back to article Helpdesk Heroes or unappreciated geeks?

The helpdesk has always been the most visible part of the IT support operation. It is here that the “my password isn’t working anymore” and the “computer says no” calls are taken by valiant members of the IT team. As we move into an era when the help desk may become more of a ‘service centre’ and less of fault reporting point, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Oh so many..

    " Have you had a user call in about problems with an application or service that you did not even know was being used?"

    Thought that was standard practice...

    Along with, "I've moved desk and now pc (aka screen thingy) / phone / mobile charger is not working."

    "I'm working from home and xyz is not working". Then find out after 30 minutes they don't have any type of remote working set up.

    And the dreaded....

    "I received an email and opened the attachment like it said to do....."

  2. adnim

    Two incidents...

    immediately come to mind;

    Asked user to ship computer for upgrade... I received the monitor.

    User called helpdesk, PC would not power up. User informed me that PC showed a light when powered up but would not boot. I went to visit user and found monitor switched on and the PC switched off. I switched on PC... User was very embarrassed.

    I think there were quite a few others but I have purged my mind of much of the pain I suffered as a 1st line support person.

    A common issue If I remember correctly were users not knowing right from left... right click/left click.

    Nowadays I would rather be unemployed than sit at a helpdesk, The frustration of dealing with ill educated and/or untrained users is too much to bear. I hope things have changed, not everyone had a PC at home when I started in IT.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is the most recent...

    I was called to the boss to explain to him why HIS mobile phone bill was so huge. I enter his office and there he is, watching YouTube videos on his iPhone. Even though there's a perfectly good top-of-the-range laptop attached to a large LCD monitor with a gigabit ethernet connection on his desk.

  4. Owen Smith

    its Luser with a silent L

    Of the many stories I've told the therapist:

    whilst earning my stripes doing ISP support back in ’99 (dialup rocks) I had a rather grumpy customer phone up moaning that the internet was broken (the “im going to cancel, your crap, im off to freeserv” rants) after a few mins of calming down the punter, they start moaning “this is costing me a fortune in support calls, im on my mobile” and a quick check of the notes and this one has 2 phone lines, the follow up question was “are your phones working?” “no? best phone BT and order some more dialtone”


    *thanks for dragging that memory back, im off to hide in the server room till the shaking stops

  5. Matt Linin

    YOUR mistake is not MY emergency

    Many years ago, I worked on a Helpdesk in an Insurance company. I received a phone call from a very frustrated and angry 'Customer' regarding their financial spreadsheets. I duly attended. This person had single-handedly managed to lose all of his business-critical financial data. Being deeply untrusting of the network and the people who administered it, 'charmless boffins' I believe we were collectively referred to as, he had decided to keep all of the spreadsheets off the network and on floppy discs instead. Bit dodgy, I thought. Apparently none of the discs could now be read on the PC. I listened to the ranting with a sense of growing horror, as I had spotted the cause straight away. There wasn't any point in trying them on another machine, that had been done and they still couldn't be read. I let the rant blow itself out, as I needed to get straight in my head how i was going to break the sad news. Around the inside of the cubicle was a small sea of discs, in date order and labelled nicely...................all lovingly held in place with novelty fridge magnets.............obviously procured by family members, which although nice, didn't help.

    I then had to deliver the bad news and highlight the dangers of bringing discs into contact with magnets etc and that the data was gone......forever.

    He went through all the stages; incredulity, panic, fear, anger and rage.

    I've never seen a face turn that many different colours.

    Obviously, this was my fault, so received the post bad news rant as well.

    I still look back on this and laugh though.

  6. Dave 145
    Paris Hilton

    Serial Number

    My Favourite at the moment is, when asking a user for the serial number off the sticker on her machine we got the response. "I'm sorry but I'm not Technical and cannot do that".


    Paris because well, errr.... yeah sums it up quite well really

  7. Jason Togneri

    "To know your enemy, you must learn to think like your enemy."

    Communication is, indeed, the first line of tech support. Most of the time it's a simple, common problem that is well known. Easy to fix. The problem is, YOU are the tech expert - not the luser at the other end. They won't know the right words, terms, or acronyms. Asking them about IP addresses will be met with blank silences, while their gibbering on about "numbers with dots" might cause a few blank expressions at your end. You have to think like them. You have to think: "If I didn't know anything about IT, and I were six years old, and I were slightly retarded, how would I describe this problem?" Bingo.

    There has to be more empathy in both directions. Lusers must try to take the vagueness of their description into account - no more of "There was an error box, yes, but I just clicked OK and don't remember what it said!" from the users; if you want respect, you have to earn it by being helpful and showing at least a little common sense. In the other direction, less of "Does the flargle connect to the splange, or do you get a #1682?" (for this is how it sounds to the luser) from the tech guys, arrogantly asserting their knowledge and expertise over the mere mortals up in the offices. Empathy, people, empathy.

  8. Bernard Mergendeiler


    I deal with external customers. They often ask "Where are you located?", fishihg for overseas outsourcing, despite the fact that my native language is the unaccented American English used in broadcasting. I answer truthfully. Sometimes though, an early morning customer is not yet fully awake.

    Customer: Where are you located?

    Me: Outside Philadelphia, near Valley Forge.

    Customer: Oh! Your English is very good!

    Me: Vielen Dank, gnädige Frau! Englisch ist meine Muttersprache. (Thank you very much, Madam! English is my native language. -- in German)

    Customer: I'll call back after I've had more coffee.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple tasks

    While asking one user to insert a CD into the drive so I could install her printer she tried to put it in the floppy drive... Later she cried after I apparently made her feel dumb all I said was "no, it's the one above it that it'll actually fit into" . . . You've got to wonder how people like this get through life.

  10. Rat

    Sometimes They Lie

    I once took a support call from a user complaining that her keyboard had stopped working. Since her office was only a couple of doors down from mine, I duly strolled over to take a look.

    Upon arrival at the desk, I pressed a couple of keys - CapsLock, NumLock, the usual suspects. I took a look around the back to check that the keyboard was still plugged in and it wasn't some wag playing a joke - and indeed, the PS/2 connecter was still connected. I unplugged it, checked for bent pins, put it back in. Still nothing.

    I then asked the user if anything had happened recently that she could think of that might have caused it; she said no. I asked if she'd spilled anything on the keyboard - again, the answer was no. I told her that I'd get a replacement for her, and then unplugged the keyboard, picked it up, and put it under my arm.

    At which point, a stream of cola poured out of the keyboard and ran down my trouser leg. She looked at me, sheepishly, and said "Oh. Sorry.".

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Something changed here... the ip address and domain name of the network's primary domain controller, without anyone being informed about the move. Then wondering why any service (including ones you happen to be responsible for) that attempts to authenticate against the ldaps directory it provides has suddenly stopped after years of uninterrupted working (and just before 3 weeks of annual leave).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small minded attitudes...

    From my only experience in an IT support role being 1st line through to 3rd line in most cases (there were only 8 of us) I found it wasn't the customers who were surprisingly the most idiotic; it was the management of the team and beyond that.

    It was a small company and it seemed small minded, with the Support team being given any job that simply wasn't development and expected to drop everything we had logged as errors and just get on with it - this ranged from server setups to unit configurations and on site support. That then ranged from dodgy testing jobs, last minute installs and a whole host of paperwork and crap jobs like setting up the boss' kids PC on the weekends we were required to work.

    This was all of course for as little as they could pay you while squeezing as many hours out of you as possible. Then there came the ritual visits from the MD (a wanker like no-other) who basically gave us a rollicking for not being able to handle the crap that got dropped on us by the Teflon-coated middle managers that pissed off the customer so much they called him directly. This was after they'd been lying blatantly to them since they met them.

    I finally found a way out (to a Dev position thank god) shortly after they decided they were able to change our contracts at will and make us do pretty much what they wanted with us; from support hours for whenever they wanted and forcing you to work overtime instead of having a day off (with the treat of being sacked if you didn't).

    I only hope that for the larger companies that are around that they are having a better time than I did. It did make me treat any support staff I talk to with more respect than I used to, especially the 1st line ones.

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge


    The main role of the hell desk is to limit users access to the talent.

    In any organisation there are a very small number of technical staff who actually know what's going on. What things work, what things can be made to work (with a smack in the right place) and what parts are irredeemably broken. Sadly, the number of people who want and/or need to tap these individuals' experience far outweighs their ability to deal with the demand. So,. apart from the VIPs, every other victim of a companies IT system is tested for their will and resolve before getting through to someone who actually knows what they're doing.

    The first hurdle is the time spent on hold, including touchpad entry of pointless information - which you will be asked for again, many times. This hurdle also includes arbitrary cutoffs and recorded messages telling you how important your call is (answer: not important at all).

    The second hurdle is when you're put through to an actual person. You know it's a person as no AI could be so obtuse. They will ask you to repeat all the previously entered information, including facts that you simply don't know - including the famous dialog:"what's your password?" - "what password?" - "your online password" - "for what" - "for contacting us online" - "but I'm not contacting you online" - "but we need your password" - "but I've never received a password" - "well I can't help you without one" - "so where can I get one" - "fom our online system" - "but I need a password to access that" " - "yes <click>".

    If you get past this step the third hurdle is to not garrot yourself using the phone cord (hint: avoid this by calling from your mobile - at extortionate call rates)" after you've lost the will to live, by answering the rote questions, such as "have you tried rebooting" - "but its a vacuum cleaner". Or "what have your changed?" - "nothing, I was watching <name of programme> and it suddenly told be my account had expired" and the killer: "what software version have you got?" - "<answer truthfully>" - "ahh, well, that isn't supported anymore". If you do get any advice from this stage, it's the stuff that was written in Appendix A of the user manual, which you've already tried, failed and tried again to implement.

    The final phase to the successful use of a helpdesk is to use the time you spend waiting, explaining and on hold (between cut-offs) to search the internet for the real answer to your problems - which is exactly what they want you to do in the first place. The modern day truth is that most organisations don't have the small number of talented staff any more. they all got hacked off with answering support questions all day, or got head-hunted by a competitor. So really, helping yourself through the medium of the 'net is the only practical solution. Of course if it's your network connection that's the reason you need to call the helpdesk - then, my friend, you're truly screwed.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Support calls

    One member of a support desk I used to work in had a call from a remote site's manager saying his "green screen" was no longer working. My colleague duly spent the next 15+ minutes running through the standard questions and answers such a cabling, power, power-cycles etc...

    He then resorted to more general questions such as "did *anything* happen since the last time this worked?".

    "We have had some building work done..."

    "What work?"

    "They have removed a partition wall in this office"

    "The one the network socket was on?"

    "Yes, but it is ok, they left it for us to use"

    "Oh? OK, so where is the socket?"

    "In my hand"

    "In your hand!"

    "Yes, but I have the screen plugged into it"

    "Are there any other wires going into the socket"

    "Err, no, why?"

    The support tech no longer works in IT or lives in the UK.

  15. Iftikar

    Oi Remember.....

    In my early IT career I was working on a telephone helpdesk on an early morning shift...

    I received a phone call from a customer wanting to know why they were unable to log in to the computer system - I asked the nice old lady if she could go to the server for me and nice as pie she told me "oh no, we've been flooded, it's under 3ft of water", she then proceeded to complain to my supervisor when I told her that we would not be able to get them up and running in the next 5 minutes!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To laugh or cry?

    A customer rings up and says they can't print. After much diagnosing and trying to coax information out of them we (grudgingly) admit defeat...

    Customer: "but we've had this printer less than a year"

    Us: "hmmm, it might still be under warranty, we'll speak to HP and see what they say"

    HP: "sorry that printer was out of warranty 3 years ago"

    Us: "oh, ok"

    Back to the customer...

    Us: "sorry, HP say it's out of warranty, but you said you bought it last year?"

    Customer: "yes"

    Us: "er, where did you get it?"

    Customer: "e-bay"

  17. Dr Insanity


    and then you have the users who, instead of calling up when a problem first occurs, they have a go themselves - oft making the problem worst, or even causing irreparable damage.

    And on the occasion they do actually sort the problem out, forget to tell anyone (he says, following a 10 minute walk in the rain to un-jam a printer that some helpful soul has already unjammed for me)

  18. Skinny

    A few recent ones

    I don't man the help desk anymore, I managed to somehow move away from that, however I still work in IT, so I do still have to help people on occasion. Just a few simple ones that I've encountered recently..

    1. Pressing more than one button at a time is difficult - Ctrl-Alt-Del? Oh man, 40 minutes to get someone to do that over the phone. After trying not to insult their intelligence for the first 30 minutes, I had to resort to the old, put a finger on this key, leave it there, now get another finger put it on this other key, whilst keeping the first on the first key type deal. They were actually very happy I went to that low level, as in their own words 'I learnt a lot - Thank You' so all was good that day.

    2. Laptops that have a keypad on the keyboard - I can't type in my password / password not working, I can't type letters, I get numbers instead. Stupid laptops that think it's great to ahve a mode they can go into that make the middle of the keyboard a number pad. See #1 for the fun of getting FN + F7 key pressed together. (Actually this person could manage multiple buttons just fine, so it wasn't that bad)

    3. New user, sent instructions on how to use one of those RSA password token things, where the numbers keep changing. User couldn't login, when asked what they were doing, checking the account, usual stuff, it turned out that in the instructions was an example to show how you used the token. The example had a dummy password in it to be able to show the process. The user was using the example password rather than the numbers on the token.

    Those were from the last couple of weeks, another thing I've noticed is that issues come in seasons. You can go months without a particulat issue, and then suddenly it's all you encounter for a week.

    Oh one the most usefule trouble shooting tools are :

    1. Remote Control - Once you manage to establish a connection, it's the single best invention ever. You don't even really need to talk to the user from that point. They can't lie about whats on or missing from the screen.

    2. Mute Button on the Phone - Getting Stressed? Can't insult the user directly, hit mute, have a good swear about them, calm down, carry on with the call. You really do de-stress a lot for a 5 second rant, and you can usually get on with the call in a much faster / professional manner.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    user issues....


    User: This laptop i purchased off you keeps failing. I can't get intop windows.

    Me: please try Safe mode etc etc

    User: nope. still broke

    Me: Can you do a product recovery from HDD image ?

    User: failed, no image

    Me: Sir, this is the 3rd time you have deleted every file you can. Please stop it.

    User: But I want more space.

    Me: These are critical system files. They need to be there.

    User: oh :(


    User: My pointer is in the middle of the screen, but my mouse is at the edge of the mat. Can you help?

    Me: pick up mouse move to centre of pad.

    User: Slams down phone.


    User: How do I use this USB flash drive?

    Me: Plug it into a USb port. it will show as a new drive letter.

    User: It doesn't have a USB port on it.

    Me: the PC or the USB flash drive ?

    User: The flash drive.

    Me: Quickly looks at picture. You will need to take the cap off.

    User: How ?

    Me: Take the cap in one hand and the USB drive in the other, pull in different directions.

    User: Thank you.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User Arrogance toward IT staff

    During a serious bout of flu in the IT dept, I was helping out in the desktop support team. We got a call from one of the customer team who was actually a student on a years work placement.

    As I started looking at the problem he started spouting about how bad IT support was, and how thick, useless and stupid all the IT staff were, as if I wasn't there.

    After a couple of minutes of listening to this crap, I shut down his PC, stood up and calmly but firmly said to him that I had 2 degrees and was Head of Information Security, while he had even graduated yet, and that if he wanted better IT support, the first thing to do is start treating hardworking staff wth a bit of respect.

    The round of applause I got from his fellow workers suggested that they had also had enough of his arrogance. Didn't see him around after that, can't think why?

  21. Nate Phillips

    Numpties aren't always Users

    Last weekend, I got a frantic call from a good friend of mine. Our old boss went out of the country, and the VM server that he assured "is working perfectly, there won't be any problems" died. It's a linux box, and my friend has no linux experience, so he asked me to take a look. Unfortunately, he didn't have physical access to the server, so I had to tag along with another tech.

    It is critical to note: This guy has already spent 10+ hours PHYSICALLY in front of this server.

    I got in, poked around for a little while...the server was up and running, but the switch was unplugged from the wall. Shockingly, plugging it back in and giving the server a reboot (no root access!) fixed all of their problems. I would have had it fixed in less than 5 minutes, if I hadn't assumed he could manage a standard cable-check.

    10 hours, and the kid never looked at the backside of the box. It's not always the users who are the dumb ones.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    what not to do

    When dialing in using a modem, don't enter your own phone number in the dial-to box, that's why you keep getting busy all the time.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes you just want to slap them..

    I had one of "those" just the other day....

    User : My mouse has stopped working

    Me: OK, have you changed anything

    User: No

    Me: OK, when did the mouse stop working

    User: Just a minute ago, everything was fine and then it just stopped working.

    Me: In mid use?

    User: Yes

    Me: OK, I'll take a look

    < a minute later at users desk >

    Me: Why is the USB mouse plugged into the network (RJ45) socket?

    (Really, it's quite a convincing fit)

    User: Is that what the problem is?

    Me: Yes, you said nothing had changed

    User: Well, I did do that.

    Me: *vision starts to mist over in a kind of red shade

  24. Anonymous Coward

    True story...

    User called me to request "A wireless cable" so they could plug their laptop docking station into the network.

  25. Jay Castle


    Back in the days of Windows 3.11, I had one user screeching at me to help me find her 'very important document' that had 'just disappeared' from her screen.

    Duly found it nestling as an icon on the desktop. 5 minutes of patiently explaining the concept of 'minimising a window' was to follow.

    And more recently, I did a bit of IT support in a call centre for a well known cable tv\broadband tentacle. I remember the day when I overheard one of the poor phone-monkey's patiently explaining to a very angry moron why plugging his set-top box into his computer was not a viable stop-gap for a broken modem.........

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why you need to be nice to tech support.

    Many years back, while working at the helpdesk of a major industrial compagny, I get a call from one of the midle managers working in the corporate office.

    He as just deleted a presentation from his home folder, but he as to give it in an hour. Screaming (literally) at me that this was my fault, as the recycle bin should work on network drives (this was in the win nt 4/win 95 area) and I better have it back inside the next 2 minutes or else.

    I explain that I will send the call to the backups team and hopefully, they can restore it quickly. However, if the tape as been sent to the vault, it may be a few days and I can do nothing to change that. Some more obsenities later, he finally hangs up.

    I fill my ticket and send it to the proper team. Next call, a sweet old lady who can't stop appoligising and asking if I can please help recover her document she accidently blanked in word. I tell her I'll call her back in a few minutes and call the backup guy.

    I tell him about the litle old lady and he gets her file back right away. He tells me he's ready to do the other one I sent as well and after a few hints, he tells me "well, doesn't look like the file is on this morning's tape. guess we'll have to wait till I get yesterday's tape ... tomorow".

    I called back the lady and she was extatic her file was back. Presentation guy had to wait 3 days to get his file back.

    Moral of the story: When you ask someone else to fix your stupid mistake, be nice to them.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Pay Peanuts, You Get ...

    Sorry to say, as an engineer who has to work with helpdesks, a lot of them are overworked, underpaid and untrained.

    On the other hand, a lot of them are morons who are only interested in hitting targets and getting rid of the call as quickly as possible. How many times a day, do I have to chase a call due to poor data capture or sort out their mess due to not listening.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    ... and sometimes they don't lie

    I got a phone call after hours from a user saying the computer had "eaten" her CD-ROM. My first reaction was that sinking "OK, another one of 'these'" feeling, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. My side of the conversation went something like:

    - Please close the drive.

    - OK.

    - Please give the side of the computer a sharp knock.

    - OK, great.

    - Now please open the drive once more.

    Hey presto, the unstuck ROM appeared in the tray! One more satisfied customer. My only regret is not asking her to say "abracadabra" before re-opening the drive. Alas, a lost opportunity to be legend.

    Anon to protect the anonymity of my login.

  29. Tim Ling

    Lovely old lady

    I worked doing support for Windows 98, IE and OE for a couple of years, along with a few M$ games. Apart from one lad who decided the files in one of his program folders could be better organised if he moved them, one little old lady sums up the "communication" issue for me.

    She couldn't send emails through Outlook Express, and part of the fix meant I had to get into IE. I was told by an increasingly irate elderly lady that she was unable to open OE and IE at the same time, and not to be so rude!

    After 5 minutes I finally realised that she had no idea that windows could be re-sized, and didn't know OE was still open behind the IE window. At least this customer sheepishly apologised.

  30. Dan 10


    A slight twist for this one, I, working 2nd line on a company HD, received a call from a colleague in London whose job was on-site IT support at head office.

    Him: "This user's PC won't boot, it says 'error - IRQ conflict: x" (x = I can't remember the IRQ number)

    Me: "IRQ x? I think that's the CD-ROM. Have you changed anything?"

    Him: "No."

    Me: "Odd. Before you start to open it up and tinker with the internals of the machine, just reboot it and check this isn't a one-off"

    Him: "The user tells me his password is out of sync on the Manchester AS400. Could that be the cause?"

    Me: "??!!?"

    My tone must have betrayed my astonishment that this IT Support tech could think that a PC wouldn't even load the OS due to an incorrect password on a mid-range box at the other end of the WAN, and he hung up. He then called back an hour later, rather angry:


    He appeared to have missed the fact that he did indeed reboot the PC in order to resolve this, but I was left so speechless that he made a few smug comments about him being right and me being useless before never speaking to me again.

    Fail icon, obviously.

  31. Ian Sawyer 1

    Helpdesk fools

    That makes me laugh. Our helpdesk is retarded compared to the users. They do no first line and may as well be call loggers. I can tolerate this from users who have a good excuse for being thick but I cannot take it from a so called IT professional. I have never come across a helpdesk that knows its arse from its elbow. You only need to ring any major ISP (BT, Virgin etc) to realise you have to de-evolve a couple of thousand years and scrape your knuckles on the floor as you walk to be considered an ideal candidate for a helpdesk engineer.

  32. Tweets

    My modem isn't working!

    I've worked in a helpdesk environment solidly, from 1994 til now.

    Things are improving these days, with users finally getting a clue, but I'll never forget the call received while I worked in dial up support for a large ISP...

    "Hi, My modem doesn't work"

    "OK, and what's the make, please?"

    "US Robotics?"

    "Perfect, is it a 9600 baud modem, or a 14400?"

    "A what?"

    "If you turn the case upside down, what does the decription say?"

    "Oh... 14400... I think"

    "OK, and can you tell me what happens when you try and use it."

    "It doesn't get any power."

    "You mean none of the lights come on?"


    At this point, all I can hear is uncertainty in her voice. And I've got this sinking feeling of dread.

    "So, you plug it in to the power socket and lights come on?"

    "No lights"

    "Ah, OK. No lights. Can you check the back of the case and make sure that nothing is bent where the power cable goes in?"

    "Ummm... hang on, I'll go get the case."

    "Wait, you said you have the modem in front of you?"

    "Yes, but the case is still laying at the bottom of the stairs where I dropped it!"


  33. Edward Noad

    Had all the obvious ones...

    ...the cables kicked out, the keyboards / laptops full of congealed liquid, but the real problems come from managers and users of all kinds treating us more like the emergency services rather than employees just like them, or as their personal IT gurus for all their home problems.

    But the biggest problems come from mentioning you've done or can do something that's relevant to the company in some way. I have designed, programmed, tested and implemented fairly complex new systems and pieces of software, but somehow it's always been covered by the word support* so I've never had a pay raise or bonus for any of this extra work, no matter how far outside my job description it's been. I sat down once and checked through what I'd spent my time doing for the last month then looked up the going rate for it on recruitment websites. Imagine my surprise when I found out I was being underpaid by £6-8k/yr.

    *some strange new usage of the word "support" I wasn't previously aware of

  34. Peter 1

    Come Back Darwin....

    I worked in IT support in the City in the 1990's. Best ever was the Chairman of a "well known High St Bank" (cuurently broke) who called me in to "fix" his PC. The fault was that it was switched-off at the mains, the socket being clearly visible and easily reached (not the usual floor crawling job). Stupidity or idleness. How do you differentiate?

    Whilst I have every symapthy with the notion that as "Experts" IT support staff should be polite and sympathetic, there are certain Darwinian constraints.

    I too have frequently been a victim of the lying response to "Have you changed anything" and\or "Have you spilt anything.." School children are les prone to lying under these circumstances than many a "Corporate Executive".

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    this one wasn't in our support database...

    A long, long time ago I had the misfortune to get stuck on the weekends covering the support line for the companys only big client - a high street chain that used our specially made program to prepare and print out 3 copies of a work order for their customers - one for the customer, one for the subcontracted company that did the work and one for filing. Unfortunately back then the printer they chose to install in all these shops was a really terrible HP inkjet that caused no end of problems - so much so that we made our own support database just to cope with these problems.

    Most of the shops had a problem now and again but there was this one branch with some very 'special' staff - they made up over 70% of all our calls alone! This fateful day I was actually in a good mood when they called - and recognising the voice immediately (she'd been working in the shop for years and had plenty of experience with our program... I thought) I settled down for another long stint of slowly working through the problem.

    It was a doosie! The printer was making a terrible noise and the paper wouldn't print. I had her move to the phone beside the printer and sure enough it was making the same sort of noise your engine does when it's runing out of oil. So we started into trying to fix it....

    Almost an hour later having exhausted all the suggestions from the support database and a few others I'd just invented I finally decided to throw in the towel - knowing fair well my boss would be onto me for having another printer sent back. I'm just about to tell her to pack the printer back in it's box when she says:

    'Hold on a minute!! I have an idea! Instead of putting in the pages already stapled together why don't I staple them AFTER they've been printed'

    When I had picked myself up from the floor I finally agreed that it might JUST work, but just to be safe to send the printer back anyway and use the other computers printer until the new one arrived.

    When the printer arrived we found the rubber wheels had been torn to shreds.

    I think they kept that printer as a reminder - I will NEVER forget :D

  36. Anonymous Coward


    Like the nevrotic woman who once burst in tears because her printer was jammed and she thus couldn't read any email.

    The same also who did train the Helldesk to always flush the printer spooler before fixing her printer. Or face 200 same print jobs eating all paper.

    Also, the "my password doesn't work" girl, who in fact had never been able to change it successfully in 2 years times (expiration was 2 months).

    Also the "shortcut delete" girlie: she would erase each now and then the shortcut to her main application, causing her to stall. Noone did ever discover how. The same Helldesk tech was each time summoned to recreate it.

  37. Paul Naylor

    Here's one

    Thankfully, I got out of support a long time ago but because I "know about computers" (I'm a designer/developer) I usually get asked support questions when our IT manager is not around. My favourite was a woman in accounts: "Is the network down? My keyboard isn't working." Yes love, we plug keyboards straight into the server... She'd kicked the cable out, which I told her when I ran upstairs and plugged it back in. She denied it of course: USB cables just drop out of the hole.

    Having worked on support I always try to be nice with support staff. Be nice to them and they'll help you. Rant at them, they won't.

    Keep up the good work guys!

  38. jam
    IT Angle

    Just because it uses electricity

    Picture the scene. There I am researching Microsoft dynamics and how I intend to role out the training program and adjust the program as I go. I get a phone call.

    "Hello support"

    "Hello I've got a problem"

    "OK whats the issue"

    "The kettle has stopped working, it doesn't switch on"

    "The kettle!?!?" I query?

    "Yeah" said the anxious phonecalleee


    "Well I asked the boss and he told me to come see you"

    So I walk into the bosses office and give him the broken kettle. What exactly do you want me to do with this? I enquire.

    "Well its your area isn't it?" My boss asks

    "No" I reply rather sarcastically trying to hide my outrage at being insulted.

    "Well it uses electricity doesn't it" My boss retorts



  39. Dan 7
    Paris Hilton

    All information is required

    When I used to work on the frontline for IBM we had a lot of wierd phonecalls. Such as:

    The gentleman ringing demanding to know where his Giro cheque was, and could not be persuaded that we were not the DSS. He was utterly convinced I was lying to him.

    The many many many customers who rang irate that their Aptiva PC or Server wasn't working, and getting more and more huffy that I was asking them such an obvious question as "is it plugged in and turned on".......only made better by the quiet swearing and scuffling as they finally checked after several minutes of assuring me it was.......and then the mumbled "err its not plugged in" :)

    My favourite though is the woman who rang to log a faulty server. Their companies main server and her MD was standing right next to her (said obviously to try and impress upon me the importance of the situation.) She huffily gave over the company name, address, and her name. She almost didn't give over the machine type number but she flat out refused to give me the serial number. I had to politely tell her that we needed the serial number so as to check her maintenance status. She refused angrily and rudely again and again. Eventually she said she was putting her MD on. The MD gruffly said "Right, can we stop all this buggering about and just get this fixed." To which I assured him that we would however we needed the serial number. He asked why ?? I told him that we needed it to check his maintenance contract status otherwise he would be charged, and I told him I had told his employee this several times but she refused to give it to me. Silence.........then a lot of muffled shouting in the background at the employee. I couldn't help but smile when the now sheepish woman came back on and gave me the serial number :D

    Paris coz.......well clearly she was one !! :)

  40. John 90
    Dead Vulture

    ah, memories

    One user rang the helpdesk to complain that there was a smell of bacon coming from under her desk. Baffled, I went down to have a look, but by the time I got there the smell had gone. The answer was never found, but the real mystery was why a smell of bacon prompted her to call technical support. Surely catering should have been first on the case?

    In another company, a user rang comlaining that she had to change her password every month. She'd worked there almost a year, and she'd "run out of words."

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "After trying not to insult their intelligence for the first 30 minutes, I had to resort to the old, put a finger on this key, leave it there, now get another finger put it on this other key, whilst keeping the first on the first key type deal."

    It took you *30 minutes* to think of that? Really? Wow. No wonder you're not on the helpdesk any more.

    @AC 14.38 :

    "Me: Why is the USB mouse plugged into the network (RJ45) socket?

    (Really, it's quite a convincing fit)"

    Yup - learned to bother to pull the PC out and look rather than feeling around the back after doing that myself. Next time the connector I feel might be a bit less friendly ...

  42. Anonymous Coward

    If you cant do it .....

    ...then teach !!!

    A Teacher had a persisant problem with logging on. Ended up setting his username exactly the same as his name - ie Fred Smith... to help him out.

    I then was asked - " Hang on a second while I write it down so I don't forget. That is the truth...

    No wonder this Country is bolloxed !!

  43. Owen Smith

    "just read me whats on the screen"

    another 'user' i had back in the dark days, calls saying his "internets broken"

    as i go through the normal stupid questions (pc or mac, windows 3.1/95/98/nt, installed dialup networking blah blah blah) the user is flumuxed by all of the questions so we try the old faithful "right click on my computer and read what it says on the screen"

    time passes (slowly)

    "i cant right click"

    "ok, your clicking the other mouse button?"

    "im clickin on the right side of the mouse"

    "ohhhkay, what colour is the pointy arrow thing?"

    "ohh, its black"

    "ok, so you have a dirty mac, i'll ring you back (maybe)"

    im not saying anything... but i never found out what they where trying to click on

  44. Jamie Kitson

    My Favourite

    The company I work for supplies bespoke software to local government. I took a call once from a guy asking me how he could create an auto-run CD, he went on to describe his IT department in disparaging terms and was very flattering about us.

    A less favourite call involved about an hours investigation before I managed to get out of the caller that that morning they'd had a power cut.

    And my favourite bug report:

    Who would believe a user who said that OpenOffice would not print on Tuesdays?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    A user called to say that her report was not showing the correct information when printed. Sure enough, she was correct, so the fault was fixed and tested and the user was informed. She called back immediately to say that the problem was still there, so we went away and investigated. We could no longer recreate the problem, so we called her back. She explained that we had definitely not fixed the problem - she was holding the printout in front of her and the information was still incorrect. We were stumped. Finally we asked when she had printed off the new copy of the fixed report.

    "New copy?"

    Cue us explaining that while we had updated the electronic report, our IT skills were yet to evolve to a level where we could manipulate the ink absobed into the paper itself from a distance of 160 miles, and that maybe printing off a new copy of the report would fix the problem. This took a depressingly long time to get across.

    Oh, and which genius decided to make a USB connector look basically exactly the same both ways up, yet only go in one way up?

  46. Anonymous Coward

    It's not always the users... It just is most of the time.

    We had a user who was having trouble fitting disks in the floppy drive... the PC had been installed on the desk upside down.

    And don't get me started on the number of users who believe the likelihood of recovering a file from a FUBAR'ed floppy disk is directly linked to how badly they need it...

    ...and of course, it's their only copy.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a few...

    Many years ago when I was new to all things IT, I was working in a 4 man support team when a call comes down from the head of finance literally screaming that her floppy drive was broken and it needed to be replaced so she could look at the spreadsheet she had.

    I asked a few basic questions... are you sure that the disk is the right way round/upside down ect..

    I was shouted at "I’m NOT stupid you know"

    So I duly run up the stairs take one look at the disk hanging out the drive, pull it out turn it over and with a nice click push the disk in to the drive.

    I looked up and smiled at her as I walked off stifling a giggle.

    Many moons later....

    I'm now a hardened IT support specialist and have pretty much seen and heard them all..

    Or so I thought....

    I am now working in the public sector for a local authority, believe me people when I tell you that never in all the years have I come across blatant stupidity and unfortunately most of that has come from the stream of IT contractors that have come and gone.

    1 who was asked to replace a faulty mouse couldn’t be bothered to trace the cable so proceeded to cut the lead with a pair of scissors.

    Another who whilst on the phone actually asked me if he could give our network admin password out to a 3rd party software supplier.

    Another who was so completely inept figured that the only way she could keep her job was to sleep with one of the senior techies... good for him... still didn’t work though she still got sacked.

    Then the piece de resistance being the people that make the decisions for the borough who regularly spout down the phone "do you know who I am!!! " when you ask them to reboot the laptop.

    I could go on and on and on... maybe another time I need to take my pills now

  48. Jamie Kitson

    Re: Helpdesk fools

    There is one exception to this: O2 Broadband, don't know whether it's a hangover from Be Unlimited, but their mobile help line is awful, twice I've had the representative tell me that they do not know what to do.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    supidity isnt just the user

    I was in a small tech team (3 people) one of them had only just been moved into tech (from the call centre) and he came to me panicking that there was a message that the usb ports were not working as fast as they could (a usb1-2 thing) and turned and asked me what a usb was. i felt like slapping him. but saying that, he got the job by answering the question "what do you do when something goes wrong?" and the answer being "turn it off and on again" (the big boss is stupid too)

  50. Jamie Kitson

    From a Friend

    The best one I've had was at my last company where I wasn't even on the helpdesk.

    One of the account managers I worked for was complaining she couldn't see her laptop directories on the network.

    Asked where the laptop was to inspect it she said she'd forgotten to bring it to work & had left it in her hallway at home!!!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brain Dead

    While helping out the PC support team due to staff being off sick I received the following call at 8:50AM

    User: Hi, is that support?

    Me: Yes, it is.

    User: My screen is flickering and the picture is jumping about.

    Me: Was this happening yesterday or any other day?

    User: No

    Me: Was your computer turned off last night?

    User: Yes

    Me: Did you screen work when you first switched on?

    User: Yes

    Me: When did you screen start flickering?

    User: After water dropped into it?

    Me: Switch off the screen!

    User: Done that.

    Me: What water dropped into the screen?

    User: The water dropped when I closed the window.

    Me: An engineer will there shortly.

    Note: The window was hinged in the middle and had been left horizontal collecting a nice pool of water from the rain overnight. The user concerned worked in the Sales Department and was surprisingly male.

  52. Bruce Ordway

    Both Sides

    It seems rare that I can call for support and receive meaningful help. I have found that in the IT world learning how to fix it yourself is usually faster and better than trying to get somebody else to do it. Many of my IT support stories are as a customer. They aren't really that funny either.

    So, when I'm called to help somebody who is having a problem with their PC or application; I'll remember all the pricks I've dealt with over the years and try not to be one myself.


    About 20 years ago, I made the move from engineering to full time IT. I'm working with MRP systems and called analyst (today) but I still spend the majority of my time helping end users getting their "stuff" working. I continue to acquire new IT skills due to the lack of adequate support for stuff that doesn't work well.

  53. Matt Mc

    This is just what I remember. I have notes somewhere...



    "Ma'am, can you press the power button for me?"

    "I don't have a power button..."

    * * *

    "Sir, I need you to right-click My Computer."

    "My right, or yours?"

    * * *

    "I think I'm spelling my username wrong."

    "Nah, maybe you need to change your password, how are you spelling your last name?"

    She was spelling it wrong.

    * * *

    "Sir, what seems to be the problem?"

    "You're stealing RAM out of my computer!"

    "How am I doing that, sir?"

    "Over the Internet!"

    * * *

    "You broke my monitor!"

    "Uh, you never brought us the monitor."

    "No, but it worked before I brought you my PC and now it doesn't turn on."

    The computer/monitor were won in a work raffle and had to be 5 years old.

    * * *

    "My login doesn't work."

    "How are you spelling your username?" Pause. "Uh huh, that's not your last name."

    "I know, I just got married."

    "Did you tell HR?"


    * * *

    With Dell Tech Support: "There's a monitor at a branch office in Oklahoma that doesn't work and I need it replaced under warranty. I've already had the user swap it with a couple other monitors just to check if it was a computer problem. It's not."

    "Okay, so I need you to swap that monitor with another one for testing."

    "I already did that."

    "We need to do it over the phone."

    "I just spent an hour with them doing this. It's a CRT not and LCD."

    "I need to log that we did this over the phone."

    "It's in Oklahoma, I'm in Massachusetts."

    "Sir, please, I cannot help you unless--"

    "Unless I get my fat ass on a plane and fly to f'ing Oklahoma?"

    "Sir, there's no need to shout..."

    * * *

    "No one in New York state can get any work done!"

    "Why not, Jeremy?"

    "Well, Tisha can't get email... From one person..."

    * * *

    "My email doesn't work."

    "Why not, Jeremy?"

    "I don't know it just gives me errors."

    "What are the errors, is your laptop on?"

    "No, I'm in my car on the interstate."



    "My keboard doesn't work."

    "Did you spill anything on it?"

    "Of course not."

    "Then why is water spilling out of it?"

    * * *

    Replaced a mouse for an older woman, went from a ball mouse to a laser mouse. She held it against the screen and moved it around.

    * * *

    "This computer doesn't play my game."

    "What game is that?"

    "Wing Commander IV."

    After some research. "The game company can't even play that game. They've stopped supporting it."

    "So it's a problem with the computer you sold me?"

    * * *

    "My computer's frozen."

    I venture down and see her keyboard works and Windows responds nicely. Her mouse didn't work and somehow the screwed in serial mouse had come unhooked.

    * * *

    You can tell how many cats someone has by the hairballs in their PC fans.

    * * *

    "What's the problem, ma'am?"

    "Microsoft said that I needed to reload my PC to get rid of AOL and it would take 6 hours and $250."

    I unloaded AOL in ten minutes. Cost her $45.

  54. Neil Greatorex

    Headmistress of a very famous

    Girl's school on the south coast.

    At the time (90's) we produced a CD-ROM based database product, said headmistress called support to say the latest CD wasn't working, after the usual click this, click that blah, blah. I said; "Well, I',m sorry, there must be a hardware problem, as we can't see the CD-ROM!" She replied, gospel, "Don't be silly young man, it's right in front of me on the desk!"


    Another one, call from remote location; "please shut down the firewall & DC, we're having electrical work done in the comm's room.", Me: "When?", her: "Now!". So I shut down the DC & firewall.

    8¾ minutes later, same woman called in: "Internet is not working & I can't get to my Jay drive!!!!!"

  55. Andrew Macrobie

    Professional User == Qualified Idiot

    @ Jam + Others

    Yes, if it has any form of cable attached it's very obviously an IT issue. Kettle, microwave, television, vcr, dvd player, answering machine, photocopier.... all are supported by frequently understaffed IT departments - allegedly.

    In my experience, users are generally stupid, deceitful and spiteful. So-called qualified professionals (solicitors, accountants, anyone who works in education) are merely qualified idiots :).

    As a friend once said to me; Ignorance is an condition that can be cured with time and study. Stupidity is an affliction for life.

    Every IT staffer I've worked with has been more than happy to help educate users, what they resent is being systematically lied to about the root cause of problems.

  56. Anonymous Coward


    I think I may have had the same customer

    I was working front line support at a telecoms company

    Customer came through, moaning like hell that they had to use their mobile

    as our bloody phone system was rubbish, they should never have changed.

    As i didn't know the site, I took a look at the notes and saw "PBX Installed in Basement"

    Notes also said Server & Rack also installed in basement

    I asked the customer what was displayed on the phones, Answer "Nothing"

    I asked the customer if they could get someone to take a look at the system on the wall

    in the basement, She Said "Thats Impossible, it's under 3 feet of water, I just told the

    other support company that"...."Don't you people talk to each other"

    Didn't stop laughing about that for ages.

    My other claim to fame was a text message from a certain Embassador, from an embassy in London. one that currently wants to make nuclear thingies!!

    The text read "Seasons Greating to you and beast wishes for the new year".. "Please can you fix our phone system" and this was on NEW YEARS EVE @ 23.45

    Oh the fun

  57. Anonymous Coward

    Oh so many memories.....

    Where to start.....

    The techincian who complained to me that he couldn't get the CDROM drive to eject his CDROM. The system he showed me was an HP workstation that didn't even have a CDROM drive in it - he'd managed to stuff it through the gap on the front.

    The manager that shouted at me for not telling him that the Netware file server was about to crash. He was upset that he had lost the past hour's work because he hadn't saved it, and thought I should have predicted the crash!

    The poor American lady that rang me up because she couldn't start her database. When I told her to check a certain directory she told me that earlier the server had filled up the filesystem so she'd done a little 'housekeeping' - effectively deleting the entire database. Oh, and their last backup was over a week old.

    While on secondment to the US, a Southern American guy rang up with a problem on a VMS system. Not knowing much about VMS (I'm a UNIX kid), I talked to another technician. He said that he'd sent instructions before. So I went back and told him to follow the instructions. Which he failed to do. 4 times. Despite me telling him again and again to FOLLOW the DAMNED instructions.

    Helping one American women - who then propositioned me. Unfortunately I was in the UK at the time.... but met up with her a year or so later. Went OK until she told me her husband was a drug addict!

    A friend of a friend who complained that her CDROM drive stopped working after she had her computer repaired. It was disonnected.

    Taking another US call, the user complained that their database was not working. I asked the customer to log in - only to be asked how to do that - they were new in the job and didn't know how to connect to the computer, let alone log in and fix the database.

    The company I worked for bought another company for a specific piece of software. We had a demo after the fact, and I found several serious problems. When questioning the presenter, we were told that disgruntled former employees had deleted the source code so no fixes were going to be available for some time.

    New release of software by the company I worked for was to be demoed in the UK. US office sent an expensive server via air freight because 'it would save them some time'. Case arrived more or less intact. The server rattled when picked up. After putting the system back together, found that the only way it would boot up at all was to lay it on its side. Every time the system was booted, more cylinders would go bad. JUST scraped through the week before the disk failed completely.

    Had a disk go bad on an SGI workstation - it just refused to boot. Rang up to get the disk replaced - the engineer on the other end told me to remove the disk and hit it edge on on the desk. I was game, so did it. He said to do it harder so he could hear it. Banged the disk so hard I put a dent in the desktop. Put it back in and the system booted without any problems (enough to get a backup and run for a few days until the replacement disk arrived).

    Had the VP of Europe call me urgently to the office - his laptop wouldn't connect to the Internet. Dropped everything and went to fix the problem. Once working, the first thing he did was bring up that day's Dilbert cartoon.

    Being acutely embaressed when checking out the floppy disk drive in one of the female employees laptop. I asked her if she'd had a 3 1/2 inch floppy in her slot recently. The conversation went rapidly downhill from there.

  58. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    "it doesn't work"

    Possibly the most annoying sentence you can get from a luser over the phone. Also, the most detailed error report you can possibly pry out of the average luser.. Typical example:

    Luser: "Hi, I'm trying to do <whatever>, and it doesn't work and your system is crap and I need it done 30 minutes ago oh my god I'm gonna die"

    IT person: "OK, click on the <whatever> button. What does it do?" or "type <whatever> in the text box and press enter. What does it say?"

    Luser: "it doesn't work"

    ITP: "OK, but what does it say?"

    L: "It says that it doesn't work"

    ITP: "What does it say PRECISELY?"

    L: "Oh, it just said that it didn't work, so I just closed everything" (optionally: "so I just rebooted")

    ITP: "can you please try again and tell me PECISELY WHAT THE MACHINE SAYS"

    L (after 5-30 min to reboot and/or repeat steps): "OK, I just tried what you said again. It still doesn't work"

    ad lib...

    and in the end, 99% of the time they just stupidly mistyped what you told them.

  59. Inachu

    The entire IT staff could not install the software!

    Years ago at MLS company where I was newly hired had customer drop by.

    The client was unable to install the software that lets them do their MLS searches.

    Ok so our head of helpdesk operations went to help out the client.

    Let it be known the head helpdesk person had over 4 different certifications relating to Microsoft certification.

    She was unable to get the software installed. So she let the 3rd teir support team look at it.

    The third tier also failed to get the program installed.

    The second teir also failed and the stunned server room admin guy also failed.

    Also who was hired was a summer intern. Apretty blonde hair girl at that WOOT!

    She is new to the computer world and no certifications what so ever.

    So the helpdesk manager let me train her in a simple to understand layman approach to

    fixing and repairing computers.

    So I got the bad pc that failed with the install.

    I was curious as to why it failed.

    So i started at the beginning with it off and spoke as I went along.

    Booted into the OS then began the install.

    Low and behold I got the software installed and working and the summer intern ran out and told the helpdesk manager SHE fixed what nobody else could fix when it was ME who fixed it.

    So what was the fix? The 386enhanced button was not enabled.

    So the summer intern liar got the praise and not me.

    NEVER TRUST A BLONDE girl for the rest of my life.

    Also never use T-III software lest you be made a fool of in the IT world.

  60. Mark 127

    Feading the baby

    Had many intresting calls, during my time @ BT Yahoo, in Derby (Untill they buggered the lot off to India), mostaly being called a Paki B******** (Asian I am not, 1/2 welsh maybe).

    Anyways, can always remember one user from North Nottingham, called in with a driver issue on their Speedtouch 330 USB Modem.

    Bearing in mind, my phone was on loud speaker (I broken my headset earlier), and was waiting for her comp to reboot.

    Whilst talking to this lass, she suddenaly said.... gimmie a mo, just swapping my son onto my other tit.

    Q myself with a big sh*t eating grin, perverted thoughts, and the lass next to me, blushing like buggery.

    Finished the call, and the guy next to me just started howling with laughter.

    Did wish I asked the lass, if I could jump onto the spare nipple, as I was hungry :D

  61. Kev K
    Thumb Up

    Neat file structures

    Back in Windows 98 days a client had a top of the range PII 4 or 500 from Packard Smell, Compaq or one of the off the shelf Curry's/PC World/Dixons type places & I was forever being called round there to sort out something that had broke.

    This time Windows was doing its no bootable media thing & for once it wasn't because there was a floppy in the drive, fired up the box up on a bootable CD and had a poke around - no, autoexec etc - in fact nothing but folders in the root.

    Turns out she had been on a course about directory structures and how it was important to keep all your files properly files away and in a logical order, so all the "funny files" in the root had been filed neatly away in a folder called "Misc".

    Bless her.

  62. jacksongreen

    Car crushing madness

    Amongst the various incidents, most of which are depressingly common such as network leads pulled out and placed in drawers to tidy up desks and keyboards mysteriously not working that soak your trousers when you pick them up, my favourite stands head and shoulders above the rest.

    I was working on a helpdesk where we supported internal and external users. The external users where a little odd in that they were self employed and leased their laptops from the company and had insurance policies on them for damage etc. Well one guy called in and said he needed to raise an insurance claim, I duly called up the appropriate form and asked what happened. It transpired that the guy had got stuck in snow and in order to gain traction had stuffed his laptop bag behind one of the wheels and had somehow FORGOTTEN that his several thousand pound laptop was inside! Took a while to stop laughing after that one.

    That said it's good to have served my time on the frontline - as a lead engineer myself these days I get new engineers who have never worked on the frontlines and are extremely substandard when it comes to problem solving and it worries me that these days people don't automatically work in support before they're allowed near anything else.

  63. Pan Narrans


    'nuff said

    grenade for the classic complaints department picture

  64. CanaDanimal

    Who helps the helpdesk?

    Our dearest colleagues in our help desk had just moved to their shiny new digs, and we getting themselves all set up, when our property and services group received a notification that they needed 13 new light bulbs for their task lights.

    Our contractor duly ordered the lights, and when setting about to replace them, made a joke about how they had surely checked to ensure that the lamps had all been plugged back in.

    Imagine their embarassment when it was found that none of the 13 lamps were plugged in, and, in fact, all the lights were working!

    FAIL, obviously

  65. Nusato

    Users are stranger than fiction

    Worst IT memory:

    - I was on call this one week in September a few years ago. Someone called me on a particular weekday morning to ask why they couldn't contact the NY office servers. I was staring at the news the entire time he was talking, wondering, just wondering, how to make this person connect with reality.

    Of course, it's not all grim darkness. For every user who puts in a ticket that just says "I need help ASAP" with no detail, there's a tech who closes a really complicated ticket by entering "Problem solved." I keep a special LART around for those technicians.

    Best IT memories:

    Every time someone puts their music/video/picture collection on their work computer. :D

    Funniest IT memory:

    Pulling a user's computer out from under her desk by sliding it across the rug, opening it while kneeling on the floor, and leaning over to pull out some memory cards when I am stopped by a gigantic crackling noise so loud even the user turned around. Did I mention this was in December, and I was wearing a sweater and had my hair in a ponytail? The look on my face was apparently enough to make her not say anything for a second (quite an achievement!) and finally I just told her I would be replacing the entire machine and I would be right back.

    Most heroic IT memory:

    (This was a few years ago, you'll recognize it in a bit) In a petrified whisper, user calls for help. Her machine is frozen while trying to save the document she's been working on for hours (of course, hasn't saved, of course it's due tomorrow, and of course it's vitally important). Can we help her?

    She was right around the corner, so I stopped reading the latest news on El Reg (this was my daily thing, I'm in the US and I love being the first to know about IT stuff across the water) and walked over to her desk.

    Her hard drive is grinding away doing something, Word is open, Outlook is open in the background, and I can see the title of the last email she opened: "I love you."

    I felt panic. Genuine panic. First, I disconnected her computer from the network. Then I asked: Did you open that attachment? It didn't even occur to her to ask how I knew that an email from a friend had an attachment to it. Of course she had opened it. Before she could even finish asking about saving her document, I ran back to find the Exchange admin. My manager, sensing something bad, followed me and listened to my panicked story about this brand new virus that was now loose on our system. There was this stunned silence, the Exchange guy ran to his desk to see the El Reg article that I had just been reading for himself and my manager went to go write up a virus alert. He hadn't even finished reading the article before he turned a funny color and just shut down the network. Since we couldn't email the warnings, we instead walked around and handed out flyers and told people not to open any attachments. The face to face worked, people were less ruffled about not having any email for hours, and we escaped with minimal damage thanks to my quick assessment of the situation. I got an actual "thank you" for that and a little bonus! How often does that happen in IT?

    Stupidest IT memory (well, one of many):

    "Hello, is this the helpdesk?"

    "Yes, how can I help you?"

    "Can you call me a cab?"

    (pause.... assess... consider....)

    "Certainly, ma'am. You're a cab." (click)

  66. Shane Kent

    My Favorite...

    Cust: My friend said to call and get you to help me format my hard drive.

    Tech: Do you have data on your drive?

    Cust: No. (customer gets mad you ask question back)

    Tech: Do you know what data is?

    Cust: No. (cust getting more mad that you are asking questions back)

    Customer makes comment "they said this would be easy", and "do you know what you are doing?".

    Tech: You have no data but don't know what data is. Data is the files you created on your computer.

    Cust: Yes, I got several years worth of work on the computer.

    Tech: Well you format you loose everything.....

  67. This post has been deleted by its author

  68. M man

    adjust inteligence


    my mother ship wont start.

    i now dont get caught out by the turn off pc(monitor) trap.

    or user who keep a large collection of magnets on thier monitor.

    or those that call IT hell desk on skype,....right you need to reboot...hello....hello...

    talk to them like people, instruct them like idiots.

  69. Colin Miller


    I can't believe that no-one has mentioned techtales before.

  70. Anonymous John

    Can't remember where I heard this one.

    A user reported that her password only worked when she was sitting down. A claim that was initially disbelieved until demonstrated a few times.

    Much later, someone noticed that two key caps had been swapped over. But as she was an excellent touch typist, this went unnoticed. But if she was standing up, she hunted and pecked like the rest of us.

  71. Evil Genius
    Thumb Up

    keep them coming

    More, more, more please.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Know that scene from clockwork orange

    well if a user phones up with a problem, and they do the wrong thing, then off to a re-education centre with them.

    Couple of matchsticks, eye drops, Beethoven's Fifth and some flashing images of ultra computing, job's done.

    Hell desk is pointless, if someone cannot do their job with the basic tools of modern society then fire their arse, they are incompetent, the very definition of. And those in hell desk jobs can go off and do the work of those bozos.

  73. poobumwilly


  74. Kevin 6

    Ahh the helpdesk

    I kind of miss it in ways.

    I worked helpdesk for 2 years and was actually thanked ONE time by a extremely grateful department who were very sad (among a quite a few other users) to see me quit. I pretty much recovered 2 years of documents off a PC that the hard drive was crapping out, they never bothered to save to their network drive.

    I think my favorite call was when we had a new guy who was very optimistic, eager to help people and had a very friendly personality (he became a cynical pessimist in 2 weeks). When the phone rang I said before he picked it up TELL THEM TO TURN THE PC ON. He looked at me with a confused look on his face and asked "How can you say that without listening to them", I replied "Easy I'm psychic and I'm not wasting my time going out because I got enough crap to fix by the end of the shift". So he decided to answer it and be polite and after hanging up I was like "I'll bet you the machine is not on and they are pressing the monitors power button repededly" he replied I doubt anyone here would mix up a monitor power switch and mistake a monitor for a computers case" so i placed a wager on it and sent another new guy with him to learn how stupid our users really are he doubted my psychic helpdesk powers also(BTW I worked in a technical university that specialized in computer programming networking and electronics). So 15 minutes after he left he came back with a surprised look on his face and asked me "how did you know exactly the issue without answering the phone" I told him after working in the department for a few months you kind of can just guess depending on the time of day.

    We also had teachers who couldn't remember their friggin passwords even though they never changed them from the default password which was THEIR LAST NAME.

    Another call I remember very vividly (mainly due to being bitched out my my boss from it) was from this crazy teacher who thought programming and new students on how to use the network...

    OK so the guy calls up asking us to install some bootleg copy of XP on his office machine (It was a leaked pirated copy of XP cause XP came out officially a month later). I said "nope we do not support XP or have any licensing for it", then he asks "Can I install it myself" I replied "Sir, I just said we cannot have it on any of our machines due to not having it licensed" and he hangs up.

    3 hours later I see a ticket in the queue from him for his pc not working (take a wild guess where this goes)... So I am forced to go deal with him and took a imaging disk with knowing all too well what he probably did. Well turns out I was right he failed setting up his bootleg XP and deleted his hard drives partitions... Than after I reimage his pc he screams at me (literally) "WHAT YOU DO TO MY GRADES! WHERE ARE THEY! YOU DELETED MY GRADES ON ME!", I asked him if he saved them to the network drive his response "I SAVED THEM ON MY HARD DRIVE SO NO ONE COULD TAMPER WITH THEM" (BTW one teacher who was a psychiatrist that I talked to back then said the guy shows all signs of schizophrenia) I TRIED my best to explain he trashed the partition and lost everything but instead he decided to keep blaming me while screaming till I finally got up and just walked out.

    Then he called up the IT director and said that I purposely destroyed his data, was rude, and disrespectful to him... The IT director called up my boss and chewed her out then she called me into her office and bitched me out for 10 minutes not letting me get a word in edgewise till I stood up and started to walk out of the office. Then she asked me "what the hell do you think your doing" I responded "if you want to bitch at me might as well bitch at the wall seeing I did nothing wrong", she finally decided to ask me what happened... After I told her EXACTLY what he did to his pc and why he was mad she apologized to me for not listening, than told the IT director.

    I quit a few months after that and a fair amount of users (and the network admins) were actually sad to see me go seeing I was one of the only people who knew what they were doing in the department, and was the only person who knew how to fix any piece of equipment in the place(I memorized every schematic to memory on things I had to solder). A year later I was in the area and ran into a user I dealt with regularly and he told me he missed me and that the people(yes plural I did 4 peoples jobs in 2 departments) they replaced me with were all "fuckin idiots". Also the boss I had quit a few months after I did do to stress issues I heard because of the QUALITY employees she hired (as sarcastically typed as possible) to fill the large gaping hole I left when I err.. left :D

    Actually if they would get rid of the night boss I would re-apply there I actually kind of miss it. I had a VERY big argument with her and she is the main reasons I quit (I actually called her a dumb bitch to her face and kept my job over 8 months, till I quit, while she tried to find a replacement for me :D ). Actually her stupidity was the reason 90% of the people we hired would quit within 2 weeks after being hired.

    Sorry for the long post ;)

  75. Anonymous Coward

    Problems with power outages on a floor

    I got a call one morning, from a lady working accounting at our main corporate office. The lady was complaining that her PC had once again shutoff. Looking in her call history, I see no previously reported issues, so begin basic troubleshooting to realise that her PC was working fine, but the floor was suffering from a power cut. Not only that, but this kept happening and she expected me to fix the power outage issue.

    Explaining to her she should call building maintenance, not IT support, she non the less kept insisting I find out why they kept getting power failures. Not wanting to stay on the phone any more with her, as I am tired of being called names, I say I will look into it and go see my boss. Explaining it all to him (he used to work the HD, so he knows I'm not just making it up), he tells me I should call the onsite tech and see if he can't find more info.

    Calling the guy, he says he'll call maintenance and call me back.

    20 minutes later, I get a call from a very amused tech. He spoke to maintenance and they went to the floor. He now had 19 personal space heaters and 19 power bars they had confiscated from the 19 people working on that floor. Each one of those personal space heater pulled 9 amps, more then doubling the electrical load from the PCs. Each station had only 2 sockets, one for the PC, one for the monitor and the load had been calculated that they would only be used to power the office PCs. All the suden, no more power outage ...

  76. Barry 3
    Thumb Up

    Just this morning...

    Colleague having a problem with his WinXP desktop in failed 'active desktop' mode.

    Cue email from our Technical Architect, detailing the 'fix', requiring hacking of the system registry & reboot.


    Me: Show me the problem.

    Colleague: <click. click. click. click>

    M: You realise you can minimise all your windows by clicking there? (icon on quickstart bar)

    C: <click>

    M: Click on the desktop.

    C: <right-click>

    M: No... *click* on the desktop. Not, right-click on the desktop.

    C: <click>

    M: <hits F5 on keyboard>

    <screen is restored. Icons reappear>

    Colleagues: What did you do?

    M: Is this were I do my Fonzie impression?

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cable was still connected...

    My favorite call to our Helpdesk was from a user who rang to tell us that her mouse wasn't working.

    We ran through all of the usual steps, got her to check the ball and rollers were clean, and that the mouse was still plugged in, and she confirmed that yes, everything inside the mouse was fine, and yes the cable was still plugged in.

    Remoting into the system we could move the mouse pointer about, without any problems, and on asking her to move the mouse, could see that the pointer was stationary.

    Having had enough of this, one of the lads volunteered to go and see if he could find out what was wrong. when he go there, he discovered that she was quite right, the mouse was still plugged in, and the innards of it were indeed clean. It was just a shame that she had managed to cut the mouse cable.

    We ended up giving her a new USB optical mouse, so that we could ask if the light was on in future, but we never did find out how she cut the cable.

    Also, some of our users have the most disgusting keyboards ever, how they are still working always amazes me.

  78. James O'Brien

    Heh memories

    Still working help desk (for home users) and I remember 2 things that really stand out:

    1) Customer was being a complete cockbite and screaming, yelling cursing me out that it was all my fault that his machine wouldnt work because he decided to surf to porn site and get himself the computer aids) so in the middle of me saying something to him i hung up on myself. I wasnt about to call him back so after 10 mintues he called back himself and started appologizing to me and said his cell must have dropped the call :)

    2) This lady shouldnt have owned a computer. Going to skip the majority and get right to the good part.

    Me: Press and hold the power button until the machine turns off.

    Her: Press and hold it?

    Me: Yes, press and hold it until the BSOD you have goes away.

    Her: But that will turn the machine off!

    Me: Yes I know that. That is what we want to do.

    Her: But it will turn the machine off!!!

    (repeat those last couple lines a few times me getting more and more frustrated each time)


    Her: Oh ok......I held the button and the machine turned off.....

    Me: ..........Thank god.........

    Yep I want out of the job.....people at work wonder why I hit their nuckles with a ball peen hammer when they do a Killroy over the cubicle wall.....

  79. jake Silver badge


    Not exactly Help Desk stuff, but in the same "unclear on the concept" vein:

    Twenty-odd years ago I was doing a server upgrade at a small company in Palo Alto. After bringing the system back up and telling the users they could get on with it, a friend of mine and I had a late-morning snack at her desk while I monitored the system for errors. The print queue spiked almost instantly, and the secretary started typing again. After about 10 minutes, the Boss's secretary went and claimed her print job. She put the pile of paper on the desk, hit "print" again, and then again furiously started typing (she could maintain 140 WPM, I think it was ... she was FAST). When done typing that document, she went and got coffee, and waited for the job at the printer to be finished ... again, it took about ten minutes. When done, she hit "print" again ...

    About ten minutes later, she had a third pile of paper. Keep in mind that this was the era of ~25 pages per minute ... As I watched, she pealed the top sheet or three off the top of each pile, and dumped the rest into the "recycle" bin[1].

    I looked at my friend & said "WTF?!?!" (or something similar) ... She just smiled sadly & shrugged. The secretary proof-read the documents, and then wandered into the Boss's office with them. I snuck over and eyeballed the secretary's computer ... and discovered that she had every document she had ever created in that office (about a month's worth) saved as a single, large file! I couldn't believe what I was seeing ... She was printing the entire thing each time!

    I wandered back to my friend's desk, and again said something like "WTF?!?!?!?" She suggested that I get paid, and cash the check before bringing it up to the Boss.

    I took the advice, cashed the check, and then called the Boss, asking for a "free" follow up to my upgrade work in the following week. He readily agreed (freebies are good). My friend & I conspired to get me in when she knew that the secretary would be doing a lot of printing.

    The followup showed the network was working fine. Then I brought up the "unusual" behavior of the secretary. The Boss got very red, and yelled at me, allowing as to how the secretary had impeccable references, and if she was doing it that way, that was the way it was done in the industry. I was escorted from the building by a security guard ... but not before I got in an over-the-shoulder "I suggest you look into your recycle bin, and see what kind of company business is being exposed to the world ... and how much paper is being wasted" ...

    The secretary lasted another week. The other folks in the office bought me dinner the evening after the day she was fired ... It seems the Boss stayed late one night and discovered she had wasted a couple cases of paper in about a week ... When confronted, she flat refused to learn how to conserve paper. I have no idea what happened to her after that, but the Boss never hired me for a job again.

    [1] Yes, recycling 20-odd years ago. This was Palo Alto, after all :-)

  80. shane 7
    Jobs Horns

    server outage affects keyboard

    A couple of years ago a user rang me convinced that a scheduled server upgrade done the night before (she had read about it in the daily staff communication email) had stopped her keyboard from working the morning after. After explaining this couldn't be the case, I asked her to trace the cable from the keyboard to the computer and "wiggle" the cable a bit. This fixed the problem

  81. dlinker
    Thumb Up

    Printer only works in the morning

    Sometimes - the user isn't lying.

    When I first started working in IT support in the late 80s, we got a call from one of the remote office that their printer would stop working every afternoon. Thinking this was some form of practical joke, the boss sends me (the young fall guy) out to fix it.

    I went there in the morning (luckily it's the closest depot - only about 5km - 3 miles away) and check everything is working as expected. Remember this is the days of DOS and WordPerfect and dot matrix printers using paper with holes down the sides. I check everything out, make copies of some important files and ask them to call me when it stops working.

    Sure enough, at about 2pm they call to say the printer stopped working. I drive there and discover that sure enough, it won't print. I notice the "On line" light is Off. I check all the cables and drivers and so on. I look around expecting to find some guy with a remote switch with a big grin on his face but there's literally nobody there - the admin person went to lunch when I arrived.

    I lean over to check the cables again (remembering the golden Rules) and out of the corner of my eye see the online light turn on. I stand up to look around for the joker and the light goes off. Nobody is around. I slowly lean forward and the light turns on. I spot my shadow moving across the printer. I now start waving my hand above the printer. I soon discover the sunlight coming in the window is shining right in to the light detector that ensures there's paper loaded - so it doesn't print on the rubber roller when the paper runs out. I reach up and close the blinds (curtains) and the printer is now working. The admin person comes back from lunch and I show her my solution - to close the blinds in the afternoon when the sun is shining in the window.

    We called the manufacturer who admitted they had several other unsolved calls from people whose printer worked intermitently. The developed a piece of plastic that fitted over the paer empty detector and fixed the problem. Still can't believe I figured this one out - but it sure was fun.

  82. KaD

    When not to call IT

    I was on the IT help desk for a company that sold farming and agriculture related items and products. They also had some gasoline stations for farmers to buy bulk fuel from and the like.

    Anyway it is late in the evening when a manager from a gasoline location calls and starts screaming at me that the fuel pumps are on fire and burning gasoline is everywhere. He wanted me to tell him what buttons to press on the new point-of-sale system to stop the fire. I had to tell him five or six times in very a very stern tone to hang up the phone and dial 911 ( emergency services in North America ) immediately. I got in trouble for that because the guy later called the boss and said I was very rude to him on the phone when he needed help.... <sigh>

    The same boss from the above call asked me to come in to his office a few weeks later. Needed me to install a sound card in his system so he could watch and listen to porn videos he would download from the net.

    Some days it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps.

  83. Adam H 1

    Strange days ...

    Strangest Tech call I ever had was when I working for an ISP doing dialup and email support way way back.

    Customer: Hello is this <ISP>?

    Me: Yes how can I help you?

    Customer: I would like free support.

    Me: Is it windows or a Mac you are using Sir?

    Customer: Its a Sharp Microwave.

    Me: Eh?

    Customer: Your CD says you provide free technical Support!

    Me: <stifled laughter>click ....

  84. Stu_The_Jock

    Paper jams

    Working solely with printers and copiers can lead to some unusualy calls to.

    A colleague was called out to a larger machine ( well for 2000 ) that was constantly jamming. He started dismantling it to get to the point where paper stopped and produced a small childs plastic aircraft, of the size that would fit a plastic egg inside a well known chocolate egg.

    When presented with this the customer goes "Oh, is that were it was?"

    They usually used the side feeder that held 2000 sheets for "Letterhead" paper, but once a month did a financial run on normal paper, and the model was to remind them of the "PLANE" paper in use, and it vibrated into the machine !

    Needless to say he ticked the box to send the customer a nice big bill for that visit.

  85. BigBadAl

    Ah the good ole days

    As a lad of 11 would help my father in the 70's work on the local councils NCR mainframe. One evening a collegue of my fathers comes in to let him know 'THAT BLOODY' woman's problem has finally been sorted. Back then it was a big deal to get an electric type writer let alone use of one of the 5 terminals of the computer. SO the story goes:-

    She get a new electric typewriter (golfball style) from IBM and a new desk to use it on ( they were very heavy) Anyway she complained from day one it kept putting random spaces everywhere. People went to check it - they tried - no fault found. IBM were getting worried as this was a good contract and dispatched a senior techy to look at this issue. He checked it - no fault found. He advised the office he woudl stay until he found the fault.

    The woman came back from her coffee break - she always took one when and engineer arrived. The engineer asked her to start working. After 2 mins asked her to stop and get another coffee as he could fix the issue. Her manager came in all puffed up and demanded to know what was wrong etc as this had taken to long to resolve. Only to find the techy lowering the height of the IBM desk ( they had screw type legs) The manager asked what he was doing - he replied fixing it!

    The woman came back started typing - and no errors. The techy asked to speak to her manager privately. It turns out that the woman got the job because she had (how can I put this) a large chest. Everytiem she started typing her breasts touched the space bar on the typewriter. By lowering the desk no more problem! The techy left the manager to tell her.

    That was the first and I think one of the best helpdesk storires I have heard

    (Bootnote my father made me promise not to tell my mother!!! - Well I was 11)

  86. BigBadAl

    And Another one

    After starting my own Computer Company - I soon relaised what I had let myself in for.

    Epson inkjets - they started shipping CDROMS instead of Floppys. Big pain for W95 users with No CD ROM. Anyway the standard question when you bought one was - DO you have a CD ROM drive?

    This user said yes they did - so off they went. 2 hours later they called up complaining it didn't work. Usual checks is the computer on , printer plugged in CD ROM in the drive? Nothing was working so off my collegue went - she then came back with the printer!? I wanted to know if it was broken? - No she said they had no CD ROM drive. But they said they did. Yes she said they have a CD ROM player (for music) in the office. The user plugged in the printer and went over to the radio / CD Player and inserted the CD ROM - and wanted to know why it didn;t work.

    We never gave them back the printer - sent a refund in the post!

  87. Anonymous Coward

    'I love you' 2 and a couple of others

    The 'I love you' virus story reminded me of the day it struck. I was in the server programming department of a really bit website company just before the bubble burst. We logged on as usual and went straight to our favourite news sites... didn't take more than 30 seconds for me to contact my boss and 30 seconds more we were running around the building warning everyone. Last stop was our department and we both made the anouncement. This one big head who thought he knew everything piped up saying he could always tell the difference between a virus and a normal file.

    Yep - a couple of minutes later he starts complaining his computer isn't responding. We yanked the network cable out of the back of his machine and started to beat him up.

    He left the company shortly after.

    In the same company we had just finished a complicated little website for a client and they were really impressed with the results and had asked our sales rep if they could have a copy of it on a CD to show their partners. Took me about 30 minutes to explain to our sales lass that it was a dynamic website that needed a web server and database to run and we couldn't just 'copy it to a CD'. She says 'fine, ok' and calls the client back on her new mobile in front of me... 'no, I'm sorry we can't put it on a CD..(pause as client talks).... DISKETTES!!! Well of course we can put it on DISKETTES!!'

    She didn't last long either.

    Two companies later I was in a small website outfit where I did just about everything including changing the lightbulbs. My boss was a posh cow who hadn't done a hard days work in her life and complained about the most pathetic things. We had a running argument about the 'cables' - she wouldn't pay for plastic channelling but still demanded that I had to 'get rid of those unasthetic cables'. Finally one day she came literally screaming at me that if i didn't get those damned cables off her desk by the morning I was fired...

    Yep - got rid of all her cables for her - from the mouse to the power cables - all nicely rolled up in her drawer.

    Next morning she comes complaining to me her PC isn't booting up. I shout back at her to check her cables and left for a coffee.

    At least when I came back she apologized :)

    Best move I ever made was working from home

  88. Anonymous Coward

    ADSL test

    I worked in 1st line once and they had a huge amount of questions we had to ask if anyone had a ADSL broadband issue so for call time targets, etc, this might sound bad... However, the 2nd or 3rd question was along the lines of, 'Have you tried disconnecting all other devices from the phone line, and any other phone connectors in the house using the same line, just leaving the modem connected, to see if it works then?' So many times, this question was followed by:


  89. Paul Rafferty

    A long time ago...

    I took a job in a financial house in Dublin. Day one, I remember the overly smiley boss walk me into a room that had no windows, where three incredibly stressed-out helpdesk staff were on the ceaselessly ringing telephones. After 20 minutes of waiting to get a chance to introduce myself, I found myself picking up the 4th telephone and saying, ", good morning, you're through to the helpdesk" and getting an earful from the other end. The next 3 hours (I'm not kidding) were spent picking up the phone, writing down details, hanging up the phone which immediately rang, and repeating the process. By lunch time I had a nice little list of 'things to do'. Thus began, what was to be, a daily occurance.

    I found within about a week, that they were imaging their NT workstations using some weird archaic software. They only had three types of PC hardware, but around nine NT builds, none of which had been updated in over a year. All had huge problems, like failed software installations, hard-coded WINS entries and 'previous' user profiles. Complete mess. I remember building one and realising that several apps didn't work. "Oh, that must be the Market Data build. Yeah, you're better off using the Valuations build and installing EDW on it."

    Solution: Create one NT Workstation build with ALL software perfectly installed and configured. Install ALL disk controller & network card drivers, enabling them only in certain 'hardware profiles' (remember them?). The result was an image that worked on all PCs in any department (only breaking one or two licenses). I burned a bootable imaging CD and made four copies. "Every problem you get, no matter how small, use this CD." A few months later, you could hear a pin drop in that office.

    Feedback from overly smiley boss: "I'm failing you in this performance review. You've been coming in late."

  90. Steve 149


    An IT lecturer that on being told the entire network was down asked if he could check his emails still...

  91. raggjarboffel

    user guide?

    I had one user call me that could not get Exceed to work; I asked him if he had read the provided instructions (word document that pops up when the installation is done). He answered: "the instructions were of no use to me as it only listed the servers I can connect to".

    I was dumbfounded as I know that the server listing is just the first page of the user guide, and there are about 10 more pages. So I asked him why he didn't think of reading the rest of the guide.

    His answer was: "How could he know that there were more pages? It should say so in the document!"

    So maybe we should write on the first page: "please keep on scrolling, there are more pages"?

  92. Crazy Goat Man Al

    Now i'm not in support but

    As i work in computers my friends and especially family think that thats all I am good for.

    My favorite one was when my big sister rang me up. She had just had an email from her friend in australia asking her if she could ask me why her copy of office wasnt working. No other details. Just office isnt working.

    I think my response was somewhere along the lines of how the fcuk should I know.

  93. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Dumb bosses are the worst

    Many years ago, I was both developing and supporting database apps for local authorities. When travelling on business, my boss would often demand a set of floppies containing the latest & greatest version to test drive the install on his laptop. Unfortunately he did this on the train, in Cornwall, in the early days of mobile telephony, so support calls were often brief and noisy (and he was a bit deaf).

    The install script (usually a DOS batch or Powerbatch script) would verify that the correct disc had been inserted by checking its label (anyone with DOS experience will know that this is held on the disc itself as part of the formatting info). The discs he had been given hadn't had the correct labels assigned, so we asked him to change them.

    He calls back a few minutes later - still no joy. Turns out he'd changed the sticky label on the outside of the disc...

  94. Anonymous Coward

    'I had this friend . . .'

    Early on in my I.T. career, I would help out other people from time to time, as detailed PC knowledge was a bit sparse.

    A good friend of mine asked me to help set up a new PC for someone he knew who wanted Windows 95 (just released) on his machine, but who wasn't technically minded enough to give it a go himself. Afer about 2 hours or so, it was all running and convfigured just nicely.

    Two months later, the same chap gave me a call.

    HIM: "Hi. I'm hoping you can help me. I had this friend who loaned me a game to install on my machine, but when it was installed it completely messed up Windows. I need your help sorting it out"

    ME: "What was it he installed?"

    HIM: "The latest (game of some sort)"

    ME: "So, what happened when it was installed?"

    HIM: "Well, the install seemed to go fine, but then when it went to reboot, the PC wouldn't start up at all. And when my friend saw that, he said 'Hmm. That happened to my last friends computer as well!'"

    Some friend. Notice the the chap said 'I HAD this friend . . .'

  95. Alan Parsons
    Thumb Up

    the best workaround ever

    My absolute favourite was an outside-of-work call. A relative of mine was working at a local primary school and had mentioned that I was IT savvy when a panicked secretary discovered a 'virus' on her machine.

    Every time she typed the word 'the' it was replaced with 'we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!'

    Perplexed and for once interested in a 'can you look at my computer' issue I drove in. Once I had observed the word 'the' actually changing upon completion the cause was obvious. Someone had configured MSWord to autocorrect 'the'. A headmaster that had been in meetings all morning and had no idea that I had been called sheepishly apologised for the modification. However, for me, the very best part, for which the secretary deserves a prize, was the fact that she had typed an impeccably written 2 sides of A4 letter to the local church thanking them for the use of their hall for their school play, which read perfectly naturally, entirely avoiding the use of 'the'.

  96. Tweets

    I posted one yesterday...

    ... but I remembered this one while reading some of the fab responses!

    It's not exactly funny, but does go to show that there really are some shallow people who call helpdesks...

    I was working for a major ISP at the time that 911 came around. We were all watching it streaming, from the bbc web site... and the ISP in question was actually responsible for the leased line of the bbc, so you can see where this is going.

    Anyway, the bbc web servers were getting overloaded, major problems serving that live video feed the the millions that wanted to know... so essentially shut down.

    And then the calls start, to us, asking why they couldn't get to the bbc!

    It was our very difficult duty to advise them that the news events of the day were causing a massive overload of the network and to be patient, the system will right itself eventually.

    I got asked by one woman "What events? I just wanted to check the lottery results"... had to tell her to turn on the TV and sit down with a large drink!

  97. Rat

    Even The Cleaners Are Against Us

    A while back, I was sysadmin for a small-ish call centre in the southwest UK. Amongst our various servers was a small unit that had originally been a desktop, but had had Linux installed on it and was temporarily acting as mail server for the company. Now, whilst we had UPS for our "mission critical" machines - PDC, fileserver, db server, and the server that ran the call centre package we used - the little Linux mailserver was just plugged into the wall like any other desktop.

    It ran fine for about a week following deployment. Then, the first Monday morning following installation, I arrived in work to find the early-rising MD running around like a headless chicken. "Email is broken!" she wailed. "Fix it now!". First port of call, obviously, was the mail server, which I found be sitting awaiting approval to run a full disk check. "Odd", I thought, and let it run. An hour or so later, mail was back up and all the stuff that had been sent over the weekend arrived in people's mailboxes.

    All was fine for the rest of the week. The following Monday, I arrived in work to find that "email is broken again! Fix it now!". Of course, I went to look at the mailserver.

    This time I found that it was unplugged. Consequently, I asked about the areas that the weekend cleaners covered, and was told that yes, the server room was an area that they were supposed to clean, and yes, they had a key.

    I affixed a small Post-It note to the plug that read "DO NOT UNPLUG!", and the mailserver served us reliably and faithfully for another six months until management made good on their threat and bought a new server and a copy of Exchange. But that's a whole other story...

  98. mystra

    It's not a foot rest...

    Had a user once that constantly emailed that their mouse would stop working. Every time I went over, sat down, checked the wire, etc. everything looked fine. After 2 weeks with 5 emails I gave up and was about to change the thing out. Get to the user's desk and I happen to see she's using the cabling as a foot rest. Duh?!

  99. MrPatrick

    Too many to mention

    As with everyone who's done front line support the number of stories is nearly endless, some of the few I remember...

    Worked for a prestigious Norfolk based sports car manufacturer. There was a guy who dealt with displays outside of the dealers, lots of stands and displays. However he insisted in using the word 'erection' to describe most of them, I'd daily have to unblock a mail that was blocked due to profanity. The mail filter was ancient and wouldn't accept new words in the 'allowed' list, he simply refused to use a different term. Nice chap though so not a problem.

    At the same place I ducked a call due to being lazy, turns out that a laptop was losing its connection to equipment attached to its serial port, turns out that this laptop was owned by a testing engineer, and the problem only occured at over 90mph on a particularly exciting chicane on the companies test track, colleague got a go in the passengar seat of the new Exige whilst being sped round the track :( (it was a dodgy cable, and we both knew it straight away, didn't stop him going over to 'confirm it' though)

    Major insurer, based out of Norwich (recently renamed!). 'Customer' as we were forced to call them* called. her mouse pointer wasn't moving smoothly. Basic checks were performed, she was asked to look at hte rollers in the mouse, which were covered in filth. When it was explained that she needed to give them a quick scrape to get the cack off she refused. She busted out with the whole 'don't you know who I am, I'm too busy to do this, I want an engineer over immediatly' line. After much too-ing and fro-ing she got put through to a team leader, who immediatly capitulated (as usual!). So an engineer was sent, with ear buds and some rubbing alchohol. 3 days later (all within SLA ;) )

    Also heard about someone from the Premier Support (look aftr the bigwigs/vips) getting called out to remove a wasp from some VP's office. I believe he picked up a copy of a tabloid en-route and beat the poor guy to death (the wasp that is). Didn't go down to well apparently, they wanted it dealt with humanely. Had a good laugh about that one.

    *apparently the term user made 'everyone sound like they had drug problems', when I suggested that it didn't sound like that to me, and asked what that said about the incumbent head of's personal habits I was asked to leave the meeting :(

    Current place - mysterious virus sprung up, over and over again. Our AV was capturing it as it tried to launch itself across the network. The infrastructure guys honeypot machines were getting hammered though (VMWare, incoming stuff only!). Some diligent tracing led to an office in some godforsaken town somewhere, whilst attempting to track down someone on site who we could ask what the hell they were doing it became apparent that said office had been closed some 6 months before. However no-one had informed IT, therefore the ADSL line in and switch were still in place and live. Someone in the office who'd taken over had obviously found it and was attempting to get some kind of connection on it. And when I say switch, this wasn't some netgear shit that cost £20 from ebuyer...

    I understand that huge public facing support desks have to have what is tradionally a first line (ie call loggers, working from a script that is unbendable and is forced to confirm to statistical requirements) any company with a limited user base of internal customers really need to review what they want from their helpdesk. From my experience your single best bet is to have well paid, competent people on your first line. Basically when customers ring they get someone who is 2nd line. Your first call fix goes through the roof, call times drop to next to nothing, customer satisfaction is up and generally things work. Of course this requires a more relaxed attitude towards the frontline staff, less of a concentration on performance metrics and more of a concentration of 'softer' targets like customer satisfaction. I know for a fact that if people call helpdesk and the phone gets picked up by someone who sounds like they know what they are talking about and who apparently have a genuine understanding of the issue in hand they are going to be far more accepting if their problem can't be fixed immediatly.

    The major problem I see with this at the moment (sorry - its challenge these days isn't it).

    Moving to having a a 'service desk' (looking at you ITIL) which is interpreted by adopters as being a script based, call logging call centre. Not a helpdesk at all... The problem that this causes is that in the unlikely event that someone who knows what they are doing is employed, they immediuatly look to move to second line and end up off the phones. Or they get promoted to a 'team leader' and end up off the phones. Basicallly all progression within a helpdesk, for the talented people, ends up with the good people leaving the phones, leaving only those who are only capable of basic script following left.

    I actually *enjoy* talking to our customers. So I'm still on the helpdesk, but I've found a place that agrees with my beliefs. I'm good at what I do, I'm a 2nd line tech but I still answer the phones. But when people call me (or my 'helpdesk' colleagues) they know that we'll know what needs doing and do it straight off.

    Having worked for a large Helpdesk (120 1st line staff) where they generally employed students who are looking for a summer job, or people with a 3rd in CompSci or other people who weren't techy at all I can say that this drives the very issues that the company were looking to get rid of. They thought that call metrics were how to drive improvements, so we *had* to take at least 60 calls a day and answer 10 emails. How much time do you think this left us (especially the few of us who were useful) to actually help people. Very little is the answer. So everyone moved on. Except for me. Their solution, reduce costs and move half the call centre offshore. Admittedly I got 3 months in Chennai living large with a personal driver, in a plush hotel but the model of getting people on the phones over there was a mess. Middle management had a desperation for it *not* to be script based, but then watching the guys over there floundering, unable to think of the right questions meant that we ended up with a list of 'suggested' questions, which was followed religiously. It was impossible.

    Unfortunatly the Indian team I was working with, who were exceptionally intelligent and twice as hard working as my English colleagues, were entirely unsuited to the style of work (most of them anyway).

    And once again the company devised metrics to keep everyone in check.

    The problem really comes down to this. Offer a decent wage to your 'first line' team and you'll get genuinely capable people who'll stick around for a few years before naturally progressing to the next level, making space for the next talented individual who wants to get in on the act.

    Helpdesk is stil lone of hte most valuable tools for learning how IT fits in with the business you are supporting, you talk to people who'll explain why they urgently need this email fixed, or how this loss of data will impact peoples lives (or any other thing that they've generally caused). Once you have that understanding moving to a backoffice team means you'll be able to continue to sympathise and therefore provide a far superior service.

    Basically most customers are o.k. if you treat them as if they have half a brain, and they think you know what you are on about. Most of them, some of them are just retards.

  100. Anonymous Coward

    From the other side

    Help desks are not always helpful.

    I dread having to call ours. I'm technically literate and when I call the help desk I have a pretty good idea where the problem lies but I'm not in the right part of the organisation to do anything about it.

    The most recent call was to try and find out what the hell was going on with the proxies. I knew I wanted to talk to the network folks but first I had to get through the help desk.

    It took three days.

    The first day nothing happened, but when I got in the next morning I had a voicemail message saying they'd tried to contact me. Correct. They'd tried to phone me after I said I would no longer me in the office so I wasn't, as I'd said, there.

    The second day they wanted me to try some commands. First they told me to get a command window. This is Linux, I knew I was on to a bad thing. I just said OK, I'm running Linux, what command do you actually want me to run. Oh, they said, hold on a minute.

    Little while later they came back and said can I ping an external machine (this would be on the other side of the proxy). I explained that no, you cannot ping a machine on the other side of the proxy because proxies don't do that. OK, can you run this command, they started spelling it ...

    The command was traceroute. I explained that traceroute doesn't work for the same reason that ping doesn't -- you can't get that through the proxy.

    OK they said, we'll get back to you.

    This was Friday.

    Nothing happened.

    On Monday I came back into the office and I had another voicemail. This time they'd tried to phone me on Sunday. Admitedly, it was mid-afternoon Sunday, but it was Sunday nonetheless.

    They wanted to try something else.

    The something else they wanted, bearing in mind that this was Linux, was that I run the task manager to see if I had any spinning processes that were slowing the machine down.

    I was slightly dumbfounded. I still can't work out how they thought a spinning process would slow down access through the proxies but leave internal access entirely alone.

    They also wanted a load of information I'd already given them. I filled in the form in the browser and was somewhat surprised to see, right at the bottom, that they wanted a phone number that they could contact me on. And this was after three phone calls (admitedly for two of them I wasn't actually there)

    I basically pleaded with them to pass this on to the network people.

    So, five days after I logged the call the phone rang -- one of the local network guys rang and sympathised with me.

    The problem was discussed and resolved in about thirty seconds: in fact the problem had already been fixed by then.

  101. This post has been deleted by its author

  102. raving angry loony


    For me, the big thing is continued lack of any training by companies for these lusers. They are someone expected to "know" things that they've never experienced before, just because computers are now "ubiquitous".

    Then they put non-technical management in charge of the helpdesk, because of course it's just another department, what could possibly go wrong.

    Then they put the LEAST experienced I.T. staff on helpdesk, those with the least knowledge or understanding.

    Then they put in scripts because these helpdesk trainees (to be polite) don't know a router from a hard disk.

    Then they put in "measurements" that measure how many calls they close, as opposed to how many actual problems they solve.

    Then they put in "call management" software whose REAL purpose is to make those fake measurements and create fake stats so that the fake managers can be really happy about the fake help they're supposedly providing.

    They they wonder why the fuck the helpdesk isn't helpful, the I.T. group doesn't fix things (because the ignorant helpdesk doesn't know where to send things maybe?), and why the users want the heads of the helpdesk folks (but never, NEVER the head of the fucking management that put the stupid system in place in the first instance)

    It'll all end in tears I tell you!

  103. jake Silver badge

    "That's just the switch, they do that!"

    The scene: Old house in Mountain View, converted to Vet clinic.

    The time: Late 1999.

    The job: Convert the Vet's database from non-Y2K compliant PSI/Idexx on HP/UX to Cornerstone on Win98 (I know, I know, but that was what the Vet wanted).

    Considering that Cornerstone included the database conversion in the cost of the 8 hour staff training session, my job was basically setting up the Windows boxes, installing software, and pulling wire. Easy. In fact, I did the complete network setup back in my lab, so all I had to do was make space for the computers, printers, label makers etc., plug it all in, and turn it on.

    Unfortunately, the house was built in the post-war building boom, and originally had 2 prong plugs for mains power. Some had been converted to three prong, but not all. I had to convert the six locations where the Vet wanted the computers installed. Three new breakers, pull some wire ... Again, pretty easy.

    Day of install, the Saturday afternoon before the Sunday the Cornerstone rep was to hold the staff training session. The Vet wanted me to plug a scanner into her personal machine. The floppies that came with the scanner didn't come with Win98 compatible drivers, so I used the new-fangled V.92 modem to dial into my ISP ... But the connection speed reported as 2400 baud instead of the expected 56K (or so). I broke the connection, redialed, same result. And again. Now, I had already used the modem from my lab, just to verify it worked, so I knew it wasn't my hardware ... I picked up the phone. Line noise. 60hz line noise, to be precise.

    I turned to the Vet and asked how long the phones had been buzzing ... she brightly answered that "That's just the switch, they do that!" ... WTF? After further questioning, it turned out that instead of having six phone lines coming in, she had a small switch with six extensions. It was installed when she took over the practice about a decade earlier. (You can probably see where this is going ...).

    She lead me to a storage and washing machine room in the back, and pointed at the wall. Hanging there was a dusty, cobweb covered, slightly sad looking $TELCO supplied switch. It had a three-prong cord ... plugged into a two prong socket. The $TELCO tech who did the install had cut the ground pin off the power cord to fit the availabe mains power. I asked her to go get me a cordless 'phone and grabbed a wire coathanger. With phone to ear, I grounded the case of the switch to the cold water pipe with the coathanger ... No more AC hum.

    I explained the situation to her, and she went ballistic. After she calmed down a little, I asked if she wanted me to call $TELCO for her. (I could have put a new cord on it myself, and put in another 3-prong socket, but if you touch $TELCO gear, they will refuse to fix it if anything goes wrong in the future.) On further questioning, she allowed as to how in the last decade she had had techs out half a dozen times or so to service her telephones, including what sounded like a firmware upgrade to the switch itself.

    Long and short of it, we had a $TELCO tech out 45 minutes after I hung up the phone.

  104. Clive Galway

    Sometimes they tell the truth...

    Over phone:

    "We were trying to install <software>, but the machine ate all the disks"

    Conversation ensues where I am trying to figure out how the hell they can be making any sense but they are adamant it is "eating" disks.

    I trot on down there to discover that there was a slight gap below the 3.5" drive that user had mistaken for the floppy slot. I open the cover to find a stack of 3.5" disks at the bottom of the case.

  105. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    @Jake, @

    @Jake ¨ Line noise. 60hz line noise, to be precise.¨ Funny that. In most civilized areas the mains work at 50 Hz. I wonder what this ¨precise¨ 60 hz of yours was. Oh. I see. You´re a Merkin maybe. ;-)

    @AC 9:57 GMT:

    ¨we had just finished a complicated little website for a client and they were really impressed with the results and had asked our sales rep if they could have a copy of it on a CD to show their partners. Took me about 30 minutes to explain to our sales lass that it was a dynamic website that needed a web server and database to run and we couldn't just 'copy it to a CD'. She says 'fine, ok' and calls the client back on her new mobile in front of me... 'no, I'm sorry we can't put it on a CD..(pause as client talks).... DISKETTES!!! Well of course we can put it on DISKETTES!!'

    D´uh. You´re new to this computer thing, aint you? What´s wrong with a website snapshot, stored on a CD (or diskettes)? Oh right, it´s dynamic and all that, right? So I can´t give you a snapshot. See, it´s dynamic. Same a your car: I can´t sent you a pic of your car ´cause it has the ability to move, so the car might not be there anymore 30 min. after i took the pic. Therefore it is technically impossible to take a pic of you car. That´ll teach her: next time, she´ll ask people with a grasp on IT instead of Web designers.... I mean, how difficult is it to just burn a snapshot of the website on a cd? Sure you won´t get the fancy database interactive stuff, but it will still be more than enough for a demo. Or do you not know how to do that?

  106. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Having fun with bosses,...

    Saw a Dilbert 10+ years where the PHB asks how to reboot his laptop and the answer is "hold it upside down and shake it" (ie. its a exa-sketch). As my boss resembed the PHB (and was an arsehole) I brought an exa-sketch and swapped it for his laptop in his bag Friday afternoon, along with a printed copy of the cartoon. He had to drive back across town on Saturday morning to get his real laptop from under his desk. (I don't work there anymore.)

  107. Anonymous Coward

    Mothers and computers

    My mum is quite bright (school teacher) but one day she dragged and minimised the toolbar on Windows 98, and it took me ages to figure out what she had done. (I gave her a workaround of pressing ctrl-esc to get the Start menu bar up, but had to travel the 5 hours home for christmas to fix it permanently).

  108. Iftikar


    Speaking of mothers and family support.

    I am the tech go-to guy in our family, doesn't matter if it's a pc, a tv or a toaster...

    I remember my mum got a new pc - I think she upgraded from 95 to 98 (or similair), I told her to not plug in her old scanner as the drivers were different, anyway long story short - she plugged in the scanner and completely stuffed the system and it then became my urgent job to fix it!!

    I took the machine home, fixed the driver issue and at the same time swapped her swanky new GeForce 3 graphics card for my long in the tooth GeForce 1 - she didn't need it she didn't play games!!

    Don't think I ever did tell her what I did :)

  109. Seno


    You haven't worked on many CMS based websites have you? Making a comparison between a picture of a car and a dynamic website shows a stunning level of ignorance.

    What type of snapshot of a page are you going to get when there's no database to tell it were to get its images from or were its style sheet to tell it what to look like or where to gets its contents from?

    Try saving this page and then browse it locally and see what you get.

    If you had at least made the suggestion that a stand alone server could have been setup on a live CD to demo the website instead of a snarky comment, I would have though of you being less clueless.

  110. Anonymous Coward

    This much I know...

    Wireless networks don't like large metal objects such as car bonnets getting in the way of a signal, and wired networks are allergic to electric welding equipment!!! (We have some garages as customers!)

    And I once tried to email the department to tell them that the email wasn't working.

    Well it was very early, after a very late night.

  111. Anonymous Coward

    Oh, and I challenge anyone to find a weirder one

    Network keeps crashing at one of our customers sites.

    Cue dozens of visits and almost every single piece of kit being swapped out until one engineer happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    Whenever someone walked through the front door, a loose floorboard pinched a cable and dropped the connection to the server.

    And the weirdest one by far was a Server rebooting, seemingly at random.

    Further investigation revealed that the Electricity Board was doing some work outside and had done something to one of the phases, which meant that if someone pressed the button on the Pedestrian Crossing outside the shop, there was a power drop and the Server rebooted.

  112. Andrew 16


    Working back in the 90's our office had recently installed wireless (it had just come out and we were getting fed up of the one manager constantly loosing network cables for his laptop).

    I was working on the support desk at the time and had the joy of being on call overnight.

    I had a call at 2am from a manager who was pretty irate as he was unable to print out the documents he was working on (it kept telling him that it had failed to print)

    First question I asked was to check that the printer was still turned on / online. His response was "It was on when I left the office". It took me a moment to register that he was at home, approx 7 miles from the office. Said manager was under the impression that the small 3" antenna on the wireless router was capable of picking his laptop up from anywhere on the planet.

    Same manager also came in and started screaming at the IT support staff the one day demanding to know why he couldnt access the internet or the servers. We pointed out that there was a power cut in progress and that until the lights came back on he would not be able to. It took a further 15 minutes of explaining that his laptop had a battery in it so that it could work without power, while the rest of the building did not, and that no, it was not possible to have the entire building on battery with the budget we had for IT spend (by this point the battery in his laptop died and he buggered off home leaving us in peace).

    More recently we had a customer call up panicking as their server was beeping and telling them it was on battery power and had 8 minutes remaining. After several attempts to get them to check the power cable from the wall socket to the UPS (after each request I was told that no-one was stupid enough to unplug it therefore it could not be that) it was down to 2 minutes before shutdown. At which point I said to the customer that they could either (a) check the power cable was plugged in and turned on, or (b) wait for me to make the 90 minute drive to site, during which time they would not be able to work and would be charged a call out fee. Customer came back on and sheepishly informed me that the power cable had been unplugged from the wall so that he could plug his iPod charger in.

    I wonder some days how I have not ended up like the BOFH with a collection of cattle prods and alternative user education devices.

  113. Geraint Jones

    I remember when...

    ...a laptop with keys stuck back onto the keyboard with double sided foamy tape. Those keys (and the laptop itself) had dog's teeth marks on them...

    ...a user telling me "my son must have done something to my pc... the homepage has been changed, to erm, some sort of spanish brothel site".

    ...opening a laptop that isn't working to be greeted with the smell (and crusty remnants) of gone off milk from under the keyboard.

    I've actually been privy to the "any key?" incident, the assumption that the monitor is actually the entire PC, and many, many other tales of IT yore. and I've only been in the business 2 years...

    On the other hand, we had one incompetent fool working on our helpdesk who installed a desktop PC *upside down*. I have no idea how he got past initial screening. Even the user thought it was odd the way the PC was setup, but thought "he's from IT, he must know best".

    The list is endless, but the buffer in my brain has been overflowing since about the second week of work...

    ps, and why is it that it always seems to be the same users who come back week after week with virus problems, eh?

  114. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    @ Seno

    "If you had at least made the suggestion that a stand alone server could have been setup on a live CD to demo the website instead of a snarky comment, I would have though of you being less clueless."

    Standalone server on a CD, with the whole database, too, I guess? Right... and I'm the clueless one...

    "What type of snapshot of a page are you going to get when there's no database to tell it were to get its images from or were its style sheet to tell it what to look like or where to gets its contents from?"

    I dunno, maybe something made by one of the hundreds of utilities out there that trawl dynamic websites to output a static snapshot? My preference would probably go to httrack but hey, pick yours, as I said there are hundreds just lying around doing nothing. You might want to pick a clue while you're out there, too.

    Fail, obviously

  115. ukOli

    "The mail server's down"

    A few years back, a secretary in the law firm where I work rushed over to my desk to tell me that the mail server was down.

    I looked at Outlook on my computer and everything looked fine, so went back to the secretary. It turns out that some Chinese whispers had taken place, and the actual problem was that one of the lawyers wanted to check his email and couldn't. Solution -- turn on the monitor.


  116. The Jase


    A colleague of mine and I were discussing I think user we didn't like and he told me this story.

    Said user calls helpdesk.

    "My password isn't working"

    He resets it and says "try this one"

    "Its still not working"

    He tries again, still nada.

    He goes down and see's her. He types the password in, it works....

    He logs off and gets her to try.

    Turns out her long fingernails kept brushing other keys when she was typing.

  117. ukOli


    I've remember a few more:

    I arrived at work to find a plastic case (almost CD-shaped) on my desk with a post-it note that read "please install on my computer". It was a desk calendar sent as a gift from one of her contacts.

    We have a bar across the road from our office called Number 7. We also number our printers. One of my colleagues explained to a user that he couldn't fix her printer, but that he'd set her up to print to number 7. "What, so I have to walk across the road to get my work?"

    Another lawyer complained that his laptop kept shutting down after a few hours each morning. It turned out that the cleaners had been unplugging it to plug in their vacuum cleaner. The lawyer in went on to ask if his computer could be configured not to turn off when the battery ran out.

    A trainee came to tell us that he needed a new keyboard because his was broken. We replaced his keyboard and he came back to say that the new one was also broken. Turns out he thought his "i" key wasn't working because his font was set so small that i looked like l.

    At the time of the Blaster worm, my then boss was setting up a new laptop for himself, as he frequently did. Sitting opposite, I saw him plug his laptop (still attached to the network) into a phone line to test the modem. "Have you got a firewall on that", I asked. "No". "Have you installed any patches, like the one for the Blaster vulnerability?" "No, I'm only testing. I won't be online for long".

    One of the best efforts at screwing up a PC I've seen was someone who'd managed to create a file association for .exe to open with Word. That wasn't easy to fix.

    And of course "this file is corrupted" generally means that the file has been opened with the universal file opening application -- Microsoft Word.


  118. CoonDoggy


    "Standalone server on a CD, with the whole database, too, I guess? Right... and I'm the clueless one..."

    You sure are - you can take a slice of the database and fit it on a laptop, and an app stack can frequently fit there too if you only need to serve one user. It's work, but you can do it.

  119. Anonymous Coward


    1) User did not know they needed to click on the little [+] beside their Outlook inbox to see subfolders... even though they had created those subfolders a week or so before.

    2) User did not have admin access to install a printer on their laptop. So I logged in as admin, gave them admin rights ('s OK, company policy allows it) and logged off. Gave user laptop back. User could not log in... because they didn't know how to change the displayed username from administrator to their own username.

    3) Many years ago... user's SCO server died. OK, after trying everything else, hard reboot it with the power switch. They do so and nope, green screen is still the displaying the same words. OK, try turning off the server not the monitor this time.

  120. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    @ CoonDoggy

    "- you can take a slice of the database and fit it on a laptop, and an app stack can frequently fit there too if you only need to serve one user. It's work, but you can do it."

    yes you can. Yes it's a lot of work. Yes it's pointless., and no it won't fit the "put it on a CD for demo purpose' requirement. So what's you point?

  121. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    @ CoonDoggy -bis

    About fitting a whole dynamic website on a CD with a standalone webserver, plus database management system, plus database...

    ¨You sure are[clueless] - you can take a slice of the database and fit it on a laptop, and an app stack can frequently fit there too if you only need to serve one user. It's work, but you can do it.¨

    You´re right. I am clueless. Taking a slice of the database and fitting it on a laptop so totally fits the bill. After all there is no difference between a CD and a laptop. Or is there? Sorry for being stupid. Of course nowadays CDs come with half a terabyte of storage, a quad-core processor, 4 GB of ram, a nice display and the X server to use it. How stupid of me not to know that. That´s the third millenium CD for you.

  122. John 90

    @ CoonDoggy, and others

    Do not feed the troll

  123. Seno


    Insert the CD in to PC. They work better that way.

  124. MarcF


    Was speaking to a lovely chinese chap the other day, and had a clash of alphabets that proved quite amusing. Have you ever tried to explain a letter of the alphabet to someone who doesn't know what it is?

    Me: "Your username is h u a w"

    Him: "H u a u u"

    M: "No sorry, H u a w"

    H: "Double U?"

    M: "No. Think like George W Bush, or when you type a web address, the character you use at the start."

    H: "I'm sorry I have no idea."

    M: "It's nestled between Q and E on your keyboard."

    H: "My computer is all in mandarin."

    M: "Excellent. Have you got a mobile number? I'll text you what a W looks like."

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