. They also refuse to send bills outside the USA and cut us off phone, Tv and all because the direct debit had failed one month whilst we weren't in the country.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: F&F discount

        Here on the west coast of the US, Spectrum is the same damn way. You call, you get a scripted desk jockey with a heavy accent who couldn't find his/her ass in the dark with both hands and a flashlight. Go into the office, wait in queue a bit and problem gets solved.

        The worst example was smoke came out of the router (or so I thought, I smelled it and the internet connection died. Desk jockey just wanted to me to reboot it. Repeatedly. Took the box in and a tech was dispatched the next day with parts containing fresh smoke who tested everything and replaced the defective part which actually was little power transformer that plugs into my power strip.

        <rant off>

        1. bpfh Silver badge

          Re: F&F discount

          Noos-Numericable in France with cable routers. Any problem that takes more than 5 minutes ended with “you must reinstall windows”.

          - Cable box down the street hit by a car taking out 128 subscribers? No I can see your modem on my monitoring. Please try reinstalling.

          - traceroute going 8 hops down the line and hitting an endless loop between 2 routers named xx.core.numericable.com and yy.core.numericable.com? Reinstall windows

          - traceroute going 6 or 7 hops down the line and dying on another core router? You will need to reinstall windows.

          - proprietary power brick for their Motorola cable modem overheating and “vacforming” the internal components and melting plastic pooling on the floor? Reinstall windows....

          All true stories unfortunately.

        2. wjake

          Re: F&F discount

          Good grief, why does anyone rent a router from their cable company anymore? Especially those who read and post on El Reg? Find your providers equipment list and go with something better than the crap they charge you for month after month. I've been doing this since my Verizon DSL days (had my own modem, too) and have never had a serious support problem with VZ or Cox. It helps if you are a higher level customer, in terms of speed or overall package, as Cox gives you a separate support line that bypasses the level 1 drone support. And being a bronze/silver/gold poster helps too! :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: F&F discount

            (I'm the one who asked the TR-069 question)

            I actually DID buy my router. (Why ever rent? 10 months rental is as much as a new unit!) But because I'm on "bonded" DSL (essentially two separate DSL lines on the two pairs of phone wires, all going to one phone jack), there's only 2 modems CenturyLink will support and handle the speeds I'm working with. Both are Actiontel brand, and as far as I know, can only be bought through CenturyLink. I can only assume the other one has non-disableable TR-069 as well. So not really a good option on this one.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: F&F discount

        I am with the company that apparently are "they who shall not be named" correctly, and have not had much difficulty - but the best tech support I ever got from them was one evening when I, after having received two bum modems in a row from them (being in the computer repair and networking industry I can sort of identify when a modem is bad) and then get told by the local office that I would have to pay for a tech to come out because there was obviously something wrong with the cables inside the house, I called their tech support line. It just so happened that they had a US call center in a college town that had a bunch of techie types working their way through school, and after conversing with me for about 30 seconds, he said "ok, let me read the mandatory "20 questions" list really fast, then I will issue a replacement ticket.

        Now, of course, I own my hardware, but for several years I told my customers that if they needed to call "they who shall not be named" correctly, they should call in the evening.

    4. Glen 1 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: F&F discount

      "always start with crappy cables!"

      Ah yes, the old Layer One problem.

      No amount of ping/traceroute/CCNA'ing can save you from a backhoe. Supposed separate points of ingress... grumble grumble

      Mines the hoppyest thing they have that isn't Lager.

      1. bpfh Silver badge

        Re: F&F discount

        Layer one issue caused by a level 8 failure...

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Twas ever thus

    Computer, Audio, Telephone. It's all the same. I'm convinced that the idea of connecting cables was an invention of Satan himself for unending torture of humanity.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Twas ever thus

      Evidently then, you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices with the oh so wrong slightly different and certainly not user friendly options?

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Twas ever thus

        That's just his warm-up for when he triggers the 'Final Ultimate Computer Killing IT' (tm) meltdown due in -click- NO CARRIER

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Twas ever thus

          That will just automatically be triggered if and when Brexit finally does happen.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

        in my case, my samsung camera wouldn't talk via bluetooth or wifi to samsung phone and samsung telly (I'm anything but a Samsung fan, it was just a coincidence). They were all from around the same time. It never worked in any combination and settings. Seeing, but not talkin'. Generally, this also applies to my W7 lenovo laptop, with and without the latest updates and patches and whatnot, I think I only managed to transfer a couple of files from my mobile over bluetooth to my laptop ONCE. The glacial speed (after much faffing) taught me better to just reach for a f... cable. Forget trying to pair this machine with a (pair of ;) bluetooth headphones, nocando. Or rather, pairing works, it's paired allright, but no f... sound! (again, having gone through all possible sound panel options, settings and boxes).

        p.s. usual mobile/headphones pairing works flawlessly, all mobiles, all headphones, in any combination. I hate you Microsoft!

        1. irrelevant

          Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

          Ah, the joys of tech that should be compatible not being so.

          In the dining room, I've got an LG TV and an LG DVD player.

          Connect the player to HDMI1, switch it on, TV switches to HDMI2. Connect it to HDMI2, turn it on, TV switches to HDMI1.

          I never did work out what was causing that.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

            Simple cause: your TV doesn't want to watch the DVD you chose.

            1. AlbertH
              Coat

              Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

              Probably a very "smart TV"!

          2. herman Silver badge

            Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

            You need a Y cable so you can plug into both HDMI ports...

            1. Tim99 Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

              It’ll just try to connect to HDMI3...

        2. Gordon861

          Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

          Last night I spent hours trying to get a wireless Xbox controller to pair with a PC.

          Just needs a Bluetooth dongle, bollocks, the computer can see the controller it just won't pair, keeps asking for a PIN number, tried the standard 0000 or 1111 etc no luck. Further searching on the web suggests updating the firmware, nope all up to date. The last thing I found before giving up was, it needs Bluetooth 4 to work, oh great buy another dongle in the hope it might work, or just give up and run it from a cable.

          Went for option 3, took it back to Currys for a refund.

          1. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

            I found out that not all bu e tooth device will connect to PC Ironically I have a wireless game controller that I use for my android tablet. It says it will not work with a PC. It does, but it simulates a keyboard and mouse

        3. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

          That bloody Kies desktop software that despite being listed as compatible with my Samsung feature phone never ever worked. Despite checking the internet and asking other Samsung users at work nothing, nada, not a clue.

          1. herman Silver badge

            Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

            Aha, seems like I was not alone. I solved the problem by buying a Jesus Phone.

          2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

            The resting state of the awful Samsung Kies software is that it does not work. On random occasion it may work and the unfortunate victim/user will then find themselves suffering with one of the worst interfaces and applications ever to be vomitted out of even Samsung (great hardware, appalling software and in particular user interfaces).

            Generally, use anything except Kies.

            1. Oh Matron!

              Re: you've never tried to connect wifi/bluetooth to devices

              Pfffffffffffftttttttt.....

              Back in the early 2000s, getting a Palm Pilot to talk to a Motorola L7089 over IR, using CGDCONT AT commands....

              Those were the days...

              Paul

              PS: AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","APN","0.0.0.0",0,0; If you were interested

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Twas ever thus

      It all went to hell when we started sending data down cables. Oh for the days of punched cards and no networks

      1. Hero Protagonist

        Re: Twas ever thus

        “Oh for the days of punched cards”

        ...says the person who never dropped a deck of punched cards

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: ...says the person who never dropped a deck of punched cards

          ...says the person who never asked what the big machine at the back of the room labeled "interpreter" was for.

          1. Nolveys Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: ...says the person who never dropped a deck of punched cards

            It turned out that it was just a paper shredder manufactured by Interpreter Co. Ltd.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Twas ever thus

          "says the person who never dropped a deck of punched cards"

          You never used sequence numbers and a card sorter?

        3. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

          Re: Twas ever thus

          There was an easy solution for those dropped piles punch cards:

          Use an Edding and mark them on the side with a few stripes. Makes sorting them much easier.

          But don't take it from me, take it from Professor Brailsford: https://www.youtube.com/user/Computerphile/search?query=punch+cards

        4. henryd

          Re: Twas ever thus

          Or wrapped miles of baudot paper tape around the legs of a chair...

        5. Scroticus Canis
          Facepalm

          Re: "...says the person who never dropped a deck of punched cards"

          Ah, floor-sorting a 5,000+ card COBOL compilation run; the good old days :)

          Remember the fun to be had with those hand powered card punches where multiple keys had to be pressed concurrently? Always some snafu before the end of the line was reached.

          Or calling the h/w engineers because some tosser had sellotaped a chard back in place as a correction. Really upset the card reader feed mechanism rollers.

          1. Andy A

            Re: "...says the person who never dropped a deck of punched cards"

            Once found a hand punch rusting away at another site. I grabbed it and rebuilt it, as they were like gold dust at our site. This one even had the little tab stops.

            Having cleaned the rust off, it was time to re-assemble.

            Imagine trying to line up TWELVE closely-fitting metal punches with their respective holes, all at once, with strong springs trying to stop you getting them in position.

            I vowed never to do another.

            Some models of card reader let you get away with thumbnailing a chad back into a mis-punched hole. One of the fancier ones though turned the card through a U shape ready to stack. They needed the little self-adhesive metal foil things. Otherwise PING !

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Twas ever thus

        Ah punched cards. At least they were useful after you were done with the program. I made a night stand for my alarm clock while at college. I still use it. It is six sided and has a drawer for my glasses.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Twas ever thus

          Somehow the litter of discarded punched cards in city streets has gone the way of miles of cassette tape abandoned down roadsides.... Things are a little less litter prone these days!

          As for the millions of chads from punched cards and what happens when the container for those was dropped... eek. Impressive, but very messy. Lucky for me, I was on the very tail end of such horrors.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Twas ever thus

      "I'm convinced that the idea of connecting cables was an invention of Satan himself for unending torture of humanity."

      It's a quantum thing. Cables generate spontaneously and are always entangled. They are in a state of superposition in that they could be anything until you open the box and find that whatever's inside has at least one wrong termination.

      1. Electronics'R'Us Bronze badge
        Thumb Up

        Cable entanglement

        Many years ago I postulated my law of dissociated cables

        Any two or more independent cables placed in close proximity will spontaneously entangle

        1. irrelevant

          Re: Cable entanglement

          My dad used to have a box of useful bits of string ...

          It was always quicker to hunt down a new length of it than to try to disentangle a piece from the box..

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Cable entanglement

          "Any two or more independent cables placed in close proximity will spontaneously entangle"

          They'll also produce offspring.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Cable entanglement

            It's a handy way of producing those hard to find cross-breed cables too.

          2. Montreal Sean

            Re: Cable entanglement

            Often that offspring will be damaged in some small way that will only be discovered after you've managed to separate it from the bunch...

        3. Peter X

          Re: Cable entanglement

          "Any two or more independent cables placed in close proximity will spontaneously entangle"

          *Except* whilst being observed. So presumably some kind of quantum event where attempting to in some way measure the event, affects the event itself?

          I'd previously, and presumably erroneously, blamed it on "cable elves", who, as we all know, only come out at night.

        4. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Cable entanglement

          I've always felt that all the evidence you need that life can spontaneously assemble itself from chemicals is the way you can carefully place two cables in a box, leave them undisturbed for a while, then find them hopelessly snarled when you need them..

        5. Diogenes Silver badge

          Re: Cable entanglement

          There is the Diogenes corollary...

          Every cable you buy is around 1/3 linguine* too short & you end up with between 5 & 35 linguine* of 'excess' ready to loop around a foot , or chair leg/roller

          For some reason (age?) I am still more comfortable with feet & inches for anything smaller than a metre & had to convert to REG units so I wasn't mixing up inches & metres

        6. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Cable entanglement

          Sometimes I feel I may have a bit of CDO (OCD but in the correct order) and near-religiously use cable ties on cables. Rather too many years experience of quantum entanglement at a large scale...

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Twas ever thus

        Yes. Any combination of cables put into a dark cupboard, however far apart, will become entangled in the one part of the cupboard that you specifically didn't use because it already contained something complex and/or delicate.

      3. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Twas ever thus

        So that's what quantum entanglement is all about. Excellent.

        1. herman Silver badge

          Re: Twas ever thus

          It is Schrodinger Quantum Entanglement. It only settles into the most inconvenient state the moment you open the box.

          1. Mephistro Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Twas ever thus

            Then this effect's name should be "Schrodinger-Murphy Quantum Entanglement".

    4. shedied

      Re: Twas ever thus

      Humanity? But we're talking about IT people here!

      Oh wait...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obligatory XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/627/

    I used to do this kind of thing in my teenage years for a short spell. My best call out was to a 'broken printer' from a friend of a friend. Quickly noticed that the print queue had a lot in, so cleared it out and that fixed the issue. Total time about a minute and a half. Very pleased to have set a minimum call out charge...

    1. Hopalong
      Happy

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      The mother of my daughters best friend asked me pop around as her printer was not working and she needed it for work.

      Walked in, took one look and pressed the 'WiFi on' button.

      1. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        I had a similar one - small wifi printer wasn't working. I looked at the print queue, and found that it was trying to print a 25gb file, and had been trying for some time. Deleted the monster picture, all was fine.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          The converse of that, back in the days of CP/M etc. Called in at a computer dealer and found them in some consternation. Printer spewing out realms of an unwanted document despite them having switched off the computer to try to stop it. They hadn't grasped the idea of a buffer in the printer.

      2. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        Turned up to a small business on a farm. The bank had been out to set them up with "Online Banking" (yeah - it wasn't yesterday), but they bank tech couldn't get anything to print. After he'd left, the company owner realised that nothing could print, so I took a wee spin down to East Lothian on the motorbike on a sunny day.

        Walked in. Noticed the printer cable unplugged at the back of the PC. Showed it to the owner, plugged it in, printed.

        I got to see just how shoddy bank techs were (are?), and a nice little pootle out in the sunshine, and the business owner happily instructed me to put the invoice in for whatever we saw fit and he'd ram it down the bank's throat.

        Ah - that was my first motorbike. Yamaha XJ600N in black.

        1. James Wilson

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          Ah yeah, I went straight to a 600 (CBR600 in grey, lovely bike until some b*stards nicked it) as my first bike after passing my test on a 125, as was completely normal back then. That was a steep learning curve, I don't know how I made it round my first corner.

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            My old Divvie was easier to ride than my brother's first post-test bike - Yamaha TZR250. Lovely wee machine, but needs its neck wrung! At least the XJ had nice wide, flat bars and huge mirrors!

            CBR600 is a bike I've never had. I looked at them, but went another direction. I believe the F models were always pretty forgiving, though. A lot of poke for a new rider, and lots of plastic to break, but a great bike nonetheless. Shame it got nicked - that's sickening.

            My daily driver these days is a '97 Blackbird (which some scrote tried to nick a couple of years ago). That's a hell of a machine, even today. They were just out when I passed my test, and some people were buying them directly off the back of 5-day intensive courses with their test on the Friday. I dread to think of how many people got hurt doing that sort of thing. (The place I got my Divvie were saying the same thing was happening there but with the ThunderAce.)

          2. Petergwilson

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            Yep, passed my test and bought a brand new CBR600 in Anthracite and Copper (Black and orange to normal people). Loved that bike.

            Once, whilst working for a three letter german car manufacturer I was flown from Heathrow to Belfast. Collected in a 7-series, driven to dealership, plugged in printer cable, tested printing was now working, driven back to airport and flown back to London on the same plane with the same crew. At least I got a free lunch and some air miles.

          3. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
            Devil

            Motorbikes, was Obligatory XKCD

            I used to ride motorcycles using my car licence as a provisional for the bikes, so never bothered to take my M/C test. I have owned and ridden everything from a 50cc Mobylette moped to an Ariel 650 Huntmaster, finally ending up with a Lambretta LD150 scooter. Then my wife was taken ill, and I had to spend 5 years nursing her through terminal Cancer, during which time I let the motorcycle insurance lapse. After her death, I hauled out the old scooter and cleaned it up, but the insurance companies would not insure me because I haven't taken a CBT test, and they won't allow me to claim Grandfather Rights for the 40 years I had previously been renewing my insurance without any hassle. I refuse to spend £100 on what is basically an Idiot Test just so I can continue to do for the next two years what I have enjoyed for free for the last 40+ years, so I am reduced to caning the Lambretta up and down the drive and round the paddock (but only if it's not muddy). BAH, Humbug, bloody bureaucrats spoil everything.

        2. Imhotep

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          My last bike was an XS650B - loved that bike.

        3. Cheshire Cat

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          > Ah - that was my first motorbike. Yamaha XJ600N in black.

          You too? Was a great bike, I even brought it out to New Zealand with me when I emigrated 17 years back. Loved riding that bike and was planning to tour the South Island on it some time with SWMBO.

          Then 8 years ago, an unlicensed driver decided to drive over the top of it while I was riding it...

          Wife won't let me ride a bike any more.

      3. 's water music Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        The mother of my daughters best friend asked me pop around as her printer was not working and she needed it for work

        not the ending I felt led to expect.

        The one in incognito mode please--->

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          not the ending I felt led to expect.

          You've been watching too many tech support vids. Take a break. Watch some porn instead.

        2. Peter X

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          Perhaps the phrase "pressed the 'WiFi on' button" is a euphemism for something altogether different?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        My granny wasn't tech-savvy.

        Once she said if I could fix her broken radio I could have it . So I changed the batteries, and it worked.

        This was some years before I first got a summer job in my school hols and could've bought a radio for myself.

        1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
          Thumb Up

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          That sounds like the sort of stunt my grandmother would have pulled if my parents had forbidden her to buy me a radio. Just saying...

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          I had that with my ex-Father In Laws VCR that they decided to scrap, some months after I had demonstrated that the Ferguson could record 4 different programs on 4 different channels at different times (Recording for the still soon to be ex Mrs Scorn soap operas while we went out) after being convinced it could only record one thing.

          So next trip to the delights of Canvey.....new TV & VCR replaced as a pair due to poor picture quality on playback.....Do I want it as the shop said they wanted 90 quid to repair it (I'm not judging as TV repair shops were a dying thing - as regular readers of Les Lawry Johns column in Television will validate).

          Get it back to Devon, order up a new head via CPC for about 15 quid, a new print head for my Star LC10 12 quid & a few other things to bring the total to the required 30 quid for free shipping. Fitted......Perfect playback (for the time).

          Phone call from FIL some weeks later...

          FIL: Did I get anywhere with that old VCR (Snigger) or did I throw it.

          EMS: No it's in our bedroom as second machine, he bought the part for about 15 pounds & fitted it in 15 minutes. (She commented she could feel his face drop over the phone).

          FIL: OHHH....well... that's good.

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            A very good friend of mine told me that their dad had an analogue Bang & Olufsen tv. She said he'd have to get rid of it to be able to watch dvd's or digital tv. I said this was rubbish and it just needed a modulator to get the signal into the tv via RF. So she'd told her dad that his pride and joy won't be useable because it didn't have a scart socket. So he gave it to my friend and she'd asked me to make it work now she had a fairly new super expensive tv. She said she wasn't that concerned about the picture quality as it was going in the bedroom. Her father told me she was "Damn devious" for doing that.

          2. Martin-73 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            I have a PDF of all of LLJ's columns ... it's a great read every couple of years when I remember it's there. Have another beer for reminding me of it again

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Obligatory XKCD

              I downloaded a copy of the same for myself the other week for quiet times at work reading.

              Here's another glass in memory for LLJ, HB & the dogs.

        3. red floyd

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          That's how I got my first laptop. She had bought a cheap Toshiba Satellite (with Vista -- ugh), and never could get it to connect properly.

          She finally gave up and bought an iPad and told me if I could make the Toshiba work, it was mine.

          I wound up using it for seven years.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            My current desktop is the same hardware I ran XP on, except for a second hard drive and adding memory. (8 GB, now maxed out.) Runs Ubuntu 18.04 beautifully.

            My current laptop is my nephew's old 2014ish unit, which apparently started having serious malfunctions. Runs Ubuntu 16.04 ok if slightly slow.

            It's not the hardware - it's the OS!

            1. Killfalcon Silver badge

              Re: Obligatory XKCD

              I usually don't mind the windows bloat because I use my machine for games and such that actually make use of the hardware, but it sometimes does bother me that just having a desktop open to browse files somehow requires more ram than the entire world had in 1970.

        4. mickaroo

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          Similar story...

          My sister-in-law was having trouble with her PC. Mouse working fine but keyboard not so much. Passed by one evening and noticed the mouse was wired but the keyboard was wireless.

          Flip keyboard over, insert new batteries, enjoy cup of tea, head back home

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        My mum regularly managed to click "print to file".

        I would arrive to find 2000 copies of the page stored in the root of C:; as she would keep pushing that "Print" button for a LONG time, before calling for help.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Obligatory XKCD

          "I would arrive to find 2000 copies of the page stored in the root of C:; as she would keep pushing that "Print" button for a LONG time, before calling for help."

          It's incredible how many apparently intelligent people will keep repeating the same experiment hoping for a different outcome :-)

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            This is in part due to the lack of sensory output. If you press a button and nothing appears to have happened the individual will often assume that it didn't get pressed properly. So do it again. After three or so attempts though.....

          2. Paul Shirley

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            It's incredible how often doing the same thing gets different results on Windows...

          3. Unicornpiss Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Obligatory XKCD

            Also fun to find in someone's documents folder: Shortcut to shortcut to shortcut to New Folder (17), etc. Or on the Desktop: Shortcut to Desktop.

    2. MOH

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      Work experience from college a long time ago, back in the days when people had individual printers connect to their machines. Got a call one Monday morning from somebody saying their printer wasn't working. "But it was fine on Friday!". To my shame I wasted 10 minutes before I noticed the cable was missing. "Well I didn't take it!", the user claimed, looking everywhere except at me.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      I have that XKCD posted on my cube at work. My co-workers got a good laugh - and then laugh again every time something goes wrong and THEY use the flowchart to fix it...

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      Yeah discussion with family member over sky box not working in the bedroom. I said you don't have one in the bedroom is it working in the tv room? Yes it was so I said it's likely to be the cable. Is it in the correct socket at both ends? Yes just please come over. So I did and replaced cable in correct socket in the sky box. I was given dinner and an apology but annoyed I'd had to go over in the first place. One of my nieces admitted to pulling it out by accident and putting it back.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        My mother-in-law asked why her FreeSat box couldn't record 2 channels simultaneously, went through the usual 'are both cables connected, are they in the right sockets etc.' on the phone, nothing obvious.

        Went up there and yes, everything was connected, F-plugs fully tightened. However the so called professional installer had bent the conductor on one plug so it missed the hole in the socket, then merrily applied force to jam the plug in! Quick straightening of the copper and carefully aiming got the thing connected 'well enough', albeit at an angle because they'd bent the bloody plug as well as the core!

        Seemed churlish to turn down a beer.

    5. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      XKCD 627 really needs updating:

      Find a menu item or button which looks related to what you want to do.

      - I can't find one

      Are you using Windows 10 without Classic Shell?

      - Yes

      Oh. There aren't any buttons. Give up.

      - OK, I installed Classic Shell.

      Oh. None of the buttons do anything anyway. Give up.

      and:

      Google the name of the program plus a few words related to what you want to do. Sift through abandoned questions, irrelevant answers, zealots who insist your approach is wrong and annoying YouTubers who skip over the critical step. Give up.

  5. Bogbody

    Helpline?

    Funny how the calls my my helpline dried up when I started charging.......

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Helpline?

      I had this wonderful post-retirement plan. I live in a neighbourhood with lots of condos close to some office buildings. I bet most of those would like some tech support that could answer with "yeah, I'll be there in two hours" instead of the "we'll be there in a year with only four digits on it" they get from their providers.

      I'll move around in a bike or just by walking if I felt like it. I thought I'd get some money without too much hassle.. then I decided to start practicing with my 75 years old father in law, for free.

      He was able to save me from that pipe dream. I noticed I was being called for things like "text is too small" (zoomed out in the browser without realising), "internet is not working" (mother in law turned the modem off since no one was using it at night and forgot to tell us), "printer is not working" (it needs paper, you know), and, my favorite, "there was an error message and I clicked on it, what was it?".

      I just imagined doing that 10-20x a day and gave up. All money I got would be spend in tranquillisers and/or lawyers ("please explain to the jury what you did to Mr. Fooberman when he called you for the third time in a day about not getting e-mails from his grandchildren").

      1. Timo

        "there was an error message and I clicked on it, what was it?"?

        Ahh yes, since you do computers you somehow should know what Windows is telling her.

        My mom still does that, even after 20+ years. It's like the computer is one big monolithic box with only one program that runs.

        I've been able to use TeamViewer to at least see what she's doing wrong to generate the message. Still haven't found a way to explain the cloud to her and why she can't see all the emails on her phone, that she's moved to her local drive...

        1. Gordon861

          Re: "there was an error message and I clicked on it, what was it?"?

          I've managed to get my parents to take a picture of the screen whenever they get an error message that they don't recognise before clearing it.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: "there was an error message and I clicked on it, what was it?"?

            The ones who contact me have realized that the text of the error message needs to be available to me, so they won't clear it (actually they usually clear it after writing down what it said, which isn't so useful when there are two or more options and they chose the wrong one). However, they haven't figured out that all of the text could be pretty important. On the phone, they've read error messages like this: "An error has occurred retrieving mail from the mail server. The error message was some numbers mailserver port something-or-other error blah blah. Please restart the mail client and try retrieving your mail again, or try reentering your account information."* And they will cheerfully loop trying to reenter their mail account information until it is pointed out that GMail probably didn't spontaneously change their password and maybe this has something to do with the network having gone offline.

            *Although they typically choose to censor the useful information of an error message with weird gaps of silence instead of filler words, I have put in the filler words here for the effect.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Helpline?

      I stopped answering the phone to one now ex-friend.

      She called me up over her iphone not connecting to the internet; I pointed out I was actually in rural CHINA at the time, so the call was costing her a fortune, but she insisted I had to help sort it out.

      After about 20 minutes of fruitlessness, I suggested she email AppleCare.

      Oh I cant do that, email hasnt worked in weeks.

      Not the iphone, via the PC.

      That hasnt had a working connection for weeks, either.

      You are calling me on your landline?

      Yes.

      OK, is the router switched on.

      What router?

      By an hour into the call, I had established that there were no lights on the router, but she refused to check to see if it was still plugged in and the switch in the "On" position.

      She wanted ME to come over and do that.

      Once again, I AM IN CHINA.

      Well, come over when you get back.

      I'm not due back for another four months.

      Oh, it can wait.

      FFS, it is a 20 mile round trip from my house as well, just to plug the damned BT router back in after she unplugged it to use the damned hoover.

      When I am there, she always insisted on feeding me, and it was nearly always fish curry.

      I hate fish.

      I hate curry.

      I am unsure how many times I told her this.

      1. Soruk

        Re: Helpline?

        Hopefully you were on a local Chinese SIM. If you were roaming it would cost you a fortune, not her.

  6. TonyJ Silver badge

    Except for immediate family, I've always stated a ridiculous price. Honestly, I found very early on that it just wasn't worth the hassle.

    It is also one of the reasons I preferred to give old laptops etc away rather than sell them. I can then, with absolutely no guilt, say that they got the laptop for free but there will be no support.

    Of course, it doesn't stop them trying but they get short shrift.

    As much as I enjoy working in IT (and I do), I don't want to be doing it at weekends and evenings for other people.

    1. Gordon861

      My parents keep offering to pass on their old, really old, laptops to family members and I keep persuading them that they will not be doing them any favours and that I will not be responsible for providing any help if they do so.

      I'm having a hard enough time just trying to get them to move on from an eight year old Win7 machine that is really starting to show its age. I expect a lot of panic and stress over christmas when they finally come around to the idea of upgrading.

      1. keithpeter
        Windows

        "My parents keep offering to pass on their old, really old, laptops to family members and I keep persuading them that they will not be doing them any favours"

        Wipe the hard drives, install Ubuntustudio and suggest parents donate to local digital arts/music/hackerspace

        https://toplap.org/

        https://jaromil.dyne.org/journal/zero_dollar_laptop.html

        Core duo upwards is usable

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yup

    ISPs cost me a fortune in patch leads too. I "lose" approx 10 a month.

    There's an ISP in London based near Vauxhall that has a nasty habit of shifting blame to third party techies...won't name them...but we used to call them Skip Fire, Tyre Fire, Time Liar, Spit Bucket, Phlegm Hire...whatever vaguely rhymed or involved sputum.

    E.g.

    "Ok, I've got a Skip Fire job to put out today"

    "Oh man, Spit Bucket want to do an installation at 5:30 pm, today we'd best make sure we have an engineer there for when they arrive tomorrow afternoon".

    Haven't dealt with them for nearly a decade but I used to have to deal with them regularly and their installations were regularly shit, late, botched etc. Usually something to do with the garbage Zyxel routers they used for DSL, they would either fail entirely or arrive with no configuration done other than them changing the admin password (which used to be the same on ALL the devices they shipped).

    Didn't take long to figure it out for most of us, it was the company name as the username and the same for the password.

    We'd regularly get the blame for their ineptitude.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: We'd regularly get the blame for their ineptitude.

      Well obviously, you touched it. Doesn't matter what you did, the curse is now upon you.

    2. sed gawk Silver badge

      Re: Funny you mention "Skip Flyer"

      I did a network install over two floors for an client of my then client, i.e. moonlighting from $day_gig for $boss

      The ultimate telco provider was "Skip flyer", who shipped the end client an enormously over specced cisco box, but no upstream connectivity.

      I end-up needing to speak to a lawyer about this gig, who on hearing the name "Skip Flyer" tells me, they are suing them as well, so have a conflict of interest.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Funny you mention "Skip Flyer"

        When aren't they being sued.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yup

      Speaking of garbage DSL routers, anybody know how to disable the backdoors on an Actiontec C3000A modem/router provided by CenturyLink? The TR-069 port (4567) is accessible from the internet, there's no setting in the user-accessible settings to turn it off, I can't forward it to a nonexistent IP (gives error "Port is reserved for TR-069"), CenturyLink tech support has never heard of TR-069, and Actiontec won't touch it because I got it from CenturyLink.

      One of these days, somebody is going to figure out and publish the master password for these modems, and an entire block of residential modems will suddenly turn into a botnet...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Yup

        A 2lb hammer or ->

  8. Shadow Systems Silver badge
    Flame

    Right cable, wrong hole.

    I get a request to clean up a computer & make it work, which entailed replacing bits, upgrading bits, adding bits, & ripping bits out that were no longer needed. The job is easy, the task simple, & the new copy of XPSP2 ran like a champ. Make sure it all works, box it up, drop it back off at the customer, set it up, make sure it works. Yup. Get thanked, get paid, go home...

    Get a phone call the next night that the computer doesn't work. How? No clue, it just doesn't work & you need to get your ass out here to fix this piece of shit. Sigh. Fine. Off I go...

    Get to the guy's place, take one look at the back of the machine to make sure all is as it's supposed to be, then realize something isn't right. Namely they'd plugged in the RJ11 plug into the RJ45 jack. Why did they unplug it in the first place? To move it to a nicer location where they could look out a window. Why didn't you notice that you had an "extra" cable that you hadn't plugged in? Because they thought they could pick the easier cable to wiggle into the hole.

    Show them the right holes, plug in the cables to their proper jacks, and oh lookee, that "broken piece of shit" seems to be working just fine.

    Did I get an apology? A thank you? Any thanks at all? Fuck no. I got yelled at when I charged the bastard for a call out to fix something that "was a simple fix". Yes it was, and had you bothered to engage your fucking BRAIN you smeghead, you would have saved me the trouble of driving 30 minutes each way just to plug in a fucking cable.

    Funny how he grudgingly paid the bill but refused to call me back for any future repairs. No skin lost off my ass.

    Customers: can't live without 'em, aren't allowed to set 'em on fire...

    1. defiler Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

      That's what she said...

      What? It's Friday. Get over it.

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

        Enjoy a pint. I'll drink mine when I stop laughing. =-D

    2. Nick Kew
      Pint

      Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

      I'm impressed your screen reader enabled you to do that kind of job!

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

        Have you considered he may have gone blind in the many intervening years since Win XP was released?

        1. Killfalcon Silver badge

          Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

          Very plausible: I had heard Windows 8 support could have nasty side effects.

    3. ralphh

      Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

      I always have to upvote someone calling someone else a smeghead.

      1. Michael Strorm

        Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

        You're a smeghead!

        1. sbt Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

          He said someone else, smeghead!

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

        SMEEEEE......HEEEEEEE......

    4. phuzz Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

      One user surprised, and impressed, me once by managing to plug a USB plug into an ethernet port. With only a small amount of forcing, it's a perfect fit.

      I congratulated them on finding a new way to screw things up that I'd never seen before.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

        Oh don't - I've done that many times to my own machines, no forcing required. Easy to do when the Ethernet port is mounted on the same stack as the USB, and it requires almost exactly the same force to insert as into a USB port itself.

        1. rcomm

          Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

          Except you know it's wrong because if it was the USB port you would have had to try a minimum of 3 times to get it to insert.

      2. dak

        Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

        I got a support call from FiL just three days ago that turned out to be EXACTLY that problem.

        Couldn't really blame him because it turned out the printer didn't even HAVE a USB port!

    5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

      Quote:

      Customers: can't live without 'em, aren't allowed to set 'em on fire...

      We sometimes ask if the customer's manglement and buying departments go on the test flights ..... with the intention of supplying defective parts just for that one trip.....

      Although according to their engineering shop, we'd get no chance if they thought that would work with the manglement.....

      Oh well.... time for more beer and dismiss thoughts of work for 2.5 days....(and take the phone off the hook too)

    6. Grant Fromage

      Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

      Several bits of kit from around mid 80`s seemed to share a common chassis design with a filtered IEC fixed plug, and a resettable circuit breaker just above. The standard metalwork had a recess above the breaker tit that was about 0.5mm less wide than an IEC cable socket and a similar depth. Usually bottom corner RHS from the front, and you could plug the power in blind from the front, unless you squeezed it into that nice space above the breaker, the only giveaway was that it was moveable vertically while seemingly happily retained.

      A number of experienced chaps fell in this trap without going round the back and going "Dohhh!!!".

      I did too, Once only.

      If you poke it in and it feels.....different, time to think very carefully, IMHO.

      1. Criggie

        Re: Right cable, wrong hole.

        Always feel for the earth pin - being slightly longer, it helps avoid the three-tries of wrong-wayness.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Volunteering

    For a short period I volunteered with the local pensioner group to offer free IT help to "poor" pensioners/old people in the local area. Most of the time it was offering advice on which laptop/tablet would be best suited to their needs but after a few "I bought this top of the range iPad because my best friend only has last years model and this one has a shinier screen" I gave up on that.

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: Volunteering

      Old folks try to one up each other just as much as youth do.

      My MIL bought an iPad because she had gone on a weekend writing retreat with some friends and they all had iPads while she only had a new MacBook Pro.

      After buying the iPad on her return to civilization, she left it in its box for 6 months. When she finally took it out she realized typing on a screen sucks so she went out and bought a keyboard and mouse.

      We all warned her before she bought it. Arg!

  10. wyatt

    My wife asked me to call a 70 yo with their Surface laptop. They'd passworded the bios and needed to reinstall but couldn't due to said password.

    It'd already been sent away to a IT company to try to resolve and they'd been told it wasn't possible but I of course, was to try. I didn't, I wasn't going to try to unglue it to get the battery out.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      My wife asked me to call a 70 yo with their Surface laptop. They'd passworded the bios and needed to reinstall but couldn't due to said password.

      It'd already been sent away to a IT company to try to resolve and they'd been told it wasn't possible but I of course, was to try. I didn't, I wasn't going to try to unglue it to get the battery out.

      Would've done the same.

      Ungluing it means something breaks, and then it's your problem.

      Nein danke.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        In that situation, I always make it clear - this piece of equipment is screwed, and you can't use it. If I am able to fix it, you will be able to, through the likelyhood is that it will be screwed even more than it already is.

        If I am to attempt to fix it, then there are a) no promises, and b) I take no responsibility for the result.

        I've only done this for close family (all of whom get it, even the non tech savvy ones) - it's a case of "If you can fix it, you've saved me the cost of a new one, if not, no harm no foul" situation.

        If I were to do this for anyone else, I'd get it in writing, just in case.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Flame

          My standard caveat in those cases is "I will either fix it, or it will never work again. Do you really want me to do this?"

          Icon, for how those projects usually end.

    2. Nick Kew

      Shirley, that's what factory reset is for?

      OK, factory reset may have security implications, but isn't a surface more about cat videos than state secrets? Not exactly the kind of place I'd necessarily expect such concerns to trump brick-restoration!

  11. Steve Kerr

    Dinner charge

    I will occasionally do a friends & family fix but only for a minimum cost of dinner.

    Fortunately, the ones I've dealt with have mostly been to do with helping settings things up.

    Though had one friend who I gave an old Mac mini too

    Friend: i think the hard drive has died

    Me: Why, what were you doing?

    Friend: nothing

    Me: are you sure?

    Friend: no, thing

    I find that the OS is corrupt and nothing is wrong with the disk.

    He phoned one of my other IT friends and spoke to him about it to as obviously I don't know anything, he admitted to him that it was applying patches and he couldn't be bothered waiting so pulled the plug out to turn it off. My other IT friend told me the truth

    So he lied to me and even when confronted lied until I told him I knew what happened.

    Would only help him if he gave me the full story without missing anything out verbatim before I would touch anything of his again.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Dinner charge

      Users always lie. That's the null hypothesis; don't change that assessment for any individual until long experience has confirmed that they are mostly reliable.

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Dinner charge

        "users always lie", yep and it's often better to completely ignore anything they say happened, and find the fault from scratch. Everybody lies. Oh, and it's never Lupus.

        1. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Dinner charge

          Some people don't lie - but they you run into unreliable witnesses. This can be worse, when you know they are not lying, but every word still leads you down the wrong rabbit hole.

          1. Killfalcon Silver badge

            Re: Dinner charge

            I used to get a lot of that in a previous job, supporting Very Smart People (not sarcasm!).

            Often they'd make a change to their models, get an error, think it through, check seven or eight things, then call me up to say something is broken after a few hours of attempting to fix it themselves. When asked, they'd often tell me that nothing had been changed, because by the time they called me they'd already been trying to fix it themselves for a few hours and had lost track.

            I got a lot of mileage out of file/folder comparison tools. "Someone changed *this* CSV and I'm pretty sure it didn't used to be tab-delimited".

        2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: Dinner charge

          "Oh, and it's never Lupus."

          Except when it is.

        3. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Dinner charge

          "When's the last time you rebooted?" "Oh, just this morning" -- net statistics workstation -- Oh, 3 weeks ago. Got it. Reboot.

      2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Dinner charge

        Many decades ago in the TV trade.

        User: It just stopped. Nobody touched anything.

        Me {in very loud stage whisper}: I wonder how these two valves managed to swap places.

        User turns bright red and disappears out of the room.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Dinner charge

          I knew someone who did TV repairs. He had a rented TV himself. The rental company couldn't understand why he had so many faulty valves.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dinner charge

          Valves? That must indeed have been "many" decades ago considering that- from what I've read- transistors started rapidly replacing them in TV sets from the late 60s onwards, and valve-based sets had- with very few exceptions- been replaced with all-transistor designs by the mid-1970s. (#)

          Which is hardly surprising; while they may have advantages in audio amplifiers, I can't imagine many manufacturers- or consumers- wanting to use them in a TV set where (I'd assume) they offer no obvious advantage, give off lots of heat, are less reliable and had probably been surpassed in terms of price.

          If anything, the idea that valves were still being used in TV sets in the early 70s- even in decline- seems faintly archaic to me, considering they're the sort of thing I'd associate with the 1920s to 1950s (amplifier use aside), predating transistor radios from the late-50s onwards.

          (#) Either that, or the TV must have been pretty old even then?

          1. STOP_FORTH
            Facepalm

            Valves

            Before flat screens the cathode ray tube was a fancily-shaped valve.

            CRT televisions had high voltages to make the magic gubbins work (stop me if I'm getting too technical).

            Valves tend to be better with high voltages than transistors. Last time I opened up a TV or monitor was probably in the Eighties. One or two valves would still have been present.

            I'd have a quick dekko at the line output transformer if it wasn't a valve.

            I don't know why elapsed decades would render a story less relevant.

            Weird, socially inept people with odd clothes have been fixing stuff for other folks since the dawn of time.

            1. STOP_FORTH
              Happy

              Built in obsolescence

              I should also mention that people did not replace tech every 12-18 months when I was a nipper. If you were trying to fix a TV or radio it might actually be decades old.

              Ditto cars.

              We 'ad it tough!

              1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
                Happy

                Re: Built in obsolescence

                No question that modern stuff is better, but there is something cheery about the warmth given off from a humming set (radio or TV) full of vacuum tubes, and the soft orange glow emanating from the back, kind of like a fireplace.

                When I was a little kid, TVs had to warm up for at least 30 seconds to work properly. Then came transistor sets that came on nearly instantly. Now with digital flat screens that have to spend time booting up, we're back to waiting for our sets to 'warm up' before use.

            2. Michael Strorm

              Re: Valves

              > "I don't know why elapsed decades would render a story less relevant."

              They don't, and I'm not sure why you thought I was making that point(!) It was just an observation that it must indeed have been a long time ago now.

              I take your point about valves in general, though.

            3. keithpeter
              Windows

              Re: Valves

              "Weird, socially inept people with odd clothes have been fixing stuff for other folks since the dawn of time."

              @STOP_FORTH

              An upvote is not enough for this insight.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Dinner charge

            "by the mid-1970s"

            If you think 5 is "many", then yes. I'd say a few decades, not an emphasised "many". As a kid, I remember we had a Bush B&W 405-line TV. It only got replaced after BBC2 launched and we needed a new UHF TV and aerial to because the old Bush was VHF.

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Dinner charge

              Indeed, at school in the mid 80s, i brought a switchable vhf/uhf 405/625 line b/w set to school. I was very popular in the common room for a few hours till my housemaster informed me that 1, televisions were dangerous inside, and banned by the school rules, and 2, he didn't have a screwdriver.

              I suspect both things were actually untruths designed to save me from electric shock

            2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Childcatcher

              Re: Dinner charge

              We still had a old Sobell 405 line TV, only two channels BBC1 was watching fuzz, ITV was clear, then it got "upgraded" to widescreen by a chronic frame collapse that father wouldn't get fixed.

              My father was eventually shamed into replacing it sometime around autumn 1978*, I know this because it was fall period & finally able to watch Blake's 7 series 2 properly in 1979.

              *This may be the reason, I always want reasonably new established tech for myself**.

              **Burned on HD-DVD).

          3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Dinner charge

            "from what I've read"

            Stop reading and ask those who were there.

  12. e-horace

    Camouflage of goodness

    The perils of being known as free, friendly tech-support. Some jobs you definitely want to steer clear of. Tell 'em in a cheery tone "happy to help old boy. Just drop your computer around to my house and I'll take a look at it. Oh, did I mention that I'm snowed under at the moment? So it could be two or three weeks before I can do anything...". Cue a rapid retreat by the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-etc.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Neighbours, 75 YO

    Their PC fried due to apparently a shite PSU (noname chinese with likely, half of the components recycled from dead TVs).

    They bought this wonderful new tower, based, of course, on someone else advise, from Amazon and I was tasked to make it work.

    It took me a while before realizing they had bought the tower *with no windows installed* ! And no, Linux was not an option, here.

    One week later, they had bought windows 10 and I was able to install and patch the whole thing ...

    Then, I had a look at the kit, in detail. Nice components, mobo, everything. Except the PSU: yes; chinese noname :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Neighbours, 75 YO

      You touched it, it's your fault if something dies due to the el-cheapo no-name <insert chinese slur here> PSU.

    2. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Neighbours, 75 YO

      I'd at least have run Linux on it, live disk if nothing else, just to make sure it ran.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Neighbours, 75 YO

        "just to make sure it ran"

        And left it on "while we order the Windows disk".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Neighbours, 75 YO

        "I'd at least have run Linux on it, live disk if nothing else, just to make sure it ran."

        Couldn't be bothered, TBH. Like I said, Linux was not an option, they had windows exec to be run, and there was no Linux solution ...

        And I was quite upset about the whole SNAFU ...

  14. Nick London
    Coat

    I've had my share.

    Not long after we were wed my wife's firm, a major US defence contractor, decided their London office needed a PC so they spent £5,000 on an original IBM PC with twin floppies ( an optional extra), monochrome monitor, a Brother Twinwriter, a modem possibly 300 Baud and the software.

    It took a while for BT to install the data line but they did, and She Who Must Be obeyed came under pressure to hook her computer up to use their in house e-mail running on a 1950's redundant IBM mainframe that only understood capital letters.

    By the way I am a structural engineer. Concrete steel bricks etc.

    Any way the day came and I got the phone call "I cant connect to the leased line" so I asked have you connected all the cables?

    Phone socket to modem - yes

    Mains to modem -yes

    Modem to PC - What cable there isn't one. Why would I need one?

    Phone call to supplier "oops we forgot that £40 for parallel cable."

    My wife hit the roof and they agreed to supply one in place of some accessory to the Twinwriter ( I think the sheet splitter) that was still on back order.

    The funny thing is she only called me after her boss a qualified electronics engineer flogging missiles and radars failed to diagnose the problem.

    1. defiler Silver badge

      Re: I've had my share.

      Yeah, but radars are wireless, see?

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: I've had my share.

        However the missile could be wire guided...

        I could just be being TOW -headed

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: I've had my share.

          Yep - that's why I stopped short on the missiles after a moment's thought. I could get away with that inaccuracy in most places, but I knew it wouldn't fly here!

          Oddly, I was describing the operation of TOW missiles to my son about a week ago. I remember reading about the MD500 helicopter with a targeting package mounted on the rotor hub so they could fire from a position of (some) concealment. It was a big ball on top, to my recollection, but I'm buggered if I can find it again these days.

          1. Mr Army

            Re: I've had my share.

            This one?

            http://www.airport-data.com/aircraft/photo/000348895L.html

            1. defiler Silver badge

              Re: I've had my share.

              That's the idea - I could have sworn it was spherical. I guess that's age creeping up on me!

              1. Unoriginal Handle

                Re: I've had my share.

                My turn to be geek.

                Kiowa - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_OH-58_Kiowa

                or Apache Longbow - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AgustaWestland_Apache

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I've had my share.

      Parallel cable to a modem?

      If that's right it's one thing I managed to duck.

  15. Oengus Silver badge

    Callout response time

    If I have friends or family call up for assistance my response time is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of Scotch they supply while I am doing the fix.

    1. defiler Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Callout response time

      And the quality of the fix is directly proportional to the same as well, I'm sure!

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Callout response time

        More like reversely ;)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Callout response time

        "And the quality of the fix is directly proportional to the same as well, I'm sure!"

        And the longer the fix takes, the less likely it is to work?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scraping the barrel this week?

    :P

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Scraping the barrel this week?

      You realise, don't you, that the sole purpose of these articles is to seed the comments and so far it's doing very nicely.

    2. 1752
      Unhappy

      Re: Scraping the barrel this week?

      I can reverse this, so back in day a fax did not work. IT told to help some odd phone system tapping about in in shell looked fine comparing config etc. Fax still not working, another fax not working. Third party called and arrive on site we demonstrate the issue. They change the cable (yes we had always used the same cable to the fax machine when testing) and it worked. Opps. Third party cheerfully said 'I always check the cable'.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Become the non-expert

    Many years ago while visiting an aunt, she announced that she'd got a compute for the kids. She also asked me to show them how it worked as the rentals company (yes, she was dumb enough to rent a computer for home use back when people rented TV's, etc) were pants and didn't show them how it worked. Knowing how this was going to pan out in the long term (lots of phone calls and the expectation that I would drop everything and give them free support), I decided to show them exactly how it works and might have accidentally mentioned to them that they can set a BIOS password too.

    As sure as shit, the next time I saw her she moaned that I was crap and she had had to call the rentals company how had fixed it for her after the kids locked themselves out. She never called me though, but did bad mouth me to the entire family. Now considering that I have a very large extended family (over 50 cousins all in close proximity) in the 30 years since then I have received zero calls. Not one. They still think I am crap with computers and I'm more than happy for them to believe that considering how ungrateful most of them are .

    Now it might seem like a bit of a bastard thing to have done - lead them up the path to failure - but it didn't cost them any money and it's saved me hours of grief over the years.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Become the non-expert

      Sounds like a perfectly suitable BOfH solution to me...

      Have one of these for the weekend ---->

  18. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    NTL

    Yup NTL, the network cable had become detached from her NTL Modem from my mothers computer I built her.

    Instead of calling me she called NTL, after 4 hours she was told the computer needed windows reinstalled.

    As this was a machine I had built I obviously told I needed to reinstall Windows, then came after 2 seconds I had said there its reinstalled.

  19. Martyn 1
    Linux

    Being an OpenVMS and then Linux guy I have the get out of jail free card of "I don't do Windows" so mostly avoid such requests. A few exceptions were two neighbours who each barfed their laptops which they used to run their small business.

    One was fairly trivial (about 10 mins work after googling the error), but the other came to my door looking particularly ashen 'cos it wouldn't boot up at all, I said I'd have a look and before starting asked "Have you backed up all your work stuff?" and the blank look on his face told me all I needed to know. So booted a live distro, backed up everything to CD, fixed the bug introduced by a recent windows update, and then gave a tutorial on backing up his stuff to CD. Got a couple of bottles of vino out of that one :-)

    I also used to get dragged into fixing the Mother-in-law's laptop which her son had bought her, it came with a "Windows Vista Capable" sticker - and it wasn't (in fact were any?). Just logging onto the bloody thing gave me palpitations and many times I wanted to fix it with a 2lb lump hammer. Eventually she got the idea I wasn't keen, got an Android tablet, and just left it to rot in a cupboard. When she has problems with the tablet she goes to my kids 'cos she knows at least they'll be happy to see her ;-)

  20. Electronics'R'Us Bronze badge
    Go

    A different type of support

    Many years ago in the age of Cassette Tapes and Decks I made some money when they inevitably started chewing up the tapes.

    The issue was that the pre-recorded music (and other) tapes used the cheapest, crappiest material possible (all in the name of profit margins natch) which rubbed off onto the rollers and capstan which became sticky and eventually the tapes stuck to the rollers and whirled their way around until the whole thing was jammed.

    I had done some fixes for close family and they started sending people (friends of theirs) with jammed tape decks.

    Once I untangled the tape (I had a tape splicing kit for those really unfortunate events) the actual fix took 5 minutes or so (Isopropyl alcohol is your friend when removing sticky stuff) including putting the deck back together when necessary (ah, for the days when things were actually repairable) but I never let them know that; I would tell them to leave it with me and come back in about 4 hours (or the next morning) and charged a fair amount for the time.

    Interestingly, early on I was asked how much I would charge and because it seemed a bit like money for old rope I offered to do the job for a reasonable price; the chap said "For that amount you can't really be doing anything" so I doubled what I was proposing and all the (now fixed) tape deck owners paid me without any problem. Funny that a low price makes others think I am just waving a magic wand.

    It was good for repeat business too; about 4 months of cheap tapes was the usual interval.

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

      Re: A different type of support @Electronic'R'Us

      Working in the professional audio recording industry I was told to use Isopropyl alcohol for the metal parts (heads etc.) and Methylated spirit for the rubber parts (pinch wheel). I did that for years on both audio and video cassette recorders, it always worked.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A different type of support

      "For that amount you can't really be doing anything"

      That's quite a common effect. ISTR the ICL One per Desk computer failed for the same reason, ie if it's that cheap it must be crap.

  21. Imhotep

    Like a snake up a stair case

    This was the early 90s when small businesses were networking their PDs. Called out because the customer was unhappy with the way our company had installed networking for their business. Walked through the door, and the first thing I saw was a Cat5 cable stapled to the wall, neatly following each stair tread and riser up to the 2nd floor.

    He'd also billed by the hour to install NICs, which was over $1K for one particular PC - as opposed to the flat rate of less than $50 if they had brought it in.

    The incompetent tech complained that I had made him look bad, so I ended up getting reamed by our boss for taking the time to do things right. That made me ask then why they had sent me out there? But all was straightened out when the customer provided the BOFH with the details.

  22. PickledAardvark

    I just want to buy a kilostream link

    That was a problem for my boss in the 1980s. Phone conversation:

    BT man: You are too far away from the exchange.

    Boss: How far?

    BT man: You are two and a half miles away from us. No chance.

    Boss: Look out of your window.

    BT man: What?

    Boss: Do you see somebody waving at you from next door?

    BT man: Err, yes

    Boss: That's me.

    (A colleague demonstrated that it was possible to micturate from a building too far for kilostream onto the local BT exchange.)

  23. John Doe 12

    The Ultimate Callout

    So I run a small wireless ISP here in Ireland. One Monday morning got a callout from an important customer who actually was a family run property management company. When you are in this game property managers are the people to keep on-side. Luckily I live less then 200 metres from the office in question so not even a long drive to their office.

    When I got there all the indoor equipment - PoE injector, switch, power supply, router was gone from the small comms cab which lived on the floor in the corner of the office. I Just burst out laughing when I found out that there was a new office in the centre of town and over the weekend the sons had taken all their stuff there including the broadband kit for the building which was in their office just leaving naked cat5 ends floating around that cabinet. The father had a different office in the same unit and was one of the most techno-phobic people you could meet so not really a surprise he didn't know what happened!!

  24. cob2018

    A bit surprised

    I was expecting to see more claims of the solution that I use for the family/friend support requests. I tell them that I provide Linux support, and if they want me to care for their computer, that's what to use. Requests to support the Rubbish from Redmond are either silently ignored, or provided with a suggestion to find someone conversant with that mess because it conflicts with my stress management program.

  25. 2Nick3

    "Is the cable plugged in?"

    With the F&F Support Line open an affirmative answer just means I need to ask the follow-up question:

    "Are BOTH ends of the cable plugged in?"

    Doesn't matter what cable it is, you need both ends plugged in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Is the cable plugged in?"

      Is the cable plugged in?

      Are you sure?

      Did you check it?

      Check it again.

      Yes, just in case it magically got unplugged since you last checked.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "Is the cable plugged in?"

      "Doesn't matter what cable it is, you need both ends plugged in."

      I remember when I built my first radio. I only plugged the wire I was using as an aerial in at one end only :-p

    3. brotherelf
      Stop

      Re: "Is the cable plugged in?"

      Twenty seconds later, somebody gets to find out if and how loop detection works.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Is the cable plugged in?"

      "Are BOTH ends of the cable plugged in?"

      "Where are they plugged in?"

  26. J. Cook Silver badge

    Ah, yes...

    The third-party 'professional' cable modem installer who came out to set up my house kept giving me crap about the coaxial connectors I was using- despite the connectors coming from a well regarded company (leviton Quickport), certified for digital cable, the installer kept insisting that they were shite because the pastic they were embedded was a blue color. I eventually stopped arguing with him when I realized I was getting nowhere, and let him put in the (actual) crap wallplates he had, largely to get him out of my house.

    He lost the 'professional' part after I saw how he connected the line on the pole- by hanging his ladder off the wire the cable was attached to. *headdesk*

    Funny thing- I was getting absolute crap connection speeds until I un-did all his work inside the house, replaced the wall plates with mine, and removed the splitter he had put in between the cable modem and the line.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just the opposite

    Even when I was running training in education IT for an LEA my F&F would never ask for help with any kind of tech. If I did get involved it was because I'd discovered myself that something had gone wrong and needed to fix it.

    And it often did go wrong. And I usually had to worm it out of them as they'd never tell me.

    Because they'd all done what their friend Doreen's nephew ( or equivalent) who knew about that stuff because he repaired washing machines/etc. had said they should.

    And even after I'd sorted out the mess they'd somehow never accept that Doreen's nephew had told them wrong.

  28. Chozo
    Facepalm

    Phone Support Hell

    The red light is flashing and it's making a beeping sound...

    Um..Ok Sir, can you press the reset button then give it a minute before you try to connect to the internet again

    Hang on while I get a step ladder...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The *other* obligatory xkcd

    I see that 627 has been posted, but any dealings with an ISP needs to refer to https://xkcd.com/806.

    In the old, old, old days Demon really did have support as good as this. And Justin from Cerbernet, if you are reading this, you were The Man back in the day. Hope things are gong well for ya.

  30. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    F & F ongoing from last week

    Well, friend, not family.

    "I've finished writing up .... for the web site but it's too big to email. I'll have to see you and bring it on a memory stick."

    "How big?"

    "15 pages. Nearly 28 Mb"

    OK, I know what's happened. She's pasted in the pictures at their original resolution. I've previously had great fun dealing with the PDF of a book she'd published and later released on the webs site. Our freebie web host has a maximum size of 10M for uploaded files.

    "It's too big to host but if you can get it to me I'll sort it."

    "Can you accept [some cloud service I'd never heard of]"

    Look up unheard of cloud service. They have a CLI client. Download it.

    "What's the URL you were given"

    Discussion on what this means.

    Discover that the CLI only works with a premium account.

    Go back to cloud service web site. Put in the URL. Cloud service can't find it (at a guess the free account has already expired it) but here are some pretty pictures. Strongly reminded of https://dilbert.com/strip/1999-02-17

    Resort to something not so obviously aimed at "creatives". Look up NextCloud service providers for free account. Set up free account 1Gb. Yes, somebody else's computer but at least (a) they have reassuring complex password requirements, (b) they're Swiss and not a huge US corporate and (c) it's an article that's going to get published anyway on a community website.

    Get the monster .doc. As expected, shrink the oversize JPEGs and the file ends up as a 2.6Mb .odt and the PDF is nearer half a meg as expected.

    Now all I have to do is make it look reasonable. Still working on it, main reason I'm here now is I'm putting off more work on it. Maybe I should try to instruct the group in use of styles and how to use tables or tabs instead of rows of spaces for formatting.

    1. Mark Ruit

      Re: F & F ongoing from last week

      ...and instead of extra <Return> characters for line spacing.

      Bah!!

  31. EmleyMoor

    Problem not exactly caused by another service person, but with something that they sold

    I had built a pretty good computer for my dad, and he had decided to buy a new printer. Now, had he asked me first, I would have told him one make not to get - hint, the name is an anagram of the name of a Barbarian - but he bought one from the friendly guy at our local computer shop. It just would not print when attached to the computer, and for some reason dad was not prepared to get the guy at the shop to deal in the first instance.

    (Note, I'm not saying that a printer by the firm whose name sounds similar to a horse racing venue, or one that sounds like a sauce brand, would have worked in this case, but I am saying I'd have advised against what he went for anyway.)

    I took a spare machine with me, knowing I might need to do a backup at least. In the end it turned out to be a rather good job I did.

    After a backup, nuke and pave, the printer *still* would not print. I swapped the, fortunately similar, motherboards between my machine and dad's, and the printer worked. So, now dad involves the guy at the shop. Obtaining a new motherboard, CPU and two sticks of memory, I set about rebuilding based on that. All went well, until I installed a sound card. Now all manner of faults were occurring, lots of app crashes.

    On this occasion I had to admit defeat, after several attempts. The guy at the shop, as he had supplied some of the parts, was very willing to help, but not exactly of the opinion it could be down to what he'd supplied, until he tried it. The motherboard performed perfectly, until you added a sound card - any sound card, not just the one I was trying.

    The machine came back with yet another replacement motherboard, and with dad's sound card fitted and working, and the printer also working. The rest of the weekend was taken up with restoring old files and reinstalling software. This turned out to be the third in a sequence of "it must be your mistake" incidents with this supplier that had culminated in an apology. After a chat with a friend who had helped set him up in the first place, he even offered me a few "near end of line" parts free.

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