back to article 'Acts of war in a combat zone are not covered by your laptop warranty'

ON-CALL Welcome again to On-Call, our end-of-week waltz through readers' memories of odd jobs they've been asked to do. This week, reader “Jackson” shared the story of his time working for a very large and old three-letter-company, where he was part of a ““IT service consolidation” project that meant his client's employees …

  1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Sometimes I don't like my job very much, but at least nobody is shooting at me. Perspective and all that... Anyway, thanks for the story - have a nice weekend everybody!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The story is pure BS. The last thing anyone in the middle of a firefight is going to do is call halfway around the world to try to get a warranty serviced.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: BS

        Actually, they have. I was personally present for one such call from a joint EOD (explosive Ordinance Disposal) team member who was having computer problems while attempting to disarm an IED.

        As the IASO for their network, I helped out with part of his issue, as I had blocked that terminal, as it was infected with malware and shooting data to China as quickly as it was shooting data to the DoD.

        I unblocked it, killed the malware, reinitialized all network services and he was back in business - while he was under fire.

        We also decided that we needed to fine tune procedures for infected computers that were downrange, on the other end of a satellite fly away kit.

        Brought back some memories though, I have hearing loss from an IED explosion, so taking care of those guys had a special priority to me.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: BS

          As a former serving infantry grunt (first gulf & bosnia only, QRL recce 102striker commander) I can assure you that gunfire and large calibre guns going off is fairly normal and the sound does carry over flat areas. You get immune to noises quite quickly as you realise that life goes on, you are no longer on duty and you need to deal with your normal every day things. Unless you are under contact (in which case the only people you are talking/listening to is your platoon net on your left ear and company net on your right ear) then believe you me you start to do things people wouldn't believe - because you only have 4 hours off and need sleep too.

          Ive seen church masses taking place in the open whilst arty is firing away in the background, people playing basketball whilst mortars land 1km away, ive slept in countless places with allsorts happening (I did call home once to assure the girlfriend I wasn't dead but it only made things worse as SHE thought the "normal" noise in the background was worse than it was). So whilst the geezer on the line might not have ACTUALLY been under contact, it isn't surprising that to an average joe listening to the sounds of an active zone might think they were.

        2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

          Re: BS


          I'm sure I saw this on the I.T Crowd.

          Moss: What operating system is it running?

          Bomb Disposal guy: Erm.. Vista, I think.

          Moss: We're going to die!!

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    Act of Allah

    Priceless! That is a sense of humor! Give this guy the Purple Cheek, extreme humor in combat!

    1. regadpellagru

      Re: Act of Allah

      The " should still be under warranty" part is also very funny.

      Which company covers gunfire under warranty ?

      1. Mayhem

        Re: Act of Allah

        Taking tongue briefly out of cheek, I'd say Dell, Panasonic and Getac would ... they make the super heavy duty laptops for military and far off the beaten track use.

        You'd probably still need to spring for the very special extended warranty though, I'd expect the extra price you pay would cover the costs of a complete replacement of the laptop in 1-2 years.

        1. Wzrd1

          Re: Act of Allah

          We were issued Panasonic Toughbooks. I have my old one sitting next to me right now, as they couldn't find its asset tag in the database when we were upgrading and I was told to just take it home with me, an old CF-29.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Act of Allah

            We have "accidental damage" on our DELL kit here at work. It doesn't seem to mention being blown up, only that "total loss" is covered once per year.

      2. Ralph the Wonder Llama

        Re: Act of Allah


      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Act of Allah

        "Which company covers gunfire under warranty ?"

        Colt? Smith & Wesson? Ruger? Walther?

        Otherwise surely you'd have a claim under trades descriptions ... and this sounds like the perfect environment to send a "no win no fee" lawyer, in person of course ...

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Act of Allah


      God is Great!

      // but even He won't go up against the beancounters

  3. hplasm

    The user was unnamed...

    A Mr Stark, would have been priceless.

    1. malle-herbert

      Re: The user was unnamed...

      Don't you mean : Mr Tony Stank ?

  4. Joe Werner Silver badge

    Have a beer!

    ... all those who work under more difficult conditions than me...

    I have no long term job prospect, actually must leave my current workplace after 4 years max due to labour laws, live in a different country than my wife and kid, but at least nobody is blowing up my computers or tools or shooting at me.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Have a beer!

      Heh, after retiring from the US Army, I took a contracting job with the US DoD in Qatar.

      A place where pretty much nothing happens. One day, while waiting my turn in the line to security vehicle search, I heard a dozen shots ring out and a very familiar whizzing sound of a tumbling round, which passed between my chest and steering wheel, to impact the passenger side floor.

      Apparently, someone had recently purchased a handgun at the new gun shop in the mall, which had opened earlier that month and decided to fire at the desert from the industrial area.

      Needless to say, I rapidly exited my vehicle, placed one of the concrete barriers between me and the incoming random fire and waited for him to run out of ammunition, which was rather quickly, reported the incident to security, who notified host nation, who then sent some agents to have a little chat with the gentleman. He was quite taken aback, as he didn't realize that he was firing in the direction of a military installation and that anyone was around where the rounds were landing.

      No damage was done, it was at maximum range for a handgun and the worst that I've had gotten had the round hit me was a minor bruise.

      And here, I thought I was done taking incoming rounds after I had retired.

      Oh well, now I'm back to a much more dangerous place, the US, where the chances of getting shot are much, much higher.

  5. Known Hero
    Thumb Up


    I'm afraid I'm going to have to hear that one before I believe it, Otherwise enjoyed reading it none the less.

    Worthy of a Friday story :)

    1. d3vy

      Re: sceptic

      I agree, Im sure I saw a scene in a movie that was very similar where the guy was sitting next to a TV playing a war film whilst on the phone to a call centre trying to convince them he was in a war zone.

      1. Alien8n

        Re: sceptic

        I once had a job interview at a satellite systems company in London. The interviewer explained I wasn't getting the job due to being married and having children. Something to do with the high probability of having to catch the last flight out of a country under gunfire (this had happened to the guy interviewing me, where they'd had to crash through the fence of the airport to get to the plane that was about to take off while being shot at by a rebel army).

        The job was installing satellite communications into war zones for news teams.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: sceptic

          "The interviewer explained I wasn't getting the job due to being married and having children."

          I'm surprised you even reached the interview stage. Is marital status and maybe mention of having children (hobbies, interests, other stuff about you) not a standard part of a CV these days?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: sceptic

            Hey, downvoter, are you saying you *don't* put that info in a CV these days?

          2. Alien8n

            Re: sceptic

            @John Brown I had a friend who already worked there so the interview wasn't quite as formal as you might expect. It was actually held in the bar of the health club opposite the offices.

        2. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: sceptic

          The job was installing satellite communications into war zones for news teams.

          If the news teams don't already know that the rebels are so close that it's too late to be worrying about installing satellite communications, you'd probably be better off declining the job anyway.

        3. Wzrd1

          Re: sceptic

          I recall having a conference call interrupted once, apparently, staff meetings cease when Bagram AFB comes under attack.

          Fortunately, none of our contractors were injured.

          We did lose one man in Iraq, a rocket hit the trailer he was working in.

      2. DropBear

        Re: sceptic

        " the guy was sitting next to a TV playing a war film"

        Would that really work though given that the address to send the replacement laptop would completely give away the game...? Unless you're sitting next to a TV playing a war film IN a war zone, in which case I'd say you've earned it anyway...

  6. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    And you thought your day was crap

    Never had my stuff blown up by an insurgency, either. Even the most mind-blowing exception to my daily routine pales in comparison, so absolutely raising a glass to my brethren in these hell-holes: you are far better men than I.

    Now, someone out there has this recording. I suspect this someone reads The Reg. I suspect even further this someone can accidentally leak this recording... for the benefit of the entire IT world.

    Lastly, if anyone will double-check their accidental damage coverage and other property insurance I am certain you will find these all exclude damages and losses caused by civil uprising. While not a war zone, anyone caught up in riots or protests-run-amok will find anything damaged or destroyed is going to be out-of-pocket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And you thought your day was crap

      "While not a war zone, anyone caught up in riots or protests-run-amok will find anything damaged or destroyed is going to be out-of-pocket."

      Yup, riots, etc, are generally excluded from insurance policies. In the UK, the police have a duty to prevent riots, and thus the damage to buildings & contents are treated as a claim against them under the the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

        For insurance purposes...

        A number of things that would be considered wars have been classified otherwise for insurance purposes. The Malayan Emergency was called such, rather than the war which it actually was, because of the large number of British civilan interests which were damaged. Lloyds of London won't pay out if your farm is destroyed by war, but it will if it is damaged by an emergency.

        I suspect that this is why the Falklands "conflict" was monickered the way that it was in the early stages, while the initial local damage was being inflicted on the civilian population.

        1. Mark Allen

          Re: For insurance purposes...

          IIRC it was "The Falklands Conflict" because a "War" would have officially forced a response from NATO based on NATOs own rules. I don't think that NATO, especially the US, were too keen to get involved with the politics of it all.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: For insurance purposes...

            I don't think that NATO, especially the US, were too keen to get involved with the politics of it all.

            Either way, it didn't stop the fucking French from selling Exocets until it was too late.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: For insurance purposes...

              Not quite true. The French sold 5 Exocet missiles to Argentine BEFORE the conflict started. France cooperated with Great Britain after the conflict started to prevent Argentine acquiring more Exocets on the international arms markets and providing info on arms sold to Argentine. On the negative side a French technical team in Argentine debugged faulty Exocet launchers.

              For more info see

              BTW the last sentence, in the above mentioned piece, coming from an Englishman, is rather ironical.

              Kettle and pot come to mind.

              1. x 7

                Re: For insurance purposes...

                theres a bit more than that........besides the handful of air-launched Exoceta, the Argies also had a number of ship-launched ones. After the Belgrano sinking, the Argentine Navy more or less refused to play, so some of their Exocets were flown to Stanley, where the French team mounted them on the backs of trucks. At least one attacked and hit a British vessel off Port Stanley, though with limited damage

    2. Wzrd1

      Re: And you thought your day was crap

      As I've told my guys, back when I was wearing that military uniform, "Don't worry, our mutual rich and retarded Uncle has plenty more, warehouses full", when equipment was destroyed by enemy action.

      Sure enough, a replacement showed up quite quickly and the asset written off as a constructive loss.

  7. magickmark

    All respect to the guys in the front line and the humour expressed whilst still in combat and the response given by the support guys.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ..guys in the front line..


      It is not the front line the guy on the call was protecting. And that makes it a greater service to the humankind.

      And no guarantee or warranty he is expecting of his own life..even greater one.


      1. solo

        Re: ..guys in the front line..

        "There’s no front lines here (in Iraq). This is urban combat and we’re taking the war to children and women and innocents.": Ethan McCord, US Army

        Just for the record.

  8. Dan McIntyre

    What a story! Loved it.

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Was the war zone not interesting enough?

    I dunno, support people I'd call first would have been a different type of support role.... like being airborne for example..

    I'd at least wait until I wasn't being shot at before settling down to sort the warranty.

    Must have really, really needed to make a new powerpoint presentation. </sarcasm>

    1. NotBob

      Re: Was the war zone not interesting enough?

      Ah yes, the old maxim 4: Close air support covereth a multitude of sins...

      Of course, maxim 25 also seems to be in play. If a manufacturer's warranty covers the damage you do, you didn't do enough damage

    2. SoaG

      Re: Death by power point

      Certainly an efficient way to win a war, but seems like a violation of the Geneva convention.

  10. Mr Dogshit

    It's not "Help Desk"

    It's "Service Desk" according to ITIL®

    1. TitterYeNot

      Re: It's not "Help Desk"

      "It's "Service Desk" according to ITIL®"

      I think you'll find it's "Helldesk", it says so on page 33 paragraph 7 of the industry standard tome 'The BOFH Manual - A Guide to Helping LUsers Lose The Will To Live'...

    2. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: It's not "Help Desk"

      I've done ITIL. Whatever we call it, users call it "Help Desk" and are irritated by other names.

      Who thinks "HR" is better than Personnel used to be?

      Nobody rings 666, or whatever, to be serviced. They want help. As for what help the caller wanted, I suspect it was somewhere between the entire Brigade of Ghurkas and perhaps 100 Tornados.

      1. Chris King

        Re: It's not "Help Desk"

        I've done ITIL. Whatever we call it, users call it "Help Desk" and are irritated by other names.

        Call it Service Desk, call it Advisory, slap a fancy title on it, it's still the Help Desk to the end user, because they want "Help", not "Service".

        I once got my wrists slapped for asking if that was "service" in the way that bulls "service" cows.

        Maybe they took exception because someone posted a picture of bovine-on-bovine action into the e-mail thread, I don't know...

    3. hplasm

      Re: It's not "Help Desk"

      It's not "ITIL"

      It's PHB Wank.

    4. elmondoh

      Re: It's not "Help Desk"

      Well, on that day, it was obviously the "WTF?" desk. :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Many moons ago, we took out the optional "Accidental Damage Protection" for HP laptops. I am not entirely sure it this scenario would be covered, but I did get a replacement once for someone who actually drove over his own laptop. The cost for 3 years coverage was about 25% to 30% of the cost of the laptop. The second case where I needed it was less spectacular (user spilled water on laptop keyboard and decided to apply a hair dryer in close proximity to said plastic keyboard).

    1. Known Hero

      Re: hp

      a laptop being shot and and exploded isn't accidental, so they would have a good argument that the damage was intentional, you could claim it under the combatants household insurance however :D

      1. The First Dave

        Re: hp

        I'm pretty sure that the laptop owner didn't intend to be shot at, let alone have his vehicle blown up, with or without laptop inside.

  12. TheProf Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Just a thumbs-up for the keycap hand grenade. Nice piece of work. Is it designed for VR battle sims?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enjoyable read but...

    clearly bollocks.

    There's no way on earth anyone is going to take the time and effort to use a Satphone to call through to IT in the middle of a contact.

    Story is a clear fabrication, but a good read regardless.

    1. Seajay#

      Re: Enjoyable read but...

      Lets be generous and say it's embellishment rather than fabrication.

      I can believe that someone would call support as soon as they had returned to their patrol base. Presumably that laptop was being used for something pretty important, such as maintaining the base surveillance systems so they would want to do it ASAP. I can also believe that the PB could come under mortar attack during that call without the caller feeling that there was any need for them to hang up and do something about it. That would explain the genuine noises of war going on around him.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Enjoyable read but...

        We had EOD teams call in for support while under fire, they had to be able to see the latest and greatest on the current IED model in use in the area.

    2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      Re: Enjoyable read but...

      Once you finally get through the touchpad options maze and get a live person on the line, YOU DON'T HANG UP -- even under sustained enemy fire.

  14. jake Silver badge


    That never happened.


    1. hplasm

      Re: Bullshit.

      Bullshit happens all the time.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @hplasm (was: Re: Bullshit.)

        Yes. Bullshit happens all the time.

        But even a stupid grunt, who just lost it's transport, would NOT call into a common or garden "help" desk to get a laptop replaced while in a firefight.

        Unless they were so stupid that they thought "startrek transporters" were a reality ... which I guess is a possibility, but the mind boggles ...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing as dramatic as this, but working at the same company as "Jackson" back in the mid90s, we received a call from someone wanting to know how long CMOS batteries usually lasted. Did some research, answered something like "oh, a couple of years or so", the person on the other end of the line asked us if we could tell them how much an additional CMOS battery weighed, and if we could send some instructions on how to replace one... in weightless conditions.

    Turns out caller was from ESA planning to send some Thi^H^H^H of our company's laptops to the ISS.

    We made it quite clear that on-site warranty doesn't apply for out-of-atmosphere locations, but suggested that -- as long as they weren't going to run life-support systems off the things -- they'd just forget about the CMOS battery and manually set date and time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not that uncommon

      My company makes electronics and computing that goes in planes, tanks, helicopters, ships, rockets, etc. A support call (usually to the force's local logistics hub) can start in a very benign situation, that very quickly becomes hostile. The squaddies are so used to it all that they will often just carry on unless in mortal danger (especially if it has been hard to get the call through in the first place).

      Given the amount of our stuff that goes into space, some of our staff do note that there is no on-site support for off-planet equipment.

      Anonymous, as we like to keep our heads down out of the firing line.

  16. Duffaboy

    Reminds me of a time when Manufacturer refused to fix my Laptop

    They Lied about the cause of the problem as the warranty only had weeks till expiry, needless to say won't recommend them nor purchase from them in bulk again.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Perhaps he thought the shooting had stopped, it can take some time to get through to some helpdesks. Also some Helpdesks aren't open all hours, maybe he knew of a colleague going out In a couple of days who could bring the laptop and wanted to get this organised. Different to most users who think to get ten laptops ready for Monday at for o'clock ok Friday is what you're being paid for.

    Personally, I provided support to a company who had people in Libya. Quite a few laptops got left as people rushed for the last flight from hell. Also whilst arranging VPN installs years ago, one woman asked how soon it could be done as she now needed to work from home as her husband had just been diagnosed with cancer. I said give me a date knowing whatever she said I would be free.

  18. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    The story somehow reminds me of the time I spent reading the small print of the insurance policy my parents took out on a small sailing dinghy (a 12 foot affair hardly counts as a yacht) they had bought. I was rather amused to see that the insurance explicitly stated that if the craft was used in acts of war, they would not cover any resulting damage. I immediately had this mental image of the little craft capsizing under the weight of 21" torpedo tube installed anywhere on deck.

    Nuclear explosions (even if the little dinghy wasn't actively involved in military actions) were also not covered.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      I was rather amused to see that the insurance explicitly stated that if the craft was used in acts of war, they would not cover any resulting damage.

      That would be an insurance beancounter trying to allow for a repeat of Operation Dynamo.

  19. x 7


    Back in my days at Time Computers I took a call from a Navy Lieutenant whose laptop had failed and (he said) required urgent replacement as he needed it to plot his navigation courses.

    The call sounded like he was down a gurgling drainpipe, and he explained the sound quality by saying he was "underwater" - but couldn't say where or which boat (but hinted it was a big submarine the Russkies would be keen to find.....). Presumbly some kind of secure satellite link tied into the phone system.

    Bit of a catch-22........if the boat and its location were secret, and it was underwater, how the heck were we supposed to do an exchange on the laptop? I think in the end we couriered a replacement to Faslane and let the Navy work it out from there

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: underwater.....

      Presumbly some kind of secure satellite link tied into the phone system.

      Or to a land station, if they had a two-kilometre ULF aerial trailing out behind them.

      1. x 7

        Re: underwater.....

        " if they had a two-kilometre ULF aerial trailing out behind them."

        thanks Rich, I didn't know they could talk back on VLF - I'd always assumed Anthorn and the others were strictly one-way broadcasts

    2. Wzrd1

      Re: underwater.....

      It was via secure satellite link. They can come to periscope depth, raise the antenna mast, acquire the bird and chat away.

      Resupply by ship isn't uncommon either, if it's mission critical especially.

      ULF is used for extremely short coded messages, such as come to periscope depth to receive traffic/orders. Voice ain't going that way, as just saying hello would take a week at that baud rate.

      I actually did talk to a guy on a sub twice, once for a personal telephone call, once, a case of a sailor doing the "hey, I gotta take a crap, talk with this guy for a bit until I get back". The latter turned out to be a SEAL team member, on a sub going somewhere or something that I had no interest in, made small talk for a bit, then the RTO came back and took over.

      It turns out, we chewed a lot of the same sand and were covering each other a few times in mutual aid missions back before I retired. He was thinking of retiring too.

      I suggested, "When it starts hurting too much to put all of that crap on, it's time to retire. It's what I did".

      Wow, but I still miss my guys!

      Nice thing about Army: Nobody comes out of the ground and shoots at you with things that chase you around and won't miss. Navy doesn't have the advantage of being able to hide in a hole while calling in close air. Air doesn't have that advantage either.

      Hats off to both!

  20. Breen Whitman

    Humor aside, most insurance policies do not include damage as act of war.

  21. Marshalltown

    Mail from the "E" - spam today, spam tomorrow, please sir, some spam?

    Long ago now, but unfortunately not long enough or far enough, I worked at a perfectly interesting job that involved lots of sun, dirt, rocks and hiking - great stuff. Then the "boss" decided that, in addition to the perfectly interesting and enjoyable work we were doing, he wanted to start an ISP. Since we had already wired up the office, he thought that under the "guidance" of a professional IT person, his skilled, professional staff would don a second hat at no additional pay and staff the help desk for his ISP as well.

    Now the ISP idea wasn't all that bad. The area where we were headquartered had one of the lowest employment rates in the US at the time, and while people had heard of "the internet," there was very little service available. What was available was expensive, so the ISP idea looked like a great way to print money (and since we could then be our own provider, he could save the cost of the business connection we had, and since the connection to the backbone in the backroom was a T3, we really were very, very happy with it). The downside was that being new to the internet and computers in general, many of our customers were complete rubes and needed a LOT of hand holding. My favorite call was from a fellow who had signed up for our service. He his problem was that he was not "getting any mail from the 'E'." I was initially blindsided when I finally grasped what he expected. He thought his 'mail box' should get all the same kinds of barbecue-starting material that fills your normal mail box. So, after initially trying to explain that this was not the way the internet worked unsuccessfully, I signed him up on some of the more prolific spam sources of the time. A week later he called to thank me. I've actually seen two other calls I took listed as "urban myths." I won't say which ones, but I did take them, and they really were made and are not mythological.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Mail from the "E" - spam today, spam tomorrow, please sir, some spam?

      Yeah, E. Remember those days, had my wife complaining about E as well back in the day.

      She's finally using the proper names, Microsoft Outrage, Internet Exploder, Blotus...

      Those are also a hit in our security shop, the kiddies never heard those highly technical terms. ;)

      Some are astonished at my tales of remote registry editing, scripts performing complex maintenance tasks and repairs, etc.

      Just whatinhell are they teaching computer science classes these days?

      I've got scripts and jobs for everything, even scratching my nose, as that would take my fingers away from the home row. ;)

      Then, there was that script writing script I wrote...

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