back to article BOFH: The case of the suspicious red icon

So I'm in the office by myself while the PFY is out doing... something... I guess... when one of our atypical difficult users comes in. "Just one question," he starts, interrupting the thought I started when he walked in on potential loopholes in the gun laws. "My browser has an icon which is red." "What's the icon?" I ask, …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge

    1b just called

    Yes, our #1 1b called during my reading of the BOFH, fortunately, he wanted to speak to someone else! Whew!

    Time for a pint

  2. Dave K

    Urgent job queue...

    Awesome stuff, I need one of those as well...

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Urgent job queue...

      I find a screenshot set to wallpaper works perfectly well. Make sure the text is small enough (which makes it look more impressive anyway) and no-one's any the wiser.

      1. Farnet

        Re: Urgent job queue...

        Many many years ago on Windows for workgroups I installed a screensaver that looked like a virus attack on the head of accounts pc.

        then got a call and completely forgot abou the 'joke' and ended up having an 'extended' lunch at the pub. I came back to what can only be described as a riot where accounts were rushing around backing up everything and unplugging machines.

        I casually wondered up to said pc and wiggled the mouse, and when into the server room and locked the door for the rest of the day.

  3. Chazmon


    I always imagined mission control being in the basement so a window high enough to have an accident seems unlikely?

    Perhaps this is the result of long experience of BOFHs accumulating in basements and slowly poisoning everyone... or is that Radon?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Window?

      But it's dark and stuffy in a basement. One quick copy 'n paste production of a flood risk assessment and a nice view is yours to be had.

      Of course that does mean any large kit has to be installed by crane through a window, but this is a fantastic way of disposing of anyone (or their car) you've taken a dislike to, via the simple means of "adjusting" the lifting straps on the kit concerned.

      Bonus is that any kit you didn't really want, but the boss thought was a Good Thing, is unlikely to work once dropped a couple of storeys onto a user (or their car).

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: Window?


        Of course, getting large kit through a window is easier if you have it altered to have quite a low sill; mind where you stand...

    2. Dave 32

      Re: Window?

      Oh, I don't know about that. The few times that I've pushed a (l)user out of our faux window, which is painted onto the reinforced concrete wall of the basement, it has been quite effective. It does mean that I have to push a little harder, though.


      P.S. I'll get my coat. It's the one with the (saturated) Radon detector in the pocket.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Window?

        Oh, I don't know about that. The few times that I've pushed a (l)user out of our faux window, which is painted onto the reinforced concrete wall of the basement, it has been quite effective. It does mean that I have to push a little harder, though.

        Just don't paint a tunnel, or you'll have steam locomotives all over the basement!

        Found that out the hard way.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Window?

          "Found that out the hard way."

          That cracked me up! ..... still sniggering now ... and thinking of surreal places i can use it....

        2. Mark 85

          Re: Window?

          Just don't paint a tunnel, or you'll have steam locomotives all over the basement!

          Found that out the hard way.

          I tried that once. Didn't get locomotives but a road-runner and a coyote. What did I do wrong?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Window?

            " Didn't get locomotives but a road-runner and a coyote. What did I do wrong?"

            You probably used Acme paint.

            The one with the anvil and dynamite in the pocket ------------>

            1. el_oscuro

              Re: Window?

              Acme now has an online catalog. You can purchase this and many other useful office supplies here:


              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Window?

       can't be the real Acme. They don't sell portable roll-up holes, paint on tunnels entrances or white line paint.

    3. CbD1234567890

      Re: Window?

      What and leave the prime office space to a fishbowling centre? I think not :)

  4. Alistair

    suspicious red icons

    ....... when corporate colours are all red.......

    1. not.known@this.address

      Re: suspicious red icons

      Can't See Colors?

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Time to code a Ticket/Job Queue System for myself...

  6. Joe Drunk

    Ahh the horrible days of desktop support

    Didn't have too many 1b's. Our helldesk software tracked all types of calls so that persistent non-sense callers would be sent to IT training.

    2b's. Ugh. What a nightmare. You can't win with them. Since they are smarter than you regarding their tech problem the only way to get rid of them is stroking their ego/straight out lying. It was here that I developed those fundamental skills that would eventually lead to Project Management.

    GASP! There's a suspicious yellow icon top right of my message! Must be a virus!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ahh the horrible days of desktop support

      I remember the only complaint raised against me and upheld was thanks to a 2b, he had dragged the slider on an Office document so half his page was white space and was adamant that it was a monitor fault. He wouldn't let me touch the keyboard or mouse as he "knows" what the problem is, and he isn't that stupid that he would drag the slider without realising. I even pointed out the little dotted line being exactly where the text was starting from, but it was all for naught, I told him that if he refuses to give me access to the mouse and insists that it is a monitor fault, then I can't help him.

      Sadly he was sufficiently high enough up the managerial chain that when he raised a complaint, nobody challenged it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ahh the horrible days of desktop support

        "Ah yes, you clearly need a new monitor ... Just go to the monitors control panel for me to to confirm the resolution and refresh rate. ... It's okay, just minimise Word while you do it ... Oh look, the problem seems to have fixed itself."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ahh the horrible days of desktop support

          "Oh look, the problem seems to have fixed itself."

          This is an example of why psychology, far from being junk science, is vital to rising through the helpdesk hierarchy.

      2. Down not across

        Re: Ahh the horrible days of desktop support

        I told him that if he refuses to give me access to the mouse and insists that it is a monitor fault, then I can't help him.

        Pity you didn't happen to have some old crappy low-res CRT still gathering dust in the cupboard you could've given him since he so insisted.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ahh the horrible days of desktop support

      "persistent non-sense callers would be sent to IT training"

      Given sufficient training budget they can be sent on end-to-end courses so they never come back to work.

    3. Marshalltown

      Creating monsters

      "...persistent non-sense callers would be sent to IT training...."

      Unless the training room was on a high floor (30th or higher for preference) with faulty fenestration or a hermetically sealed basement room, we have a problem.

  7. M7S

    "hobby discussion board"

    Really? I'd imagined the BOFH would have a more extreme means of dealing with that type of thing

    Paragraph 4

  8. Matthew 3

    Brilliant line.

    "...the internet has been running a bit slowly recently."

    "Did you call Vint Cerf?"

    1. Maverick

      Re: Brilliant line.

      Vint Cerf line made me spit coffee

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Brilliant line.

        He should have called Jon Postel.

        1. Number6

          Re: Brilliant line.

          He couldn't do that until after he's stepped out of the window.

          1. choleric

            Re: Brilliant line.

            That's probably the only way to improve this episode. "Say 'Hi' to John Postel when you see him."

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    And maybe a different type or just a version of 1b

    When I was doing our service IT support I used to have a user who came to my desk at least a couple of times a month in a panic to "warn" me about some supposed virus she'd read about on Twitface or somewhere. If we even saw it, it would wipe all our hardrives, set our desks on fire and bring about the end of civilisation as we know it.

    And when I didn't run round the room shouting "Don't Panic" while dialling 999 and possibly carrying in a fire extinguisher she'd go off in a strop and sulk for the rest of the day.

    Worse ( or not?) if I wasn't there she'd be running around "warning" all the other staff or getting someone to phone Corporate IT and demand instant action to protect us from this scourge.

    I kept Snopes and Hoax slayer icons on my desktop.....

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: And maybe a different type or just a version of 1b

      There's also 1c.

      Back in the days when more PCs were sold through magazines than through websites, I had a conscientious but indecisive user who decided to buy himself a new laptop (for personal use) and kept dropping by to ask me about this or that hardware option which he'd read about. Ever been expected to provide a disquisition on L2 caches at the drop of a hat? It took him ten months to decide what to buy, by which time a new Intel CPU range had come out and the entire sodding process started all over again.

  10. Anonymous Custard

    Clock virus

    I think my machine must be infected too - it's insisting there's 3 more hours until beer o'clock. That can't be right, can it?

    1. oldcoder

      Re: Clock virus

      Only way to be sure is to drop by the bar...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The bane of my life; those who seem to have no intuition at all, are entirely devoid of clue, are so risk-adverse that it is scary, need their hand holding for everything.

    I had one this morning:

    "How do I print my file?", "Select File, then Print".

    "That brings up a list with just HP LaserJet in it, only has Okay and Cancel buttons. If I click Cancel it does not print anything. What should I do?".

    It is sometimes hard to believe it is not deliberate trolling or some sort of assessment test.

    1. Anonymous Custard

      Re: 1bs

      Ah yes, the kind of user who could fail an IQ test...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 1bs

        ... due to negative IQ

    2. Russ Pitcher

      Re: 1bs

      I kid you not, I once had a new, mid-30s and supposedly experienced user raise an urgent call. I got to his desk quickly where he sat with MS Word open and one line of text (at about 48pt) with the cursor at blinking away the end.

      He leaned towards me and in a perplexed voice said, "I've spent about 15 minutes trying everything and nothing works. How do I start writing the next line??"

      I leaned over, hit Enter and walked off without a word. If it hadn't happened to me I wouldn't have believed it...

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: 1bs

      "It is sometimes hard to believe it is not deliberate trolling or some sort of assessment test."

      These are the 1a - the ones who know they know nothing and are certain that they will never know anything because "they dont know about computers" , they havent considered that its possible to learn even small things because its all "for computer whizzes"

      These specimens are usually found in finance departments sitting next to 20 year old tractor feed printers .

      They will be clicking and pressing on things in a very precise order - they have no idea whats happening. They've just been trained , like a performing seal , to press that , then that ,then that ,then that ,then that .

      God knows why they havent been replaced with a script or a macro.

      The problem comes when something needs to change - then all holy hell breaks loose.

      You try to remedy the problem of "nobody getting paid this week" by saying "Look - instead of clicking on that,then that ,then that ,then that ,then that ,then that , like you used to , Just press THIS - its ten times quicker than that fucking retarded way you were doing it, which had 9 completely pointless steps , and is not possible anymore because (antiquated hardware) just broke.

      then you get "but ... but ... that cant be right because we've always clicked this, and this ,this, and this this, and this ?"

      " yes i know , but now just do THIS"

      but we've always done ..... and .... and ...



      1. HkraM

        Re: 1bs

        How about the users who know they don't know something and are prepared to ask... but they think they have a photographic memory so don't take notes, and end up asking the same question again a week or two later, and yet again another two weeks later. There's no point adding pages to the support FAQ list because these users always forget that exists! One user still didn't take the hint when I just kept forwarding an email to him containing all previous answers to his question.

        1. Myvekk

          Re: 1bs

          "Hello, Tech Support. Your ignorance is my job security!"

          I have used that line on a few, select customers. They laughed.

          I had one 1a, in particular, just happy to have me figure out the fault, even though it was something they did. Before I hung up, I explained the PEBKAC error. Next time they called me, they started with, "Sorry to call you, I've had another PEBKAC." :D

      2. Diogenes

        Re: 1bs

        These specimens are usually found in finance departments sitting next to 20 year old tractor feed printers .

        No they are called teachers, they seem to mostly infect English, History & Home Economics faculties

    4. Marshalltown

      Re: 1bs


      You do realize that back in the days of Courier and maybe san serif, people would be asking, "lbs? Do you mean avoir dupois, Imperial or Sterling?"

  12. adam payne

    You gotta love the 2bs they are sooo intelligent and know so much about everything. So much so they ring IT. Hmmmm....

    What about the 4a?


    A person who is so full of his or her self importance that every single IT issue they have is urgent and must be looked at first. Forget about everybody else, they are just not as important as these people.

    1. Fatman

      <quote>What about the 4a?


      A person who is so full of his or her self importance that every single IT issue they have is urgent and must be looked at first. Forget about everybody else, they are just not as important as these people.</quote>

      Do you mean senile manglement???

    2. Vincent Ballard

      The worst 2B I've dealt with insisted that the software my company makes was making his tablet crash. We suggested it might turning itself off because the battery was low. He insisted that the battery was fine. After wasting half an hour talking on the phone, I told him bluntly that he should contact tech support from the company that makes his tablet. The next day my boss got an e-mail saying that it was due to a low battery.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Aren't all users 4a????

      I work in a hospital, and have been told that the MOST IMPORTANT COMPUTER IN THE WHOLE HOSPITAL, the one that I have to drop everything to fix straight away is......

      .... the one in the restaurant that controls the tills.

      This was told to me by the restaurant manager. Yeah, right. I'm off back to A&E now to work on their printer.

    4. 45RPM Silver badge

      @adam payne

      Yeah, in the dim and distant past (before I embarked on a career as a bit-bender), I had one of those. Her shiny new, just delivered, computer wouldn’t turn on. Lifeless. Nothing. And it had worked perfectly in our lab, before delivery, when I set it up for her. I went through the usual questions, including ‘did the packaging seem damaged in any way’ before a tiny nugget of suspicion caused me to query whether she’d plugged it in. I mean, it did seem odd that the monitor wouldn’t power up either.

      She hit the bloody roof. How dare I patronise her! Didn’t I realise how much she spent on a support contract? I’d better get over there now and fix it. My boss, the spineless wimp, agreed - despite the significant problem that I was in Birmingham and she was in Bridgwater, and that all the other support guys were either out on a job, sick, or skiving.

      So I drove to Bridgwater and discovered that she was quite right. She had plugged the computer in. And the monitor. And the printer. All plugged in to a multiway extension cable. Which was also plugged in. To itself. I left. Cursing. And embarked on a career as a programmer - which is mostly more satisfying, and keeps me away from the lusers. Oh, and I can happily code while drunk (although not when pissed out of my skull). Which is a bonus.

  13. earl grey

    The tip

    It is located below the window, amirite?

  14. Huw D


    H1Bs are the bane of an American BOFH's life?

  15. W4YBO

    So, that's the secret!

    Defenestration seems to figure heavily in these BOFHs. But my building is a single floor. Damn.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: So, that's the secret!

      "Defenestration seems to figure heavily in these BOFHs. But my building is a single floor."

      Get a four story deep hole dug outside your window. Get the pile of upcast left there. You can shovel it back in, a little at a time, as required.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: So, that's the secret!

        And the hole also works as an emergency shitter when caught short in a game of No Man's Sky, as long as you remember to throw a couple of handfuls of shredded timesheets down after the effluent.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of a goon sketch

    Look up what time is it eccles, that's how I'd have solved his issue...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me of a goon sketch

      "Stand on my shoulders, Eccles and pull me up."

      "I'd like to see them do this on television."

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simon Travaglia thank you I was going into BOFH DT's

    I haven't had my weekly dose of BOFH in awhile, well of course if your reading this you know when the last one was posted. I'm so hooked on BOFH Stories that I have to go have a smoke break on Fridays specifically if their isn't a new one. Honestly I have a smoke break after reading them because reading these is better than sex. Hmmmmm mental note, maybe I need to a better sex life and somehow incorporate the BOFH Logo into the act. Back to reality, I just want to say thank you Simon and The Register for making my Friday's start off great. Because we all know after that short euphoria we get from these will end up getting a call, E-mail, or in person chat with someone who's having an issue because they think pressing an extra button on a task is the end of the world.

  18. Brian Miller

    1B vs 2B

    Here's where 2B is worse: 2B will do things. Not only that, you have to spend time a: cleaning up, b: "discussing issues" with 2B, c: both. And it's not an uplifting experience.

    These people never understand that they are wasting other people's time. Yeah, it's the Dunning-Kruger study, always repeated in real life, globally.

    1. Huw D

      Re: 1B vs 2B

      2B or not 2B, that is the user ranking question.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: 1B vs 2B

      "Here's where 2B is worse: 2B will do things. Not only that, you have to spend time a: cleaning up, b: "discussing issues" with 2B, c: both. And it's not an uplifting experience."

      Abso-piggin-lutely! Trying to talk them through the clickity steps to diagnose/solve their problems and they steps ahead down the wrong path. Or you're remoted in and just about to click something vital as they grab their mouse and swoop of to some other part of the screen just as you click. AAAAAaaaaggGGGGG!!!!

      At least the 1As are more likely to say "will this take long, yes, ok I'm off to make a coffee"

  19. hi_robb


    Just quality.

  20. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I have a big dictionary of viruses! on paper!

    Its called "The Dr. Solomon Virus Encyclopedia" . Its probly a little out of date by now...

    1. drsolly

      About 25 years.

  21. Montreal Sean

    The user got off way too easy.

    Users like that should be subjected to physical torture proportionate to the amount of time wasted.

    And then shown the window.

  22. Mystic Megabyte


    Had clients that who denied changing the theme to white text on a white background.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ergh!

      Faulty software. The background and foreground controls should interact to prevent that from happening. (Also users should be limited to one sans and one serif face in the range 9-18 point until higher levels are unlocked by somebody in a position to vouch for them.)

    2. Myvekk

      Re: ergh!

      But they COULDN'T have done it.

      They are too stupid to figure out how...

  23. Herby

    Back in the day...

    When I did work with PUNCH CARDS, we always had users that complained that the error popped up after they changed "only one card". Before they could get out the complete sentence, I would reply "the error is in the card you just changed".

    Yes, about 40 years ago. Things were a bit simpler then, users had a bit more knowledge. Usually is was DANGEROUS knowledge though.

    Long live Fortran!

    1. swm

      Re: Back in the day...

      I knew of someone (writing FORTRAN) who had problems with his program. The conversation went something like this:

      You need to loop over the elements of the array,

      I did that - here.

      You need to print the values.

      I did that - here.

      Further examination disclosed that he had no concept of putting the cards in any particular order. He assumed that the computer (FORTRAN compiler) would figure it out.

      1. -tim

        Re: Back in the day...

        When I took FORTRAN in high school, the computer belonged to the local oil company and they leased nice punch card machines for the school long after they were obsolete but they didn't want us to hack their mainframe with a terminal which was probably the right call on their part.

        We were given a standard intro deck of cards to put in the front of every job which I assume allowed the job to be billed to the tax write off account among other things. I went through the act of decoding the special cards as they didn't have any printing on them. One of the cards had a 3 followed by 3 sets of numbers and our jobs came back with three holes cut in the printout. I guessed the coordinate system and split the 3 coordinates over two cards and it still worked. A few days latter someone's job cam back looking like Swiss cheese as its deck was a few cards heavier.

  24. Chris G


    That a normal (l)user can gain direct access to the BOFH administrative centre without having to negotiate multiple obstacles and doors (a la Get Smart) that are electrified or equipped with various plausably deniable accidents to deter such egregious occurrences.

  25. Chozo

    How to annoy the Helldesk ;)

    Job Ticket 1, fault code 1-1A

    Job Ticket 2, fault code 1-1A-2B

    Job Ticket 3, fault code 1B-2B-3

  26. Leeroy

    Real call




    IT Problem, Scanning, Network

    scanning issue asking for passwords


    Paste from a real call today. Small company, one user had a new computer. I get several of these a week and they are always on the ground floor or have secure windows :\

  27. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Suspicious red icon.

    You know you've really got problems when the user comes in and says the icon is suspicious of him.

    ....tries to avoid user getting between self and door....

  28. harmjschoonhoven

    It is the olde story

    "There are three different kinds of brains users, the one understands things unassisted, the other understands things when shown by others, the third understands neither alone nor with the explanations of others. The first kind is most excellent, the second is also excellent, but the third is useless." Niccolò Machiavelli, Il Principe (1513), Cap. XXI.

    1. Myvekk

      Re: It is the olde story

      A few people learn from reading.

      Some learn by observation.

      The rest just have to piss on the electric fence for themselves."

  29. FeRDNYC

    Worstest thing about 2bs...

    The absolute most frustrating thing about 2bs, though, is that they CREATE the 1bs. Their desperate need to seem like they know what they're talking about makes them paranoia patient zeros around innocent, impressionable 1as.

    I can't count the number of times I've seen a n00b 1a turn up, and meekly bring up some symptom they've been having:

    "Hey, my computer's been running kind of slow..." / "Whenever I try to launch $APPLICATION, the window disappears right away." / "My computer won't play the videos on $SITE..."

    Doesn't matter, whatever it is, if there's a 2b within earshot they'll immediately "jump in" to flaunt their superior knowledge.

    "You've got a virus."

    "REALLY?" (All wide-eyed and trusting.)

    "Oh, definitely. Guaranteed."

    I used to try to talk the poor 1a down from the ledge and keep them from becoming 1bs, by explaining that there are several potential causes for their problem, a virus being only one possibility (and not particularly my go-to first assumption)... but there's really no point. Messy reality can't compete with decisive, uncompromising answers, even if they're wrong.

  30. GrumpyKiwi

    Worst of the worst

    My experience has been that the worst of the worst of the 2B's are doctors and lawyers. Because getting that degree made them know everything about anything. And they'd have fixed it them selves only they were just too damn busy saving peoples lives. Naturally this gets even worse if it's telephone support.

    Me: "Click on Printers and Devices. What do you see"?

    Dr. Full O'Self: "Nothing. I clicked on the antivirus and it tells me there's no virus. I think there's a problem with the antivirus and it's not picking up the virus that's removed my printer".

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Worst of the worst

      Yes, doctors... an alarmingly large number of them doesn't know that much about biological viruses* to beginn with, let alone the computer variant...

      * I checked. While apparently the jury is still out whether "virii" is a no-no or not, "viruses" (the word) seems safe to use.

      1. LaeMing

        Re: Worst of the worst

        It might be like the plural of 'mouse'. For the animal variety it is 'mice', for the computer variety it is 'mouses' (yes, the inventor of the computer mouse did that deliberately to mess with people).

  31. CbD1234567890


    Oh look he found his laptop. A happy 'ending' afterall :)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The reason the NHS is so f'cked up because lead clinicians are...

    b. People who will never admit they don't know what they're doing. Ever. Because they have a degree and are much smarter than you. And computers. And the people on The Chase. And everyone they socialise with.

  33. LaeMing

    So the worst accountant is...

    ... a 2b pencil (pusher).

    I had a better one but Huw D ninja'd me.

  34. JWG


    I'm surprised that El Reg hasn't taken down the "racist" graphic at the top of this scandalous article demeaning a certain class of mentally impaired individuals with delusions of Trongodhood (I write, tongue firmly planted in cheek). Shame! Will shout the PC Police and demand a boycott of your racist technology newsletter (do I sound like a "good progressive" yet?). Black lives matter (as do brown, olive complexion, fair skinned (the melanin impaired), and PFY's of the world). That the Great Simon, God of all Bastards on the planet Bob, would allow his name to be attached to such a dispicable display shocks me to my core (no, that was my cattle prod going off in my back pocket). FTITCTAJ (fuck'em if they can't take a joke!). Sorry, I'll stop now (too busy LMFAO)...jwg

  35. Farnet

    they can be fun though

    Had an amzingly annoying and arrogant manager from finance who was always used as an induction for new IT, staff.

    My initiation was an error message on her screen so I decided rather than going down 9 floors to see her, I would remote desk into her machine to see what is up. she screemed down the phone to me to not do anything until she had covered up the confidential parts of the screen with sheets of paper, so as to prevent me to see peoples wages.

    I kept a straight face,

  36. Lord_Beavis

    It's worse whent the 1b is a...

    tech that you have to deal with every time an application doesn't open in .001 seconds.

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