Help-desk hell: Can you beat this iPad-winning story of woe?
Post away with your top tales.
While working in a school, i had a user catch me while i walk passed her office complaining that her machine would not turn on.
I found that the problem was the power supply.
So i told her i would have to take her machine away to the IT office to take remove the old power supply and install a new one.
She agree and thanked me for my effort.
20 mins later...
I get a phone call from the same user:
User: "Now my monitor is not working, the is just a multicolored rectangle just bouncing around the screen"
Me: "Well, that would be because i have your machine in the IT office, remember?"
User: "Oh i didn't realize i needed that box"
Linda from Birmingham - you have to do the Brummy accent in your head - would ring up every few months.
"My keyboard's stuck, I'm entering stuff on the keyboard and the form's not working..."
"Is there a red light above the F1 button on your keyboard on?" (This was a VT220 green-screen character terminal, none of this GUI shenanigans.
"It's working now."
"You pressed the Hold button on your keyboard again. Speak to you in a few months, Linda."
So there was I at the end of a long hard week, another test system completed and delivered to the assembly line and just in time to retire to the pub for a well earned lunchtime pint...
When we returned - in a somewhat cheerful state - I was met with a production line stop - Not only the new system, but ALL the systems were down. After the shouting and finger pointing had calmed down a bit I looked at the screen where it said 'Press any key to continue' - pressed a key and all was fine. It transpired that the lovely old Asian lady who had been assigned to the system saw this prompt, but couldn't find a key with 'ANY' printed on it - not wanting to do anything wrok, she asked her friend on the adjacent machine (who had been running it for weeks) - she couldn't find an 'ANY' key either and the consternation worked its way in down the other ladies on the line and they all stopped.
I solved the problem by writing 'ANY KEY' on the side of the space bar in marker pen.
Ah... Memories of Thorn EMI on Hayes back in 1990!
One of my first jobs was in a small local computer firm.
I first met my memorable customer when he came into the shop clutching a Hutchinsons Medical Encyclopaedia CDRom.
He asked if I could tell him how to use it. I said you put the disk in your CDRom drive and it should start the program automatically.
He replied 'what CDRom drive, I don't think I have one of those'
(seeing a sales oportunity) I said 'ahh, thats ok I can sort that out' I told hime the price and that I would fit it for him for free.
'Ok he said and proceeded to get his wallet out'.
I asked if he was ok to bring his computer to the shop; to which he replied 'I don't have a computer'.
(yes I should seen the future for this one.... facepalm).
So I explained how he needed a computer to use CDRom programs. he was interested and between us we agreed on his purchasing a simple system from us (with a CDRom). he spent I think about £1000 for a 386SX PC with 2MB Ram and a printer with an internal 2x CDRom. (this was the early nineties).
We had many a call and visit explaining the basics of computers and how to use windows (3.1 at the time).
a few days later I was called to the front office to see a customer wanting a refund.
I opened the door to find my CDRom customer witll his entire system all boxed up.
'I want my money back' he says.
I take a breath and politely ask him why and whats wrong.
He says the computer has been nothing but trouble (we had had all kinds of sillys like not turning on the monitor, holding the mouse off the desk etc).
He handed me a stack of paper and told me that under his consumer rights the computer was not fit for the purpose.
Looking at the printed pages I held my patience and asked whats wrong exactly.
'It's printing spelling mistakes!' he growled.
I did a double take, pinched myself mentally as this had to be a dream. I asked him to repeat and he explained its 'printing mistakes and empty pages'
to sum up I did eventually convince him that it does what he tells it to, and he could not return a typewriter if it printed spelling mistakes.
one sale I wish I had never made.
I've repressed my helldesk days quite effectively, but a few traumatic or entertaining moments sometimes float back up.
One guy was wondering why his cheapy inkjet had stopped working and was making a funny noise. He was careful to tell me how well he'd treated it, and he'd opened it up and cleaned it and used WD40 on the moving parts and everything...
One lunchtime I was helping out in the school computer lab. Two students were sitting side by side on two PCs, one a bit of a bruiser, the other a more shy and retiring type. The larger boy was messing around, swiping his mouse cursor around the screen. It happened that he drove the mouse to the right-hand edge of the screen and therefore lost track of it (since it was the usual left-pointing arrow shape). Coincidentally at about the same time, the boy to his right moved his pointer from the left-hand edge of his screen into the middle. The bruiser immediately jumped up and threatened to thump the other boy for stealing his mouse pointer, luckily I stepped in between them and managed to mollify him by moving his pointer back to the middle of his screen, though he remained convinced that the other boy had somehow managed to nick the pointer...
When I was at school in the 70s the school had one computer - a Digital PDP8-f. A few of us were really into it, and for speech day we were given the task of demonstrating it to parents who had wandered as far as the maths block.
We wanted it to look impressive, so we set it up with the lights on the front blinking in groovy patterns, the teletype clattering away, the VDU endlessly solving 'The Towers of Hanoi' etc. We were delighted with the results.
Eventually one mother came in, immaculately dressed, trotting along on high heals, and with a cute, pale blue wide-brimmed hat, which she'd probably worn at Ascot. She took her time looking at the whirring contraptions, then finally said:
"Ask it where I live"
We mumbled some reply about it not being Mystic Meg, and after she left we fell about with gleeful scorn. How could anyone be so thick??! For years afterwards I used this story to illustrate the vast gulf between the expectations of people who understood computers, and the great unwashed.
But suddenly we have phones with things like Siri. You say "Siri, where do I live?" and it tells you. It even shows you on a map.
1-0 to the muggles!
That wouldn't have been a school in Brighton, would it?
I remember the PDP8-f:
The start-up ritual on the front panel switches (Address Load, Extended Address Load, Clear, Reset, Continue).
Re-loading the basic interpreter from tape everytime someone slammed a door...
It was in Crowthorne in Berkshire. We had an ancient PDP-4 too which originally came from the Harwell Nuclear place, and which we slowly renovated and pieced together.
Big blue cabinets, 18-bit accumulator, fully transistorised except for the valves in the power supply, banks of 30000 uF capacitors strapped together to make a very rudimentary UPS, KSR-35 - the Rolls-Royce of teletypes, DEC tape, a weird circular VDU with a light pen (we never got that working).
For my A level Computer Science project I wrote a text editor in PDP-4 machine language. Goodness knows how they marked it :)
Hello, fellow O.W.! By the time I was there in the '80s we had a big shiny new building for all things technical, the lower floor had a large computer lab with at least 20 BBC Model Bs, and those of us who were keen were having fun with fractals.
Beresford, in case that matters.
Overheard from a colleague a few desks away, known as a true gentleman, but with a short-ish fuse.
"Ah, I see"
<sound of gritting teeth>
"Did you not think that perhaps the smoke might have indicated a problem".
...pause... hangup phone gently.
Then the air turned blue all round his desk for a good 5 minutes.
A couple of years ago I had one user who complained that their laserjet printer was making a bit of a noise. They also suggested it may be the "drive belt" that was causing this unusual noise. After a short trip down to see the printer it turned out the drive belt they mentioned was an elastic band which had found it's way into the output tray...problem solved...
I was working at a stock broking firm where the more difficult users were those on the trade floor. I was trying to co-ordinate a desk move one day with a rather argumentative trader who was not impressed with the idea even though he had requested it.
After 5 date changes we finally settled on one which would work for him, I then had to say that unfortunately it would not be possible to leave all his spreadsheets open for him whilst I was doing this. He got fairly irate with me and demanded to know why I was being so difficult. Trying to keep a straight face whilst explaining computers didn't have batteries and therefore it wouldn't stay on while I relocated it to the other side of the room was hard work.
"The TV attached to my PC does not appear to be working and I've got a lesson in a few minutes. Help!" She points remote control at the TV. Nothing happens.
I reach across and press the craftily hidden power button on the underside of the flatscreen monitor.
"Oh, I didn't know it had one of those. I'm really embarrased."
"That's okay. I won't tell a soul!" :-)
Talking to a draughtsman on the phone, trying to figure out why AutoCAD coudldn't pick up a licence from our licence server.
Me: Ok, if you click 'Start', then 'Run'
Me: In the box type 'cmd', that's 'C' for Charlie, 'M'. for Mike and 'D' for Delta, then press the Enter key
Him : Ok, I have a black window open up now.
Me: Ok, in that window can you type Ping, that's 'P' for Peter, 'I' for India, 'N' for November, 'G' for Golf and then a space.
Him: What kind of space?
The guy who was doing on-the-job traiing with me swore my face changed colour.
I have also had calls where I have spent upwards of 15 minutes trying to help someone find the Enter key.
A friend related the story of a woman who came into his shop with a bad 5 1/4 floppy. He checked it, found it was corrupted, reformatted it and sent her on her way. This process repeated several times until he decided he'd best visit her at home to see what was causing the problem. After watching her go through her routine and finding nothing wrong, he told her he would have to do some research into her problem and get back to her.
As he prepared to leave, she took the disk out of her computer, walked over and stuck it to the refrigerator with a magnet...
Fax of a floppy disk is a good one.
I had an accountant tell me he made regular copies of his floppies for backup. He had a full drawer full of photocopiesof his 5 1/4 disks.
Another one was very organized. He put all his floppies in a three-ring binder.
Of course, for convenience sake he also used the puncher so that he could put his floppies in the rings.
My favorite one was a dear old Direction Secretary. Se just got a brand new PS/2 with the 3 1/2 floppies and complained it wasn't working and she couldn't read her old floppies.
As the 5 1/4 floppies didn't fit she folded it in 4 so it would fit in the 3 1/2 drive...
I used to do voluntary work at a community computing charity. One day a well-intentioned local architects company rang us up to offer some paid support work - they had a floppy that wasn't working and could we recover the important data for them?
This was one of the old 5 1/4 inch "floppy" floppies which had a magnetic disk inside a cardboard sleeve.
After trying a couple of things over the phone, it seemed this would be a job for some specialised software, meaning we needed to physically obtain the disk. Despite being situated about 500 yards from us, they insisted on mailing the disk to us.
So a couple of days later we received post, containing the troublesome floppy, and a nice "Complements of ..." slip from the architects.
One slight problem - complements slip stapled right through the middle of the disk.
No, I didn't even try putting it in a drive.
We replaced the bosses's secretary's PC with something a bit less antiquated and more presentable. A few days later while passing, we popped in to check up how she was getting on with it.
Secretary: "Yeah, it's ok, but I was wondering if I could have my old monitor back"
Support: "Yes you can, but why would you want it?" (The new one was obviously better)
"The old one had all the icons in the right places".
User: Hi, I'm having trouble connecting to my wireless network. It's been working fine for weeks but today I can't connect.
Me: OK, exactly what error message do you get, or what happens when you try to connect to the network?
User: It says I am not authorized to access the network. It keeps saying something about a WPA Key. Do you know what that is?
Me: Yes, that's a security password that is set up on your wireless router. You need to input that security password. Do you know how to access the administration page for your router?
User: Well, it's not really MY router, it's my neighbor's... I've just been using the connection. Is there any way to get around this?
A client was having trouble with his fax and called me. When asked to try and send a test page to me, he faxed his company price list. I solved his problem and we ended the call. A few minutes later he called back and said: "I am not sure I should have sent that list, can you fax it back to me?"
I hope he did.
Before I retired I was part of the unofficial second tier support team to the official IT bods.Once,I saw all four scratching their heads next to a PC. i walked up, read the error message, ejected the floppy, hit the any key, and walked away in total silence.
While working for a government department, I was the only person who could support a legacy system used to receive overtime claims via modem link, which were then fed into a mainframe based payroll system. This ran on an old CCP/M system in the datacentre, while I was based in another office about 5 miles away.
One day I got a panicked phone call to say the system had gone haywire and they needed to get it working before that night's payroll run, or there would be huge ructions if the overtime was not paid on time.
I asked what was wrong with it and was told that most of the menu items had disappeared. Thinking that the programs had been corrupted in some way, I gathered together the backup disks, manuals etc and jumped in a taxi.
After being admitted through the airlocks, I examined the system, turned up the monitor brightness, then walked out again.
It turns out that they had had some IT cleaners in, who were to clean the monitors, mice and keyboards. While cleaning the old green screen monitor, they had accidentally turned down the brightness/contrast so that only the highlighted menu options, shown in reverse video, were visible!
Called Virgin Media as my fat pipe had been playing up all day.
Got through to a call centre in India, explained the situation, asked if there were any faults in the area and roughly when could I expect my excellent service to be back to normal.
After some lost in translation nonsense and further attempted clarification that I didn't need any help with my "laptop" (no idea where the drone got that idea from) I was told by the drone that it 'would not help me unless you give me access to your computer'
Two words, second word: Off - Click, I hung up.
They are fing awful, that lot.
I've been told to remove TCP/IP from my computer by them, had pretty much every piece of hardware and software on all my various devices blamed - all while I had a perfectly functioning local network.
Some of the things they asked me to do would have left an ordinary punter utterly f'ed up - I was just fed up.
Maybe it is some sort of karmic thing whereby a servicedesk somewhere gets to torture users on behalf of all the other servicedeskers that have themselves been put through the wringer by twits.
Hello call centre worker. If you had actually listened at school instead of being a muppet then you would have a marketable skill which didn't involve sitting on your lardy butt all day talking bolix to "muppets" for minimum wage.
The Virgin Media helpdesk are quite frankly awful. Quite Frankly every IT service desk I have called have been more than poor - they are sh7e.
I switched off Virgin and moved to Sky - this was when you could not get sky 1 on virgin, and also I worked for the 2nd line team for Virgin (Telewest at the time).
We were constantly getting idiots on the phone and the 1st lineers basically could not deal with them- they had to get the call and logi it within 300 seconds - YES 300 seconds. after that time they were told to pass them over to us.
I remember one guy who was complaining that his internet was not working - we had been informed that British Gas had cut through the cable whilst doing their own repair. We had engineers enroute, and the ETA was approx 3 hours to complete the repair.
This guy was complaining that there was an important football match on and he could not see that either. I explained that the cable into his area was damaged and the engineers are enroute to fix it - I have him the ETA.
He said he was very angry and was wanting to watch the football. I explained that the fault was going to be repaired - but it needed time. He saidif the repair was not completed in 1 hour he was cancelling his account.
OK I said, and gave him the cancellations number.
I don't know if he called....
Oh I can beat that with a BT internet drone.
I was having issues sending email did a few checks to find that the BT SMTP server wasn't accepting traffic on port 25 like it normally does so I phone up the disservice desk to tell them that the SMTP server is out of action. The drone refuses to listen without going through the script then she decides that she can help me if she can take remote control of the PC.
So, as I had nothing better to do I let her take remote control of my PC.
She clicks on Start -> Run -> CMD -> IPCONFIG
up comes my IP address 172.16.1.X
She says....... 'Oh that's your problem Sir, BT use 192.168.Y.Z IP ranges. You are not connected to the internet'.
Even when I pointed out that I must be connected to the internet thanks to the powers of a NATTed router and how could she be accessing my PC if I wasn't she wasn't having any of it and insisted that I needed to change my IP address to a valid one.........
A similar one from a supplier of the XYZ system (names have been changed to protect the innocent) and neatly proving that even those "users" who should know better, sometimes don't. Unix software, from before the days of POSIX directory structures.
"I've installed your software and it doesn't work".
"Which user account did you use to perform the installation?"
"Ah. It clearly says in the installation guide that you must install as root. Do you have the root password?".
"No, but I can get it."
"Ok. Do that and I'll wait."
"Right. Got it and logged in."
"Good. We need to reinstall but, before we do, we'll just tidy up the previous error to be on the safe side."
"Cd to slash bin."
"Ok. Done that."
"Right. Now type rm, minus rf, XYZ star."
"Right now type..."
"...it hasn't come back yet."
"Is it finished yet?"
<Deep sense of foreboding.....>
"Read back exactly what you typed in, including the spaces."
"Rm, space, minus rf, space, XYZ, space, star."
"Oooooookkaaaaayyyyyyy. Tell me. Do you have a recent system backup to hand.....?"
It's hard to lay that one on the user... If you have to explain to someone over the phone what to type the absolute last thing you should tell them is to log in as root and use rm -rf
its never going to end well.
We script up the noddiest of things and tell them to just run the script.
I've worked for a couple of tech support places, and two stories stand out:
While working for Apple support, we would occasionally get calls that related to trojans - not often, but it happened. One particular one was a bug that messed with the user's DNS settings. A security firm released a fix and the word came down from on high that we should just assist customers in reaching the site the fix could be downloaded from. Underneath the download link was the following description (paraphrased somewhat, I can't remember the exact wording):
This tool will remove the DNS changer trojan from your system and restore normal operation. This malware is most commonly encountered purporting to be a video codec required to view content on pornography sites.
You could hear, in the customer's tone of voice, the moment of comprehension.
"Has the website loaded sir? You will find some information about the malware and a link to download the tool to fix it."
"Oh that's great, thank you so much! Let's see now. Uh huh. Mhm.
... ah. Thanks a lot, goodbye!" *click*
The other was in a similar role supporting the Xbox and Xbox 360. One guy phoned up saying his 360 wouldn't turn on at all, no lights, nothing. That's usually a power supply problem, so I got him to check the power supply was plugged in. He'd already done that - fair enough. I asked him how it was connected to the mains - he was using one of those multi-socket extension cords. At this point I found out that the lamp also connected to this extension wasn't working either. He went on a mission to find where the extension lead was plugged in, and came back to tell me he'd found the problem.
What was it? The extension cord went around the back of his armchair in a nice big loop... and plugged back into itself!
One that always sticks in my mind was one that one of our boffins (I work in a research Lab) came out with. We have a shared printer on each floor of the lab, the boffin came in and said the printer was low on toner on the 3rd floor and could we change it. Normally we don’t we just ask the user to give the toner a shake and it’s good for a few more hundred pages, anyway I said to the boffin “ok could you give it a shake, and got the classic answer “what the printer?” Now these printers are HP Laserjet 4300DTN (extra paper trays) so weigh in at around 30kg!
I used to work for a charity giving computer training (word processing, spreadsheets and the like) to special needs groups. We had both a wee "school" where a friend and I managed to blag a Netware3 license from the Uni and we set up a small "Office" network, but also an outreach program, where housebound individuals were given a PC, they were given worksheets, one of our Tutor/Befrienders would spend a couple of hours a week with them, and they submitted their work on 3.5 floppy disks (remember them :) which were collected by our drivers.
One day, one of the folk on the outreach program rang and said that she couldn't save anything, her PC wasn't working. I asked a few questions, but it was quite clear that she wasn't able to really help, so I asked Henry, our driver to collect it and bring to the office so I could look at it.
As soon as it arrived, I put it on the desk, and without even switching it on, I knew the problem - when I put it down, it sounded like a money box. I opened the machine, took out the floppy drive and shook it - a shower of coins fell out. I rang the lass concerned, and asked if her baby was now mobile. She said yes, it's lovely. I said, aye, it is - he thinks the floppy drive is his money box...and that's why you couldn't save anything. She asked me then how the machine was......
"Well, there's no change yet", was my reply.
I could be cruel about the severely dyslexic users given free PC's in some asinine Government program, very few of which could read "Connect" on a button. Not their fault of course, it's the moronic politicians and civil servants who think such ailments can be banished by spending money on PC's :-(
I could marvel at the optimism of the Italian running the French version of Windows 95, who seemed to think schoolboy French involved fluency :-)
But I think the man who wins the prize has to be the one who double-clicked on "Connect to the Internet" and got nowhere. He called me, who, ever anxious to please, asked him if he could hear his modem dialling, imitating the sound to help. He said he couldn't hear anything, so I asked if his modem was turned on: he replied "I don't have a phone line" :-)
"I could be cruel about the severely dyslexic users given free PC's in some asinine Government program, ("
Well, I made it through a Phd and seem to be able to manage to plug my PC in, thanks very much, the pictures help. And I've written a couple of textbook chapters over the years. Wonderful things, spellchecks.
Some of my students found the cheap (not free) Government PCs quite useful as well as it happens, especially the one who is now a qualified physiotherapist.
Call to the helldesk, user saying "My mouse has stopped working!". After some brief diagnostics one of our crew went downstairs to the floor and found the user in question.
Did the usual mouse-checking things. Ball moving OK. Two years of sandwich-crumbs removed from inside. Batteries changed. Still no-go.
While he's pondering the next step, he overhears someone in the next bay on the phone to the helldesk logging a call, saying "My mouse-cursor keeps moving by itself!"
The mice, of course, were wireless - and had somehow got interchanged.
I could also narrate the instance of a site that was off-net for over a week after Badgers tunneled through the fibre-duct and the telco had to build a new duct, avoiding the Badger-den.
> someone in the next bay on the phone to the helldesk logging a call, saying "My mouse-cursor keeps moving by itself!"
Been there got the tea shirt, this is normaly caused by letting the sales/marketing department, buy their own kit.
Just because it might look cool to the customer (Never mind, they stop working when the batteries go flat, and the cost of changing batterys etc).
The biggest probelm is, they just have no understanding of the technology (Despite the fact they sell technology).
It is RF FFS, they can't just plug it in, they need to configure it, i.e :-
Change every set, to run on different frequency, so they don't interfere we each other.
The first call I heard about, was from the sales boss, who claimed something had infected his machine.
As he tried to edit a spreadsheet, something was changing the numbers !!!!
User: Hi, Bob. My PC isn't working.
Me:What's the problem
User:PC isn't working, it won't start.
Me: Is it plugged in, can you see any lights on the computer?
User: Yes, there are lights lit up on the PC but I cannot see if it is plugged in or not.
Me: Er... OK Alice, be with you in a moment.
Realising that attempting to resolve this over the phone might prove difficult and only being a floor away I popped up to see the user.
After fixing the problem in direct view of the user, she asked what the problem was.
"Not really a problem" I said, "I switched it on".
The power button on the desktop machine was obscured by the keyboard, Alice had been switching the monitor on and off.
Names have been changed to protect the stupid and the paranoid.
One of our highly paid and supposedly computer-literate directors once phoned the sysadmin to report that his PC wouldn't boot, and there were no errors showing on the screen. Since he was only down the corridor she popped along to take a look. Came back a few minutes later, and managed to close the door before collapsing in giggles. She'd had to walk all the way down the corridor, just to turn the brightness up on his monitor...
I know a lot of people have issues with some overseas contact centres, but once in a while you get a gem like this.
Me - hi, I am having an issue with my broadband router
Them - thank you for calling, can I take your account number
Me - bear with me
Them - Sir! you must leave your house right away
Me - eh?
Them - it is very dangerous to have a bear in your house, your could be killed, please hang up and leave.
It turns out that he was trained in england and was fascinated with the language and dual meanings. He never actually fixed by broadband but he did make me smile.
I work in an organisation where HR is obsessive compulsive about all things politically correct regardless of the stupidity of the situation.
Recently Brother, our main printer supplier, has started to ship printers made in black plastic rather than the more normal cream. When we first saw these we all had a good laugh about the calls we would get about problems with the "black brothers". It should be added that two of the people most mocking of the situation happen to be of West Indian descent. Given the comedy value we agreed that the first few support calls we got for these printers should be handled by these two guys just for the laugh. They were all in favour of this and promised to report back.
A couple of days later some HR droid phoned up to whinge about problems with his new black brother (we had primed the helpdesk to ask users of the new printers what colour they were). One of the lads is duly dispatched to HR, arrives in the open plan office and loudly announces "Who's got a problem with a black brother". Apparently the only noise was that of jaws colliding with desks. He then announces "So, your all allright with the black brothers then?". More silence. "Right I'll close the call then" and walks out.
For some reason they never called back to reopen the call.
Was working helldesk for EDS when my machine died mid call with a hiss and a waft of ozone.
Shucked the cover to see what was wrong, and found one of the chips quietly incinerating itself.
After poking it a bit and getting the colleagues to have a laugh the boss instructed me to stop turning the power on and log a ticket.
Internal support was offshore. Yes, the outsourcer outsourced itself.
Me: Hi guys, need a ticket logged to internal support in <location>, needs a new motherboard, electrical fault.
First question "What error message do you see in windows?"
Me: Um, no, you misunderstand. The machine has caught fire. It will not work.
"Have you tried turning it off and back on again and does the windows logo come up?"
Me: Ahh. Look, just log a ticket and I'll get my colleague to fill in the details when it comes through.
"I can't do that unless you can tell me the error reason."
<walk downstairs. Hi guys, my pc just fried itself. Got a spare?>
(Nuke icon for exaggerated effect)
One of our clients IT bods had a call 1st thing one Monday morning from a user to say that none of their PCs on the entire floor were working that morning. They would switch on etc, but could not access any of their documents.
The IT bod asked if anything had changed over the weekend, but the user said nothing had. Thinking the floor switch must be down, the IT bod sauntered across to investigate. Imagine their surprise when they got there to find the entire floor was empty.
Turns out everyone had moved up a floor in the build; but NOTHING had changed. Imagine everyone’s surprise, when they got told they had to move back because there was no network cabling yet on the floor they had moved to.
Really, the worst 2 hours on the phone I have spent was trying to talk someone not overly technically literate through mail merging over the phone. When I say not overly technically literate I mean that I had to explain which bits of the screen and program were which.
I'd not used MS Word mail merge functionality for a couple of years so was re-learning on the go.
The worst part though was that I only had access to office 2003. She had office 2007 and I had never seen it before.
The funniest tech incident was relatively recent.
A farmer who needed to send us photographic evidence was savy enough to have used a camera phone to take his pictures. His know-how ended there and he then popped the phone in a jiffy bag and posted it to us.
He'd not bothered with any cables either and all the ports were proprietary but luckily it was new enough to have bluetooth and was not locked. The office was giggling all morning.
Mine cell phone's been stepped on by horses, gnawed on by sheep and puppies, run over by tractors, "cured" in the smokehouse overnight, dropped into toilets (three times!), and into a pot of boiling soup (once). It's in the vicinity of a cow's arse whenever I'm helping Bossy deliver the next generation of the steer we always name "Dinner" ... or when I'm milking her. The phone is an 11 year old Nokia. It lives in my shirt pocket.
No, I have never required tech support to fix the above issues ... and I have a dozen "spare parts" phones which I managed to find in thrift stores, all for under US$1.00 each ...
Whilst assisting the branch manager of a Scottish fruit shop chain on why their PSION handheld terminal wouldn't connect to the modem I asked them to check the RS232 cable to see whether it was physically connected to the modem and the terminal.
"Aye - I've checked the grey cable and one end is plugged into the wee terminal and the other end to the box with the blinking lights."
I was baffled for a short while so asked them to check the whole length of the cable for any nicks in the sleeve.
"I cannae do that as one end goes into the top of the safe before coming out of the bottom"
"Did someone shut the safe door on the cable."
"Aye. Would that cause a problem?"
Worst I ever had was a charming older gentleman who was horrified he kept getting gay porn every time he tried to check his email.... Not my fault he was spelling "Hotmail" wrong...
The worst bit was that I was the third line support agent at the time and it had already been through the "phone monkey" and "resident expert" before it came to me.... Took me all of 30 seconds to fix, and the other two had spent over an hour going through things to try and figure it out...
"A user was having trouble printing documents. He told me that the computer said it can't find printer, adding: "I've tried turning the computer screen to face the printer, but the computer can't see the printer.""
Wasn't that Eddie Izzard a few years back?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6C_HjWr3Nk - about 3:20 in. Fairly close anyway...
Surely everyone here knows about the Shark/pilot fish web site with hundreds of classic stories going back 30-40 years?
For years they've collected the best IT stories and give out free Shark T-Shirts to anyone who gets accepted for publication. I've had 5...
My personal favourite:
Gave customer the finished custom designed program (on 5 1/4" floppies)
Customer phones up next day. "Can't get the disks to work"
We personally go to his Work and ask to see the floppies he was given.
There they were, nicely ring bond, yes with 2 holes punched in them!
Gave him 2 new ones and told him to keep them safe and undamaged.
So he agreed and promptly folded them in front of me and stuffed them in his pocket!
My stories aren't funny, they're just sad...
I provide support to the development teams, supposedly highly trained software professionals, who are responsible for keeping my company (and your money) safe.
I get called as one of the developers is having trouble with a development box, note they have the exact same access level as me to it.
Dev: I am getting an error when trying to connect to development.
me: OK which box and what error are you getting.
dev: it's development.
me: yes, but which one, we have several, and what specifically is the error.
dev: it's 1 dev, and I am unable to connect
me: OK, that's narrowed it down to 20 possibilities, can you expand on that a little, which one specifically and what exact error are you getting?
dev, it's 'X'.
me: OK thanks, and the error?
***I check 'X' while waiting***
dev: I am unable to connect...
me: OK, nevermind, I've taken a quick look at 'X' and think I can see your problem... Have you tried switching 'X' on?
dev: err, not sure, can you check.
me: I've switched it on for you, can you try it now.
dev: Thanks, you're a star I can connect now!
My desk has a forehead shaped dent in it!
Got a call from a Quality Engineer concerning returned emails when replying to all. I arrive at her desk and she proceeds to show me how she uses "Reply All" on an email sent to a group of engineers. Several of the emails would be returned with the standard undeliverable message.
She then proceeds to tell me she's positive someone with that email address exists "cause when I copy and paste their email address in MS Word, it turns blue.... See". She proceeds to demonstrate.
I had to politely explain to her that it was just formatting and that Word wasn't dynamically searching the entire internet for valid email addresses.
In about 1993, my then boss took the installation floppies of our latest software with him on the train to try out on his laptop (as was his wont).
Cue the usual call for help (over a very bad mobile connection, not helped by train going through tunnels etc.):
Boss: "It doesn't recognise the disc! It says the label is wrong!"
Me:"Change the disc label [it should have been "INST#001 or something]."
(Short while later)
Boss:"It's still not working!"
[I described the correct use/syntax of the LABEL command in DOS]
Boss:"Oh! I'd only changed the writing on the disc label!"
If it had been me I'd have kept quiet about my stupidity, at least. No wonder all his previous companies had gone under...
Having spent 6 years in the trenches before moving on to better things, I have a few helldesk stories.
One happened to the guy in the next cubicle, it was short, sweet and over quick - The caller's cup holder was broken; he was referred to hardware support.
My personal worst was a fellow who bought a SCSI scanner (yeah, that long ago) because the sales guy told him that because it came with an ISA SCSI card it could work on any computer. He called because he could not save his scanned imaged to the floppy disk. I had him check the connection from the card to the scanner, it was in tight, the cable was in good shape. But the card...
Well, it turns out that the guy felt that if the scanner would work with any computer, it should work with no computer. He was putting the floppy disk in the static bag with the SCSI card, which was hooked to the scanner, then pushing the button on the scanner. He returned the scanner because he did not have a computer.
I still wonder how he was trying to read the floppy, with no computer.
It doesn't make a good story, but I pretty well mastered keyboard shortcuts for Windows 95, as they are much easier to explain to some users than mouse controls. For some reason Shift+F10 was easier for them to understand than right-clicking the mouse. (Pre-windows key, but it still works)
A very long time ago, in the days when software come on multiple floppies...
I get a call - "The computer is eating disks - I put in disk one, and it asked for disk 2, which I put in, but it is still asking for disk 2".
So I go through all kinds of stuff, to no avail, and eventually I have to go on site.
I get there and the 3.5" floppy drive has a small gap in the case below it - I open up the case and inside is a stack of like 10 disks.
I guess the user was right after all.
It reminds me of when I had my first job - at a small Apple dealer. We had one guy come in with his Apple ][e and two 5.25" floppy drives. He'd only had it a week., and both the floppy drives had stopped working.
He was apoplectic. Red faced with anger. I think it was the first time I'd heard the word 'Crapple'!
I opened up the disk drive cases and extracted from each one a slice of processed cheese. It turns out his two year old son had been playing...
I once had a call from a user where the 3.5" drive "wasn't working"...
The diskette had gotten stuck in the drive, and since she was in a hurry, she had just yanked it out.
And yes, the sliding dust cover and a little spring stayed in the drive)
So... 1 Hour drive to location, pull drive from PC, dismantle and remove the parts. Reassemble and reinstall...
Asked the user why she was in such a hurry...
1 Hour return drive while swearing loudly...
She was 'backing up' her files... Files that were stored on her personal share on the fileserver in the next room... The one she had the job of swapping tapes in every morning...
(Tandberg SLR 1.3GB, I think. The ones that never ever failed... )
I've had the one where you have to describe the shape of the enter key. The guy was pulling the plug instead of shutting down properly. This caused filesystem corruption, the symptom being a bluescreen-reboot loop. So I had to take him through putting in the Windows CD and running chkdsk from the recovery command prompt, one letter at a time, and telling him where the space bar and forward slash were.
Spent a weekend upgrading users computers, only to get a call on Monday from two of them, saying that their computers weren't working.
"My screen is all black, and it won't respond."
Walked into their respective offices, and turned their monitors ON! Problem fixed.
I'm only tech support to friends and family (*sobs*), but..
Years ago, in the days of Windows XP, an anally-retentive friend of mine phoned up in a fluster, complaining that his new computer had stopped working. Working through what the start up sequence was doing over the phone didn't really highlight anything and was simply confused matters, so I enquired what (if anything) had happened before he turned it off last time. “Nothing — I'd just tided a load of files away and then turned it off - nothing was wrong” was the reply.
“What do you mean you ‘tidied a load of files away?’”
Turns out the overly-fastidious numpty had decided he didn't like how his C:\ drive was organised, so made his own file system, moving around Windows folders and such 'til it looked neat.
A little knowledge is a terrifying thing.
I have a similar story to that one... except that it involves a new computer that someone doesnt know how to operate and a son who has a friend who is a computer expert. All set back in the days when DOS was king and Windows 3.11 was the new prince.
I got a phone call a couple of days after the nice lady had purchased the computer from the company I was working for at the time... seems that it had stopped working and had a single line message on the screen... cannot find command.com.
I got her to bring it into the shop which she did. Loaded up the recovery disk we had and booted the computer. I did a dir /s *.com and couldnt find a single com file anywhere. I also did a check for .dll as well... nope... nothing.
Asked the lady about it and she said that her son had brought around a friend who know everything about computers and he said that he would get it running really fast by cleaning out all the unnecessary files. So they let him go for it. And he cleaned out a load of stuff. So I explained to the nice lady that her sons friend was an idiot who didnt really know what he was doing and that he had deleted a load of files that were needed for the computer to work properly.
I reflashed the drive for her to load dos and windows back onto it and told her not to let her sons friend anywhere near the computer again.
Unfortunately I should have told her not to let her son anywhere near the computer because she was back in a couple of weeks later with a shed load of viruses that her son had installed after getting a bunch of games disks off his friend.
calling everything "Personal" this and "My" that! Giving the users some strange idea that they have control, that it's theirs!! Making every support conversation even more confusing, or terribly long-winded and confusing!!! I'm the BOFH and all these are mine, mine, MINE, I TELL YOU, MINE!!!!
Sign... I feel a little better now.
It's 17.25, we're about to make our way home, and the phone goes, it's one of our smaller customers and they're concerned that someone has hacked into their systems as the mouse is moving on it's own.
Hoping for a quick resolution, one of the younger girls on staff logs in and makes a note of the remote access user, so they can phone them up and ask if they're genuinely using the system. Whilst she's doing this, she's told that suddenly a gay porn website has opened up and is playing videos.
Anyway, between her and myself we trace back the user ID, it's the MD of our client, so we quickly phone his mobile, and hear a brief couple of seconds of audio from the same website. We innocently ask him if he's working from home tonight, and he replies yes.
Trying desperately not to laugh, my colleague says to him that he should be careful as we've had his office on the line saying someone's accessed the internet on the server and it's visible on the monitor. The MD apparently swears, and hangs up on her, leaving us in fits of laughter.
We phone back to the office and say that the situation is resolved, and we'd speak to the MD in the morning for them to give a full report.
Best thing I heard was when we gave out wireless routers to all our home based staff. We had a phone call from one user who complained that she'd been walking around her house for 2 hours but couldn't get a signal anywhere. Turned out, she'd wired her laptop into the router, and hadn't plugged the router into anything else (no power, no ADSL, nothing). She was walking around with laptop in one hand and the router in the other, thinking that the router could wirelessly connect to the internet and pass the signal through the cable to the computer.
A rather well endowed lady called into our helpdesk, and the sound of continuous beeping can be heard in the background.
The conversation goes;
Helpdesk: Hello Helpdesk how can I help you ?
Lady: MY keyboard won't stop beeping ?
HelpDesk: Do you have a key stuck on your keyboard ?
Lady: No.. but oh no my Boob is resting on the keyboard.
Cue hangup, and helpdesk operator killing themselves with laughter..
Many years ago, a lady in a large financial house I was working in was having issues restoring files from a 5.25 floppy disc. Apparently, she 'Couldn't get the disk in the drive'. The reason being, that her backup procedure was as follows:
Back up to disc (ok so far)
Roll disc in to typewriter and type the date on the label (Dubious at best)
Hole punch the disc (ahhh...) and store in an A4 folder
I thought I'd been sent on a wind up when she produced files full of these discs, all u shaped and with two holes in and severe impact damage to the surface. I asked if she'd made copies of the discs not expecting much. She had, on the photocopier, and produced several other files from the other side of the room with sheets of A4 and a lovely monochrome impression of a floppy disc which could only inducate additional damage to the discs through heat.
Suffice to say, I was unable to assist.
One night, at the server farm I work at, a call comes in. Customer is irate because she cannot access her server, and she's about to get on a plane for vacation. There is a note on her account that her firewall had been giving fits earlier, and I cannot SSH in, so I ask our monitoring team to check it at console.
The person on that night in monitoring is new.
So, while I have her on the phone getting more and more irate, the monitoring goes to the server, finds it up, and reports back that it's running. They've also turned off iptables.
Okay, if it's a firewall issue, I should be able to get in.
By now, this customer is quite peeved, and I'm getting frustrated too. Because I couldn't go to the server and check it myself, I ask the monitoring technician to check it again, see if they can get out of the machine.
The answer to that is "no".
I ask them to check for errors on the network card. They don't do that. Rather, they wait for networking to go physically check the server.
Customer at this point tells me to pull my finger out of my ass and get her site up.
Those errors I asked the monitoring tech to check for?
So, off to our hardware replacement team the server goes, to get a new NIC.
The main site? Shemale porn. The person who called in? The main star of the site...
I got told by a shemale porn star to pull my finger out of my ass.
We have another shemale porn site that the customer calls in semi-regularly for. They are as sweet as pie. The porn stars on this site are also much higher quality.
There is now a saying at work:
"The nicer the customer, the better the shemale porn."
The following conversation took place between myself (Networking) and two members of the 'Business Intelligence' department.
Them: Can you open port 3306 on this server (lets call it Server-A)
Me: You need to specify a source and destination for me to open a port on the firewall. What's the source?
Them: (Confused looks to each other) ..Server-A...
Me: Ok, and the destination?
Them: (Confused chatting among themselves, that went on for quite some time) ...localhost...
Me: (stunned silence, then): So it's connecting to itself?
Them: Yes, can you open the ports on it?...
I proceeded to explain that it was nothing to do with the network, complete with an explanation on what a network is (using two cups and string as an example), and then asked them for the 10 minutes of my life they'd wasted back.
Today, my internet went down and after pinging several common sites, and tracrt to some more sites it was clear the problem was at there end......
so, it got to the point where he asked me to ping bbc.co.uk, google.com and copy and paste the results into pastebin .... with no internet working....
it went downhill... he wanted me to do a factory reset of the router. deleting all my custom settings for servers and IP cameras, media servers etc....
resulted in some verbal abuse and telling him I was not doing a factory reset, their was no point, traffic was fine until it got to their servers, just wasn't leaving them.....
he eventually agreed to send it upstairs for further investigation.....
10 min later, internet was back up working.... so logged back into router, it all was as how I left it.... another 10 min passed and then all the kit on wifi stopped working, could no longer see the wifi hotspot, tried loging into the router from wired network, it rejected my password !!
a little more checking around it was clear my router had had a factory reset...
it appears the customer services nobhead had accessed the router and had done a factory reset AFTER it was all working... the only point to this was to piss me off !!! BASTARD !!
Be have a backdoor into the router, you could disable it on the old routers, but not the new ones !!
I can honestly say only good things about BE.
However, sometimes their tech support can be a bit... well... overzealous.
We had a problem with our router, for some reason the wifi would randomly drop, and we finally established that the router, that lives on top of the games console cabinet, had gradually been jostled enough to loosen the antenna so the connection wasn't constant.
Still, the new modem was a nice surprise three days later...
There was the time I spent a whole day trying to figure out why a ceiling mounted projector kept cutting out after a random amount of time, but worked fine in the workshop. Turns out the installers had wired it into the same circuit that fed the old power-saving lighting system, and the power was cutting out because the sensor mounted in the corner of the room wasn't detecting any movement.
The memories of my time in tech support, both as a tech and as tech support manager has been suppressed since the late 90's. Probably a survival trait, no one wants to remember that hateful episode in their lives, whether supplied with a shared help-desk punching bag or not.
I do recall alt.tech-support.recovery in dejanews - before Google ate it and removed the waving of dead chickens to access that much-needed resource.
Was working as a remote tech agent for a company here in the states which bugged the hell out of me.
It started with me coming in to cover for someone who was off and this day lasted all of 4 hours also it was my first and only call of that day.
Lady was calling to see if she could get evidence of any sort of infidelity on her husbands part because she wanted to get a divorce. !0 minutes later I'm connected to her computer and I decide to open up file explorer on Windows and the first (and only folder I opened) was the upload folder for Limewire
Still don't know what made me check that first.
Anyway, I opened up some pictures (and I know I'm looking at voyeur pictures of a female after a couple of them). Flip to the next one and then the next one and next thing I hear is her sudden intake on breath and says, and I quote, "That's my 13 year old daughter!!!"
To cut this short this call ended 4 hours later roughly, her freaking out on the phone, me in the conference room with the owner of the company, my boss, the corporate attorney and the Ohio state troopers giving a disposition. Needless to say I said fuck the rest of the day and told my boss I was going home and didn't care how busy it was. Opened a very large bottle of Skyy 75 vodka I had had for 5 years and go blasted.
Moral of this story for me was I don't want to work with consumers ever again and that it really really sucks. Sighs...I hate people like that.
Customer on the 'phone, I'm the build manager for our company which was also a VISP. Being technical, I was also second-level support for the VISP arm.
Customer: Your <expletive> Internet is down again!
Me: I'm showing no outage at present. Do you mind checking a few things for me before I call our datacentre?
Customer: I need my e-mail for my business! I'm losing <expletive> money here!
At this point we launch into a diagnostic session where I find that her modem is connected to the fax line, the modem is responding nicely to AT commands and the PPP setup is correct as far as I can tell. Customer is getting increasingly vehement that our dial-up is mams vertical, although my console says it's fine.
Customer: <long trail of expletives randomly laced with other words that make no sense>
While she's swearing at me, I'm on the other line to BT checking her fax line. BT faults comes back with a very interesting cause. Back to line 1 where she's still expounding on my ancestry, habits and probable fate.
Customer: My business is suffering because of your <expletive> incompetence! You're a <expletive> and I'm going to sue you for loss of earnings!
Me: Have you tried paying the bill for your fax line recently?
Cue tumbleweeds. Sometimes you're the statue, occasionally you're the pigeon.
Back when the volcano had created the ash cloud I had a call from a guy that started the conversation with
"Aliens have stolen my wifi"
after bit of questioning, he believed that aliens had created the ash cloud so create electro magnetic charge in the air to suck the wifi out of his house.
some more questioning
turns out that his wife had unplugged the router to plug in her hair straighteners.
Many years ago got a call from the head of IT, "Can you go see the finance director, he can't get anything up on his screen, I've had a look and I'm stumped". He was running windoze 3 and had managed to set his text colour the same as his background colour. This wasn't some tin pot company either, it was a high class household name retail chain, run by idiots.
I used to work for ICL on a support Helldesk for a large company that put windows on every PC
I remember a user phoning up complaining that their printer wasn't working, the paper went through but her document never appeared on the paper.
Ink status showed fine, a test page would work but it was difficult to read.
After spending an hour on the phone with her I gave up and asked her to email the document in, which she did.
When I looked at the document she'd changed the text to white.
When I phoned her back to tell her this she explained that she was using green paper so it should work ok....
I was already battle scarred from supporting W95, NT and dealing with irate callers when this middle aged sounding lady called in for support to get her Mac PC online. The conversation went something like this:
User: " I can't get my Mac connected to the Internet"
Me: "Alright ma'am. Are you in front of your Mac?"
Me: "Please take your mouse and put the pointer over the Apple icon at the top left corner of your screen"
User: " I don't have one"
Me: "One what, ma'am?"
User: "A pointer"
Me: "Ma'am, please take your mouse and move it in a circle on your mouse pad. You should see a white, hand shaped pointer move in a circle while you move the mouse. Do you see the pointer moving?"
Me: "Please move the mouse so the pointer is over the multi-coloured Apple icon in the top left corner of the screen"
User: "I don't have one"
Me: "One what Ma'am? You do have a Mac computer, correct?"
User: "Yes, but I don't have one"
Me: "Ma'am, could you describe the screen to me, please?"
User: "It's got pebbles all over it, and some little pictures"
Me: "Do you see a grey bar at the very top of the pebbles?"
Me: "Please follow the grey bar, all the way to the left. Do you see a colourful apple there?"
Me: "Please move your mouse pointer over the apple and then click and hold the mouse button down. You should see a menu drop down."
User: "I don't have one"
Me: "One what Ma'am?"
By this point she was becoming upset with me because I was taking too long to get her connected. I ended the call by apologizing for the delay and asking her to call back with someone who could follow directions, like a neighbour or small child to work the computer, and thanked her for calling Technical Support.
I then took off my headset, and took a much needed walk to the nearest fire escape stair case and let out a rather loud scream in frustration. Not many could get to me like she did. If there's a place in Hell for IT types, she's going to be there to keep us company.
First some back ground history, I do the IT for our family business; after years of the boss (mummy), using and breaking the keyboards on a variety of obsolete kit (Commodore Plus4, C64, Amiga etc), I finally got her to cough up for a proper PC with a replaceable keyboard (she learnt to type on a mechanical keyboard and used to smash the keys through the plastic frames).
Over a few years I managed to cure her of saving everything to the root of C:\, and her odd habit of accidentally clicking on the "Print to file" symbol, then clicking 5,000 times to try and print a document on the printer - everything seemed to be going OK; she learnt how to turn it off properly, but usually used to leave it in standby to save time.
After about 2-3 years of watching, my sister gained the confidence to have a go; and after many hours of experimenting, she could waggle the mouse to wake the PC, click on the desktop shortcut to the Documents folder, and print out OFSTED documents and letters.
Then mummy went on holiday and switched off the PC............
6pm and we are finished for the day, as I am leaving my sister calls out and says she will just run up and print out some documents.........
10:30pm - sis is on the phone and she is steamed, she has been waggling the mouse but the damned computer wont come to life (FOUR AND A HALF HOURS OF MOUSE WAGGLING!!!!!!).
me: OK, are you sure it is switched on?
sis: Yes, the little amber light below the screen is on.
me: Thats not the PC, thats the monitor; is the PC switched on??
sis: That IS the PC.......... isnt it??
me: No...... look under the desk....... see that big beige box?? THAT is the PC.
sis: Oh; I wondered what that was for.
Me: OK, is it switched on?
sis: I DONT KNOW!!!
me: Well try pushing the "On" button !!
sis: Which one is that?
me: The big one.
sis: I pushed the top one, still nothing.
Me: Thats the CD tray eject button, look further down.
sis: Ah! found it!!! It works!!!!
The sad thing is, that was back in 2000, and her PC skills havent evolved much since then; she got someone to set up a company webpage 6 years ago, but now has no clue what passwords she set up or how to access it.
Not really a dumb user story, more about creative problem solving.
Couple of decades back we had a S/390 sitting in Portsmouth running half the business. Every couple of months or so it would crap itself, sometimes rebooting spontaneously, sometimes just generating gibberish. After having the engineers in blue round a few times (by which time it was invariably behaving itself again), the client was about ready to nuke the whole thing.
Coincidentally one of the engineers happened to be in attendance the next time this happened, and whilst studying the recently silent 390 to see what could have gone wrong, he happened to glance out of the window and see the US aircraft carrier Enterprise steaming into the Solent. Working on a hunch, he asked the client to look out the window the next time the mainframe crapped itself, and sure enough there was the aircraft carrier again.
Bit of aluminium foil around the server room and the problem went away. Turned out the radar installation on the Enterprise was causing havoc with the sensitive electronics in the 390, which shut down as a precaution every time the US Navy came to town.
but I had my share of helldeskers I'd love to have LARTed back into the cave they had just managed to crawl out of.
By far the worst was some bimbo whose sole contribution to the call solving process was to mangle the (usually) Dutch problem statement from the actual user into something almost entirely, but not quite unlike English, then punting the call to second line as quick as possible.
"User wrote a file yesterday. Today there stand only Oestriol. Dhr Coert know there more from"
Note 1: No username, no department (although that could be determined from the "Dhr Coert", the department coordinator), no location (knowing the department still left several options), no file name.
Note 2: Giving the name of another file (it was, actually, just part of the name) doesn't magically reveal the name of the missing file.
Note 3: Both the second and the third sentence couldn't have turned out worse had they been machine-translated from Dutch into English using word-for-word look-up without grammar checking.
After one particular episode in which said bimbo repeatedly tried to use my brain to do her thinking, I notified my team leader that I would not work on calls she had entered. His (quick and simple) solution was then to separate the bimbo and her workstation by a distance of 300 meter minimum (the distance from Building 14 to the main entrance).
I phoned our helpdesk;
Me: "Whenever I right click in Internet Explorer, it crashes".
Support: "Have you tried not right clicking".
Me: "That's really useful, but I need to use the context menu to get files of your <Name of stupid web based software>"
Support: "Can you give me an example?"
Me: "Should I have to, its a piece of software not working properly, however on <Name of stupid web based software> to download a report, I need to right click, and save target as to open the pdf.
Support: "PDF you say, we need to re-install acrobat"
Me: No acrobat works fine, its Internet Explorer.
Support: "I am sending an Engineer to install acrobat".
2 days later
Engineer: "I understand you need acrobat re-installed"
Me: I don't think so, but you help desk does.
Engineer: "OK, were give it a go, all you need to do is call the help desk, they will do it remotely"
Me: "You needed to be here for that"
Engineer: "No, I don't know why they sent me"
Support: "An Engineer should come and do the re-install"
Me: "Here, talk to the Engineer"
20 mins later
Engineer: "The support desk will call you back to re-install Acrobat"
1 day later
Support: "I need to re-install acrobat"
Support: "I have sent an Engineer"
Me: Please god, stop being so stupid, the problem was with Internet explorer anyhow.
2 years later - Finally got upgraded to Windows 7, they never did fix the issue, or re-install acrobat, they did call about every 2 weeks requesting to close the call, which I refused as they haven't fixed it.
Just remember, there are idiots both sides of the fence.
I was helping a colleague who wasn't confident with computers (he is an excivator driver) and was having issues with the incredibly ridiculous connection rigmarole to connect their depot (remote) PC to the corporate network (Involves 6 passwords and a RSA key). In the end the engineer came around (hardware failure) who the laughed at the guy as he couldn't navigate around the PC, I lost my cool and threatened to take the guy out, sit him in an excavator and ask him to delicately dig a hole next to a fuel pipeline and a river during one of the wettest summers with horrendous ground conditions. Surprisingly the engineer didn't like the idea. Just remember people have skills that don't involve computers, and no doubt you will do something that those people think is stupid. and just remember you work in an industry that for 12 years had people pressing "start" to stop their computer!
Most people (Richard Hammond excluded) would not be able to take a piece of specialized, heavy machinery and perform a delicate operation with it after three days of practice, let alone instantly.
But you know what most people SHOULD be able to do, should you demand they attempt it?
Most people should be able to:
1: Operate a motor vehicle. (Perhaps cultural, but from the perspective of a Yankee, they should.)
2: Prepare a sandwich or other form of basic meal. (Ramen, yay!)
3: Queue in line without losing your cool or being befuddled by the very concept.
4: Dial the emergency services number of their homeland, to get in contact with authorities in an emergency.
5: Compose a letter, and successfully format the envelope so it goes through the postal service properly.
6: Properly count and deal with physical currency for transactions.
7: Properly compose various bank forms, including deposit and withdrawal forms and checks.
8: Fill out a form paper, such as a job application.
9: Wash the laundry, dishes, and self.
10: Operate a computer.
Hopefully, by the time you got to 10, you had figured out my point, but in case you haven't, let me spell it out in plain English:
Operating a computer system is a life skill, not a trade skill as it was in the olden days. I wouldn't expect a carpenter to be able to perform an electrician's job, but I would expect both of them to be able to hop behind the wheel of the other's truck and navigate it to where it needs to go.
Likewise, I wouldn't expect an excavator operator to be comfortable fiddling around in regedit, or to use a memory editor to cheat on a running video game, or to be capable of programming even a Hello World program. I would expect him to be able to use a word processor to type up a letter, or use an email client or web-client to send it over the internet.
Laughing in his face was cruel and uncalled for, and you were right to put him in his place for that, but his basic premise of dismay that an adult human being of working age in a modern society is unable to navigate the basic interface of a computer is not incorrect.
So a customer walks up to my desk and asks me for an Ethernet cable. Me, holding up a 6-foot cable and a longer cable: "How long do you need it?" Customer: "Forever." (okay, I could have phrased the question better)
Our L1 Helpdesk managed to turn a simple request to change an email setting on a healthy machine into a situation that required a customer's mail file needing to be restored from backup tape. Our department also enjoyed it immensely when they called all of us in sequence at 3AM local time to replace a speakerphone in a conference room. (no one was even there) The best part is them leaving me a message on my desk phone first, as if I was sitting in my office at 3AM to answer the phone.
My Granddad was a TV technician when they were still a new technology.
Just before the coronation of EQ2 in '52 he had a lot of support calls. One call was from a person who had an intermittent problem with their TV, my Granddad said they would need to bring it in so he could do a soak test on it. They declined saying it was going to be too expensive. A couple of weeks later he gets a call from them to say that the TV was now green, so he decided to pop around and have a look. He found the TV had mould on it, it turned out they had decided to soak test it themselves in the bath.
This didn't come from my help desk days, but I had an IT Project Manager visit our office last year querying how she could access her emails while up here (Edinburgh v London). Our office works off thin clients, hers on desktops all on the same domain, so I suggested she locked her PC when in her office and remote in when she got here.
She arrived and I tried to get her logged in, but her PC wasn't on the Active Directory.
Me: You did lock your PC before you came up here?
Me: I can't see it on the network - did you leave it switched on?
Her: No, it's in my filing cabinet switched off but locked up...
My former employer decided they wanted rid of me, however as it was government that was a little harder for them - cue many meetings. I had established an in-house helpdesk some 10years earlier so we could respond to the 500 local users without begging the contractors for help. I also supported the Siemens DX phone system.
Over time my team grew and we provided 7 day 12 hour coverage across multiple sites (and three countries). I operated as a L1/L2 desk with L3 at the contractor's helpdesk manager's mobile number. The system worked, users had personal service and the number of crap calls to the contractors went through the floor from my corner of Blighty.
Management however started questioning my worth. When they saw inaction, I was either tasking my team to a problem (throwing a pencil) or working on a longterm project (chewing same pencil). My liaison with the installation guys was excellent, I acted as site manager and we completed new installs in half the allocated time. Everyone bar my managers were happy. I supervised the overseas jobs and acted as interpreter as well as booking hotel rooms and smoothing the way with the local militia. Everybody was happy, except my management.
So eventually management build a petty case and decide to lose me. The first step is gardening leave - just before the HQ is moved between sites.
What management had failed to understand is that site helpdesk is more than answering phones and changing toner carts. The phone engineer asked for a floor plan - all he got was a phone directory. Two weeks after the building went live he was still trying to find the last few users to install phones. His allocated job time was 2 days - as I would have usually done the prep work and follow-up.
The PC install guys turned up with 150 new desktops and printers. Someone had decided that the power would be on the walls but desks would be in lines, perpendicular from the wall. None of the 5m network leads would reach the printer or furthest desktops. There wasn't any power either.
The guys asked where the long leads and power bars were , management told them "your job", response was "no, your job." They then told my former management that they would cancel the job and someone would have to rebook it - with a snide remark that I would have sorted it, if they hadn't got rid of me.
I worked with a sysadmin for a local college a few years ago. They were looking to replace their fleet of PCs in the IT Centre: about 120 machines which had been bodged together many times over the years and were really on their last legs. Obviously buying so many machines at once he wanted to make sure the replacements were up to scratch. Somebody in finance made the decision that the new machines were coming from HP, so we got these three machines from HP as a sampler.
After a few days fiddling we noticed that these machines switched themselves off if not used for a while - not just power save or hibernate, but properly switched off and they would go through the whole "your computer was not switched off properly" disk scanning routine when powered up again. We tried switching off all the powersave/hibernate settings in Windows and more in BIOS but still they kept doing this. When the sysadmin contacted HP they simply said "Sorry, you'll have to contact your own IT helpdesk." He tried to explain that he was in charge of the helpdesk, but they just wouldn't have it. "It must be a problem with how it's set up and we can't help you with that - you need to contact the IT team in your own organisation."
The computers went back to HP and the college signed a contract with Dell.
About ten years ago I had a frantic phone call from a woman saying that her computer had been "possessed by the Devil". Could I come round immediately, preferably with a priest?
The machine was running Red Hat linux. When I got there (alone - where are priests when you need them in a hurry?), the computer was sitting on its own in a darkened room - the woman was too frightened to go near it. I started it up and waited. After about ten minutes, the screen went blank and then slowly filled with an image of flames. A large grinning head slowly rose up out of the flames - it was smoking a pipe, but I didn't notice at the time. It gave me quite a start in that darkened room.
It was, of course, the Xflame screensaver in its default configuration. I removed Xflame and several other "problematic" screensavers, and assured her that the computer had been thoroughly exorcised. I decided not to mention anything about the daemons and zombies that were still infesting the machine.
Yes, I know what you mean. It looked like the J. R. "Bob" Dobbs image from Slackware. I think Read Hat had swiped it from them. Basically, Xflame allowed you to include an image and would then show it burning in a fireplace. Originally I think it was intended to include a Yule log or similar, but then people got creative.
When I first started level 2 support at a new site I had a number of walkups with odd questions. The most basic being Password resets.
Client: Hi I have just got back from leave and I need to reset my password.
Me: No worries that's all handled in the city , Please call 8887 and the service desk will reset it for you.
Client: So if I type 8887 in it will reset my password?
Me : sigh
This happened twice on the same day
Okay, so not a helpdesk call but I remember doing this myself about 25-30 years ago... My dad had bought a new Amstrad (be nice to my dad please) 1512 (dual 5 1/4" drives) and I was busy naking myself the home expert on it. It came with GEM Desktop in it and I loved it, especially the word processor (I think it was WordPerfect) as I decided I was a budding author in the making.
After a few months though I started having problems finding my files in the GEM windows as some of them seemed to be disappearing off the bottom of the screen. I discovered that by deleting files I could see that I didn't want, my "lost" ones would reappear at the bottom. From memory I think this lasted for a few months before I discovered that you could scroll up and down within the windows.....
To this day I still believe that my Lord of the Rings beating work would have shocked the world if I hadn't deleted it by mistake...
...same vein for certain.
So, here I am, one of the few engineers in a graduate dormitory at a prestigious university. It gets out I know something about computers, and so I help a few people here and there, as I've done all my life for friends and family. I'm not too bad about fixing things more generally, so eventually folks start coming to me with various problems.
One day, I'm sitting in my room, when an (East) Indian girl (not FOB by the way, well-Westernized and with significant experience living in Japan as well, and pursuing an advanced degree in international relations or language studies or somesuch) who lives around the way stops by with her lamp, tells me it doesn't work and asks if I can have a look just to see if something can be done before she throws it away. Nice girl, no problem, how hard can this be, so I say yes.
Take a look - no obvious damage to any wiring. open things up to where I can get at the switch - looks fine as well. Check with my multimeter - great. What could be wrong? Weirdest thing I'd ever seen.
Then, I think to myself, "wait a minute, really?", and I check the bulb.
I call the owner of the lamp to my room, indicate that I've looked it over and have an idea of what's wrong, and ask her what exactly happened to the lamp that caused it to break in the first place. She indicates that she accidentally knocked it off her desk, and after that, "it just stopped working". Indeed. I explain that, if anything like that should happen again, it's probably a good idea to try a new bulb before pitching the lamp.
"I don't understand it - the car just stopped, and I'd not even driven it 500 km. Time to get a new car, I guess..."
We had a phone call in from one of our re-sellers not too long ago. We manage a hosted-VoIP setup and have tiers of re-sellers below us. Usually they would have to log issues using a CRM site, but unfortunately one particular client curries alot of favor so they can get away with phoning engineers directly.
On a quiet day, we see an "Urgent" issue raised and instantly everyones phone rings. I answer, hearing a panic'd client saying "Someone just told me our phones are down!".
It took a few seconds of calm breathing before we could let him know that;
a, His company uses our system.
b, We use our system.
c, We were currently on the phone to each other.
To make matters worse we ended up being asked for a root cause analysis about a service outage that never happened.
Mid 1980s ... My wife tried to plug a tape into the Betamax player. It didn't work ... I was called in, and discovered a PB&J sandwich had been stuffed into the machine. Judging by the texture of the bread, and the lack of mildew, it was done during my Daughter's birthday party the day before. The Wife panicked, as she had a potential local "snooty, high profile" buyer coming in to look at a rather expensive mare that we had for sale ... but the mare was housed on our Calaveras County property.
I took the helm, suggested my wife bow out temporarily, and explained to the potental buyer what had happened, borrowed a Beta player from a neighbor, and the customer viewed the video about fourty five minutes after schedule. She bought the mare a week later. No harm, no foul.
Spring forward to a couple months ago. The 1950's Western Electric rotary-dial telephone on my desk rings. That number is only known by family & a few select friends. There is no caller ID on that line, nor do I want it. I answer, as always:
Me: This is jake.
Me: (thinking "Oh, FUCK!", because she usually calls me "Pop" ...) Yes, it's me, what's wrong?
Daughter: Remember the sandwich in the Betamax?
Daughter: I did that ... I thought I wanted the PB&J like all my friends, but the Tuna (Albacore) alternative that you made for the adults sounded better after one bite, and I know how much you hate wasting food! ... It was the easiest place to hide it. (She's been a foodie/gourmet/gourmand since she was a toddler).
Me: :::ROTFLMAO:: Why are you calling me over this now? It's hardly important anymore ... oh, wait ... you called me "daddy" not "pop" ... What's wrong, hon?
Daughter: Your granddaughter just fed a chunk of mustard-coated mortadella into the DVD player ...
Back when I was a Junior software developer we had to speak directly to the customers of our software. One day a gent came on the phone asking why his computer keeps making intermittent beeping noises. After discounting POST error messages (the PC was working fine) or anything from the internal speaker (It was turned down - Some Amstrad PCs had volume knobs back then IIRC) I was at a loss.
"Can you turn the PC off and leave it off for about 5 minutes before turning it back on?"
About 3 minutes later I get a call from the chap,"It's doing it when it's turned off!"
"Sir, could it be anything else in your office that is making the beeping?"
"Well the only other thing that's near the desk is this smoke alarm that... oh, sorry to have bothered you."
Had a phone call from a lady who's company had bought a new version of our software. Unfortunately, the manager had messed up the install routine; so it wouldn't run. He had given the job to her of calling us up to get the problem resolved
After about 30 seconds of talking, it was clear that the poor lady had not the faintest clue of how to use a computer. I had to explain to her how to use a mouse to move the pointer around the screen; then once she understood that, I asked her to click on the "Start" button. Unfortunately she interpreted this as pressing the power button; she had turned the PC off.
I had already identified the main problem with the software; they hadn't followed instructions and she just needed to delete the empty licence file and then re-licence. But here things got worse; trying to explain over the phone how to navigate through the directory structure was not easy.
It took a further 45 minutes to talk her through finding the file, deleting it, and then I was able to read out a new licence key to her and talk her through entering the code. Total call time just under 1 hour.
After I put the phone down, I had to go outside and stand in the fresh air - I actually had a headache caused by this.
Probably my favourite of quite a number of classics from a year or two of working on a helpdesk when a student:
User: (on phone) My PC won't turn on.
Me: Ok, have you checked that it's plugged in?
User: Yep, it's definitely plugged in - and I checked both ends of the cable.
Me: Hmm... Right then - are you pressing the correct button - the one on the box under the desk?
User: Yes, I've pressed it. I shut my PC down every night so I know which one it is because I have to turn it back on every morning.
Me: Ok, and there are no lights on the box when you press the button?
User: Nope, no lights.
Me: How about the monitor? Any lights there?
User: Nope, none at all.
Me: Ah, this is starting to make sense. Which floor are you on, exactly?
User: The third.
Me: The one with the power cut, then.
user: my computer says "Check Video Cable" what do I do?
Me: Well you can check that your video cable is connected at both ends, but the computer might simply be turned off.
User: how do i check if the computers off?
Me: should be a green light above the power button if its not on the computers off.
user: there is now power button the computer doesn't have one.
Me: *pause* Um yes it does, every computer has one its on the front somewhere. (few different models floating around wasnt sure which one this guy had)
user: no im telling you it doesnt have a power button.
I insist it does. end up walking down to his desk, lift the posted not turn it on and walk out without a word.
I used to be the network manager for a college, and when our technician was absent I covered the support desk in the IT Suite. In those days, we had a Laserjet 4 printer with a 500 sheet tray for the students to print to in the open access area. One student approached asking for paper as the printer had run out. I handed him a wrapped pack of paper and told him that it will all fit in the bottom tray.
He proceeded to put the entire pack of paper, still wrapped, in the tray and wondered why it still said there was no paper
Our service desk was often inundated with calls that should have gone to Facilities Service Desk. Despite the number being different, and the greeting stating ICT Service Desk. The best of these was when the receptionist rang at once centre. The answerphone message went like this:
Hi, it's Jean at ... centre. The glass in the door that leads out to the childrens play area is broken.
I used to be the Deputy IT Manager at a large manufacturing company, with a typing pool full of young (and some not so young) ladies to type up the notes from our various managers' dictaphones (remember them?) and hand written notes. One young lady, who was rather short and fairly round, was forever complaining that her Wang word processor kept inserting random spaces into her text, but whenever we tested it in our departmental lab, we could never get it to display the fault. One day, in desperation, I went down into the typing pool (at great personal risk) to observe how these spaces were happening. I observed that she was sitting on a wooden chair, and the top of the desk was about three inches below her bust. Every time she leaned over to read the next sentence of the script, her right boob pressed the spacebar, resulting in a string of spaces. Problem solved, nip down to the pattern shop for a set of four three inch cubes of deal and some four inch nails, invert the chair and attach one cube to each leg, and, voila! no more rogue spaces.
Those were the days!
Several years ago I had a user from a gov't agency call the Help Desk for assistance. Her computer was not working properly. At least she called the right place! Our job was to route the calls to the proper group to help her. I asked for the asset tag number of the computer on her desk. "I don't have a computer on my desk." Okay, is it on the floor under the desk perhaps? "I have NO computer on or under my desk!" She is quite adamant about that. After a few more questions on the location of the computer causing the problem, she blurts out: "As I said, I have NO computer by me, all I have is this AIR CLEANER on my desk!!" The "air cleaner" turned out to be a macintosh cube (remember those?). I asked for the asset tag off the air cleaner so I could assign her ticket.
When I went out in the field as a software support tech at a gov't agency, had a user in the Director's office call frantically stating her mac was typing random numbers all on its own! We had just upgraded to OS X and all I could think was somehow she'd gotten into the Darwin kernel. I spent two hours and could not reproduce the problem. Let her a note to call me when/if if happens again.
I come in next day to her equally frantic message from 9 pm night before. "It's doing it again!!!" I go up to the office, and as soon as I walk in the door, I know the problem. She has a mac laptop plugged into an external monitor, but the laptop is open and she's using that keyboard. HOWEVER, she also has an external keyboard plugged in, and on the FLOOR upside down under her desk!! I sit down, and without touching a thing, tap the keyboard with my shoe. "Is this the problem?" She starts laughing. I unplug the external keyboard.
Again, working in the field doing software support for a gov't agency....
User calls that her scanner is not working. I go to the site and she has both a pc and a mac on her desk. I ask her about the scanner and she says, well, it's not working from my mac.
I look at the set up, and then at her, and cannot help myself. I laugh. The scanner is hooked up to the pc.
Working a helldesk for a major electronics chain, and this gem come through:
User: My computer doesn't want to accept disks
Me: Could you elaborate on that for me?
User: When I try to put a disk in, it just falls on to the floor. Your engineer that set this up earlier said it should all be fine
*thinking surely the engineer isn't that useless* Me: The disk drive, is it at the top or the bottom?
User: At the bottom
*bearing in mind the user is an elderly lady*Me: I'm very sorry for this Madam, I'll call the engineer to come back and install your computer the right way up for you.
Of coures, Lusers can still be idiots, like this cracker on Xmas day:
User: I want to complain. Your computers are shit and your salesmen liars. They said this laptop would work on my wireless network and it doesn't
Me: Have you turned the wifi switch on?
*10 seconds of dead air*
User:*literal phrasing* This is Mr M Uppet signing off *hangs up*
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