back to article User had no webcam or mic, complained vid conference didn’t work

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s weekly reader-contributed tales of facepalm-worthy failures in the field of tech support. This week, meet “Pete”, who shared three stories from his time working at the European Commission (EC). His first tale concerned a scientific advisor to one of the EC’s general directorates, a …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge

    Your Network is broken!

    Long ago, we had a consultant come, he sat down at a PC logged in with a guest account, inserted his floppy with his presentations etc... He stormed into our office complaining that out network is broken and really sucked. Dumb looks all around! He said his floppy wasn't being read correctly, that our PC wouldn't open his files. But it worked at home! I returned to the PC with the consultant in tow. There were dozens of dialog boxes searching for the files, remember win 98 and the little flashlight? I closed all of them, and went into the 3.5" drive and saw a dozen icons for files. All 1kb! He couldn't understand that he created shortcuts to the files on his computer and that it wouldn't work on our computer...

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Your Network is broken!

      I've had two emails from one user this week, both informing me that the network was broken. Both emails also told me that email was still working though.

      1. Dave K

        Re: Your Network is broken!

        My favourite one (and a familiar one to many) is the phone call from a user asking if "the system is down". This is of course for a company spread across the globe with probably neck end of a thousand different systems here and there...

      2. grumpy-old-person

        Re: Your Network is broken!

        About 15 years ago when the company was moving into it's new head office building I received a call from a colleague asking for assistance because the clever little Microsoft boys sent from the UK (we are in Johannesburg) to fix the Exchange problems had informed him that the network was the cause of the email system's ills.

        I rushed over and asked one of the M$ people how they were accessing the servers - via the network, of course!

        After some harsh words and advising him to extract his digit and look for the actual problem and not blame the network that treated all traffic (more or less) equally the problem was fixed.

      3. Bitbeisser

        Re: Your Network is broken!

        Was that user's name "Captian Obvious"?

    2. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: Your Network is broken!

      I’ve seen similar situations where users have archived documents by dragging them all into a Word document to use that as a container. A surprisingly common occurence - but not a very clever idea. Depending on the file type it will be ‘stored’ in the Word document:

      a) identically to the original (in my experience, PDF is handled like this)

      b) compressed with loss of information (in my experience, video, sound and images suffer lossy compression)

      c) as a link to the original document with, at best, a short preview of the content.

      If users are habitually going to abuse their software like this, I can’t help thinking that ever easier to use systems are only going to make the problem worse. I long for a return to the utopian days of the 8bit Micro, with an OS like CP/M, MSX-DOS or ProDOS. I never had to help people out of a hole they’d dug using too little knowledge and an OS that gave them a false sense of security.


    3. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: Your Network is broken!

      "He couldn't understand that he created shortcuts to the files on his computer and that it wouldn't work on our computer..."

      A variation of that was the large corporate where each division had their own Q: drive for shared documents, including Word templates.

      It was fine for documents attached to email coming from within a division, but cross division stuff was often broken.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Your Network is broken!

        "A variation of that was the large corporate where each division had their own Q: drive for shared documents, including Word templates."

        Before issuing software to users we used to install it on a PC that had been reprimed with a standard image. That caught the situations where there was an unexpected dependency on a file left over from a previous installation.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Your Network is broken!

          "A variation of that was the large corporate where each division had their own Q: drive for shared documents, including Word templates."

          Had one user one lunchtime who wanted to email a file to someone else in their department. I got a message saying that it wasn't working and could I please come up and take a look. I made the trek and found a woman sitting at her desk annoyed. She said that an error message popped up every time she tried sending it and I must be able to fix it. After being shown the file I realised what the problem was and email was not the solution. The file in question was a wmv file and around 400 MB so I asked where it had come from. "Oh off this disk" and she held up a CDR which she had apparently received in the post from another firm.

          After a quick reminder of the rules regarding IT security and email attachment size I virus checked the disk and her PC. Both clean I asked why she didn't use the department shared 'S' drive to share the video? After confessing that she hadn't thought of that she said she didn't want anyone else seeing it yet. Did you consider just giving the disk to your colleague? "Oh I hadn't thought of that either."

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Your Network is broken!

            "He couldn't understand that he created shortcuts to the files on his computer and that it wouldn't work on our computer..."

            Back in the day somebody managed to load our dept web site into MSFT Frontpage and convert all the hyperlinks to file links to the shared drive.

            Of course it must be our fault because it worked on their machine.

            1. Naselus

              Re: Your Network is broken!

              And, of course, the old standby: "I've deleted the internet!".

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Your Network is broken!

                "I've deleted the internet!"

                To which the only possible reply is "Good. It was getting far too big."

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Your Network is broken!

            My job on a good day is a problem solver. On a bad day, it's doing people's thinking for them.....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Your Network is broken!

        "He couldn't understand that he created shortcuts to the files on his computer and that it wouldn't work on our computer..."

        We recently started using *(&%*%* OneDrive for Business at work. Having used computers for 25+ years, programmed in a dozen languages, own+operate a private server, I've never had trouble attaching a file to an email. Until I attached a file from my "personal" OneDrive for Business folder, using Outlook. It returned a bounceback email saying "Your recipients couldn't be given access to the file _____". Huh. Apparently Outlook only included a LINK when I told it to create an ATTACHMENT... I wonder how long it will be before my co-workers start using their OneDrive accounts and having this issue...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Your Network is broken!

      "He couldn't understand that he created shortcuts to the files on his computer and that it wouldn't work on our computer..."

      That was not uncommon in those days. Windows often seemed to generate a short-cut when you had expected it to copy the file. I am not sure that short-cuts have always been identified by the modified version of the original file type icon.

      1. stephanh

        Re: Your Network is broken!

        "He couldn't understand that he created shortcuts to the files on his computer and that it wouldn't work on our computer..."

        I am somewhat sympathetic to this. The whole shortcut thing is quite an advanced concept, and most people who are supposed to work with it are expected to just "pick it up" and have never received training about it.

        Perhaps the real joke is on "us" (i.e., the IT industry). Why do we like to complicate things so much?

    5. Ralph76

      Re: Your Network is broken!

      We recently had a "creative spark" decide to source, order and even attempted to install a wireless printer....

      despite not involving the IT dept up until he had problems, we dutifully obliged in attending the chaps desk to see how we could help...

      we were met with a tirade of angry expletives describing how rubbish the printer was and that IT need to get this working NOW as there were lots of important creative things that needed to be created by this creative man, who was being dragged down by un-necessary tech problems..

      we saw the problem instantly, it was not plugged in to any power source, or indeed a network/USB connection to receive any printing data.

      our creative "dude"'s reply "well why should it need any cables, it is meant to be wireless!?"

      1. Curtis

        Re: Your Network is broken!

        I have a default answer for this (and have since 2001 and wireless cards in laptops).

        "Because Nikola Tesla was wrong."

    6. wistman

      Re: Your Network is broken!

      One of my favourite support calls was "My MacBook won't connect to the school wifi, please will you remote in and connect it as I need it for this lesson?" The user in question was a physics teacher.

  2. Huw D

    This one, every time

    *ring ring*

    Me: "Hello, IT"

    User: "A client has sent me a video as an attachment and I can't view it"

    Me: "Ok, let me remote in... Right. Show me the email... OK, that's a link to a video on a sharing site, not an attachment. That site is blocked during working hours which is why you're getting the message when you click on it..."

    User: "Can you unblock it temporarily? This is for an urgent matter"

    Me: "Ok, let me know when you've finished watching it and I'll re-block the site"

    User: "And I'll be able to print it, right?"

    Me: "Sorry, can you run that by me again?"

    User: "The video. I can print the video and put it on file"

    Me: "Uhhh... You want to print every frame of the video? Or just some static bits when you pause it?"

    User: "No, I want the entire video"

    Me: "It's 10 minutes long. At 25 frames per second that's 15,000 frames"

    User: "It fits on the one web page! Can't I print it to a single page?"

    1. Serg

      Re: This one, every time

      Not unusual at all, unfortunately. It's not as common as the "sending a screenshot by saving it inside a Word document" trick though.

      1. Huw D

        Re: This one, every time

        Even kids know you need a flick book to do animation on paper... ;)

      2. Wensleydale Cheese

        Re: This one, every time

        "sending a screenshot by saving it inside a Word document"

        I've seen someone doing that for a simple text message.

        1. HkraM

          Re: This one, every time

          I even get Word documents containing megapixel photographs (not screenshots!) of terminal emulator windows. And it's usually TeraTerm that was being used, which has clipboard and buffer save options built in.

        2. lorisarvendu

          Re: This one, every time

          "sending a screenshot by saving it inside a Word document"

          Worse than that is when they screenshot an error for us, paste it into an email, and then drag the corner anchors to resize it down.

          We then receive a shrunken screenshot that is blurred and indecipherable if we try to enlarge it.

          1. DJO Silver badge

            Re: This one, every time

            I get error reports consisting of a full screen grab, (2 x 16:9 1080 screens side by side) pasted into a email. Outlook trying to be helpful resizes the image to fit so the tiny error dialogue is an illegible blur.

            Really helpful. I try to tell them to use Alt+Prnt Scrn but that seems a bit too complicated for some users.

            1. defiler

              Re: This one, every time

              I try to tell them to use Alt+Prnt Scrn but that seems a bit too complicated for some users.

              This is even more complicated, but we try to get users to use the Snipping Tool. That way they can just send the error.

              Many still take a photo with their phones...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This one, every time

            Got one of them ten minutes ago!

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: This one, every time

          "I've seen someone doing that for a simple text message."

          We get those two or three times per week from HR and Marketing. And we're a channel distie full of techies! (except in those depts). We also get the attached file is a link to an internal network share. Great for office based staff, but the rest of us are usually reading them on the phone (if not just deleting anything from those departments as a matter of course)

      3. ro55mo

        Re: This one, every time

        A lot of my users do that. By Darwin it f**ks me off.

    2. Andy Miller

      Re: This one, every time

      You must be a wizard. Muggle pictures don't move

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: This one, every time

        Muggle pictures don't move

        ...but Apple ones do :-)

        (at least, the "live" ones on my wife's iPhone 8's a bit unnerving)

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: This one, every time

      Probably the user intends to say they want to download/save the video, not actually physically print it to paper. For some old farts, putting something in the archive means taking a piece of paper, putting it in a manilla folder, walking to the archive desk and handing it over to a clerk who then hangs it in a drawer somewhere. Thus archiving means having a piece of paper, thus printing. The modern equivalent is storing the video file somewhere on the file system of the company/organisation. So I'm assuming by print he means save. Thus a simple question would resolve it: Do you mean you want to save the video file?

      1. ibmalone

        Re: This one, every time

        I'd certainly ask that (it support isn't my job, but "does something with computers" resolves to that in people's minds), but "print" is quite a specific word and it wouldn't be the craziest request ever. Often seems to come from not contemplating what the expected result might be.

      2. Huw D

        Re: This one, every time

        Nope, he wanted it printing. Every bit.

        The subsequent conversation with his managers confirmed this was what he expected to happen. To have a copy of the video in the "Digital file" and a printed copy in a paper file for him.

        We compromised on 4 important frames from the video being printed.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: This one, every time

          I'm amazed he did not even think of a "DVD/CD of the video" or even "can I put it in VHS". Wanting to *print* is still way over the cognitive steps I can even consider. Asking "Can I print this 4 words in the video" even if they don't know what "title screen" or "slideshow" or whatever means... Wow!

        2. MrBanana Silver badge

          Re: This one, every time

          You should have uuencoded it and then printed that out. When he needs to restore it from his "archive" he just needs to type it all back in again.

        3. Sideways

          Re: This one, every time

          Seriously if one of my custards requested this i would go straight to there manager and demand not only for them to be sacked for gross stupidity but would also call the local nuthouse to have them picked up at the front door and given a nice padded room to live in.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: This one, every time

          "To have a copy of the video in the "Digital file" and a printed copy in a paper file for him."

          Remember, IT's ultimate revenge is to give the user exactly what they requested. Although in this case he might have complained about the lack of sound.

        5. kain preacher

          Re: This one, every time

          SO what you are saying huw d is this guy is insane.

          1. Huw D

            Re: This one, every time

            No, just a special level of user ;)

      3. DuchessofDukeStreet

        Re: This one, every time

        In the early years of this century I worked in an organisation that still had a layer of senior management who were totally unengaged with the idea of using IT - and still had secretaries allocated to them (not PAs, not typists, not Executive Assistants, but secretaries). Although email had been introduced, a number of these still insisted on the secretary printing out all incoming emails and presenting them in a folder to be read each morning. Once digested, the secretary would be brought in to take shorthand dictation of the response which was then typed up (in draft) and represented for review and approval in the folder, before the secretary could press the send button on the draft...

      4. ChrisBedford

        Re: This one, every time

        "Thus a simple question would resolve it: Do you mean ..."

        Indeed, I often think IT support people are needlessly arrogant (or themselves a bit clueless) about users' ignorance. So they can be dumb clucks, and they often use incorrect terminology, but I guarantee there are fields *you* don't know about so give them a break. If you aren't patient and don't have people skills you shouldn't be in support.

        Which is not to say some users shouldn't be allowed to touch computers. There are some irredeemably thick people out there, and it sometimes feels like I've met all of them... until, that is, I read these columns in El Reg.

    4. Rich 11

      Re: This one, every time

      Printing videos. Yeah, I had the same request from an art student 20-odd years ago. She'd even brought in some nice, shiny paper that was actually suitable for our CMYK wax colour printer. She looked so disappointed when I told her videos didn't work like that that I made the time to show her how to take screenshots and arrange them in Photoshop, and she was happy with that.

      1. ThaumaTechnician

        Re: This one, every time

        "Printing videos. Yeah, I had the same request from an art student 20-odd years ago. She'd even brought in some nice, shiny paper that was actually suitable for our CMYK wax colour printer."...

        But, but, but, in the Harry Potter books, they have paper that...

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: This one, every time

      "User: "It fits on the one web page! Can't I print it to a single page?"

      And here, ladies and gentleman, is the problem that e-ink is looking for. Now we just need a printer that can print with e-ink onto e-paper :-)

  3. Qwertius

    Dear IT staff --- count your blessings.

    Its the idiots of the world of business / education etc that keep all of us in a job.

    From CEO's all the way down to lowly paid secretaries - they are our bread & butter.

    They screw their computers over --- so that we can keep being paid to have a laugh.

    1. DropBear

      Having a laugh is fine and dandy with me sitting here reading this on El Reg. I'm definitely, absolutely, positively sure laughing is not what I would have in mind if this sort of thing happened to me live, especially not if it kept happening regularly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Welcome to the world of IT Support !!! :)

        Do not underestimate the ability of un-trained users to ask for the impossible and then argue with you when you try to explain that it cannot be done !!!

        Yes it is funny to read when you are not the person who deals with it day in day out.

        It really highlights that a small amount of Basic Training is a 'Must have' to avoid the huge waste of time and energy solving the same 'Problems' over and over.

        The user who today asks for the impossible is then tomorrows 'Boss' and without any appropriate training/skills then asks the same questions but with the added 'Bonus' of having 'Management Authority/Entitlement' to hit you with when you will not 'Deliver' what he/she wants.

        Note the 'Will not' as it is always framed as your refusal to 'Deliver' NOT you cannot 'Deliver the impossible' !!!

        Luckily, in the past I have had a 'Techie' Manager who was able to confirm that the impossible was being asked for.

        You never get the apology for being accused of 'Refusing' to do your job ...... strange that !!!

        All theses types of things are why people burnout providing IT support ..... there should be mandatory councelling available for long term workers in IT <joke .... but not a joke>


        Extremely 'Ex-IT Support' :)

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @Dropbear -- I've had this quote hanging on my wall for years.

        "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity." Robert A. Heinlein

        1. MonkeyCee

          Re: @Dropbear -- I've had this quote hanging on my wall for years.

          "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein

        2. LateNightLarry

          Re: @Dropbear -- I've had this quote hanging on my wall for years.

          This reminds me of a former co-worker who thought he knew "something" about computers. I worked for USPS and part of my duties was to maintain the computers in the office, to the limit I was allowed to do by regulations. This particular co-worker had a problem with one of the computer printers (each machine had three) at his window, so he decided to just HOT SWAP it with another computer. Big mistake, it blew the fuse inside the box, which I was not allowed to open (rules) I had to shut down another computer, swap the box and printer and bring his back up (10 minutes because it runs Windows NT4.0, and at that time the system was more than 10 years old, now pushing 30 years old and still in use). Then call the help desk and have them send out the contractor from 1.5 hours away to replace the fuse.

          Took about three hours to get his box back up and running. A few weeks later, he did the same damn thing, hot swapped the printer with one from another system. Took four hours for the contractor to get there, and the boss decided to just pull his @$$ off the window and have him put mail in the P O BOXES until then. He was PISSED because he actually had to do some physical labor. Personally, I would have suspended him for a week instead, let him go play his piano for 168 hours instead.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A user complained that they couldn't move something between two workbooks in Excel. Went along to see a demonstration. Sure enough - it wouldn't appear in the target spreadsheet but no failure was indicated.

    The penny dropped when I realised that the user had two instances of Excel open - one for each workbook. The move only worked if both workbooks were open in the same instance.

    1. Phil W

      One of Excel's many wonderful quirks, like the fact that it can't open more than 1 file with the same name, or that (in some versions at least) you can't open a file from File->Open if the path to that file has certain 'special' characters in like [ ] & even though they are perfectly validly characters for a path in Windows Explorer and the file will open in Excel if you double click it in Explorer.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We’re thinking of calling the column “Who, me?”."

    I have an ancient T-shirt that I used to wear on occasion when trouble-shooting. It shows a wide-eyed Garfield pointing at Pookie*** who is propped up by a broken table lamp. The legend is "Not me".

    ***Pookie was a stuffed teddy bear - always totally inanimate even in that cartoon world.

    1. Atomsk

      My Sister had that same t-shirt. It is very memorable as she was wearing it when she dropped a full bottle of wine just after my parents purchased it.

    2. David Haig

      El Reg had a T shirt for BOFH in the nineties that said on the front "Your PCs broken..." and on the back "....and I've got a problem?" .....


  6. Johnny Canuck

    One for the new column

    This just happened yesterday. My boss asked me to send out 2 different emails to 2 different mailing lists. Both were supposed to have a .pdf attached. He called me today and asked if I'd added the attachment. Oops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One for the new column


      Pegasus Mail always queries when you have a word like "attached" in the email text - but haven't attached anything.

      1. Phil W

        Re: One for the new column

        To be fair most mail clients do, even Outlook.

        1. tfewster

          Re: One for the new column

          Outofluck does now, but it's a relatively recent feature (Only since Outlook 2013?)

  7. conscience

    Why change the name of the column at all? 'On Call' sounds better than 'Who Me' IMO.

    1. A. Coatsworth

      I _think_ it is a new column.

      On Call: we laugh at the users' stupidity

      Who, me?: we will laugh at our own.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Why change the name of the column at all? 'On Call' sounds better than 'Who Me' IMO."

      ...and we blame users for not RTFMing? :-)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I did fess upto this!

    Anonymous, as well.. i have some sort of reputation to maintain!

    a good few years ago!

    late in the day someone comes up and requests that an updated bit of software needs to be pushed out over the network... and of course, its important! Im not due back onsite for a few days, so begrugingly agree...

    its late... and this software was an exe - it didnt look too big or complex, so instead of building a fresh PC (virtual machines didnt exist back then), i just fired up winstall on an existing machine... Snapshot, bish bash bosh, and an msi popped out the other-side without any issues... its my lucky day! especally as its even closer to home time... feed the thing into GPO, turn off the lights and head off...

    The next day - pretty much every machine had borked! I always do a single machine test, followed by phased deployment just to be sure... and things almost always just work! sods law, this time!

    so i spent the whole week rebuilding every computer just to be on the safe side!

    not one of my better days at work!!!

    then there was this one... even further back in time... the days when Dell Optilexes were hulking great cream boxes... installing a new network on exisiting kit at a secondary school... the imaging tool of choice - Ghost, the OS NT4... we made a lovely image... built a whole room full of machines... so off we went, a room each, armed with floppy disks a plenty! boot ghost, make the network connection, let the progress bar slowly progress... we go home...

    In the morning we are confronted with room after room of blue screens! NT was a lot less tolerant of hardware changes and it appeared that there were two batches of these machines - with slightly different specs!

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Equipment and training?

    > At which point Pete pointed out the PC had no microphone. Or Webcam.

    > “Do you think that’s the problem?” the user asked Pete.

    Hah, what an idiot. That's almost as stupid as rolling-out video-conferencing software without making sure that users have cameras and microphones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Equipment and training?


      Easy snipe BUT your comment is only valid IF all users are supposed to have Cameras & Microphones, whereas the Video Conference S/W may be part of a standard build that everyone gets.

      I have worked in companies where getting the Camera & Microphone was possible by a simple request to IT IF supported by your manager. i.e. Justify the need and you will get it.

      Also, I am sure that you should get an Error message when running Video Conference S/W if you do not have a Camera and/or a Microphone. This could not have been missed by the user !!!

      Not to mention that the absence of a visible camera would be somewhat obvious.

      The problem is based on a 'Blind' assumption by the user ...... 'Blind' being the operative word :)

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Equipment and training?

        This could not have been missed by the user !!!

        Oh, really?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Equipment and training?

      You mean, instaling Skype for Business on all computers?

      It can be used as a text chat, call out to regular phones, or even videoconferencing.

      Why shouldn't one install it on all computers, even if they don't have a webcam or microphone?

      I work user support, and for me the text mode chat is the most important function.

      It allows me to ask the user a question, then the user to reply when he/she has a free momment.

      (The user may be busy with a customer)

      And if need be I can just copy the chat log into the case ticket.

      We even got some rooms with a free-standing Logitech webcam if the users want to have a mini conference and the regular conferencing rooms are busy.

  10. John Sanders


    I had to fix a computer...

    Whose icons in the desktop had moved after the user had run windows update.

    I had to sit for 10 minutes asking where to put each icon in the screen.

    The person wanted reassurance that the icons in the screen will not change positions again, when I told him that Windows never had that functionality in the first place he went spastic and denied to pay me the minimal fee for the visit that I was charging him with.

    In case you wonder, yes he paid me and continued being my customer, a week later I found some software to fix the icon positions in the desktop.

    I installed it on his computer for free, and until the day I closed my business he was my client.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: Once...

      I told him that Windows never had that functionality in the first place

      Actually it did back in the 3.1 days. IIRC you had to hold the left shift key down as you shut down, and then on a reboot all the windows and icons within those windows were where you left them. After having similar issues in Win 7 I tried that trick and it still worked, so who knows if it's still in there ...

      But yes, WinTidy or DesktopRestore do a much better job at handling screen resolution changes.

    2. Elmer Phud

      Re: Once...

      " he went spastic"

      Oh really?


  11. NonSSL-Login

    CD drawer wont open

    A few years ago working for a well know insurance company a user logged a call to say the computer would not read her cd and the cd drawer would not open to get the cd back out.

    Upon visiting it was clear she had no cd drive in her desktop. I asked where she put the cd and she got another cd and started to poke it in the thin gap between two blanking plates. She had just pushed the previous cd through the gap in to the frame of the pc.

    1. Andytug

      Re: CD drawer wont open

      Our tool kit still includes a specially bent giant paper clip.

      Bent to the ideal shape for retrieving access smart cards that have been pushed through the panel gap between the smart card reader slot and the DVD drive 4mm below it. Great design by HP, not!

  12. ChrisCabbage

    In a previous company, our sales team received a new prototype circuit board to drop into an enclosure for demo at an exhibition.

    My software team got an emergency call to go down to the exhibition, to explain why our software wasn't working on the new board and make it work - or else!

    When we got there, it turned out that the new board was a few millimetres too long for the existing enclosure. So, the sales team had cleverly taken a saw to the board to chop it down to size. ...which apparently couldn't have been a problem, since the sales guys couldn't see any tracks on the (multi-layered) board.


    1. BugabooSue

      @ ChrisCabbage

      Saw that done years ago by a REME Corporal to a Clansman Vehicle Radio upgrade - because he didn't want to "fiddle about" undoing the few bolts so he could take the unit out of the vehicle where he could work on it REALLY EASILY!

      Ah. Us grunts enjoyed two weeks of free beer in the mess, and that muppet cleaned and oiled (under strict supervision!) every gun in the armoury. Took him over a month of his down time - we are talking well over a thousand guns. :)

      Happier Days... <wistful sigh>

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: @ ChrisCabbage

        "that muppet cleaned and oiled (under strict supervision!) every gun in the armoury."

        So someone had to provide the equivalent amount of time of strict supervision. What was he being punished for?

        1. Diogenes

          Re: @ ChrisCabbage

          Possibly a sergeant who had slept through a bn attack. In my defense over 10 days i had managed to obtain about 40 hours sleep in total in 2 hour blocks and had been part of 10 dawn ambushes, 20 normal patrols and 10 night ambushes as well as doing a strectch as radio piquet.

      2. Mark York 3 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: @ ChrisCabbage

        Clansman - That takes me back to my days at Racal (Seaton).

        1. Daytona955

          Re: @ Mark York 3

          Greetings from Racal BCC (Ruislip & Wembley). I remember 351s & 349s. And Jaguars...

  13. RyokuMas

    Current project: users testing the new environment baffled at why the data on the UAT server is different to that on the production servers...

    1. Alistair

      UAT? DEV! -- the devs going ape because the string values in "Subscriber Name" aren't real "names" -- despite the fact that the hashes are the same character length and include the accents/punctuation. Like I'm gonna let some Dev see production data when we've 4 or 6 different outsourced providers.....

  14. Daedalus

    Duplicate effort

    1. tfewster

      Re: Duplicate effort

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AC as about a company I used to work for...

    We had a few IT People working in two different branches, and some of them weren't best and brightest tools in the shed.

    One of them was doing some internal documentation on an internal wiki and they included PHOTOS of the screen. No not screen shots, PHOTOS from their phone camera of the screen so you could hardly read the text.

    A few screen shots from the snipping tool and a quick wiki update and all done. Must of taken them longer to take the pictures and download\email to self than to do the job properly.

    1. Mark York 3 Silver badge

      Re: AC as about a company I used to work for...

      Had that on a software upgrade project, at least two sets of backups & screenshots of mapped drives & printers, then printed out for good measure for a financial client.

      One chap had the continual misfortune to encounter every problem machine at every location, until he was finally ejected by the client rep for yet another feck up situation.

      To be fair the client rep had had the guys card marked since day one of the project as he was caught using his mobile phone for the screen shots & asked the client rep how he could print them off, instead of [ALT][Prt Sc] & pasting into Word for printing.

  16. Grant Fromage

    A non work tangent

    Many years ago looking from now, ago a neighbour asked a favour to have a quick look before asking someone else to repair her VHS.

    Not being harsh, I had made it clear that I would do quick fixes, but not messing in depth with domestic VTR`s out of a work environment, Hours even days previously lost out of kindness, where a repair shop would have sucked teeth and gone " going to be pricey, sure you wnat it done? buy another one"

    I did learn eventually..

    She had all one make of kit it was midmarket, either Sony, Tosh or pana or......

    Thsere was buggered if i know error code on switch on, took the lid off and found a cd wedged on top of the spools .

    The matching cd player was one of those non-tray things that you poke it in through brushes and hope..

    4 year old daughter wanted to play some music and had made an understandable mistake.about which unit to use, having succeeded before with Daddy.

    Shared with colleagues at the time and 3 other instances with nippers doing simlar.

    (ankle biter is pre war east endian for toddlers and around that age and appears likely to be the origin of nipper)

    1. Alistair

      Re: A non work tangent

      @ Cheesy Grant:

      SWMBO's computer acting out and powering off randomly whilst playing Myst or Warcraft (gives you a time frame) - takes off one evening in a fit of pique over the poweroff and bellows that it better be fixed when she gets home... 35 minutes later I had it sorted and working. Her computer's *back* panel was partially unprotected where it poked out under the desk, and I'd left a slot cover off for airflow. Above the video card. We had a 3 and a 4 year old. The look on her face when I told her that the problem was a cookie on her computer (she was taking a "web design" course at the time) was priceless. The chocolate chips had melted. (Thanks to the younger of the two, who to this day is still addicted to chocolate chip cookies whilst watching videos) - I moved the open slot lower so that the cookies would go to the bottom of the case.

    2. Mark York 3 Silver badge

      Re: A non work tangent

      Royal Marine jammed a LS120 drive in his laptop somehow (not sure if it was a LS120 disc, 3.5 FDD or both) & then proceeded to try & extract it with a knife.

  17. Chemical Bob

    Back when fax modems were A Thing... a support call asking if the fax modem needed to have a phone cord plugged in.

  18. Angry IT Monkey

    I'm sorry but that man was born without a brain

    Comment from a colleague after a particularly taxing time with the guy in charge of sales at an old job.

    Amongst his support calls:

    "I've saved an attachment and it's disappeared, it's really important come down now and fix it" - Saved a PDF and was trying to open it through the Excel file open dialog.

    "I've an Excel sheet with figures and I want an answer at the bottom"

    "What kind of answer? A total? Average?

    "I don't know, I just think it should have something at the bottom"

    Also a doomed project to work out the profit on all products:

    "OK, so how do you work out profit now?"

    "Well, I know we sell it for this amount and I've decided we'll make 2% profit so I divide the sales price by 1.02 and that tells me what it costs to make"


    "Then I take off the material costs which gives me the machining costs"

    "OK... but aren't the machining costs fixed? I mean running the same machine for the same amount of time must cost the same every time"

    "Well no because if I decide to sell the product at 5% profit then I divide the sales price by 1.05 and the cost to make it goes down. The materials cost the same so the machine time must cost less or the figures don't add up"

    I think the last one sent said colleague over the edge.

  19. Snapper

    This just in!

    Oh how I love DropBox and new recruits from prestigious universities!

    This young lady had installed DropBox on her skinny, shiny laptop, and on her Desktop computer to keep a folder synchronised. Very good, top marks.

    She moves 5Gb of important work into the DropBox folder. She then immediately shuts the computer down. Next morning, assuming the 5GB ‘must’ have synced with DropBox and her desktop, she starts up the laptop and proceeds to delete the files in the DropBox folder.

    She then goes to her Desktop, starts it up, opens the DropBox folder and…….no files.

    Quite rightly thinking that DropBox was at fault she started up the shiny laptop (graduation present no less, from Mummy and Daddy) and….dun, dun duuuuuurrrrr OMG! OMG! DROPBOX HAS LOST HER FILES OMG!

    Phones me to see if I could ‘fix’ DropBox to get her files to show up. Asking her questions like “how long did you wait to let the files upload from your laptop before you shut the computer down?” with snappy answers such as “why do you need to know that! Is this going to take long?”, and thus forever taking a warm place in my heart, I tried to work out what had happened.

    So her 5GB of files were not on the laptop, Desktop or DropBox web folder.

    So, had she emptied her trash? Of course she had, to ‘save space’, and she’d also done what Daddy had always told her to do and used Secure Delete.

    “Ok”, I said, keeping my fingers crossed “Do you have a backup of those files?”.

    “Of course, that’s what I did last night, backed them up to DropBox!”

  20. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Some people have a real blind spot in understanding exactly what "synchronised" means.

    "I synchronised my laptop with my desktop, then deleted the files from my laptop, and they've gone from my desktop as well!!"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What do you do or say when you ask some to use the snipping tool to take a screen shot and they say what's the snipping tool for and what's a screen shot. This guy has been a IT manger for 5 years.

  22. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Story #1 reads a lot like a variation of the "Taste the soup!" "Where's the spoon?" routine to me.

  23. Bill_Sticker

    My all time favourite

    Working on a local government desktop support temp contract as 'maternity cover'. One sunny August morning in the early 00's I got called to a remote office to swap out a 'faulty' desktop unit only to find it surrounded by about twenty assorted quartz crystals stuck into bits of play-dough in a complete 'magical' circle. User was nowhere in sight. Told she was on sick leave.

    Unstuck the crystals and put them in a scrounged box and left them on top of a filing cabinet. Cleaned the desk of play-dough residue and replaced the unit with an identical loan Dell Desktop unit after cleaning dried on spill of local government instant coffee residue from underneath the desktop unit.

    Checked replacement unit. Logged on using test account, no problem. Got another user in the office to log on via the machine. Checked remote connections to Netware servers for duplicates, Pinged the Internet proxy server and the email server. All working fine.

    For the sake of a quiet life, took 'faulty' desktop unit back to base and decided to test it thoroughly. Everything worked properly, connected to the Internet and mail server using test account. An hour of testing and checking went by. Everything was working properly. Applications configured correctly, a number of duplicate profiles from repeated crashes in the file system, but nothing I couldn't fix in five minutes. Put desktop unit aside for ghosting new build.

    Routine check on my support job queue the next morning showed a familiar office location flagging up. Support Manager is smirking at me. Same user. Oh Gawd. Phoned remote office to say unit had been replaced and all was working well when I left it. Same user was worrying about where all her crystals had gone "Because my computer is evil." Reassured her that I had replaced her computer completely and had sent it to be 'cleansed', then told her where her collection of 'protective crystals' were. Which seemed to mollify her.

    The following week I swapped her old 'refreshed' unit back in. Didn't hear another peep after that because (According to Support Manager) said user had gone on extended sick leave. She was still on sick leave when my contract ended five weeks later and I moved on to another (and better) contract.

  24. hoola Silver badge

    Crossed Wires

    Many years ago when I was working for the local council I picked up the phone late in the day for the helpdesk as they were short staffed. A heavy West African voice stated he was having a problem closing windows. At this point the council was giving all sorts of manual staff computer access so there were a number of calls with new users.

    The call went on along these lines for what seemed at the time to be hours:

    "I am having trouble closing windows"

    "What are you trying to do?"

    "I need to close everything so that I can switch off""

    "Ahh, can you find the "Start Button" in the left hand corner"

    short pause and heavy breathing - "no, no button there"

    "Is there a Windows key" to press"


    "Can just lock it so that it can be sorted out in the morning"

    "No, if I could lock it I would have gone home"

    Puzzlement on my part, try a different tack

    "What can you see?"

    "There's no buttons"

    Okay, so maybe this is a language problem

    "Have you had the problem before, are you a new user"

    "It's been a problem ever since you fitted the new double glazing"

    Ahh, now we know, scrabble around and try to find out where to put him through to....

    Much laughter when the phone call is transferred.

    It turned out that the departmental helpdesk number for IT was one digit different to the Housing service helpdesk for residents.

  25. dmacleo

    had to deal with that printing video issue before. luckily I (while not actual it dept, was just mtx records clerk and it poc at airline outpost) had ability to place video on company wide shared drive (was company produced vid and safe) and then embed the vid into pdf doc and send the doc itself.

    was a pita but seemed to help and where we had to make info available for FAA seemed to be the best compromise.

  26. rassalas

    Feeling superior?

    The real dunderheads are the sysadmins, stuck behind a desk cluttered with wires and broken hard disks, forced to hoof around the building at anyones call from the CEO down to the Janitor supervisor. If you had a lick of imagination you'd have said take this job and shove it after you had learned all that was possible, (probably 3 months) Oh wait how are you going to pay your mortgage?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it goes both ways

    Many years ago (in the 1990's) I was working in a large IT department. Our email system was supplied by site services and there was some dispute over payment. In resposne to this dispute the email support staff changed everybodies password ( so we couldn't get to our email) then emailed us to tell us what to do to get our email working again!

  28. InfraGuy-HPE

    Working as the sole IT support in the 1980's at the local college I was packing up for the end of the day when the Librarian burst in to the office looking for 'IT'.

    It turned out there was a bag in the library - and it was ticking. Turns out that part of my support role was also potential bomb disposal. Wish I'd asked for more money. Eager fool in my early 20's that I was, I did take a look; and yes it was a clock.

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