back to article Reach out for the healing hands... of guru Dabbs

Dabbsy has certain commitments which mean he won't be able to file a fresh one for you this week. So El Reg is running a column he wrote in 2013 in the hopes you don't remember reading it. We barely remember breakfast. Did we have breakfast? – Love, the Vulture backroom gremlins A colleague strides purposefully across the open- …

  1. Toltec

    How strange

    I just checked in a mirror and I don't appear to look like you, but somehow I feel I should.

  2. Andytug

    Ah, you have "the glare"...

    The glare which, when directed at IT kit, causes it to behave itself as if by magic.

    1. Spacedinvader

      Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

      No glare here. Literally get called over to just stand there. 90% of the time I don't even look at the offending machine. The other 10%? I don't even reach the users desk before the damn thing starts working normally.

      "Must've been the threat of you coming over!"

      1. Mr Humbug

        Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

        "You took your foot off the 'create fault' button on the floor under your desk"

        At least that's what they tell me.

      2. iainr

        Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

        I once got a sparc 10 workstation to boot correctly by threatening to throw it out a second floor window. I swear i did nothing different to the 3 other times I started it booting after reconnecting cables etc.

    2. DropBear

      Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

      In my experience, it tends to work with any kind of tech in general, no matter how dumb. I prefer to interpret it as a sign of silent terror induced by my presence, in a kind of unspoken but implied "you can stop your bullshit right now, or I will take you apart and MAKE you" sense...

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

        "I shall zap straight off to your major data banks and reprogram you with a very large axe, got that?”

        1. MrMerrymaker Silver badge

          Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

          "you'd better start behaving, or it's Windows 10 for you!"

    3. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

      Blue Steel, pal, I give it the Blue Steel.

      1. GBE

        Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

        I give it the Blue Steel.

        They don't like it up 'em!

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

        That's amateur, Alistair - *I've* perfected Magnum...

    4. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge

      Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

      When I was in the USA designing Infiniband switches and gateways, one of the newer pieces of kit (a 32 4x port switch) was at UL in Long Island for compliance testing and was failing radiated emissions. One needs to keep in mind that Infiniband was very new in those days and the switch aggregate throughput (at wire speeds anyway) was 640 Gb/sec which was quite speedy for the time.

      As one of the designers, I duly went to the test house the next day (ah - the nice journey on the LIR; things got cleaner at the side of the tracks as one left Queens but I digress). After taking a look at the kit, I simply made sure all the front panel connections were solidly engaged (which others had already done) and the switch then passed (not by much, though - I seem to recall that we were under the limit by 0.4dB but a pass is a pass).

      One of the other engineers (he was in mechanical) asked how I did it and I just told him that electronics behaves around me or it gets 'fixed'.

      Got me no end of unusual looks from the EMC experts.

      Icon for the expressions I saw.

    5. MonkeyCee

      Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

      I used to have long hair, tied up at work. I'd stick screwdrivers and pens in it.

      Had at least a couple of laptops suddenly start working the moment I pulled a screwdriver out.

      It's not just the thousand yard stare. It's the well worn tool of computer dismemberment that really puts the willies into kit.

      I've put "prayers to machine spirit" as call resolution more than a few times too.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

        I've put "prayers to machine spirit" as call resolution more than a few times too.

        Back in the 1980's you often saw hardcopy terminals as system consoles for VAXes (and other systems). Normally you grabbed a chair to sit at one if you had to work using one for longer than just a moment, but quite often you'd find the console room devoid of chairs for any number of reasons.

        So the best position then was kneeling. Which was quite appropriate, occasionally.

    6. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Ah, you have "the glare"...

      I often explain it to others as 'the computers' ability to detect that I am fully prepared to re-program it with an axe should I find it necessary."

  3. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Advanced percussive maintenance

    It's the zen optimisation of percussive maintenance (ie knowing quite where to hit something to make it work).

    Taken to the fine art extreme it's radiating enough zen of upcoming physical violence that you put the fear of Dabbs into them and they start working to avoid it? Of course same may also be applicable to the user as well, as a pleasant by-product?

    1. Oengus

      Re: Advanced percussive maintenance

      The secret in not only knowing where to hit something but also knowing exactly how hard to hit it...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Advanced percussive maintenance

        The secret in not only knowing where to hit something someone but also knowing exactly how hard to hit it...

        Bloody users .....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Helping people

    The one that Dabbsy didn't mention was when people ask you why something isn't producing the results they expect and then they show you the SQL (or Excel spread sheet or what ever) and expect you to know what it is trying to achieve.

    1. MrMerrymaker Silver badge

      Re: Helping people

      God, in my service desk days I quickly learned that the question "you any good with Excel?" was a question you do NOT say YES to

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Helping people

        Yes! In my case it was SPSS, BiMed, Fortran, COBOL and Pascal. For the programming languages, I could spot missing punctuation, misspelled verbs, etc. for SPSS and BiMed, with zero understanding of the statistics they were trying to graph, all I could do was point to JT's office and suggest they ask him (he was the University Statistician.)

  5. tfewster Silver badge

    Oldies but goodies

    Though I thought Dabbsy currently had a tech anti-aura, that broke things instead of fixing them when he was nearby?

    Maybe too much exposure to the Half-life wife?

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Oldies but goodies

      The difference is between getting something working for someone else, and fixing your own problems.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Oldies but goodies

        With me, it goes in waves. Most of the time, things will start to work as I look at them or very shortly afterwards, but on the odd occasion, I will have a few days in a row where NOTHING works, and if you use tech, it's worth steering clear of me.

        And this is not limited to computers, it's cars, TVs, HiFi, cookers, you name it.

        Biorhythms spring to mind. Maybe I emit the wrong electromagnetic signals on those days.

  6. Alien8n

    IT reputation

    Ever since I started in IT (in fact prior to IT, even as an engineer) I've acquired a reputation for things just working when I'm nearby. This even manages to stretch to the seemingly completely and utterly dead PC that a friend of mine has, which I've resurrected at least 3 times now from the silicon grave. If I have to raise it from the dead a further time I'll sneakily rename it Lazarus.

    1. Toltec

      Re: IT reputation

      It depends if the kit belongs to me or someone else, my kit knows me too well to give up and start working again so easily.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: IT reputation

        Your own kit knows you like to 'play' and so likes to 'play dead' just to provide you something distracting to do when you have more (un)important things on your mind.

        i.e. it knows you better than you do, you know it, so it knows you won't axe it to oblivion for trying to help you.

        It does, however, get a bit upset with all the names you call it sometimes - it's doing it's best to help you after all.

  7. David Lester

    Dabbsy and the Bogon Hypothesis

    “Idiots emit bogons, causing machinery to malfunction in their presence. System administrators absorb bogons, letting machinery work again.”

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dabbsy and the Bogon Hypothesis

      My neighbour can kill any electronic device; she needs to complete monthly invoices on line - these days she goes to the library and kills their PCs instead.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Dabbsy and the Bogon Hypothesis

        My Industrial Electronics tutor at Exeter College could & did destroy semi conductors for a pastime just from proximity (He'd spend so much time trying to get a work around going that you forgot the point of the exercise).

        He went through gawd knows how many home computers that were DOA at his home - Even after testing in the shops & buying different makes.

        Apparently he was very inclined to build up static on his person & frequently had to discharge himself (Against a radiator) before coming into close proximity to his wife to kiss her goodbye each morning.

        Some utter git of a student flogged that story to one of the tabloids for a few quid (Innocent - It was before I even started the course).

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: Dabbsy and the Bogon Hypothesis

          Perhaps he should have bought better quality carpets :)

  8. Nick Kew


    Dabbsy would seem to fit somewhere in the middle of a triangle whose vertices are Dilbert, Alice and Wally.

    But what offsets are needed? Discuss.

    1. DropBear

      Re: Triangulation

      ...discuss? *rummaging around desk* I don't see the work order. At any rate, it will have to be preceded by the budget approval. And the worker safety evaluation. And the feasibility study. And the budget approval for the feasibility study. And hey, would you look at that - it's beer o'clock on a Friday! Well, I'll just leave you to it then...

  9. Paul Cooper

    If I had a fiver for every time a user has said "it doesn't work", and I go through what they claim is the exact same procedure (hah!) and lo and behold it DOES work, I'd be an exceedingly rich person.

    Funnily it always seems to be the same people! I suspect thay have an inbuilt "that bit doesn't matter" filter, and omit tiny but important steps in procedures without realizing they're doing it. I also suspect that they can't really take on board that computers have NO ability to think "Nah, they didn't really mean that - I'll put it right for them" - computers just do what they're told to do (at least, ones I have anything to do with do!)

  10. GlenP Silver badge

    Yep, been there, done that for nearly 40 years.

    To be fair the one I just had to sort (password not working for the third time today) was only partly the user's fault, Num Lock wasn't on at boot up.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      "Num Lock wasn't on at boot up."

      So, was the indicator light faulty then, or just the user's eyes?

  11. macjules Silver badge

    If I had a penny for every IT horror over the years..

    ... I might have enough to buy a round for myself. Most of the usual IT fixes were along the lines of:

    "Is the CAPSLOCK down?"

    "Can you start the computer please?"

    "The mouse only works if you move it"

    Those were the majority. A few of the really choice ones are:

    "When I say 'Please open Windows" I do not mean open a window in your office"

    "We will have a team onsite tomorrow. Please would you ask His Excellency to refrain from urinating on any more IT equipment until then"

    "Put all the monkeys in a cage and leave lots of rotten fruit for them to eat. Give it a few hours and then wash the waste away - you should see the USB stick then"

    "You accidentally spilled a full glass of red wine over the laptop, and then rationalising that white wine counters red wine you emptied a bottle of white wine over it as well? Did it work?"

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: If I had a penny for every IT horror over the years..

      "Your user name does not begin with a space."

      "Use 'Ctrl' to exit the screen saver, not space."

      Now for the really difficult one: a user who needs to look at the mouse to decide which is the left or right button, and then while not looking at the screen moves the mouse before clicking the wrong button.

  12. magickmark


    I'm showing my age, I DO remember reading this the first time round!! I think I'll go hides somewhere and cry!!!!

    1. Justin Case

      Re: OMG

      If you were truly old, you wouldn't remember even if you'd read it just yesterday. The fact that you have recall implies that you're nothing but a whippersnapper.

      1. magickmark

        Re: OMG

        I take exception to that!!! And get of my grass!!! :)

  13. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Next to the printer?

    Maybe I said last time, I don't recommend a desk next to the office printer, if it's at all of the laser / electrostatic kind and like ones from twenty years ago. Something about those - both actual ozone and the particulate fine dust used to "print" are accused - may bring on symptoms of cough and cold. I've used quite a lot of Lemsip which I could have avoided by making the connection sooner.

    The machines have an air filter, but it may be not much good.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Next to the printer?

      The machines are supposed to have corona brushes, antistatic filters and filters to absorb ozone. They never get changed. Preventive maintenance? It isn't you Facilities are maintaining.

  14. Nunya Bizness

    Bogon Effect

    This is measurable with FM radios - if you can tune in a station that dissolves into static when you walk away, midichlorians=true.

  15. lowjik

    Correction field

    I call this effect the "Correction Field" - it seems to permeate the air just in front of me in the presence of a (likely) PICNIC type issue.

    "Oh... that's odd, it's working now - thanks!"

  16. Down not across Silver badge

    It's like I'm an IT support James Bond but without the shags and fine tailoring.

    That's not so far off. Sometimes users go to almost as extreme lengths with their issues as villains do trying to eradicate Mr Bond.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's like I'm an IT support James Bond but without the shags and fine tailoring.

      You mean they explain the problem in minute detail as a plot filler while you work out how you're going to kill them?

      If you have users who can explain their issues in detail, you are already ahead of the pack.

  17. doublelayer Silver badge

    The confessions of a fixed problem

    I have to confess to rather recently doing the thing mentioned in the article. I had trouble with an internal resource loading--Firefox reloaded it a few times then gave up. An email with my colleague resulted in a theory that I didn't have access yet, so the relevant authority was contacted and access granted. Ten minutes after that, I tried to load the site again, with the same result. I tried Edge too; no dice. I decided I wasn't going to sink to installing Chrome on my machine and contacted my colleague again. When his meeting ended, he came over to check on the problem, but when I clicked the link once more, the page loaded completely fine. As it turned out, security grants only get propagated on the hour plus whatever random time skew the machine running it has and whatever delay is caused by the other grants going through that hour. Still, I felt that embarrassment that comes from having someone come over to help with something that doesn't turn out to be a real problem.

  18. Andy Mac

    Time Travel is Real!

    Is it just me, or is Jobssy wearing an Apple Watch in that photo?

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Time Travel is Real!

      You are quite right. He is wearing the 2028 iWatch model. This is the one that [was introduced] [will be introduced] [is being introduced] after it had taken a further 10 years work to get it as slim as a 1970's Casio watch.

      It [includes][included][should include] time travel as standard but due to an unfortunate problem with the supplied butterfly-effect keyboard it put Steve Jobs back to the mid 1970's when he keyed in "2029"

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Time Travel is Real!

        @macjules: I think there should be at least one "wioll haven be" in there, along with a "returningwenta retrohome". The standard of grammar on this board is decling rapidly...

        (Obviously, DNA didn't need to wrestle with autocarrot. Apologies if I have spelled something simple like "at" wrong after getting the tricky stuff right!)

  19. herman Silver badge

    Jobs' watch - Not an iWatch, but likely a Cassio. So, no time travel, sorry.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    P.E.B.C.A.K ...

  21. Sir Runcible Spoon

    It's odd..

    ..but I get weird looks from people when I occasionally fix a problem by turning the damning thing off and turning it back on again.

    Someone once asked me why I had done it, when I was supposed to be some kind of 'expert'. I replied by asking them if it was now working again (it was) and just walked off.

    Sometime I just can't be bothered to work out *why* something broke, I just want the problem to not be my problem any more - perhaps that's a sign of my advancing age and grumpancy.

  22. Colonel Mad


    Dabbsy, you are honoured, the Editor has finally noticed that you are occasionally absent.

  23. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    The name is Dabbs

    Dabbsy has certain commitments which mean he won't be able to file a fresh one for you this week.

    Is he at Pinewood Studios on the set of Bond 25?

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