back to article The monitor didn't work but the problem was between the user's ears

How do you people survive at work? We're asking because in this week's edition of On-Call, our weekly reader-contributed column sharing tales of IT support, reader “Chilli” brings us a very frustrating story. Chilli once worked for an outfit that had 300 remote depots, all of which turned to he and the rest of the IT for phone …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old IT joke

    Not a true story

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Plausible nonetheless. But yeah, we all know that one.

    2. DaLo
      Facepalm

      Re: Old IT joke

      Yes, I've heard this joke many, many times...

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Old IT joke

      Yes it is, but Chilli deserves a beverage of choice for getting this one past the editors, etc.

    4. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: Old IT joke

      Not a true story. Agreed - we've all heard it. You missed off the punchline about putting it back in the box and sending it back because "You're too f'ing stupid to use a computer".

      However I have seen a PC that wouldn't power up despite everything being plugged in. The plug from the multi-adapter that fed the PC / montitor etc was plugged back into one of its own spare sockets instead of the wall....

      1. Brenda McViking
        Facepalm

        Re: Old IT joke

        I find it isn't generally the bog-standard desk pilots who forget to turn the sockets on. It's us lot, the techies that really do think we know better, and have sat there for 30 minutes convincing ourselves there is something seriously messed up deep within the innards, before making the decision to expose some live terminals and taking the next step of unplugging the.... oh... *headdesk*

        1. John Tserkezis

          Re: Old IT joke

          "I find it isn't generally the bog-standard desk pilots who forget to turn the sockets on. It's us lot, the techies that really do think we know better, and have sat there for 30 minutes convincing ourselves there is something seriously messed up deep within the innards, before making the decision to expose some live terminals and taking the next step of unplugging the.... oh... *headdesk*"

          I have an interesting one from years back. A client who has their heads on reasonably straight reports a PC is dead. I turn up and go straight for the power supply and verify it's dead. I order one, it comes, I fit it, and just at turn-on, there is faint "pfft" and then continued deadness.

          At this stage, I'm thinking the motherboard is killing the supply, but swapping with an adjacent box proves this wrong - it was indeed the PSU.

          So, I order another one, where another one of the guys gets the job to fit it. He does, he gets another faint "pfft" and again, more deadness. So yes, he orders yet another PSU, it come in, he fits it, and this time properly scratching his head, now notices the 110/240 switch in the "wrong" position.

          Turns out, this vendor (not mentioning any names: Compaq) distributes ALL their power supplies the same way, with the voltage switch set to 110v regardless of destination country. They forgot to tell us about it, didn't have any warning labels on it, so it took two techs to kill two supplies.

          1. ChrisBedford

            Re: Old IT joke

            Turns out, this vendor (not mentioning any names: Compaq) distributes ALL their power supplies the same way, with the voltage switch set to 110v regardless of destination country. They forgot to tell us about it, didn't have any warning labels on it, so it took two techs to kill two supplies.

            Which is presumably why, decades later, power supplies tend to be universal now. Eventuallly the feedback got through to the factories? (I think you'll find "used to distribute" would be more accurate)

            1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

              Re: Old IT joke

              "Which is presumably why, decades later, power supplies tend to be universal now. Eventuallly the feedback got through to the factories?"

              It wasn't just a matter of decision. It took years of serious engineering to get universal input supplies good enough for mass market. Starting from notebook AC adapters where it mattered most. During development there were major obstacles like cost, complexity, reliability, conversion efficiency. Plus a zillion of lesser hurdles.

      2. Bushwood Smithie

        Re: Old IT joke

        Encountered that same infinite loop myself once. Under the CEO's desk, of course.

    5. Jason Bloomberg

      Re: Old IT joke

      I have had the lights go out while the ring main remained on and that was pretty weird and confusing for a few seconds. Having desktop phones keep working during a power cut only adds to the confusion for some.

      1. Ben Tasker

        Re: Old IT joke

        Try explaining to the new Commanding Officer in a military unit why it is that the power-cut has affected his office (not operationally essential) and yet all the sockets and lights in IT's office are still functional.

        The operational reasons of making sure the office, DC and path to the DC stay live are obvious, but the explanation is somewhat undermined when it's pointed out that your coffee machine is plugged into one of the "essential" sockets.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          @Ben Tasker -- Re: Old IT joke

          The operational reasons of making sure the office, DC and path to the DC stay live are obvious, but the explanation is somewhat undermined when it's pointed out that your coffee machine is plugged into one of the "essential" sockets.

          Coffee is essential in the US. Tea in Blighty. Anyone who says otherwise knows nothing about what actually flows in techie veins... besides beer, that is.

    6. Archie Woodnuts

      Re: Old IT joke

      I was always fond of the one, from the days of dial-up, where a user rang support to complain that their internet/vpn/whatever wasn't working. Support go through all the steps you'd expect before discovering that said user is calling them on the line that also served as their dial-up.

      Mystery solved.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Old IT joke

        " where a user rang support to complain that their internet/vpn/whatever wasn't working"

        The classic one back in ISP days was people phoning up to complain the internet wasn't working, to discover that they weren't a customer (in some cases they didn't even have a modem).

        Needless to say, this did serve as a marketing opportunity and we ended up doing a lot of (paid for) service calls to people who were customer of other (larger) ISPs because we'd actually get things fixed.

        Unlike the local computer stores, that didn't mean "erasing the disk/reinstalling windows and destroying EVERYTHING on the hard drive" (usually masses of non-replaceable stuff such as accounting files and documents) in response to any reported issue.

        We billed our own customers $100 a shot to sort that out, producing a report on what had been done, with specific instructions to recover the costs from the "repairer" concerned. After claims against a few of the outfits were upheld in small claims court, the practice rapidly stopped.

        Whilst the issue of resetting the credentials was minor, the shops in question had been slagging us off/trying to sell them on another ISP (which paid them a commission for the sale) whilst fucking the customers over data-wise. In the end we were making more money from data/virus recovery services - because we could actually recover data, rather than just reformat/reinstall by rote - than from the actual ISP biz and we gained a bunch of very loyal customers.

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        @Archie Woodnuts, re: dial up lines.

        I like to tell the "Windows Support" scammers that it's the reason why I can't possibly visit the site they want me to connect to, since being on dial up would require me to hang up between steps.

    7. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: Old IT joke

      Maybe an old IT joke but if you have worked for a company or customers and not received one of these calls then I am jealous.

      Its only happened to me a few times, these are always the most annoying calls and most of the time the caller thinks the operator is telling them a pack of lies (Damn laptops for having batteries in and damn wired phones for working to allow said phone call).

    8. Tikimon
      Thumb Up

      Re: Old IT joke - TRUE AT LEAST ONCE!

      I wouldn't lie to you, friends and neighbors. This did in fact happen to me in 1999, on Helldesk for a US retail chain, Upton's (long since gone). The store manager called me about "the network is down" including all POS terminals. After several minutes of checking this and that, I had her making sure the server was plugged in, she kept saying "It's too dark to see back there". When I discovered the lights were off, it finally came out that power was out for several blocks around the store. Idiot.

      She truly never connected that the network and computers could not operate without electricity. Wasn't very happy when I pointed out that fact as I might to a four-year-old. Yes, this is a TRUE story, at least once in the history of the world. Sad as that may be...

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Old IT joke - TRUE AT LEAST ONCE!

        Have some sympathy. The plain old telephone network still functions if the power is out. At least at home the PC is plugged into this magic socket, where it goes to at work will be a mystery. If the phone works during a power cut why not the PC/network that is plugged into the same wall socket?

        Woeful education and training of the user but you, the professional, are working on a help desk. Just help OK.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Old IT joke - TRUE AT LEAST ONCE!

          I don't think it's as simple as that. Our building went through a spate of area power cuts. And I did get a couple of staff in the early days asking why the computer wouldn't go on, despite sitting in the gloom having just witnessed the lights ( and monitors) go off. But then, we also had one or two who couldn't get their heads round the idea that the pub over the road had also stopped serving.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Old IT joke - TRUE AT LEAST ONCE!

            "pub over the road had also stopped serving"

            Crappy pub. Decent pubs will have hand pumps for the proper beer. Only lager comes from electric pumps.

            1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

              Re: Old IT joke - TRUE AT LEAST ONCE!

              "Crappy pub. Decent pubs will have hand pumps for the proper beer. Only lager comes from electric pumps"

              Of course, you can have all the hand pumps you want, but they won't help when the tills and card machines go down, thus making it impossible for the pub to accept cards and potentially dangerous to accept cash.

    9. The Vociferous Time Waster

      Re: Old IT joke

      Bollocks. Heard it many times.

    10. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Old IT joke

      It may be an old joke, but I have staff who've had to handle this one for real.

      People honestly expect that if the phone is working the computer should be too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old IT joke

        People honestly expect that if the phone is working the computer should be too.

        Well, VoIP phones have solved that one.They don/t work without power either.

  2. apepper

    I suspect it's an exaggeration of real events - I had a call when the caller insisted I came down to look at her faulty computer straight away. However, she called back a couple of minutes later to someone else in the office to admit it wasn't plugged in.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      I have personally experienced a user complaining that her PC would not turn on, only to find she had never turned it off and was simply turning the monitor on and off. Another techie had installed some software and powered it down...

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        If I had a quid for every colleague who hadn't caught onto the fact that the monitor isn't "the computer" so switching it on/off doesn't of itself make computing happen I'd be a good few pints better off.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          >If I had a quid for every colleague who hadn't caught onto the fact that the monitor isn't "the computer" so switching it on/off doesn't of itself make computing happen I'd be a good few pints better off.

          I've encountered a few people who referred to the monitor as the 'computer', and the PC itself as the 'hard disk', and I've never been in (paid) IT support.

          So, anecdotally, accounts like Terry's are (or at least were) far from rare.

          1. Diogenes

            I've encountered a few people who referred to the monitor as the 'computer', and the PC itself as the 'hard disk', and I've never been in (paid) IT support.

            My head teacher for the last 4 years does this. I correct her every time. I thought thing would change wen she got a portable hard drive - which she calls the usb.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "My head teacher for the last 4 years does this. I correct her every time. I thought thing would change wen she got a portable hard drive - which she calls the usb."

              Yes, there does seem to be a certain small number of teachers who seem to be incapable of learning anything new.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Funnily enough, I had a projector like that. Yesterday

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          I remember our sysadmin being called to our director's office to fix his "faulty" monitor. After turning the brightness knob back to a sensible setting she just made it into our office and shut the door before exploding into helpless giggles...

      3. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Running 24/7

        When we were putting somewhat secure PCs on office desks in 1996, they came equipped with removable hard disks which were supposed to be locked away at night. Several folk discovered that instead of doing the whole "Start, Shut down", power off thing at home time, you could get out of the door a few seconds earlier just by yanking the spinning RHD out of its slot and slinging it in the cupboard. Needless to say, file system corruption and disk damage ensued. In one (perhaps apocryphal, who remembers?) instance, the user complained that the open document he had been working on wasn't there when he plugged the disk back in the next morning.

        1. John R. Macdonald

          Re: Running 24/7

          Saw something similar to this in the late 1960's. The IBM 360/30 in question had removeable hard disks (2311's with a whopping 7.5MB capacity if you must know) and the operators would 'speed up' disk swaps by opening the enclosure before the disk had stopped spinning and use their hand to stop the disk.

          Management put an end to that after the platters on a disk were warped by such operator antics.

          1. ChrisBedford

            Re: Running 24/7

            operators would 'speed up' disk swaps by opening the enclosure before the disk had stopped spinning and use their hand to stop the disk.

            Classic design flaw. The creators of the machine couldn't conceive of anyone being so stupid, so they didn't integrate some sort of interlock to prevent this kind of abuse, but anyone who designs something like this today deserves a solid smack to the side of the head. And that includes USB hard drives that can be (and often are) unplugged before the last write is complete.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      We had a client

      Who insisted on us sending someone out to "fix" her computer.

      Every time we arrived, we'd find the program in question had been minimised and pointed this out when producing the bill and report. She swore blind that it was our fault and she hadn't touched anything - nor did she seem to understand how to restore the program from miminized position.

      This went on for several months - eventually her husband admitted to minimising the program so he could run something else. *sigh*

  3. smudge
    Facepalm

    Similar...

    35 years ago, disc drives were standalone, waist-high units, each with their own off/on button and a set of lights that indicated off/on status, disk activity, etc.

    One morning one of my customers - an NHS consultant pathologist - phoned up and said they couldn't get the lab minicomputer system started.

    I went through a number of basic questions. I didn't know their exact configuration, so I asked "Are ALL your disk drives powered up?". The answer was in the affirmative.

    Couldn't get the damn thing to start up. Then a colleague, who knew their configuration, came into the office. He asked "Are BOTH your disk drives powered up?".

    "Oh! No - I haven't turned one on. That'll be it. Thanks."

  4. James 51

    Sounds a lot like the old WordPrefect support call.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
  5. Nick Davey

    Had it happen to me

    Working on helpdesk, call came in, stuff not working, found out it was power outage on top floor (apparently there was a kettle with a dodgy plug and anytime anyone boiled for a cuppa there was a chance it'd trip all the sockets on that floor).

    The person ringing me was one of the most IT illiterate people I've ever met and she often had issues of a similar calibre. But yes, complaining about her PC when the power was off took the cake.

  6. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Keyboard not detected. Press F1 to continue.

    After the above, criticising users for not thinking is a little mean, but after: "Mouse not detected. Click here to change" the word hypocrisy springs to mind. Imagine how much users would laugh at us if someone programmed computers to put the clocks back one hour on the last Sunday in October at 1:00am _local_ time.

  7. GrumpenKraut
    Devil

    Office nasty

    In a similar vein: disconnecting the VGA plug of the computer of your "favorite" coworker and putting it back just so it looks connected but isn't.

    Using remote desktop to move mouse occasionally (just slightly) and introducing typos.

    Swapping mice between adjacent desks (each now moving the cursor on the other screen).

    Disconnecting plug and reconnecting after clear varnish was applied.

    Inverting vertical on screen and turning monitor upside down.

    Redirecting names like facebook in the DNS to very NSFW sites.

    Setting mouse acceleration to very fast or very slow.

    Inverting directions of mouse movement.

    Full screen image of a desktop, of course nothing can be clicked.

    Setting max delay of double click very short to make double click virtually impossible.

    Leaving a file named '* you are an idiot'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Office nasty

      Don't forget removing the track-ball from pre-optical mice...

      1. A K Stiles
        Devil

        Re: Office nasty

        or the square of insulation tape over the optical ones...

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Office nasty

        And putting a small piece of tape over the LED on the mouse.

      3. glen waverley

        Re: Office nasty

        When I was at uni, removing the mouse ball was the standard way to reserve a computer in the comp sci labs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Office nasty

      Early Sun workstations had the audio device (connected to a loudspeaker) left 'world writable'. One of the developers had recently acquired a new system and was still learning her way around it, when a colleague on the floor above remotely copied an audio file to her audio output.

      His timing was unwittingly perfect, she had just completed a successful demo to a visiting manager when her system burst into Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus". According to others in the office she looked stunned, spluttering "It's never done that before".

      1. Jay 2

        Re: Office nasty

        I recall at university sitting in front of a Sun SPARC workstation which suddenly started to play the theme from Mission Impossible, whilst my friends sniggered on the other side of the room.

        Slightly later on there were some SPARC IPX (I think), which had floppy drives. Of course that led to a spate of remotely unmounted floppies.

    3. Tim 11

      Re: Office nasty

      in the old days when the monitor power was daisy-chained out of the back of the PC, I connected a novell netware server to the output power socket on my colleague's PC, and connected his monitor power and VGA to the output of the netware box. when he turned the PC on, the monitor turned on and he saw netware booting up.

    4. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Office nasty

      And removing some keys from the keyboard and putting them back in new spaces... switching 1-2-3 with 7-8-9 was a particular favourite, as well as lesser used symbol keys!

    5. Jay 2

      Re: Office nasty

      Put some tape over the phone hook. Phone rings, victim picks up, phone keeps ringing...

      1. GrumpenKraut
        Thumb Up

        Re: Office nasty

        Brilliant!

      2. bob, mon!
        Pint

        Re: Office nasty

        Or just super-glue the handset to the base.

        A less permanent one was to replace the bell with a portable klaxon alarm (or whatever they're called). Some people did that to their own phones, just so they could recognize when theirs was ringing.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Office nasty

          "Some people did that to their own phones, just so they could recognize when theirs was ringing."

          I can't remember how we discovered it but the pitch of our extensions' rings could be changed by adding a small capacitor. It served the same purpose.

          1. AC Wilson

            Re: Office nasty

            There was an old one that was fun, a device driver (back when they were loaded via "config.sys, remember? It was called (I believe "Scaredy mouse" You would need two or three minutes at the targets computer, REM out his mouse driver and install and put "Scaredy Mouse driver in appropriate Dir or just C:. When installed the mouse would appear to act normally, but when approaching clickable content would veer off, stall, jump over anything except stop on the content. It was hilarious and harmless(well hilarious to watch I guess.) Fixable by removing or REMing out and unREMing the correct driver "many people wanted it left behind so they could play with it. There was also one that when installed, a kitten would randomly pop up and chase the mouse pointer, which would otherwise work normally. Oh, halcyon days...

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Office nasty

      Taping down the hook switch of a phone is a source of endless amusement when there's an office idiot.

      I watched one smash the phone in fustration because it kept ringing after he picked up. He would have had some difficulty explaining it to the boss, except he was the boss.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not long ago we had a power cut in the office that affected the mains circuitry but not the lights. We all have laptops, so of course they were still running on battery. However, all the monitors went off, and this caused a great deal of confusion. Some people immediately jumped up to demand new monitors, then once it dawned that they had all gone off, others then kicked up a fuss about losing their work. We had to explain very carefully that their laptops have batteries and were still on, but the monitors didn't and so were off. So no, this wasn't an excuse to go home early.

    1. Fatman
      Joke

      """Power Cuts"""

      I once had to deal with a clueless MBA IDIOT who did not understand what a "tripped circuit breaker" meant.

      That stupid bitch plugged a 12 amp electric space heater into her 'under desk' power strip, which took its power from a circuit that supplied the 3 adjacent desks. Cue overload and tripping.

      And it is all IT's FAULT!!!!

      Unfortunately, I was more than 100 miles away, so I could not just "walk over and check out the problem". I was reported as """extremely uncooperative""" and the shit hit the desk of my boss, who had a few run-ins with this """deranged bitch""" (HER words for that MBA); and my boss decided that it was time to put an end to the MBA's shit. So we1 packed up and went out on a road trip.

      On the way there, I was told to stop in at a building supply store and we bought one of these:

      http://www.lowes.com/pd_464308-295-40020S_1z0yt1x__?productId=50129726&pl=1

      When we arrived at the remote location, my boss told me to 'follow her lead'. She walks in, and approaches brain dead MBA, and asks to be directed to 'non-functioning PC'. It is plugged into a power strip, so she plugs in the FRTPA2 into the power strip, which results in none of the indicators lighting up. She unplugs the power strip from the wall socket, and plugs the FRTPA into the wall socket, and the expected lights are illuminated. She then plugs the FRTPA back into the power strip, and plugs the power strip back into the wall socket. The lights are dark as they were initially. She then points to the circuit breaker mounted in the power strip case, and presses it to reset it. Suddenly, the lights on the FRTPA illuminate, and she them proceeds to re-boot the PC.

      My boss, and her boss take the brain dead MBA aside for a """private conversation""" which resulted in the MBA being free to seek employment elsewhere. We left the FRTPA behind, and admonished that remote office's staff that before anyone of them call about a "dead PC", they better make damn sure that the power is actually on.

      1 FRTPA: Fucking Real Time Power Analyzer.

      2 We: Me, my boss (the CIO), and her boss (the CEO).

  9. caffeine addict
    Joke

    Hang on... I've got a great story about a user breaking their new computer's cup holder!

    1. James 51

      You forgot the part where they bought it at a trade show.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        I've thinking of installing another cup holder on my laptop - the current one is one the right hand side, even though the fan exhaust* that would do a lovely job of keeping my coffee warm is on the left hand side of the laptop. That's poor design, if you ask me!

        (* cooling a Core 2 Duo T9550 and an nVidia card... the machine is a fan heater that also does sums. I can't remember when I last used its optical drive. )

  10. Richard Gray 1
    FAIL

    HA!!

    In my youth I worked as a tech PC world ( I know but I needed to eat).

    I received a call from a shouty man saying that he had received the wrong monitor.

    "wrong size ?" I asked

    "No it just doesn't fit, the cable won't connect"

    I went through the right colour, the right way round, even checking for a bent pin.

    "I have looked at the cable and the socket and it won't fit!!"

    "Ahh... not all the pins are used so they don't add them, so it MAY look different but it will fit."

    "It won't!"

    "it will, will you please try it..."

    "No it won't!!!"

    .... continue for about 10 minutes in a nice voice (I was more relaxed back then)...

    "LOOK, JUST BLOODY TRY IT!!!"

    .... silence.....

    "I've been silly haven't I ??"

    "Yes sir you have... Good bye"

    Then as a PC engineer going out to replace a PSU in a new home PC....

    I get to the house after several hours drive (this was in the Highlands of Scotland) I go to the PC, lift the flap for the power button (it was the fashion in the early 90's to hide the power buttons because it would be always on just in sleep mode to instantly wake... yeah right) .

    Turn on, turn off, turn on, turn off

    "Is this an intermittent fault?" I asked

    "No, but I have never seen that button before...."

    "Sign here......"

    1. James 51

      Re: HA!!

      The other version of that story is about the write protect tab on floppy disks.

    2. John Tserkezis

      Re: HA!!

      "I received a call from a shouty man"

      Sometimes the shouty ones, are not.

      Had a guy turn up at the office where our receptionist and job assigner guy both said he was quite cross and shouty. I was assigned the job. Of course. As I usually am.

      I was out the front in the foyer and spent 20 minutes discussing his questions/needs/wants etc. Once I was done, he left, and I returned to the tech room.

      Most of the techs that were still there, were eager to ask why the guy was so shouty and cross. Bewildered, I asked "What are you talking about?".

      After reminding me, it dawned on me. "Ah, no, he wasn't shouting, that's just the way he talks."

      "I'm greek remember, if it sounds like we're shouting, it just means were talking loudly over the other guy that's talking.

  11. vincent himpe

    Years ago we had a CAD system driven by a semi-custom computer (if i recall it was either a Computervision or a Calma system used for IC design)

    One day the machine developed a problem : we would come in and the machine unexpectedly had rebooted. This happened invariably every thursday and went on for months. Calls to the machine builder were met with puzzlement. This machine did not even have a clock ( as in date/time ) so it was not possible to schedule a task.

    Eventually someone was tasked to baby-sit the machine and see when the boot would happen to find out what caused it. Sure enough. late wednesday evening the office cleaning crew comes in , empties the paper baskets in the computer room , and 'dusts' the machines. This particular machine had a small ledge on the front in which sat ... the reset button ... The cleaning person dutyfully wiped the dust using a cloth off the ledge thereby hitting the reset button. mystery solved. A small strip of plexiglass solved the problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A new 7020 Remote Job Entry device was installed in a room above the computer room. Two simple cables threaded through the ceiling connected the 1200bps line drivers.

      Loaded the card reader with a small test deck - but it just wouldn't work even though the lights said it was being polled. Then while everyone was ruminating about this in the computer room - it suddenly submitted the job. Went upstairs and it resolutely refused to do it again.

      It took a few days to discover that there was an intermittent in the jury rigged plug and socket extending the modem cable to the terminal. It only affected the transmit circuit - for which there were no indicator lights at the computer room end. When the cleaner did his rounds during the day he flicked his feather duster over everything. That temporarily rocked the connector enough to fix the problem for the few seconds needed to read the test pack of cards.

    2. Holleritho

      I used to think 'the clearner' was urban myth...

      ...until I, too, saw it in action. There was a big sign saying 'do not switch off' but the cleaners either did not read English or did not care or were so harried and exhausted that they didn't care, and they would pull out the plug and plug in their floor polisher.

      They needed to use the plug, as their cord did not reach the length of the room. An extension cord would mean making them walk all the way down the length of a big open-plan office to unplug and drag to the other end. So we put in a multi-plug, fixed it to the socket with a bracket, taped our own plug onto the multi-socket with a skull and cross-bones on it, and they understood and used the free socket. Both our needs sorted for less than a tenner.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I used to think 'the clearner' was urban myth...

        You mean apart from now having a dirty EM noise generating motor on what should be a clean power line for computers?

        There's a reason for separating computer power from 'general use' power (vacuum cleaners, kettles etc) - your 'fix' was a lousy hack based on a lack of knowledge.

        1. smudge

          Re: I used to think 'the clearner' was urban myth...

          You mean apart from now having a dirty EM noise generating motor on what should be a clean power line for computers?

          I see your vacuum cleaner and raise you...

          Back in the days when I did hospital pathology lab minicomputer systems, I was with a customer who had complained of the system shutting down at random times. We were in the computer room, staring at the system (as if that would help) when there was a dull "whump!" that was felt as much as heard, and the lights flickered.

          "What was that?" I said. "Just the X-ray department next door." said he.

          Problem solved.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I used to think 'the clearner' was urban myth...

            "I see your vacuum cleaner and raise you..."

            The computer room ladies' toilet had an electric pump. It was a chance comment from one of the women operators that made the connection with the mainframe comms processor intermittently falling over.

        2. DropBear
          WTF?

          Re: I used to think 'the clearner' was urban myth...

          "There's a reason for separating computer power from 'general use' power"

          Yup, and it's all in your head. Modern switching supplies don't give a flying fart about the "quality" of what comes in, within astonishingly liberal limits. You don't necessarily want to weld right next them, but minor disturbances just don't matter. Go on, tell me with a straight face you have never seen the lights actually flicker but the PC soldier on as if nothing happened...

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: I used to think 'the clearner' was urban myth...

            "Modern switching supplies"

            There was a time before modern switching supplies were used. We had to make do with mains transformers, rectifiers & big electrolytics. And BTW big electros intended to sit upright with wires connected to their terminals don't necessarily take kindly to being mounted upside down on motherboards supported only by the terminals.

            I've seen a Z8000 server sitting in a room next to the lift being reset by its neighbour. Also a Z80 (the one with the humungous upside down caps) being reset when the stabilised xenon microscope illuminator was fired up.

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    The thing is...

    These things really do happen, time after time, after time, after time...

    We had a 'computer failure' in our office quite recently. It was connected to a socket strip under the desk and (we surmise) the cleaning lady had knocked the switch on the side with the vacuum cleaner - why do they put switches there?

    Nowadays, I'm not deemed competent to check out these things (not a Microsoft wonk) so they paid for an 'expert' to come and sort it out.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: The thing is...

        "The lead locks in by clamping to the earth pin until the red tab is pulled."

        These only prevent the cable being pulled out of the back of the computer. They don't do much about the 13A plug end (that link is hideously overpriced too)

      2. Vic

        Re: The thing is...

        The lead locks in by clamping to the earth pin until the red tab is pulled.

        Do not use those anyewhere someone can stand on them.

        The red tab breaks off. You only discover this after plugging them in...

        Vic.

    2. david flacks

      Re: The thing is...

      Had that so many times - Single server at Eagle Star Liverpool, cleaner had unplugged the UPS to plug in the hoover. Leeds to Liverpool in about 80 mins.... we were on 1 hour responses back then, no idea how I missed out on getting pulled over.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: The thing is...

      Had a similar problem, but in this case the system went down hard around 17:30, a couple of days per week. Obvious suspect: cleaners. Considered improbable, because the system was in a recess, the power strip and the wall socket were behind the system requiring some serious gymnastics to reach them, and there was a power socket in plain view on the wall to one side of the recess. Initial diagnostics pointed to airflow problems, and over the next few weeks all of the associated components and wiring were replaced, with finally the entire system being carted off to Repair and a temporary replacement being installed. Which ran fine for the entire time it was in use; the original system also ran flawlessly under test. Moving the system back to the customer, same problem again.

      So a colleague went to see what was going on, sat there waiting for the cleaners to come in and do their thing. One plugged in the vacuum, in the appropriate socket. The other went to take the waste bag from the document shredder, tied it closed and put it right in front of the air intake for the system. Which duly experienced an airflow problem and switched off.

      The temporary replacement system, although being essentially the same, had a different enclosure and didn't mind plastic bags being put right in front.

    4. phuzz Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: The thing is...

      We've just moved offices and I currently have my computer plugged in with one of those four-gang power strips with individual switches by each socket. I'm getting paranoid that I'm going to stretch my foot out and accidentally flick the power off...

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: The thing is...

        You could put your power strip inside some kind of enclosure. A plastic 2 or 3 litre lemonade bottle, slit along its side, could do the job, while keeping the contents visible.. A slight risk though of the "sharp" edge of the cut plastic damaging the cable insulation. So you could fold duct tape over the edge.

        Also, empty the lemonade from the bottle first. Gradually if you don't have a large bladder. Then rinse the bottle. Then let it dry before introducing it to electrical things.

        A lemonade bottle can also be a solution for electric lawn mower extension cord issues, used in a similar way.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The thing is...

            "We got ours from the AI lady. "

            ..and for a moment there was I thinking that the liquid nitrogen was coolant for an AI super-pc.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The thing is...

            "It's impressive how strong those bottles are."

            Our school physics did that in reverse. A small amount of water in a gallon tin can. Heat it up until steam is pouring out. Screw lid on - remove heat. After a short while the can buckles in a slow implosion due to the phase change near vacuum versus one atmosphere of air pressure.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Techies can be just as dumb

    Back in the day we all had OS/2 clients and did a lot of stuff at the command line.

    I modified the Prompt variable on a colleagues workstation to give a D:\path rather than C:

    He ended up reformatting the C drive and reinstalling as he couldn't work out what was wrong.

    True stories from my war chest - Typist who moved from old mainframe technology to Word 2.0 on a PC, complaining her 'foot pedal' wouldn't work - She thought the mouse was a replacement for her Dictaphone remote control.

    Lady who complained her PC was 'eating' her 5.25 inch floppies - 150 mile round trip to find she'd been posting them through the gap between the drive and case and they were all stacked neatly inside on the motherboard.

    1. Crosseyed & Painless

      Re: Techies can be just as dumb

      Not so long ago we had an issue with a server and was told that everyone needs to log of the system until further notice, an hour had passed with no word from the tech team so we put a call in and they rather rudely said they were still working on it and would let us know when it was back online and disturbing phone calls are just delaying them, another hour and a half past and we ending up having an early lunch and I went out to buy a sandwich, when I was walking back to the office I passed one of the tech team and asked how long does he think it will take to be back on line? he said it's been back up for about an hour didn't you get the email to say you can log back on..

  14. GlenP Silver badge

    My power stories from when I worked for a small software & PC company:

    The user who phoned up at nearly 5 o'clock asking how to turn her computer OFF. When I suggested pressing the same button as she'd used to turn it on that morning she replied, "Yes, I know that but I can't remember which one it was!"

    The user who's "hard disk", i.e. the computer, was dead. I asked her to check all the power connections, including unplugging and replugging the power lead, swapping it, etc. Eventually called the engineer, the customer wasn't happy with, but had to pay, the bill for the engineer pushing the power cable firmly back in.

    The software we had then tended to corrupt the database if the machine was powered off without exiting properly. We knew the symptoms well so as soon as the user called I told her the computer must have been powered off, which she denied vehemently. I asked her to send us a backup of the data anyway so we could rebuild it. An hour later she phoned back and apologised, her boss had switched the machine off by accident and switched it back on hoping no one would notice.

    Glen

  15. A K Stiles
    Facepalm

    So many times...

    in a previous life did I have people (frequently the same person) complain that their computer had gone off, only to discover that they'd bashed the monitor power switch with the back of their keyboard, or hooked either the monitor or PC power lead with their foot / handbag, or kicked the switch on an extension lead, screwed to the underside of their desk so it was out of the way!

  16. wolfetone Silver badge

    "Oh sorry I thought there had been a power cut, but then I saw a bus drive past with it's lights on".

    God Bless Peter Kay.

  17. Dan McIntyre

    Similar story here from 15 years ago at Direct Line in Leeds:

    PC had had some work done by desktop support. I'm on-call and get a call late that night asking why the PC won't turn on (in a very busy hot-desking call centre (breakdown control) where all others were in use). In the car, drives from home to the centre to find the cover hadn't been clicked properly back in place on the PC, thereby preventing the fake plastic power button on the cover from pressing the real power button inside the case.

    Cover clicked back in place and presto, the PC lives.

  18. Roger Greenwood

    Revenge

    Some years ago one of my kids persuaded a fellow pupil during an IT class to flick the little red switch on the back of his computer from 230 to 110 "to make it go better". Cue flash bang and a bill to the parents of the little darling for £lots.

    I think they used a lot of glue shortly after that.

    Do not try this yourself.

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      "Do not try this yourself."

      Too late. I've been there when someone was instructed to use the power switch on the back of the PC to turn it off and hit the voltage switcher instead. I believe that sound is sometimes referred to as "the Crack of Doom".

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: "Do not try this yourself."

        use the power switch on the back of the PC to turn it off and hit the voltage switcher instead.

        Impossible, unless it was an outrageously stupid voltage switch design. In most cases you need a screwdriver or similar object to move the slider, which doesn't protrude out of the case. Other designs require you to take out the fuse holder or some other kind of insert (which usually means unplugging the mains lead) and flipping it over.

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: "Do not try this yourself."

          "Impossible, unless it was an outrageously stupid voltage switch design."

          In 90's, about half of the switches could be moved with a fingernail. Rest of them were either recessed, hidden, or needed a considerable force.

          1. Jedit Silver badge

            "In 90's, about half of the switches could be moved with a fingernail"

            Indeed, thank you Solmyr. This one was a simple slide switch that looked rather like this:

            http://binged.it/1SfH5i1

            I'm not going to pass comment on how they found it before finding the big rocker switch they should have been using, but it was even worse than just needing a fingernail.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Do not try this yourself."

          Impossible, unless it was an outrageously stupid voltage switch design.

          Such abominations exist.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Do not try this yourself."

          "Impossible, "

          Many years ago a friend had a confiscated PC returned by the police after they found nothing incriminating on its disk. This confirmed that their high profile investigation of several people had been a wild goose chase - with the ever-widening allegations figments of the police's own hopes. After a few weeks - at power up one day the Enermax power supply gave a bright blue flash and died. The voltage selector had been changed from 220 to 115.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Do not try this yourself."

        " I've been there when someone was instructed to use the power switch on the back of the PC to turn it off and hit the voltage switcher instead"

        Many PCs didn't have a "hard" power on/off switch on the back of the psu - so the voltage selector would be the only apparent candidate.

        I remember plugging a board into a colleague's new PC one day - and it powered up as the card was seated. Had left the power cable plugged in as an antistatic measure - and there was no "hard" mains switch on the psu. That was the first time I met a PC with a "wake-on" feature - and no microswitch interlock on the case.

        1. tfewster
          Facepalm

          Re: "Do not try this yourself."

          I thought I'd trained myself to expect the unexpected, so you just KNOW how this tale will turn out: A customer in Inverness was having a server shipped in from a US supplier for a DR test; I checked with the customer and supplier exactly what they had provided, then headed north with spare 4-gangs, OS CDs, monitor, power leads etc. etc. I'd been misled before.

          Arriving on site, for once everything I needed was there! Enough power sockets, UK power leads, UK keyboard, colour-coded cables & labels so it was obvious how to connect everything. Instructions from the supplier. And a "tested" certificate & config sheet stuck onto the server, signed by the suppliers engineer who had set it up. These guys really knew how to take the stress out of DR.

          I connected everything up, hit the power button and heard the "Bang!". Yep, the server had been tested all right...on a 110V supply And then someone else at the warehouse had packed it up with UK power leads. Not really my fault, but I was kicking myself for not checking.

          Rang the supplier, prepared to grovel, but they were very apologetic; Checking the voltage selector was on their internal checklists, so not on the checklist they sent to the client. They could get a new PSU to me within 24 hours, but couldn't get an engineer for 3 days. No problem says I, I've always got my Torx screwdrivers with me, how hard can it be? So you just KNOW how this tale will turn out...

          Actually, you're wrong this time. It was straightforward, though more complicated than changing a PCs PSU, and I even remembered to change the voltage selector this time. And the rest of the job was silky-smooth.

          TL;DR Trust, but verify

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Do not try this yourself."

            "Yep, the server had been tested all right...on a 110V supply"

            A UK customer in the 1960s was supplied with a new mainframe. It had been something of a saga with long delays in delivering the machine from the USA. The supplier's engineers fully commissioned the mainframe with its site power connection jury-rigged. Then they went home leaving the customer's electricians to connect the site electricity as a permanent feature.

            Next day the machine blew up - the customer's electricians had connected the external 250/110 volt transformer the wrong way round.

  19. WylieCoyoteUK
    Devil

    Some times the spark is to blame....

    New office, nice shiny pcs, UPS the size of a small fridge.

    Plug in the new large colour photocopier, switch on, everything switches off.

    Investigate the UPS, which was still charging up.....and plugged into a 13amp mains socket via a kettle lead with an 8 amp fuse in the plug......

    Turned out that socket also had a 10 amp circuit breaker in the consumer unit......

  20. Tony S

    Along those lines

    The client's PC wasn't working; so after testing several things, I tried a different power lead, at which point it booted OK. Clearly, a problem with the fuse in the plug. I went to change this, but was told off by the office manager. Only an electrician could change a fuse as it was dealing with electricity. No electrician available on site or within an hour's call.

    So I went out, bought a new power lead from (I think) PC World. My MD went a bit crazy to begin with when he saw the cost on the job sheet; but after an explanation, happily submitted the bill. The client queried this; we had a snotty note asking why I couldn't change the fuse. Told them to refer to their own office manager.

    Much grumbling from the client followed whilst they refused to pay the bill. Then, I hit upon the idea of getting a quote from an electrician for changing a fuse. Submitted that to them as evidence that buying the new lead was still cheaper. They didn't have a choice after that other than to pay the bill.

  21. A K Stiles
    Boffin

    Intermittent mouse

    I had an interesting one a few years ago where, mid-afternoon, one of the office managers complained that her "mouse wasn't working properly". So I took the ball out, cleaned the gak and hair off the rollers, reassembled it, tested it and it worked fine. 10 minutes later "the mouse STILL isn't working properly!"

    Swapped it with a spare from stores, tested it, everything seemed okay. 10 minutes later... "waaaah!"

    So I stood there and watched her operate the mouse (delicately between just finger and thumb, then lift hand completely and press button with index finger ?!?!) and, true enough, the pointer didn't track the mouse's movements.

    She was close to finishing for the day so I said I'd take a look at the PC later to try and find the problem (couldn't see any issue with drivers or connectors on the PC in a quick check). Tested the mouse later and it worked fine???

    Eventually discovered that the problem seemed to be that her desk was in a large, south-facing window, with the sun beaming in onto the thin beige plastic of the cheap mouse, and her delicate way of holding the critter meant the light was penetrating through the case and disrupting the opto-sensor on the tracking roller inside the mouse! A few carefully crafted strips of cardboard from a notepad stuck inside the mouse later and the thing was working perfectly, in all light conditions!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Intermittent mouse

      A friend complained that occasionally her screen would start scrolling a document she was reading - for no apparent reason. Using the mouse to reposition the cursor would fix it for a while.

      The sun was shining through the window onto her optical mouse. The sunlight was filtered through the canopy of a tree. On a windy day the bright dappled pattern would oscillate over the mouse - which its sensors interpreted as a scrolling movement.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Intermittent mouse

      My mouse at a former job had that problem - under sunlight it just wouldn't go. I got it a cute little furry coat, complete with eyes and a tail. Solved.

      "Wow!" for the case where intermittent daylight MADE the mouse work when untouched by human hand.

      But where do they make and test these things where daylight is not a normal condition?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Intermittent mouse

        "But where do they make and test these things where daylight is not a normal condition?"

        The engineering samples are probably OK but when it comes to manufacturing - well, isn't it a waste of money not using this cheaper plastic?

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Intermittent mouse

        "But where do they make and test these things where daylight is not a normal condition?"

        I always thought all IT people avoided the evil daylight star?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confirmation bias

    A new LCD monitor arrived with the cardboard box looking rather wet. Complained to supplier who insisted to power it up anyway. The monitor looked dry enough - so plugged it in.

    Pressed the glossy black bezel about the "power" legend - nothing happened. Tried varying the "hit" position - still nothing. Checked power - checked mains cable - nothing wrong.

    RTFM. The instruction sheet was all pictures. The picture for the controls showed a front view of the screen. An expanded inset picture had the names of the various functions like "power", "menu", and "auto" connected by lines to the right-hand bottom face of the bezel. So no additional help there.

    Tried again. In the process of moving the screen the monitor came on - then went off again. An intermittent? Tried different mains cable. Still intermittent power if you lifted the screen. Sometimes it would stay on - and the monitor worked ok - but pressing the bezel legend would not make it go off.

    This was getting very frustrating - must be subtle damage due to the rain soaked box. Eventually decided to send it back. As I lifted it I heard a faint click under my right hand. There was a row of tiny, very low profile, black microswitches underneath the screen rim - matching the point where there were the legends on the bezel.

    Even after discovering their position - the instruction picture did not indicate that there were physical buttons. My previous monitor had had invisible "hot spots" on the bezel legend - thus setting up the expectation.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit like the cd drive not existing / happy with coffee holder

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Autopilot

    Shirley everyone at some time has needed more illumination to do a job - and switched on the light switch to no avail. Then remembered that they had switched off the mains in order to do the electrical job.

    The other variant is catching water in a bucket when removing a sink waste outlet - then immediately emptying the bucket into the sink.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Autopilot

      And the tree-surgeon equivalent is loping off the very same branch to which they have secured their harness. This is sadly not unheard of.

      ***

      My new favourite tool is an LED floodlight that runs off 18v power tool batteries. It is so bloody handy! Unless, of course, you are accustomed to using mains-powered halogen floodlights to help walls dry.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Autopilot

      The other variant is catching water in a bucket when removing a sink waste outlet - then immediately emptying the bucket into the sink.

      I remember watching my Dad do that. I learned some new words...

  25. rmv

    Power User

    I had a boss once who was an Apple fanboy and fancied himself a bit of a power user.

    I came in one morning and found every server and PC disconnected from the network.

    Apparently he'd come in to work after hours and couldn't get his macbook to connect. Naturally, the fault couldn't be with his macbook so he went around every machine in the office trying to find a network connection that "worked". Anyone else might have given up after a couple of tries, but this guy was management material and exhaustively tested every single connection.

  26. jake Silver badge

    Stupid old memories ...

    Loma Prieta quake in mid-October 1989, 5PM-ish (Pacific Time)[0]. All of PG&E was out over much of the Bay Area. My boss called my DynaTAC & threatened to fire me if I didn't fix it immediately ...

    [0] The so-called "Bay Bridge World Series Quake".

  27. tonster76

    Bit of a chuckle... But how on earth could the support desk not be aware of such an outage

  28. Bloodbeastterror

    "all of which turned to he and the rest of the IT"

    Is me the only person who knows how to use personal pronouns?

    It's not hard.

    "My husband and I go..." is fine.

    "They see my husband and I" is plain nonsense, as is evidenced when you remove the husband:

    "They see I."

    "Illiterate? Don't know the meaning of the word..."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "all of which turned to he and the rest of the IT"

      Do schools still teach sentence analysis to determine subject and object etc?

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: "all of which turned to he and the rest of the IT"

        "Do schools still teach...?"

        Apparently not.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: "all of which turned to he and the rest of the IT"

      Whaddaya mean, illiterate? My parents were married!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Whaddaya mean, illiterate? My parents were married!"

        For almost four months, when me was born!

  29. User McUser

    In college I had an IT job supporting the faculty in an advisory capacity rather than a support capacity (eg: how to use their software not fix it when it broke, though I also did that since the main IT group couldn't be bothered to do *anything* in a timely manner - but I digress.)

    Anyway, my boss at the time told me this amusing anecdote from his days in the trenches:

    Back in the time of big iron and dumb terminals, he got a lot of support calls reporting the users "computer" was broken. Since the "computer" was just a VT-something-or-other with a display and a serial line going to the mainframe, for most issues there was no real reason to physically visit the user's desk - just login to the server and fix whatever the problem was. But that's no fun. So sometimes he would tell the users to not touch their terminals and he would be there shortly to work on it. After fixing the real problem he would come into the room and while holding down the battery test button on his pager (which would make it beep) he would wave it back and forth over the "computer." After a suitable time he would stop and tell the user to "try it now." He said that the look on the user's faces when their problem was apparently solved by the magic beeping device was priceless.

    I've always held that for the vast majority of users computers are just Arthur C. Clarke style magic.

  30. Chris King

    The one with the squirrel, the substation and the blacked-out campus...

    I've mentioned squirrels getting cosy with electrical substations elsewhere on El Reg, but I don't think I mentioned what happened after the squirrel popped like a little furry circuit breaker...

    Imagine the scene. It's winter, it's effing cold, and effing dark. All the power goes on campus and in town, and it's a bad time to discover that the labs have no emergency lighting. I'm running round labs with a torch, screaming "OUT ! OUT ! OUT !", but the students are sat around waiting for the power to come back, because (and I quote) "Everything will just carry on where it left off, won't it ?"

    Not in a lab full of remote-boot machines with no network and no server, it won't.

  31. Patrician

    Fake; this is the "Word Perfect" story re-worded.

  32. Patrician

    We had a customer who's cleaner would plug the hover into the servers UPS; with some unwanted results.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The English Electric "Deuce" valve computer had mercury delay lines. They had a 24x7 heated jacket to maintain the stability of their temperature and thus their propagation delay. The electric cable was plugged into a 13amp socket inset in the adjacent floor tile. Unfortunately too convenient for the evening cleaners - who sometimes forgot to put the plug back..

      In the 1980s it was interesting see that the 13 amp sockets on a machine room's "clean" supply had earth pins that were slightly rotated. You had to have an exactly matching plug - and the manufacturer made them with varying degrees of rotation.

    2. G.Y.

      I had a techie who did that 4 times running. She was NOT shot at dawn, for some reason or other.

      At the time, our group's only backup was disk-to-disk (nonremovable). When I asked a bout power cuts, was told it's OK -- there's a UPS ...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hmm. In some ( I think many, but have no evidence) small office organisations there will be a UPS brick somewhere. No one will know what it is, no one will have ever tested it to make sure that it is still working or can still hold its charge. Probably it has been left unplugged since that time three years ago when they needed to plug in the Xmas tree ( I actually came upon that one once), or needed to prop the door open ( I came across that one as well. "But it was only for half an hour" was the plaintive cry. But they hadn't actually plugged it back in again afterwards). In both those cases all that happened was that a couple of people had lost long documents that they had been working on and hadn't got round to saving. Served them bloody well right. I know damn well they'd all been told to "Save, save and save again". Those of you doing full time, proper support must surely have come across this, if I had on just my occasional flying visits to associated teams.

        Which just reminded me, I have to tell this one - which is why I'm AC.

        At a school I was visiting a few years back for the main, non-IT, part of my job I had a meeting with the Special Needs teacher. She had to explain to me that she hadn't got the confidential report we needed for a child. Which turned out to be because she had been called away from her desk for some minor crisis while she was typing it, and since it was confidential she'd had to switch her computer off while she was away. She said this keeps happening to her and she was always having to start documents again. Cue my, "But you save them don't you?" Answer, "No one has ever shown me how." "Did you ever ask anyone?"

        Can't use an icon for AC, but none of the usual ones seem up to the job anyway.

  33. Bob Gateaux

    And with the publication of this story...

    El Reg's long-diminishing reputation as a worthwhile IT news portal is finally laid to rest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And with the publication of this story...

      "El Reg's long-diminishing reputation as a worthwhile IT news portal is finally laid to rest."

      It's Friday. Think of it as the water cooler or coffee machine queue. One day one of the comments will be remembered and help someone solve/avoid a similar problem.

  34. DropBear
    Facepalm

    Tune in same time next week...

    ...for the true tale of the "more magic!" switch connected with a single wire that could bring down mighty servers...!

  35. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I work at a Uni. One of our professors had a problem with his computer. Now, he certainly wasn't a stupid person (quite the contrary, he is considered an internationally renowned expert in his field of study). Dialogs would not appear. When I went to have a look, I realised they were actually appearing and being cancelled as soon as they appeared. So, I had a quick look around to see what I could see. I noticed a pile of books near the keyboard. When I looked more closely, I realised they were sitting on the escape key, moved the books and, lo, dialogs stayed on screen again.

  36. Oengus
    Stop

    Emergency Pull switch

    I remember my first job in IT. I was working for a major bank in Australia. We had a pair of IBM System 370/145s. One running the production on-line system (entire state of Queensland connected to the system) the other running day time processing load.

    We were big enough that we had a permanently assigned Customer Engineer (CE). IBM assigned a new CE (his first week in the field) to work with our experienced CE to learn our environment. I remember quite clearly him walking up to the on-line system and looking at the front panel (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_System/370#/media/File:IBM_370-145.png for an image). In the top right hand corner was a big red button labelled "Emergency Pull". His reaction was "What is that doing in?" and before anyone could stop him he had pulled the button out, instantly cutting power to the CPU (not a good move for the old mainframes). It took two days to get the system operational as the emergency pull tripped all sorts of circuit breakers and the resulting surges blew "sensitive" electrical components. The CE was escorted from the site and told to never return. The ban was lifted 18 months later after we were reassured by IBM that he had had thorough retraining (also by then we had moved to new CPUs with no emergency buttons).

  37. GordonScally

    Worked on a helpdesk (currently looking for work in a new location) . It might sound like an old joke but been there and had that.

    Try a remote worker with a laptop during a powercut- could not figure out that the ADSL router needed mains power to work and demanded that we remoted on and got her online. Swore blind that we had managed to do this before.

    On that note we confused an office full of tech analysts when we carried on working when the LAN went dead due to a UPS fault. Our laptops failed over to WIFi that was connected to another part of the building that had power and our ADSL test router !

    The one about not knowing the monitor is not the computer was also a regular. When we asked users to restart the computer we would regularly run a continuous ping to the PC or check remote logs to confirm they had done so and not just turned the monitor off and back on again.

  38. WereWoof

    I did have a manager once who decided to move his PC and connected the parasite power lead meant to power the monitor back into his PC then wondered why neither his PC or his monitor would power up.

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