Why did he try a brand new monitor if his own known-to-be-working monitor didn't work when connected?
It’s Friday at long last and that means it’s time for On Call, our regular trip down readers’ memory lanes. But for a bit of a change, this week we’ve got two tales of tech support head-scratchers, where the problem involved thinking outside the box. First we have Patrick, who told us about an incident that happened during …
Because "elimination" is not in most IT guy's diagnostic process.
Yes, it drives me mad too.
The other is when they "eliminate" something, then for some mysterious reason proceed to return to it and eliminate it several more times after exhausting themselves on other things because they don't have the nous to go further down the line and/or imagine a test that would isolate the cause.
"X isn't on the network".
Okay... ping it. Is it turned on? Is it cabled in? Is the cable in the wall? Is the cable good? Is the wall cabling good? Is the wall socket good? Is the other end patched in? Is the switch working? Is that switch connected upstream? Is that switch port configured properly (e.g. VLANs, MAC filtering, etc.)? Is that actually the IP assigned to the device? ...
All these things are "simple" and obvious for an IT guy, or should be. But I've watched supposed IT professionals stare mystified because "obviously the wall cabling must be good" despite the fact that they haven't bothered to test any of it by even the simple precept of putting something else on the cable.
I've literally sent technicians back repeatedly for nearly 6 hours straight because a device wasn't online despite being powered up and working... only to then have to go do it myself and discovering that the cable between the device and the wall was faulty. Replace the cable, everything came up. They literally didn't bother to eliminate along the path, instead stabbing at random at causes, rebooting switches, etc. The reason I kept sending them back was to teach the lesson - you can waste an entire day just stabbing at causes and making yourself look an idiot... or you can apply a proper diagnostic process in a linear fashion until you find the cause (or, even, multiple causes).
The value of diagnostic thinking is greater than you think.
>'ve literally sent technicians back repeatedly for nearly 6 hours straight because a device wasn't online despite being powered up and working... only to then have to go do it myself and discovering that the cable between the device and the wall was faulty.
A former colleague of mine had the most perfect copperplate handwriting I have ever seen. It was almost font quality. When he first started work at 16, he was down the mines and had to walk 1.5 miles each way to the coal face, write down some information and walk back to the foreman. Every time it was not absolutely perfect, the paper was torn up and he was sent back again....
In normal circumstances I can find a fault with a binary search but some clients like to help by asking a continuous stream of "Is the printer broken? Is the computer broken? Is it the printer cable? ..." three seconds after I enter the room. Applying chresmomancy may lead me to suspect the problem is a Letter sized document sent to a printer loaded with A4 but that requires typing in my password to check which can be a little tricky if I get too much help.
" ..a Letter sized document sent to a printer loaded with A4 but that requires typing in my password.."
More often than not it simply requires pressing OK on the printer to override.
I wrote a wee sed script to mangle "Letter" to "A4" on our print server. A lot of problems stopped after that.
'I wrote a wee sed script to mangle "Letter" to "A4" on our print server. A lot of problems stopped after that.'
Perhaps to be replaced by other problems?
Thank you for the A4 you sent me yesterday. Though I am left wondering if it is following the spirit of the law, or the A4 of the law?
I was taught fault finding on airborne TX/Rx's in the early sixties. Box didn't work in the Vampire, into the radio bay, then inject the correct signal in the right place and the fault was isolated to half the box. Repeat until fault identified, valves, discrete components made it simple. Smell and signs of burning also were useful indicators.
Fast forward 50 odd years (some very odd) and can I use that training to fix my PC, no bloody chance. Event Viewer next to useless (for me) just tells me a hardware fault somewhere. Start swapping major components, luckily the PS is the first I try ( the cheapest) and fixes it. I don't envy current techs with the sort of faults mentioned earlier.
You don't last long in this profession if you don't learn proper troubleshooting techniques and eliminating possible causes of a problem is a pretty vital technique. I know a some people who have never managed to get it down, but in my experience they don't last more than a few years.
Amen. Been there, pulled my hair out, and then ran the testing myself with the "tech" (loosely applied) watching and hopefully learning. I usually took the "tech" and had him/her do it with me watching and walking them through the procedure.
FTR, I learned troubleshooting on aircraft in the military. The teach this method and hammer into those who do the troubleshooting. Logic seems to be a lost art these days, sadly.
"But I've watched supposed IT professionals stare mystified because "obviously the wall cabling must be good" despite the fact that they haven't bothered to test any of it by even the simple precept of putting something else on the cable."
My personal bugbear is the "cable tester says it's OK" when the port(s) are clearly not fine for the intended purpose.
Oh, and the fact that the company network support has been outsourced too will insist on 3-4 visits to "test" (at $120 a time) before they will accept they need to fix it ($200 fee).
I started just requesting a re-cable each time the cabling was fuxed. Saved time and money, although I rapped on the knuckles until someone from Accounting asked us why we were spending only 30% of our repair budget....
I've also had more than one personal job were someone who should know better (such as an engineer or techy) has buggered up their home network, but admitting so to the wife/husband/kids is too embarrassing. So I come round for a "social" call, and restore things to sanity. For the usual fee, plus a discretion bonus payable in whisky.
I do field service work. A lot of calls read something like "repair/replace the cabling to X". It usually isn't the cable. When it is, it's often the jack, particularly in the deli department or the meat department prep room -- anywhere that's moist or gets washed down. The (supposedly) gold-flashed contacts in the network jack turn green, or the punchdown contacts do. Replace the offending jack, and the problem is solved for a few years.
Some of the companies that hire my services treat me like a monkey with a screwdriver, not trusting my diagnostic skills. Being directed by levels 1, 2, AND 3 of contracted tech support from "Bob" in Bangalore (or wherever) to replace the cable from the modem to the router, and try it again, and again, when it is clear to me that the router's WAN port was fried by the electrical discharge that caused the ISP to replace their modem the previous day, is an exercise in frustration. The restaurant manager said that he'd lost printers and a dishwasher to the same storm. I had the fault diagnosed within 20 minutes of arrival, but it took 4-1/2 hours to persuade their Level 3 that the magic smoke had been let out of the WAN interface, and they needed to send a replacement router. I console myself with the fact that I am paid hourly for these gigs.
I carry a $50 cable mapper that will detect some of the gross faults. High-end cable certifiers are pricey and hard to justify. But I have a laptop with a Broadcom network interface, and a copy of Broadcom Advanced Control Suite (BACS). This software uses the NIC's inherent diagnostic capability to perform cable analysis, I assume through time-domain reflectometry. It will tell you the length of each pair in meters (the measured lengths vary due to different number of twists per foot from one pair to the next, to reduce crosstalk). It also detects crossed pairs (such as when you misread the colors and exchange the white-of-blue for the white-of-green, for example). It seems to be accurate to within a meter or so.
It's not calibrated, certainly not traceable to NIST standards, but it will give me enough indication that the fault is at the near or the far end of the cable (or, in one case, 50 feet from one end) that I bring it to all the gigs. It is quite persuasive to be able to say "My laptops connected to each other at 1Gb/s over that cable, and cable analysis didn't show any faults".
I've made adapters to be able to test telephone cables terminated in 6-position jacks, and even CCTV coaxial cable, using it. The velocity factor of other cable types may differ from Cat5, throwing the length measurement off. But it's certainly good enough to tell you whether it's the near, or the far, end of the coax that has the badly-crimped connector. If you care to know the actual length, use BACS to analyze a known length of the cable in question, and divide the measured by the actual length to get a correction factor.
So give that old Dell D610 a new life as a cable analyzer, or get a more modern (and portable) device such the Pockethernet, so you can have some more substantial evidence to point to and get those outsourced cabling guys to do their job right the first time.
"My personal bugbear is the "cable tester says it's OK" when the port(s) are clearly not fine for the intended purpose."
Mine too. Most cheap cable testers run at DC.
Ethernet runs at a few hundred MHz. You have to have the mindset that these are fancy (and sensitive) antenna cables, with an RF approach required for best results.
You can do a _basic_ test with a cheap tester but it's not the be-all and end-all. On top of that badly wired connections will frequently pass on the expensive testers if they're less than 100metres. (The most common failing is tails which are _way_ too long, or rotten IDC punchdowns.)
It's cheaper to toss a dodgy connector than to rewire it.
Just a guess, but I don't think you're paying the going rate for good technicians.
Over twenty years ago I used to be a Unix & NetWare admin earning a decent wage (I've since switched to software development), but have noticed how "commoditised" desktop support has become.
Big firms pay peanuts for monkeys who's only technical abilities are turn it off and on again and if that fails re-image the boot drive (which is great when it takes a day and a half to install all the tools needed to do your job)
If you want non-simian staff you have to pay for them.
"Big firms pay peanuts for monkeys who's only technical abilities are turn it off and on again and if that fails re-image the boot drive (which is great when it takes a day and a half to install all the tools needed to do your job)"
There are millions of firms out there who need support, but far less people who are actually capable of providing it. Often the monkeys are all you can find, and some of them aren't even cheap.
And then you have the problem of microsoft constantly pushing their products as "easy to use", despite the fact that to actually use and manage them properly requires more knowledge and skill than even the supposedly "hard to use" products theyre competing with. This marketing then convinces companies that hiring the cheap monkeys is perfectly ok, and that hiring properly competent people would be a waste of money.
The end result is instability and security breaches.
Lee, this is more prevalent than I wish it to be. I keep trying to educate my techies to work from the lowest layer up (including the layer between chair and keyboard), instead of having them do turn-off turn-on stuff and "see if it works now". To no avail, mostly.
I remember a callout at 2am Saturday morning where "the hub has failed, we replaced it, but systems are still down." Strange, as we don't have any hubs in the complex.
So, I go over there, even after enjoying a good Friday "activity", which is a 2km walk, driving was out of the question...
Only to find the "hub" being a c3650, which they slapped in without thinking of configuring.
Even if you think you've covered it all, things like that will make you go.. hmmmm
Assumption is your enemy when troubleshooting.
Oh, systems were back up and working in 15 minutes. Is configuring-while-intoxicated a crime?
Clearly the above commentators have never had the fun* of having their 'known good' hardware killed by whatever was causing the original problem.
I've had a power supply go bad in such a way that it killed a motherboard, which would then destroy any other power supply it was tested with. We got through four PSUs and three motherboards before we worked that one out.
* actual fun may vary
"Clearly the above commentators have never had the fun* of having their 'known good' hardware killed by whatever was causing the original problem."
So you mean.... you change one part. No change. Then you have to move your diagnosis further up the chain, until you find a dodgy item (i.e. a PSU that doesn't work on TWO motherboards, or that you swap out and it powers up), or until you *test* an item more than a quick check of "does it function immediately and perfectly in all regards"... by, say, sticking a PSU tester on it.
I have in fact had MUCH more complex diagnoses than that (recently someone put a digger through a 450KW supply cable and blew up £20,000 of hardware, that we restored by diagnosing and replacing only £3000 of parts that were ACTUALLY faulty). And you ALWAYS start with the same diagnosis. In that scenario. I wouldn't have got through more than two motherboards or PSUs before I suspected a much more serious problem. In fact, likely one PSU and maybe two motherboards - when the known-good MB is replaced on the same PSU and doesn't work, I'd suspect the PSU, replace that, and then when that didn't work, I'd go once up the chain (checking the power sockets and cables by using a known-good one of those).
Then when you know that it's the MB/PSU end / combination that's at fault... pull both, check one level up to make sure the power isn't blowing the PSUs, put something else in place, allow the user to continue work, and then carry on your diagnosis of the faulty parts back in the IT office (e.g. with a £10 PSU tester) before you do any more damage. In fact, at that point, I'd put the previously-known-good MB back on a known-good PSU, realise that it must have actually BROKE during testing despite being known-good, and ditch the PSU that did it, testing it only for curiosity.
Four PSUs and three motherboards again reeks of "I didn't narrow it down sufficiently and just kept guessing / throwing hardware at the problem".
Honestly, the second the "obvious" swaps don't work, I'm replacing the entire kit to shut the user up, breaking out multimeters and testers back in the office (where there's an isolated mains and network circuit, because you are playing with 240v and PSUs!). There's a reason I have a drawer full of nothing but cheap PoE testers, mains socket testers, multimeters, PSU testers, network cable testers, battery testers, discriminating continuity testers, telephone line testers, etc. And that drawer cost me an awful lot less than even the price of the cheapest replacement motherboard. (I am not one of these people who wants/needs £1000 high-tech testers... if it doesn't pass a basic test I don't want it, and if it needs £1000 of tester to tell you if it works, but £50 to replace it, I'll just replace it.).
P.S. Yes, we do all our own cabling. We manage and repair all the PCs and devices on-site. Hell, we do the CCTV, access control, and everything else you can imagine ourselves. We do not have a huge stock of spares (currently about 0.1% of the deployed hardware) or parts. I don't have a huge test suite or dozens of techs - 1 per 500 devices. I don't have a stupendous budget, or warranty support etc. on anything but the server-side. The way we cope (more than comfortably) is by proper diagnosis.
> when the known-good MB is replaced on the same PSU and doesn't work, I'd suspect the PSU, replace that, and then when that didn't work, I'd go once up the chain
when the known-good MB is replaced on the same PSU and doesn't work, I'd suspect the PSU to have just blown a second MB
"recently someone put a digger through a 450KW supply cable and blew up £20,000 of hardware, that we restored by diagnosing and replacing only £3000 of parts that were ACTUALLY faulty"
I know people who do that with lightning strikes. The problem is that over the next few weeks/months, the components which were overstressed but didn't _quite_ initially fail will decide they're really pining for the fiords and shuffle off their mortal coil. End result is a bunch of callbacks.
It depends on the circumstances, but loss of customer goodwill and labour costs usually outweigh any advantage on trying to cheap out on "got too many volts up the wrong end" type of repairs. You'll usually find that attempting to charge for revisits and extra parts is a non-starter too, unless you like your name being Mud.
Clearly the above commentators have never had the fun* of having their 'known good' hardware killed by whatever was causing the original problem.
Which was actually the case here, to some degree. Though the thing to have done would be to plug the 'known good' monitor back into the setup where it had been good, rather than continue killing (or at least incapacitating) monitors.
More monitor fun. Logged into another workstation in our room a while back to help troubleshoot something about the network (a case of "I'm Spartacus!" it turned out). We got to the bottom of it, but while doing this I noticed the colours looked a bit washed out, somehow paler and not quite right. Loaded up Gimp or something, and found out green (I think it was green) was displaying as white. My desktop is mainly blue and sandy yellow, login screen is blue and red, so it wasn't obvious from a distance. Broken monitor, video card, weird driver bug? Infrequently used machine and not particularly my problem, but I asked the person who did use it. They hadn't really noticed anything, but did agree it looked a bit funny. Made a mental note to try at least replacing the DVI cable, though didn't see how it could be that, surely you'd have a channel missing.
A few days later: had a free moment and remembered about this, so got hold of a new cable, tried plugging it in, met resistance. Pulled the machine around to have a look and saw the plastic around one of the holes in the socket had been distorted, blocking the adjacent hole. Took a look at the plug on the old cable, one of the small DVI pins was bent into contact with another. Prised it into a roughly normal position, fiddled about a bit and got it back in. RWB back to RGB. The computer had been moved a couple of months before and whoever did it had somehow managed to fail to put a DVI plug in correctly, not noticed the force they presumably needed to apply to get it to that state and then not noticed that somehow they'd left green behind after the move.
This is a situation where hard-earned experience come in to play. If I suspect a motherboard failure I will never put a new one on the existing PSU. If I had absolutely no possibility of a replacement PSU, I'd link out the soft start, and power the PSU up by itself with dummy loads (even once resorted to using car tail and brake lamps as loads).
" whoever did it had somehow managed to fail to put a DVI plug in correctly, not noticed the force they presumably needed to apply to get it to that state"
Reminded me of the ancient times when I worked in mainframe testing. Had just helped some new hires track down a bent pin shorting out two signals. So I stated to the group that if they ever have extra trouble putting cards in that they may bend some pins if they force it. So a light bulb goes on for one of them and he grabs the card puller and pops another card out. We shine a light in and see he got the right card as there is a bent pin behind that one to.
I've had (very low end) video cards pull that stunt on me as well; not a problem with memory, or the GPU, but the analog circuitry pushing the signal out the VGA cable had gone far enough out of spec that it showed up as a major color distortion on the monitor. (this was after swapping the damn CRT, obviously.)
There was also the time that some gorilla in a telco office managed to plug in a juniper line card upside down and forced it in; trashed a line card costing over 120K and badly damaged the backplane on the router chassis as well. (which was another 50K easily) My boss at the time was Not Amused.
I have a similar problem at the moment.
I have a monitor, (and it is definitely not; the cable, the video card, the drivers. As it happens where ever you plug the monitor in. White (or actually a shade of grey, which Windows likes to use in its system shadings) is decidedly green. Factory re-sets on the monitor, nothing. Playing with the colour balance on the display almost fixes it, but then throws out other colours.
Return to manufacturer, gets "tested" and returned to us with no fault, we then plug it back in to a random PC with a new cable, same fault. (Ba*ds)
"I've had a power supply go bad in such a way that it killed a motherboard, which would then destroy any other power supply it was tested with. We got through four PSUs and three motherboards before we worked that one out."
And then there's the, admittedly quite rare, DOA parts right out of the box.
Because monitors (particularly of that generation - it's not explicitly mentioned, but refers to CRTs) occasionally die through movement. Work fine on a desk for years, then you move it to another desk and it's dead.
I've had it happen to me, so I'm sure others have seen the same.
LCDs are slightly more robust, even if they don't feel it.
It's a bit like when I go to the fridge looking for, I don't know, a packet of ham or something. Often I'll just close the door, and then check again (or my wife will check for me) and without doing anything else... Voila! It's appeared right there on the shelf in plain sight, when it definitely wasn't there before.
Often I'll just close the door, and then check again (or my wife will check for me) and without doing anything else... Voila! It's appeared right there on the shelf in plain sight, when it definitely wasn't there before.
That's a temporal continuity error, it was there before you opened the door and after you closed the door but not while the door was open the first time.
There is a full explanation of these in The Twilight Zone - A Matter of Minutes
We've come a long way, much deeper and ever further in A Matter of Minutes, Johndoe888.
And Current Programs are Registering Alien Information for Advanced IntelAIgent Machinery Use Deploying Future Pictures for SMARTR Development.
Is that a Stop Press, Universal Scoop for El Reg? SomeThing for the Creation of Empires/Dream Lands?
Of course IT is. You surely all know us by now and I/We Kid U Not.
The logical progression of that information is the immediate regression of military weaponry into obsolescence for such has no chance of defeating or defending against Immaculate Sources and Alien Forces .... you know, the ones Donald Rumsfeld was aware and even wary of .....“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know."
Are you prepared to know what you do not know and what you may be being denied by 0thers? Or are you being Prepared with an Awareness of Registered Alien Information?
I recently bought some very expensive, very special, bolts that hold the brake calipers on a classic vehicle I am restoring. When I came to using them, could I find them? I turned the garage upside-down, nowhere to be seen, turned the house upside-down, still no bolts. Eventually used some inferior standard bolts as a temporary fix just so I could complete the next part of the rebuild, and ordered a new set. Next day I went into the garage and found the original four bolts in plain sight on the bench. I KNOW they weren't there the previous day, as I had swept the bench and vacuumed the garage floor, but - hey ho! - there they were. I now have a new set of expensive bolts to sell - anyone interested?
Far too many people cannot comprehend the possibility that the root cause of an issue might be physically located more than about 10cm from the visible symptom.
When Jeremy Clarkson's Ford GT wouldn't start, he and James May actually removed and disassembled the Start button. A clear example of this 'Proximity Focus'.
The hero of our IT story here didn't even think of checking the PC next? Oh, because it's a couple of feet away from the problem. Third monitor was dumb. (But can't blame him for the magnets...)
I used to work in an environmental lab, and one of the computers stopped working one day. I couldn't get it to do anything, so I popped the case, and found that all the acid in the air (due to the specific testing they did in this particular lab area) had eaten a lot of the solder, and many of the components weren't attached to anything anymore...
We drastically increased ventilation and fume extraction after that...
"all the acid in the air (due to the specific testing they did in this particular lab area) had eaten a lot of the solder"
We had carbon dating samples which were acid washed. The steady deterioration in the efficiency of the drying oven was due to the HCl eating the fan blades.
No, it's a management "I'm not buying a case that costs three times what the computer costs!" decision that ends up with them replacing the computer enough times to make the case a cost effective repair.
I did a contract job back when Code Red and Nimda where the scary monsters of the week, and got a tour of the local aerospace plant when the place had those two bugs burn through their network. We had to have the on-site tech visit most of the machines in the manufacturing area because the Cd drives were trashed from all the titanium and other metal dust, because they were not in a good enclosure. (tl;dr- a milling machine that carves turbine parts out of blocks of titanium costing more than a Cadillac is dead-lined because the ~$30 Cd rom drive in the ~$700 desktop can't install patches and is therefore excluded from the network and the ability to do.. anything.)
But is it true that a barium meal is difficult to flush?
Back in the day I remember a university flatmate with suspected stomach ulcers being prescribed a barium meal and an X-ray. The resulting 'sausage' a day later was both very heavy and strong, so flushing and the usual bathroom cleaning implements both refused to move it. All that happened was that the organic material got progressively washed out of it. So, after a few days we had what looked like a plaster of paris replica lurking at the bottom of the pan, daring us to try and move it. We finally got rid of the thing by smashing it into a coarse white sand drift with a blunt instrument, probably a poker. This was flushable, though it took several cycles to transfer it all into the sewer.
The only contaminants I can recall are the usual beverages (Coke, Tango, coffee, etc.) and stationery.
Sugary drinks were always the worst, in the days when keyboards cost a lot (£100+ sometimes) we'd end up dismantling them and scrubbing the boards under the tap. They usually survived to work again.
Many years ago when the first plain paper fax machines came out we had an FD who insisted we reused paper in it to save money. Which was all very well until someone put a piece of paper with still wet Typex on the top of the stack the "wrong" way up. The £100 or so for a new toner/drum kit after I'd tried every trick in the book to revive the damaged one would have bought a lot of paper. Reusing label sheets could have a similar effect when a label peeled of onto the drum but 1,1,1 Trich would usually get things clean again.
The current employers had bought two very expensive sheet feed HP scanners. One of these wasn't feeding properly which may have had something to do with the paper clips and staples that had been ground through the mechanism. It didn't survive the experience!
I used to operate a scanner in a post-room, and after a few weeks I got quite good at fishing staples out of the paper-guides.
I'd have complained more, but people will staple things in really strange was if you let them. Half-way though a stack of letters, there'll be one receipt stapled at the bottom.
Hmmm. For a busy office, this kind of thing must be routine. Surely there should be a healthy market for scanners and printers incorporating a metal detector that'll complain *before* potentially self-harming if fed a stash containing staples and paperclips?
Likewise sticky things that might feature in a stash.
@ Nick Kew "Surely there should be a healthy market for scanners and printers incorporating a metal detector that'll complain *before* potentially self-harming if fed a stash containing staples and paperclips?"
I suspect the market for selling new printers/scanners to replace the ones that got mashed by staples/paper clips is much healthier!
Way back when I was IT support at a spring manufacturing firm we were quite used to filings and other foreign objects finding their way into terminals. Drinks were less common because they were banned on the shop floor but that didn't stop it happening.
Early in my career there one of the junior floor managers called me on a phone from the desk next to his saying his handset was broken. I asked the usual questions: anything spilled on it, what do you mean by "not working" etc. and eventually headed down there with a replacement.
Arriving I found him standing by the desk saying "it just stopped working for no reason." on a whim I asked again if anything was spilled on it to be told no but I suspected he was worried about getting in trouble so I said I was not interested in getting him in trouble it would just save me a lot of diagnostic time if I knew he had spilled anything on it. "Nope, nothing" he replied.
So I plugged my new handset into the socket and tested it - everything working fine. I then just to be sure plugged his old handset back in (hadn't moved it off the desk yet) and lifted the receiver. Nothing. As i mashed a few buttons water started to seep from beneath them. I grabbed a nearby plastic box and eventually poured an estimated half a litre from the handset.
"On second thoughts," he said sheepishly, "I may have knocked my cup over earlier in the day but I didn't think it hit the phone."
At this point I lifted his keyboard to find a significant amount of water in that and his mouse was drenched too. I simply said "Yeah, you might be in trouble now mate."
I never did find out what he did to get that much water onto his desk.
Lady knocked over cup of coffee on her HP laptop.
When I got it, it was dripping wet. I immediately removed the battery and rinsed it thoroughly with cold water from a tap.
Then let it sit in the sun for the rest of the day to dry out.
The next day it started up just fine, there was a small discolorated area on the monitor, but otherwise it was fine.
That was two months ago. It still is running.
"Surely there should be a healthy market for scanners and printers incorporating a metal detector that'll complain *before* potentially self-harming if fed a stash containing staples and paperclips?"
They make plastic, wooden and even paper fasteners these days. There's even a clever tool that punches out tabs in the paper itself and pushes it though, making a 'staple' out of the very paper you're 'stapling'.
The nifty trick I saw in the newer machines we had was having contra-rotating rollers under the feed, along-side the ones that rolled inwards.
Not enough force in them to over-power the in-feed normally, but if more than one sheet went in at once the bottom sheet would slip (even If stapled, as the sheets could crumple), and the change in tensions tells the machine to stop and object. This caught staples early, but also solved a much more common problem with double-feeding sheets.
When I started my first IT job way back in the last century (1979) we had filed listings of all the operational programs printed on the good old continuous green-and-white lineflo paper.
I was somewhat baffled to discover that some of the pages had printing on the back as well. Seems the former assistant PHB had decided that to save paper the used listings should be fed back into the printer, after sellotaping the batches together to make a boxful.
A few years later I actually bumped into the guy at a Green Party conference. I just smiled.
the good old continuous green-and-white lineflo paper.
Which reminds me of the old trick we'd play on the gullible ones tasked with tearing off the tractor strips from the sides of documents to be posted - ie when (say) invoices were printed on fanfold paper, the side strips torn off, and the pages separated by hand. Of course, these tasks were usually imposed on the lowest level of office junior - and one or two actually believed me (for a while) when I told them they had to keep the strips off the side so they could be attached to the next lot of forms.
We have a lot of desktop PCs in our shop floor area that sit quite close to CNC machines. The air is very oily, and over the course of 3 years of use, these machines steadily become caked in the stuff - such that we need to wear rubber gloves when removing them for refresh.
However, the fun part is that they are under lease. And I've been through all the various charges that can be levied, and there's nothing on there for a working PC that is smothered inside and out in oil. Of course, good luck to the leasing firm for cleaning these up for reuse!
Remember that your laser fax/copier/printer is also a source of contamination. I had a client who provided a reprographics service at a client a couple of hundred miles or so from the main office. Why is lost in the mists of time but recovering after a crash required a floppy. I learned that it was a good idea to take a spare drive if I had to visit, the existing one was always gunged up with toner.
I had the fun of working on a page printer that among its brilliant design feature had a diskette drive located immediately below the developer where toner would often fall. Another great feature was it had an oil fuser that was fed from an inverted oil bottle with a regulator cap, problem was the cap would hit the body of the bottle before the threads bottomed out and you could easily separate the neck from the bottle and when the bottle was inverted in the fuser the entire contents would leak out all through the printer and onto the floor. I recall taking a call for one sitting on a carpeted floor and when I noticed liquid oozing out of the carpet where I stepped, I knew what the problem was.... Even more fun is when this happened on a raised floor imagine raised floor tiles with a coating of silicon oil... you could skate on it.
Under certain environmental conditions, contamination by hydrogen sulphide (common in sewage works, for instance) will grow what look like whiskers on tin plated surfaces. They can grow amazingly fast and long. This is not great for anything containing electrickery. The effect on 400V gear is truly explosive.
Pictures etc here:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whisker_(metallurgy)
In the early 2000s a then acquaintance ran a consumer electronics repair shop. One day a lady brought her disfunctional mobile phone in - "it stopped working" she said. He took it apart and found some moist, difficult to define stuff in its innards. I can't recall if he managed to get it running again. But when the lady came to pick it up, he asked her to elaborate what happened before it stopped working. "Oh, it fell in the toilet".
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Back in the mists of time we used Philips Maestro systems for mainframe software development. These were upgraded to the new whizzy devices with some intelligence built into the very expensive keyboards to alleviate the load on the minicomputer that talked to the mainframe. It was drilled into us how very expensive the desktop component was - 3000 late-80s GBPs - in an effort to impress on us how lucky we were to have them and how much care we should take of them. Sadly, my desk neighbour showed little care while ham-fistedly opening a litre carton of orange juice which split and dumped its contents into the keyboard/desktop processor. Orange juice and PCB tracks are not a felicitous combination.
After we moved onto PCs I didn't think of the Philips Maestro again until I saw one glued to the wall of the cabin of Star Bug in Red Dwarf.
"Sadly, my desk neighbour showed little care while ham-fistedly opening a litre carton of orange juice which split and dumped its contents into the keyboard/desktop processor. "
Most places back then, it was a disciplinary offence to have food or drink anywhere near that sort of kit.
When I was at college one of my fellow students had a job maintaining arcade machines at the local amusement park. Some of them (e.g. the original wireframe Star Wars) were "sit in" cabinets. Unfortunately the manufacturers saw fit to locate many of the circuit boards under the seat...so if a barely toilet trained toddler had an "accident" urine would leak onto them. Urine and solder do not get on........
At the stores of a large government department where we were installing a stock control system, they built a server room for the minicomputer by installing some partition walls. What they hadn't realized was that the main soil pipe for the upstairs toilets ran through the false ceiling directly above the new hardware.
A couple of weeks later we got a call to say that the system had gone down and we got to learn what happens when the shit literally hits the fans!
I kept a VCR around a lot longer than most people did. My last VCR was killed by a 2 year old with a peanut butter sandwich. She pushed it in the slot just like she'd seen us pushing in tapes. The result was peanut butter everywhere. I suppose I could have cleaned and saved it, but it just really didn't seem worth the effort. By that point all the VHS tapes I had that were worth watching had either been run through a TV capture card and stored digitally or re-bought on DVD.
The same kid tried the same thing a couple weeks later with a PS3. Fortunately, though, the peanut butter ended up all over the front of the case. No real damage done.
Which reminds me of this.
Congratulations! You have purchased an extremely fine device that would give you thousands of years of trouble-free service, except that you will undoubtedly destroy it via some typical bonehead consumer maneuver. Which is why we ask you to PLEASE FOR GOD'S SAKE READ THIS OWNER'S MANUAL CAREFULLY BEFORE YOU UNPACK THE DEVICE. YOU ALREADY UNPACKED IT, DIDN'T YOU? YOU UNPACKED IT AND PLUGGED IT IN AND TURNED IT ON AND FIDDLED WITH THE KNOBS, AND NOW YOUR CHILD, THE SAME CHILD WHO ONCE SHOVED A POLISH SAUSAGE INTO YOUR VIDEOCASSETTE RECORDER AND SET IT ON "FAST FORWARD", THIS CHILD ALSO IS FIDDLING WITH THE KNOBS, RIGHT? WE MIGHT AS WELL JUST BREAK THESE DEVICES RIGHT AT THE FACTORY BEFORE WE SHIP THEM OUT, YOU KNOW THAT?
Dave Barry - Read This First!
I used to service VCR's and TV's for a major Regional repair center (PVS) in the 90's and we had all manner of stuff brought in with spillage. There were brand new 27" Philips TV's with lovely Mahogany cabinets that cats sat on the top on pissed in. The first time it got repaired as we could not prove it. The second time it was wet a was scrapped. The owner was not happy. All those Betamax VCR's that fell down the stairs when the video shops stopped renting videos on beta. All those faulty clunky mechanical VHS machines that got coke/pepsi spilt in them. The list goes on. There was also a drunk guy who pissed in his VCR under the TV after a heavy night of drinking. He was told to fuck right off with the machine. Often owners of the machines did not know that cats had peed in the machines causing horrendous electronic corrosion which in most cases wrote off the machine. To a cat this was a purfect arrangement. A nice warm box under the TV so the cat could lie and watch their humans. For me it meant washing my hands a lot. Good times when electronics were both serviceable and not expendable as they were expensive. Also my nephew put pieces of banana in my brothers expensive Panasonic SVHS machine. Luckily he was seen doing it and the banana was removed before any damage occurred. Actually saw quite a few of those, kid stuffed tape loading slot, cd drive bay with whatever was to hand. Usually it was fatal to the device. Sometimes it was coins and they shorted out something which usually was the reason for service. Then the true damage was found. Many a child was no doubt shouted at. My absolute favourite occurred here in the USA. After I had repaired their elderly Panasonic TV which for some reason had developed a faulty front control panel the brat child then decided to start whacking the front of the CRT and new buttons with his toy motor car. I commented to deaf parent ears that that is not a good idea and another set of control buttons would not be under extended warranty nor would scratches to the CRT as I have seen the child whack the TV. I was told it was OK as they were getting a new LCD TV Soon once they could afford it. So six months later I get a call for runny colors on the TV under factory warranty. You guessed it dear reader the brat kid had whacked the 55" LCD screen and broke it. Not covered I said as this is accidental damage. Contact your Insurance agent. Boy were they pissed. But you can't fix stooopid. Had several of those, guy swatted a fly on LCD screen. New TV needed. And so on. Even today very few LCD screens can withstand any kind of a whack without breaking. Only TV's with Gorilla Glass will.
Had a 19" CRT come in with warranty complaint, back when 19" was 30 bucks per inch. Turned on and screen was all bloopy. Ok, so we start the paperwork to take it in, when the 6 year old daughter turned to her mother and said that little brother had been running a magnet on the screen........
That sort of thing is the reason that I (and doubtless many other kids) were given a couple of stern warnings about how to interact with our family's TV & VCR, and spanked if we kept doing it or were ever caught doing something potentially harmful. Electronics were much too freaking expensive for our parents & grandparents to let us get off with a mild scolding for destroying them...
"Electronics were much too freaking expensive for our parents & grandparents to let us get off with a mild scolding for destroying them..."
They still are. And usually more expensive to repair, even if they can be. Whole board or panel swaps in most cases. It's rare for a repair shop to do component level repairs these days. AFAIK, the stuff we deal with gets sent back to the manufacture in China, Taiwan, Thailand, wherever and we get repair or replace boards back. Labour is obviously cheaper there, it's just not economic in most developed countries where workshop time costs £100+ per hour and the board is worth sub-£100.
Whole board or panel swaps in most cases. It's rare for a repair shop to do component level repairs these days.
Depends on where you take it. There's a local electronics repair shop here that will do component level repairs for $50/hour (the cost of living around here is pretty low by US standards). For easily diagnosed stuff like popped caps it usually comes in under the cost of replacing the whole board, especially in cases where the whole board is hard to find. Cheapskate that I am I usually just fix my stuff myself if at all possible, but I've been known to send friends and coworkers his way.
When I were a lad, long ago, I was a mechanic for a while. I remember I completely rebuilt a small engine on a plate compactor. And it wouldn't start. Not a bit of it. Spark - OK. Carburetor - OK. Compression - OK. But didn't even TRY to start.
After 2 days of intermittently working on it, I finally took out the NEW spark plug and put the old one back in. Engine started on the first pull. (See Icon.) But it was a valuable learning experience.
Fun times were had when a team of software engineers kept getting corrupted backups on a Sony DAT (remember those?) so off to the repair shop it went. The shop couldn't find anything wrong but the team's backups were still being corrupted so the DAT, cable and controller card were bundled up and sent off. No errors detected. Then they asked me to have a look at it and I spotted the problem right away. They had laid the cable connecting the controller card to the DAT across the top of a 21" CRT. Cable moved, problem solved.
Ah, reminds me of <cough> decades ago when we had a customer that made fastenings for metal drum lids - and the factory had a lot of spot welding machines. They had an Apple II system on the shop floor and problems with floppy disks regularly getting corrupted.
Had the system in and absolutely nothing wrong with it, went back to site and corrupted disks. We, and the customer, both thought it might be the welders causing it - but it turned out to be a bit more basic.
Those who remember marketing material from the time will also remember pictures of Apple II systems with two floppy drives sat side by side on top of the computer, and the monitor on top of that. What most people didn't know was that Apple designed their monitor so as not to magnetically zap the floppy disks underneath it - third party monitors weren't designed like that. Moved the drives to the side and the problem went away.
Gods yes. When I worked as a field repair monkey, the shop I worked for also accepted people bringing their own machines in, and also did some third party warranty service. We got a machine in one fine day that reeked of cigarette smoke- the owners were apparently each had a carton a day habit, and the machine was a complete write off. the third party warranty service wouldn't touch it, and (naturally) the customers threw a fit when we told them. The shop smelled like an ash tray for a week after the machine left the building.
We had data coming from sales depots across Pakistan to our head office in Lahore using 1.44 Floppies couriered in once a month. Some of them would be corrupted and one of my theories was that it was the magnetism from the motorbikes used to get the floppies to the courier office.
This was disputed by one the people there. He insisted that a local jinn had something to do with it. (all replaced by modems eventually resulting in more interesting stories as the staff lost the expense paid trip to the courier office)
Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I did some work with answering services. The "operators" there were mostly of the female persuasion and many smoked. We installed a system that had CRT terminals (yes, it was long ago), and sometimes we would come in for "servicing", and one of the things we would do is clean the face of the CRTs using Windex or some such.
The reaction we got was "boy this works MUCH better now" (or similar). Of course not much operationally changed, but the CRTs were MUCH cleaner.
As for answering service operators: It was almost a truism that the voice quality (of the operator) was the inverse of looks, and that weight was a factor as well. Yes, I know this is not politically correct, but more often than not it was true.
I'm glad that bodily fluids and wastes have always been outside of my scope of support or would immediately void a warranty, and in the Military we weren't too concerned about any of our collection devices getting pissed on (or shit on for that matter), considering that birds really liked building nests on the fixed ones and they're not the cleanest animals in the world.
I was told that at GE where they developed MRI machines that they had a metal detector at the door to prevent violent accidents. The building was built with aluminum nails. All of the computer screens had images tilted at some crazy angle. Strong magnetic fields can do many strange and wonderous things.
Was walking, along with a teacher, past a row of computers in a school. I stopped and said I can smell bakerlite and thinking a PSU may have had a very hot power IC, I started sniffing for the offending machine before the PSU went BANG and possibly caused some damage. Teacher pulled me aside out of students hearing and said one of the students (about 8 or 9 years old) had parents who were VERY heavy smokers and what I smelt was the poor boys clothes. Poor little bugger and seemed like such a nice kid.
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