back to article Beware the Friday afternoon 'Could you just..?' from the muppet who wants to come between you and your beer

Welcome to an On Call with a difference. Today The Register retells a story familiar to all too many readers: "You know about computers, right?" We will call the reader in question "Will" in order to ensure there is no chance of an interruption to his beer supply by an angry landlord. It was the middle of the last decade, and …

  1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

    The obvious get-out phrase...

    Yes, but I make my money from scans for private data to resell on the darkwebz, how can I help you?

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

      Or...

      "Yes, I make a living out of it. Before I even start to think about looking into anything, it's £150. That includes the first 50 minutes. For each additional 50 minutes, even if only started, that's another £100. And before you ask, yes, this is the rate for friends and family. Why 50 minutes? I expect a continuous tea supply, on your expense, and will sip tea for 10 minutes per hour."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

        "You do gardening, don't you? Would you like to come and replant my flowerbeds in return?"

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

          or maybe "You do Beer don't you........."

        2. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

          "would you like to come and replant my flowerbeds in return?"

          I've actually done this with a neighbour who constantly called me with computer issues, usually caused by her ignoring my advice not to put the wifi router *quite* so far away from the printer. The lady in question is a keen gardener, so now we do a little light IT support in exchange for a little garden maintenance. I hate gardening so it works out pretty well.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

            It's all very well till you get asked to have a look at the lady gardener's lady garden.

        3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

          ..or grout cleaning?

          1. Mike11111
            Pint

            Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

            I tried using this when a (not particularly close) friend asked if I'd look at her sisters computer.

            Worked well, my grout remained uncleaned but I've not been asked to provide any free IT services in a decade.

        4. Kiwi Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

          "You do gardening, don't you? Would you like to come and replant my flowerbeds in return?"

          Sure. You can keep my windoze systems running and I'll keep your garden growing. I know full well who gets the better end of that deal! :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

        I look after my brother-in-laws IT, he does my tax returns and helps with renovations around the house.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My reputation precedes me

          It must, because I've fixed two or more problems for my brother by him calling me. He's worked on it for an hour or so than finally gives up. Then he calls me and it starts working as he tries to explain what the problem was. All I did was answer the phone.

          PCs must be scared of me. ;-)

          1. ocratato

            Re: My reputation precedes me

            I was quite good at that.

            Used to call it "debugging by intimidation".

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

          I usually helped anyone who needed help at one employer and my I didn't mind staying a tiny bit late to do so. However my boss often found things he needed my to do just before I was leaving. Coincidentally these often unbeknownst to him would be on days when I was doing something that night. So one day I announced I was off at 5:30pm come hell or high water that afternoon as I was going out for dinner. 5:25 rolls round and I started to pack up whereupon my boss asks for a favour. He just needed me to do one thing that will "only take 30 seconds".

          I said no I told you I was going bang on time today and I'm sticking to that. I said I was forever late for things because he just needed me to do something at quitting time. Also 30 seconds was a gross underestimate of the work involved and it was more like 30 times that. He pleaded and said it would be the last time he'd do it etc. I said I would if he wrote me a note explaining that he was the reason I was late for my date. It had to include that he was very sorry for the inconvenience caused and for all the other instances. He agreed and 15mins later I was standing by his desk having finished wanting to know where my note was. In front of my entire team he said "Oh you were serious you do want a note". He had to write it out on headed notepaper and sign it. I thought that was humiliating enough that he wouldn't ask me to just do something before I left again. It lasted for 6 months. My date thought it was hilarious.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

            Sadly, no good deed goes unpunished, so never ever volunteer to help "just before you go home", as they'll ask again and again if you do.

            My favourite answer to the family and friends requests for help is: "Well, for the Windoze computers at work, we usually find that nuke and reinstall is the quickest solution". Mysteriously, that seems to result in 98% of requests going no further. For the Mac and Linux folk, I'll usually ask them to check first if there is useful advice on StackExchange, and that I'll (maybe) give them a hand after that, if still needed, and if I have time.

            1. shedied

              Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

              For the Mac and Linux folk asking for assistance, I believe they have discovered (stumbled upon?) that using alternative OSes requires searching for alternative means of support as well. Other descriptions, such as "whereabouts unknown" and "nonexistent" also apply.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Martin
      Happy

      Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

      There is a story that Mark Twain wanted to borrow a neighbour's book, but the neighbour said "You can read it, but you have to read it in my library. I make it a rule not to let books out of my house."

      A couple of days later, the neighbour asked MT if he could borrow his lawnmower. "Certainly," said MT. "But you have to use it in my garden. You know I make it a rule."

    4. eldel

      Re: The obvious get-out phrase...

      My usual response is "I work in QA, I break shit, you haven't left me much to do".

  2. GlenP Silver badge

    In terms of an hourly rate across the year it probably wasn't great, but a friend would give me a bottle of decent whisky every Christmas for helping him.

    Equally I've had four pack of decent beer for 10 minutes work unlocking a mobile phone so it probably works out OK in the end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Equally I've had four pack of decent beer for 10 minutes work unlocking a mobile phone so it probably works out OK in the end."

      Not bad at all. I got 4 packs of very good beer once, but this was for one full afternoon of picture extraction from a surface corrupted drive, meaning, under Linux, try to copy every pic *one by one* !

      1. Mystic Megabyte
        Linux

        @AC

        "meaning, under Linux, try to copy every pic *one by one* !"

        Next time use PhotoRec, most likely a lot faster!

        https://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/PhotoRec

      2. bpfh Silver badge

        This is rare and such events are few and far between

        In the early 00’s, going above any beyond in helping remotely some Dutch colleagues in getting their network up for a large parcel delivery firm, come Christmas, I got a parcel delivered to home with 18 different bottles of Dutch beer, and about 4 years ago, doing the same for , funnily enough a Dutch sales director in my current company and at Christmas, a box arrived with a bottle of Jenever - think Dutch begin - arrived in my name at the office.

        Moral of the story: you need to keep the Dutch contingent happy!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is rare and such events are few and far between

          The real moral is probably that most Dutch people are decent folk who know the importance of recognising when someone has done that little bit extra to help them out.

          If only we could say the same for many British or US colleagues/PHBs, but, then, those are the countries that came up with the vile term "human resources". (I am British, btw)

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      I do not mind working on friends and family computers with on proviso, I get something in return for my time. Money, beer, food are all acceptable payment.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      nuclear option?

      I dont wanna be all like showy offy and "that was an easy fix" , but at the point in the story he was "scanning for viruses" I had already correctly diagnosed mouse, way before he spent 2 hours rebuilding the OS.

      Thats not because I'm a genius , its because my career spent about 10 times longer than average at that level.

    4. paulf Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I do all the IT for the parental units: computers, phones and a little bit of telly/DVR stuff. In return I get well fed on trips home and more cake than I can justify with my current exercise regime. It has worked well since they first started using my old 486 laptop 20+ years ago, and that is partly because it's on the basis of "If I don't approve it, you're on your own!".

    5. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Pint

      I have no idea what I was actually reading, but I thought your post started with 'hourly glass rate'..

  3. groovyf

    I've had payments in bottles of wine and chocolates numerous times over the years for some help and advice I've given over the years to needy souls when working at a previous employer

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Stopped that many years ago. Cash is always welcome if you want to say "Hey, you do computers, don't you?" and the answer is always, "Yes and it is £80 per 30 minutes with a minimum 1 hour charge".

  4. Financegozu
    Happy

    „I use Macintosh“

    This was at those times interpreted as a sign of utter incompetence … although I have a degree in IT

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: „I use Macintosh“

      Was the sign of incompetence the fact that someone would use a Macintosh, or was it the bizarre quotation marks? :-)

      1. qwertyuiop

        Re: „I use Macintosh“

        "...bizarre quotation marks..."

        Why are they bizarre? Not all languages use quotation marks where the leading and trailing symbols are at the same height. In many languages - especially European languages - they use the same convention that the OP did. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quotation_mark (yes, I know it's Wikipedia but even WIkipedia is correct occasionally!).

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

        Re: „I use Macintosh“

        "the bizarre quotation marks"

        Well, it is his way of exposing other peoples grammarly shortcomings, doesn't it? He is quoting himself, just the way he said it. So his grammar is correct, your critic is flawed.

        https://www.grammarly.com/blog/quotation-marks/

        Hell, I am German. Why do I have to teach English language?

        1. bpfh Silver badge

          Re: „I use Macintosh“

          That German “99-66” quote does throw me, but I still have existential problems with the french « quotation marks »...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: „I use Macintosh“

          Well, both English and German are Gothic languages, and most English people are illiterate these days, so you might as well teach English.

          There's someone lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC who might need your help.

        3. AK565

          Re: „I use Macintosh“

          Why do you have to teach English? It's quite simple: a large number of English teachers don't know English grammar. I was working in an ESL class once and a student asked the difference between "who" and "whom". The teacher replied that if it's before the verb the proper form is "who" and "whom" if it is after the verb".

          I remained professional and refrained from trying to takeover the class. To this day I'm proud of that.

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

            Re: „I use Macintosh“

            **OUCH** well I won't say German teachers are better...

            1. AK565

              Re: „I use Macintosh“

              For those of you der haben Deutsch studiert, a professor once told us, "For dative plural stick an -(e)n on the word, but if it looks really stupid just take it off."

              Same professor: " -(e)n or -(e)m: you can't tell the difference at conversational speed anyway, so it really doesn't matter. Either one is sufficient for grammatical clarity."

  5. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    I learnt a rule the hard way

    I once spent two evenings trying to sort out one of those [Diety] awful software modems for a friend, and got nothing for the effort. The rule came about because in the first hour of the first evening I said they needed to spend £15 on a proper hardware modem. When they said they couldn't afford it I ended up 'wasting' several hours getting the fscking piece of sh*t software modem w**king!

    My 'Golden' rule is that if they aren't willing to spend money when I tell them they need to then I'm not willing to spend my time helping them.

    I still support friends and family cos I hate to see them being ripped off by the likes of Team Knowhow, but I refuse to 'waste' my time doing it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ KittenHuffer Re: I learnt a rule the hard way

      You know that thing you do, where instead of writing out the word 'work' in full, you write it out as 'w**k' so it maybe looks a little bit rude? Just to let you know it wasn't particularly funny the first time you did it, and it doesn't get any better with repetition, so you can probably save yourself the trouble.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

        May not be intentional, some mailers have crappy auto-censorship filters.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

        You know your opinion? That you're posting anonymously? Yeah, nobody else cares.

      3. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

        Old habits die hard!

        P.S. I did upvote you!

        1. Zarno Bronze badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

          I thought you were making the joke of the modem wanking, because as we all know, the internet is for pron.

          Have an upvote for a chuckle.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

        You sound like a bit of a w**ker...

        1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

          Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

          Hard and furious, as I normally point out!

      5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. heyrick Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

          "No wonder you are so sensitive when you mother swears like that."

          Makes you wonder how it's said. Is it t-star-star-t or is it t-asterisk-asterisk-t?

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

            Makes you wonder how it's said. Is it t-star-star-t or is it t-asterisk-asterisk-t?

            Perhaps it's "t-star-asterisk-t"?

        2. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

          Re: @ KittenHuffer I learnt a rule the hard way

          I think he's right. And coming back with a Your Mum insult - oh dear. Bereft of imagination, are we, fuck face?

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: I learnt a rule the hard way

      My Golden Rule is to ask what antivirus product they are using and when it was last updated, and to just walk away if there is none or if it's from ages ago.

      I would like to say "you'd be surprised", but you probably wouldn't. Using a browser that accepts everything, installing everything in sight (seriously, who the hell thinks a bucking donkey mouse pointer is a good idea?), and having nothing at all to attempt to keep a check on what's going on...it is as dumb as the anti-vax people.

      Just. Walk. Away.

    3. Kiwi Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: I learnt a rule the hard way

      When they said they couldn't afford it I ended up 'wasting' several hours getting the fscking piece of sh*t software modem w**king!

      I do a lot of work with pensioners, often people who've been injured for years and do have very little income.

      Thus, my habbit is to take someone at their word when they say they can't afford something (and that meagre $15 might be most of their food budget for the week, or all of their travel budget, or...).

      If it's so cheap as you imply, I'm often happy to get it for them myself - especially if it's for someone I'd call a "friend" :)

      I've done that more than once when I could afford it.. If they can't buy it, then rather than "waste hours" doing something I don't want to do I save myself some time and help make my friend's life a little better :)

      (ok we both know I'm weird...)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm astonished. People usually expect you to solve their little IT problems as some kind of personal favour, in my experience, and feel little obligation to reward you for your efforts.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Little obligation

      The only person I know who is scrupulous about paying me for help is a somewhat impoverished ex-con. People with cars that cost more than my house, however, think a cup of tea will probably do.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge

        Re: Little obligation

        The only person I know who is scrupulous about paying me for help is a somewhat impoverished ex-con. People with cars that cost more than my house, however, think a cup of tea will probably do.

        My dad taught me that when I was quite small.. Rich people seldom get rich by spending money, and like to hoard it as much as possible.

        Poor people know how big a difference a little can make, and like to help out as much as possible.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. The curmudgeonly one

    I once spent the better part of a day on the weekend configuring a new home machine and transferring many programs and gigabytes of data for a colleague. My reward: a very small bunch of grapes. She did say she was glad not to have to pay the price quoted by the rogue she bought the hardware from.

    1. 1752

      She

      So is 'a very small bunch of grapes' an euphemism?

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

        Re: She

        Well, I don't mind "very small grapes", but would be offended by very small grapes.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a 1 hour 'conversation' with an AA patrol man who was taking me back after a breakdown. The conversation was me trying to troubleshoot a misbehaving PC issue - with neither of us n front of his home PC. After running through all the step s and issues to check he then asked me to write it all down for him.

    What did I get for it? Nothing, I even had to stump up for the large vehicle toll fee to get across the Severn bridge - at least he could have paid that for me. Yeah, if I was a bit more inclined I should've presented him with an invoice for my time. But I was tired and all I really want to do was sleep the whole way - not talk home PCs with a multitude of possible problems.

    1. WallMeerkat

      Did he at least put a little bit extra into trying to fix your car, or dropping you off at a garage that suited you rather than the AA?

    2. Imhotep

      Sorry to hear of your breakdown and hope you're feeling better.

      I blame the whole IT thing.

    3. Caver_Dave
      Flame

      You mentions cars

      IT support is like all the people that 'drop around' to have a chat about the snow and bad travelling conditions, when all they want is a free lift in your 4x4. - Before you start, it is electric and the roads around here are like driving across a field in parts!

      I never seem to get a lift in their convertibles in the summer.

      Now I work from home, we have got rid of one car and SWMBO takes the electric one to work, so I don't get bothered by the free lift brigade any more. :-)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the story author - Windows 7, misbehaving mouse cursor and it's a rollerball mouse so pretty old/unreliable anyway. I think I would have jumped into a few troubleshooting steps before re-installing an operating system.

    Namely - unplug mouse, does it still jump

    Yes - Delete driver and any sign of mouse from device manager

    No - try another mouse

    ---> Fixed

    1. Guy Geens

      Could be worse

      A former coworker (also IT) had a laptop that wouldn't boot anymore. He bought a replacement.

      Then, he tried to boot the old laptop one more time: it worked. The culprit was a defective mouse.

      The laptop had been set in a fixed spot and the mouse was plugged in all the time. He never thought of booting without it.

      It happened to me as well: USB stopped working on my desktop. After a reboot, everything worked for a few hours until the OS shut down the USB system. Since I didn't add any devices recently, I assumed the motherboard was failing and I ordered a new one.

      The next day, I noticed the problem did not occur when I unplugged my USB hub.

      I canceled the motherboard order and removed the faulty device.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Could be worse

        I noticed the problem did not occur when I unplugged my USB hub

        I had a similar thing with a USB-connected card reader a couple of years ago. One of those that fits in an internal 3.5" disc slot and connects to a motherboard connector.

        Actually, no, come to think of it, two of them in quick succession.

        First symptom was extraordinarily long (10 minutes some days) BIOS POST and a much slower than usual OS boot. Second symptom was (obviously) an inability to read cards (but I had two internal readers in that machine and a third plug-in reader so it wasn't a problem which needed sorting immediately). Third symptom was that OpenSuse (but not Windows 7 for some reason - this was a dual-boot machine) had one core of my "four core" AMD A10 processor glued to 100% usage and full speed. It seemed as if the USB system was sending a constant stream of connect/disconnect messages.

        It took several weeks for me to get around to diagnosing the problem by unplugging everything and starting from the ground up because I could accommodate a 15+ minute boot-up by switching the thing on and then getting a coffee. Once booted the machine was perfectly usable. Eventually I had a free morning and I considered the memory, the HDDs (there were four plus an SSD), the keyboard, mouse, even the graphics card (the A10 has internal graphics, but I'd added a card at some point when I felt I needed a speed boost). Eventually got around to plugging the card readers back in and "bingo!"

        Some USB chips must be a bit cheap :-)

        M.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Could be worse

          IIRC my Dad's PC had a very similar problem- being horribly slow to boot- a few years back, and the problem turned out to be a cheap, no-name PCI card for extra USB ports.

          It worked fine when that was removed and replaced with a replacement from a more reputable manufacturer.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Could be worse

            It worked fine when that was removed and replaced with a replacement from a more reputable manufacturer.

            One of my favourite tricks is showing people how sometimes the "name brand" and "cheap no-name" stuff differ only in the labelling, sometimes only in the what's on the box and maybe a sticker stuck on there somewhere :)

            One of my favourites was some recent snobbishness by a friend who'd gotten some fairly expensive "quality" hole saws from a 'prestigious' brand. I showed him my cheap kit. 2 differences, the colour of the paint (his yellow but mine red - with yellow underneath!) and the cardboard insert in the case that has the brand name and blade sizes on it. No other difference.

            Have seen that in bike parts/accessories and all sorts of other kit over the years. The same machines make the cheap stuff with the same components to the same quality as some of the expensive stuff.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Could be worse

              Sometimes parts "binning" goes on so that the parts are made on the same production line from the same materials but are then selected and the "best" ones get the big branding. Sometimes there is more demand in the "low end" channel than supplies of slightly inferior product, so the onlu difference becomes the label.

              The classic example, often used (probably not any more though) in business / management studies is that of Clive Sinclair and the Mullard (I think) transistors. Mullard manufactured transistors, tested them and sold them as conforming to a particular specification for quite a lot of money. Transistors which failed to meet the specification were thrown away, or possibly sold to hobbyists. Clive bought large quantities of these at knock-down prices and employed people to test each one and match them up into pairs so that he could use them in amplifiers. It worked out cheaper than buying the to-spec devices and presumably they were just as reliable - so long as the devices that had completely failed testing were chucked.

              Actually, having just found this very interesting article it seems as if Clive did this more than once!

              This sort of thing goes on everywhere, from cars - where the basic engineering underneath a Skoda or a Dacia is exactly the same as underneath an Audi or a Renault - to computer processors, where "chips" from the same wafer will - after testing, and possibly taking account of demand - end up in processors sold with vastly different clock speeds, quantity of cache and (though less so with some AMD devices these days) core count.

              My boss used to work at a local contract baker, and he says the only difference between the M&S cakes and the Asda cakes (or Tesco or whatever it was) was a couple of quid and the fact that at 3pm someone had to change the roll of labels in the labelling machine.

              Things like USB chips though? There are plenty of examples of cheap - or even downright fake - chips which just don't work properly. People seem to be aware of this with flash memory devices, where there have been plenty of examples of SD cards and memory sticks failing early or not having the advertised capacity.

              One fake device which has caused an awful lot of problems over the years is a USB to serial adapter. The genuine FTDI device is excellent, but someone was churning out fake FTDI devices which looked identical but didn't quite work as expected, though a lot of the problems in that case seem to have been caused by FTDI issuing drivers which deliberately hobbled the fake chips.

              M.

              1. Kiwi Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Could be worse

                Actually, having just found this very interesting article it seems as if Clive did this more than once!

                Thanks very much for that! Quite an interesting site.

                A 48K Speccy was my introduction to computing (aside from those weird ][E things the school had in a room occupied by even weirder people), and I've had an interest in Sinclair stuff since then though not read too much on the guy or those who worked with him.

            2. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Could be worse

              Actually, just thought of another one. At work I use Behringer X32 mixers. We once had a group send their "tech spec" through which specifically rejected any Behringer equipment, though Midas equipment was ok. I felt an awful need to point out that the Music Group, which is now the parent company of Behringer, is also the parent company of Midas and that the low-end Midas M32 desks are identical to the Behringer desks in all respects other than the logo, different styling and a slightly different preamplifier on the inputs. Both desks use Midas-branded pre-amps, but from different series.

              M.

              1. Kiwi Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Could be worse

                Afraid I shan't follow your links..

                Years back I ran the sound gear for my church, and in doing that (and other musical stuff I did - I'll just say I've performed live "quite a few times") I got to meet some interesting people, got invited to some fun events, and go to play with some nice kit.

                I've not long had the carpet cleaned.. If I follow your links I fear it won't just be drool that I have to clean up! (although I wouldn't have to water the garden (such as it is here) for a month!)

                I'll read the page on Sir Clive, but if you want me to look at mixers you'd better have a long chat to Noah first!

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: Could be worse

                  The X32 series were game changers for small amd mid-size concerns, particularly gigging bands and churches which had suddenly found themselves in the company of a half-decent 'worship group'. Other, more well-known, manufacturers were caught off guard and struggled to get comparable products into the market.

                  In my case I work in a museum with very strong community links and find myself op-ing at half a dozen events a year where the X32's 32 channels, 25 mix busses, eight 'slots' of digital effects, parametric EQ on every channel, gating and compression on every channel, remote control ability (by net-conneced laptop or tablet), motorised faders and - in particular - a cat.5 'snake' theoretically capable of 48 channels in and 48 channels out (my old snake had 12 in and 4 out and a cable nearly two inches thick) has transformed the way I work, and for a very reasonable cost. At least, that's what I told my boss.

                  Its only real downside - from my point of view - is a lack of true stereo channels, meaning you need to pair mono channels (one button-push) and those eight faders on my 'line level sources page' are effectively just four.

                  It looks like Behringer may just be introducing a new architecture, very similar but with a few minor deficiencies ironed out and updated tech (a touchscreen!). Only one product at the moment (and one that won't suit everyone) but I have no doubt more to come.

                  M.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Could be worse

        Had similar recently with a brand-new Win10 mini PC for a relative, to replace their aged 7 box,

        Thing refused to boot when the photo/film scanner was plugged in.

        Unplugged, and it came back to life.

        And no, drivers created for 1607 did not work on 1903, even though the scanner maker said they had windows 10 drivers.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

          Re: Could be worse

          Sounds like "my computer got UEFI, can you heal it?"...

          UEFI has a tendency to scan all attached drives. So a dodgy USB or a bad CD can block everything. Check BIOS options on that, sometimes they exist to avoid that, and sometimes they even work.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Could be worse

            Good thing to keep in mind, that.

            The scanner only shows up as a not-quite-TWAIN USB thing in device manager, unless it's got a weird DFU mode that only shows a virtual disk at boot.

            It's an older Epson with the 35mm film/slide scan feature, using EpsonScan.

            If it weren't for the film scan section (which is used frequently enough archiving family photos), I'd have switched out to a laser mopier when I replaced the money-pit inkjet...

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Could be worse

              I have an Epson V700 which works well enough under TWAIN on linux, but the original Epson software - which will only run on my wife's old Core Duo (not Core 2 Duo!) Mac mini - does have certain features which make it much more convenient when scanning multiple negatives or transparencies, if a lot slower than my linux boxes. In particular, the ability to set auto exposure / colour correction parameters for each pre-scan thumbnail and then "leave it to it" saves a lot of fiddling about in the GIMP (or whatever) afterwards.

              M.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Could be worse

                This one is, I believe, a Perfection 2580.

                Has the automatic feeder for negatives, which takes all the faffing about away.

                But only when the driver is behaving.

      3. TSM

        Re: Could be worse

        I once had a work machine - can't remember if it was NT4 or 2000 - which completely failed to boot, due to a faulty mouse. The precise details are mercifully lost to time, this being around 19-20 years ago, but I was surprised at the time that such a small issue could have such severe consequences.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Could be worse

          I've had plenty of computers not boot due to the lack of a keyboard being connected. "Keyboard not detected. Press F1 to continue." is one of the more nonsensical error messages I've seen.

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      If fairness I wouldn't have necessarily jumped to that mouse as culprit either. I would've looked for a wireless mouse transceiver first, then plugged in my flash drive and booted linux to see whether the problem was definitely the hardware.

    3. Kiwi Silver badge
      Boffin

      I think I would have jumped into a few troubleshooting steps before re-installing an operating system.

      Same. Old wires get "noisy" when the number of still-connected strands drops below that necessary to carry the power. That would've been my first check.

      (Also I like to go for the easiest check first - sure sometimes I waste 20 seconds swapping out the mouse, but sometimes it's only the mouse, or only the cable, or only the...)

  11. JTUK

    To be fair, that job shouldn't have taken 2 hours+. Being charged 2 hours labor to replace a £5 is the sort of thing you associate with dodgy mechanics and rip off TV shows.

    I had a similar job back nearer 2000. There had been a lightning storm and since then a home PC's sound had failed. I arrived and within 2 minutes of arrival figured out that the speaker was unplugged. Plug in the speaker, sound working. In and out in under 10 minutes with £20 in my pocket. I'm sure if the mouse had been diagnosed in 10 minutes then he'd be pretty pleased with the easy £20 he could of made.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "Being charged 2 hours labor to replace a £5 is the sort of thing you associate with dodgy mechanics and rip off TV shows."

      If you don't have a spare mouse, how do you diagnose it? Actually, that is a good question. Unplugging the mouse and the problem goes away just shows that it's a problem somewhere along the line. Could be OS or hardware. But the mouse looks OK, and if there's no sign of damage along the wire then it isn't so obvious. The only way I can think is to download a Linux Live distro and fire that up.

      I'd have tried a new mouse before reinstalling Windows, but it might still be quicker to do that than go and get one.

      The two hours' time isn't for solving the problem, it's for finding it.

      1. My-Handle

        Upvoted

        Sometimes, finding the problem is almost all of the work. Just a week ago, I was getting reports of an issue with my code. It was just something small and niggly, one small part wasn't working quite right. I knew that once I found the issue it would be a 2 minute fix. It took me two and a half hours to find.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Was it a missing semi-colon?

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            "Was it a missing semi-colon?"

            When I was an undergraduate, someone came to me with a LaTeX problem. They said that their file was no longer compiling, and did I know what the problem was?

            It didn't take long to find out that the problem was the following: you can run the compiler in non-stop mode, that just ignores all errors and carries on with its best guess as to what you meant. This person always ran in non-stop mode, until there were so many errors that it broke the compiler's buffer.

            I recommended starting to write the thesis again with non-stop mode off, and fix each error as you find it.

            1. l8gravely

              LaTeX rocks even still!

              There's nothing better than LaTeX for writing a large document, esp with math and tables.

              Also it gets totally annoying when you want to shift something just a bit to make it look better. But then everything else goes wonky. Oh well, it still does better at 99% of layout, and let's me concentrate on writing docs instead of playing around making them pretty.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: LaTeX rocks even still!

                > There's nothing better than LaTeX for writing a large document, esp with math and tables.

                <cough> ConTeXt

                But if you must use LaTeX then second best is often good enough. ;-)

          2. My-Handle

            "Was it a missing semi-colon?"

            Nope. Written in Boss-mandated VB

            1. Swarthy

              That's your problem: It was missing all of the semicolons.

          3. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Was it a missing semi-colon?

            One of my children is nearing the end of GCSE Computer Science. One of the biggest frustrations while doing the module on Python was that of transferring between editors and their differing attitudes towards Python's ridiculous "meaningful whitespace" indentation system*. Not just that one editor auto-indented using TAB, while another insisted on SPACE, but that even SPACEs got corrupted sometimes with four spaces magically turning into five or six somehow. Of course, trying then to run the code resulted in Python throwing up an "inconsistent indenting" error, or whatever it is, or failing to spot that and then having code execute at unexpected points because (for example) that "print(result)" statement was indented inside the loop, rather than outside, or the "counter = counter + 1" ended up outside the "if" clause, rather than inside it :-(

            M.

            *don't get me wrong, I use Python regularly. Wouldn't consider myself an expert by a long way, but I do quite like it. Apart from the indenting, which does seem to be very much more pedantic / inflexible / could have been done in a different way than it should be.

            1. Adelio

              Spacing

              Ahhhhh, the good old cobol days when you had to write the code in specific columns (for me the 1980's).

              Why would anyone write a modern language(I presume python is modern) and have "meaninful white space" as part of the language!.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Was it a missing semi-colon?"

            Gees, as a very part-time programmer the amount of times I use = (assignment operator) instead of == (comparison) makes me go loopy. Must be left over from my earlier programming days when it didn't matter. It often causes no error just a weird bug that has you pulling your hair out.

            At least in one of my IDEs I can cause a hard error if it detects it during compiling.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Pet peeve: "What's wrong?"

          "If I knew what was wrong it wouldn't be now."

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Not necessarily. It could be that you know the thing that is wrong and you need someone else to help you fix it. Of course, if you've already explained that you don't know and they ask you something that nonspecific, then it's annoying.

        3. DavCrav Silver badge

          "Sometimes, finding the problem is almost all of the work."

          These are NP problems, where confirmation is easy but determination is hard.

          The current work I'm doing is one of these. Once I'm able to prove my result, I can write a program that anyone can run and it will check it quickly. "So what's the fuss?", they will inevitably say. But it has so far taken me three weeks to prove this and I'm not finished yet.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            That's where I love the likes of JTUK's comment above. Some people just don't get that there can be a hell of a lot of work involved in diagnosing a fault, and sometime just getting to a part (cars/bikes/trucks) can be hours of work.

            You deserve a few of -->these. I know full well the utter joy one feels when one's work gets treated so contemptuously.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        The two hours' time isn't for solving the problem, it's for finding it.

        Ajh yes, the old percussive maintenance rule.

        £100 for fixing it, broken down as: £5 for hitting it with a hammer, £95 for knowing where to hit it.

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

          Or in this instance, failing to know where to hit it and taking an unreasonably long time (and effort) getting there.

          I sometimes pay people for jobs rather than do them myself. When I do, it's because I expect them to be proficient and get it done quickly. For example, the gardener could do in a two hour session what would take me most of the day.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Devil

            I sometimes pay people for jobs rather than do them myself. When I do, it's because I expect them to be proficient and get it done quickly.

            I sometimes do it just because it's a job I really don't want to do myself and can afford to give someone else the $$$. Mounting and balancing tyres is one I usually do that with. Can do it, have done it many times, don't have the space for a fancy machine so I'd rather chuck an extra tenner to the shop.

            Though when it comes to re-bores or new rings/honing etc, I would prefer to pay an old hand than to do it myself - decades of experience is worth paying a bit more (though I also really wish I'd done it myself at least once :) )

            --> Looks like a car and I swear sometimes they're demon-possessed!

      3. Wyrdness

        "If you don't have a spare mouse, how do you diagnose it?"

        From TFA "It was only then that Will thought to use the external mouse he kept in his bag."

        So he did have a spare mouse. He just didn't actually try it until after reinstalling Windows, resulting in 2 hours of unnecessary labour.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          OK, I missed that. If you have a spare mouse that is step 2 after "is the mouseball dirty". Actually, it's step 1 because step 0 is "wait, your mouse still has a rollerball?"

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            "If you don't have a spare mouse, how do you diagnose it?"

            Step 1: See problem with cursor moving around. The mouse is the most likely thing to make the cursor move unusually. Suspect it.

            Step 2: Unplug mouse. Is problem fixed? If yes, move to step 3. If no, move to step 5.

            Step 3: Decide whether to try to fix the mouse (E.G. cleaning it) or just replace it. If you decided to fix it and it still is broken, replace it.

            Step 4: Is fixed or replaced mouse still making the cursor move around randomly? If not, you're done. If yes, make sure you have replaced the mouse per step 3 and move to step 5.

            Step 5: The mouse is probably fine. The only other hardware that often changes the cursor position is the keyboard. Suspect it. Move to step 2 but replace "mouse" with "keyboard" in instructions. If you end up back here after the keyboard stage, continue to step 6.

            Step 6: Perform software checks.

      4. Annihilator Silver badge

        "If you don't have a spare mouse, how do you diagnose it?"

        I would think that a mouse behaving erratic is limited only to the cursor. Using the keyboard to control the machine (alt-tabbing around) would have presumably shown a healthy machine. My next step wouldn't have been "nuke the machine". I barely use a mouse.

      5. holmegm Bronze badge

        Yup, time for the old story.

        A high powered businessman was late to the biggest meeting of his career, a make or break thing. And his car wouldn't start! Panicked, he noticed a man walking up the street, carrying a toolbox, wearing coveralls which had a logo indicating that he worked as a mechanic.

        "Please help me get this started, I'll pay big!"

        The mechanic nodded, opened the bonnet, and peered around. Finally, after two agonizing minutes, he took out a little ballpeen hammer, took careful aim, and tapped somewhere on the motor once. Quickly closing everything up, he wiped his hands, started the car, found a napkin, and scrawled out a handwritten bill.

        "200 pounds!" roared the businessman. "For tapping once on the motor with a hammer?"

        "Oh," replied the mechanic. You want the *detailed* invoice." He found another napkin and wrote one out.

        £1 - Tapping on motor

        £199 - Knowing where to tap

    2. ckm5

      It's not how to use a hammer....

      It's not how to use a hammer, it's knowing where to hit.

      E.g. What you are paying for is the knowledge & experience to get it fixed in 10 minutes, not the actual ten minutes. That's why most mechanics charge "book rate" not actual time.

    3. Kiwi Silver badge
      Boffin

      To be fair, that job shouldn't have taken 2 hours+. Being charged 2 hours labor to replace a £5 is the sort of thing you associate with dodgy mechanics and rip off TV shows.

      I agree in this case that the time to diagnose the fault was a bit long..

      However...

      A couple of years back a friend's bike was showing signs either of a stretched timing chain or a faulty timing chain tensioner. He brought it round to me (given he doesn't have nearly the mechanical experience I do).

      The job required a lot of work. First, we had to take the fairings off to be able to get the tank off - you're looking at some 30 minutes to get it off, and 45 minutes of fiddly annoying work to get it back on.

      Then the carbs have to come off. On this model that means removing the air box, which is much more easily achieved with the rear wheel removed. It's about 5 minutes to get the wheel off but at least half an hour to get it back on (several parts have to be lined up and a rear wheel isn't overly light, then there's getting the chain tension right and alignment done - some bikes are very easy to go back together some are a pain). The coils and plug cables also have to come off - but that was only a 5 minute job, and about the same to refit them.

      There's a rubber heat shield just above the engine - that's something you can pretty much yank off in seconds, but again it's a good 10 minutes of fiddly damned annoying work squeezing your fingers into really tight blind spaces to get the thing properly clipped in.

      Then the rocker cover comes off - basically the top cover of the engine. This is quick to take off and quick to put on, 2-3 minutes coming off, 4 or 5 going on (including some time to put some liquid gasket on).

      This is a twin cam bike with a centralised timing chain (4 cylinders). Each cam shaft of course has the associated valve rockers, and although this was a fairly modern bike there's manual adjusters. They all need checking during the assembly even though they shouldn't be out of adjustment. That's often easily a 10 minute job but can me much more on some bikes (the engine has to be wound over manually to a specific position for each valve on some models, and a 16 valve engine requires 16 separate engine settings).

      To get the tensioner out, the cam sprockets have to come off the shafts to give enough slack to get the cam chain off and get the shafts out of the way.

      Then you can pull the cam tensioner out and diagnose what was wrong. 10 years of few oil changes and no flushes, some crud had clogged part of it's mechanism (it's a hydraulic adjuster) thus it needed cleaning rather than replacing. The part was IIRC more than $NZ400 to replace, 2nd hand ones available but the risk of them failing prematurely would not be worth the saving given the effort required.

      The engine's an "interference" engine, IE the valves drop into the cylinder and if a valve is down when the cylinder is up they meet - and a LOT of damage can be done. Thus, it is very important to get the timing right. That's not a particularly hard endeavour but it does take time to do it right. Best case the engine misfires or runs poorly, worst case the engine is destroyed beyond economical repair. It's not one for the inexperienced to try without another set of eyes, and again takes easily 15 or 20 minutes - that's once you have the timing chain in place and the cam shafts mostly lined up. Again you have to wind the engine over to a certain point and then set the cam shaft into place, then repeat for the other one, and repeat a few times to make sure everything works right. You also want to slowly wind it over by hand as if you do screw it up enough it's going to stop hard, and if that's hard enough you might find a valve stem snaps some weeks or months later. That sort of failure can be messy when out on the road.

      Of course there's the reassembly as well, and just for a small job on a bike, no parts replaced. More than 5 hours, 2 of us on it, one experienced one intelligent.

      I've also done very minor engine work to replace a faulty crank angle sensor in a car. Some cars were made well with them being in fairly external places, others require getting deep into the innards of the engine and require the engine itself is removed than the majority of components stripped (crank case and cylinders have to be separated). A quick check on ebay for "crank angle sensor" shows the prices for varying models ranges from $6NZ to $98NZ, so the part itself could be very cheap but the labour required to remove, strip then rebuild, reset and re-mount the engine is considerable.

      TL;DR Yes, some mechanics can be dodgy but many aren't. Some parts do take a few hours to replace and some of those parts are quite cheap. I have plenty of experience rebuilding bikes and a few cars.

      here had been a lightning storm and since then a home PC's sound had failed. I arrived and within 2 minutes of arrival figured out that the speaker was unplugged.

      While I normally check basic things, it's uncommon for lightning to unplug cables! :)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Should have told the friend to get a better designed bike. "Better" meaning that servicing requirements are taken into consideration as part of the design.

        1. Kiwi Silver badge
          Pint

          Should have told the friend to get a better designed bike. "Better" meaning that servicing requirements are taken into consideration as part of the design.

          If one keeps up the oil changes and maintenance then these issues do not happen with these designs.

          If one uses oil not ideally suited to the bike, uses the oil well past its number of Ks, leaves the oil sitting in the bike for years at a time "unstirred", well.....

          These machines are designed to be reliable, to be played with on the roads rather than in garages. This is one - the reliability is very good (bikez.com gives it 88.8 vs 74 for the average - no I never read far enough to see what/how they rate :) ) if maintained. If he and previous owner's had kept up the oil changes (or he'd done what I said when he first got the bike - give if a serious oil flush because you really don't know what's been used in it!) and used decent oil then this problem probably would never have occurred. This is not a common service part, and with sports bikes things like timing changes are more likely to last the life of the bike - chances are high it'd be totalled or rust in place than be run long enough to ever need a replacement timing chain.

          For my own bike - there's actually no listed replacement schedule. When you have the rocker cover open you measure the distance between 2 pieces of metal and if it is below a minimum distance you replace the chain. You only have the head off when you're doing stem seals or very rare cam/shaft replacement or a few other jobs that many bikes can live without (or die long before they need it).

          It's not a high-service part so the ease of accessibility is surrendered to other design features that help make the bike more reliable and/or give it better performance.

          Thanks for your post though - you actually got me digging through some stuff and doing some learning/rethinking about parts I've never needed to look at before (like my bike's oil pump - never considered it before but now know how it comes apart should I decide to risk inspecting it - really must get into metal casting so I can re-make some of the less-available parts. Burt Munro made his own pistons in his garage without the use of the internet or modern techniques/materials, so it should be a doddle for me to do it!

  12. Anonymous IV
    Headmaster

    "Rogue registry entry"

    I commend someone who could find a rogue registry entry which would cause the cursor to move randomly around the screen.

    Many of the registry entries are rogue; none is likely to be implicated in a random screen movement event...

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: "Rogue registry entry"

      I commend someone who could find a rogue registry entry which would cause the cursor to move randomly around the screen.

      Never come across it either and it'd be low down on my lists.. But I have seen the entire USB subsystem disappear down the back of the registry..[1] And with some of the faffing registry issues I've spent ages faffing around with, TBH I'd not be surprised if a registry error could cause that.

      [1]Had a machine with dead USB hardware. Told customer that a new machine would be needed (one of those models with a specific shape of MOBO for a specific shape of case), prepped a USB with something to let me do some other checking or analysing work (maybe we'd talked of getting a new HDD as well so maybe I was about to clone it). Got started then twigged.. Duh, I'm using the mouse, it's not HW at all! (Oh, IIRC the network was also down - too many years ago and too many otherbroke machines come my way)

      That's the day I discovered tweaking.com's tools. Only thing that got the machine going properly.

      (Thinking further, I could've been seeking their office keys or something else that would moan with a large scale HW change)

  13. Andytug

    I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

    Have sorted out many issues for friends, never asked for payment but always been bought a few beers or a bottle of wine for my trouble (despite not asking), or when I've asked them for help with something I can't sort (e.g. gas plumbing, mains electric) the answer when I ask them if I owe them is "No, don't want anything, you sorted my/my (insert family member)'s computer out".

    The parents on the other hand...….all I can say is you can hate on Apple as much as you want (and I do) but since they got Ipads instead of laptops my life has been considerably quieter, just the odd "is this email dodgy" query every so often.

    1. wyatt

      Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

      That's my experience with Apple as well, always problems with laptops but never with ipads. Fortunately they're enough for both my parents.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

        I always find my parents very difficult 'customers'. Worse, months after fixing something any other fail that develops on anything electronic is rapidly 'self-diagnosed' as 'our son's fault!'.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

          As a followup, I would point out that their experience with me as a curious and frequently incompetent child, they might have long memories of other issues!.

        2. IR

          Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

          I get the blame for breaking equipment they didn't even have the last time I visited.

      2. WallMeerkat

        Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

        To be fair to Apple, when my wife's out of warranty iPad started having graphics issues they exchanged it for a refurb item there and then.

        1. swm Silver badge

          Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

          Your wife is out of warrantee?

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

      " the odd "is this email dodgy" query every so often."

      If you have to ask, yes it is.

      1. MJB7 Silver badge

        Re: If you have to ask, yes it is.

        Sadly, no. There are *still* far too many large corporations training users to fall for phishing emails.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: If you have to ask, yes it is.

          Then their emails are dodgy too. QED.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: If you have to ask, yes it is.

            You can never get them to understand that.

    3. WallMeerkat

      Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

      Did you survive the netbook era, in between PCs/laptops and iPads/tablets

      "Can you put windows on instead of the penguin?" let me just pull a windows licence out of thin air. I didn't even have a USB CD drive at the time.

      "Can you change the wallpaper?" eh? Then turned out Win7 starter blocked you from changing the wallpaper!

      "It's slow" I boot it up and it's bonzi buddy, 10 toolbars, half a dozen fake antiviruses...

      1. Andytug

        Re: I must be lucky then or have better friends.....

        Don't think anyone I know went the netbook route.....I do have a couple though, a Toshiba (which is on Linux Mint and works fine, once I put more RAM in it) and a Lenovo Miix which is on Win10, but only has a 32GB SSD - which is really 28GB, so once Windows is on it can't even do it's own updates without a USB stick in the side. Cost very little though (2nd hand)so OK for chucking in a bag, use cloud storage/USB to stop it using the SSD.

        A lot of netbooks came with Win 8 too, which was also a PITA...…..

  14. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I don't do windows

    That's usually enough to put people off, although you may need to follow up with "I don't know anything about Apple either".

    By then they'll be looking at you a bit strangely. If that bothers you just put on your best winning smile and say something like. " I can design a new traffic light controller for you."

  15. chuBb. Bronze badge

    My reply is no i do servers

    And if pressed explain its like getting a truck mechanic to have a look at your lawn mower,

    if they persist further, i say all right at an hourly rate of half my existing tab, that usually is enough to make people stop once they realise that it wont be a freebie.

    That said it very much depends who is asking, as im quite prepared to do labour swaps with other trades, as they instantly get where your coming from if you flip the question back at them as they know "could you just" really means "could you do a job you would usually charge for because we are stood at a bar together and i buy you a pint (actaully worth 30mins of work at min wage tops) you will do it for free" you can get good results, i.e. got my boiler serviced minus the plumbers labour charge in exchange for fixing his lads PC, and my cam belt swapped out for the cost of a new belt, for fixing a snap on branded diagnostics PC, so yeah when it benefits me i will fix your computer ;-)

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: My reply is no i do servers

      im quite prepared to do labour swaps with other trades

      The modern equivalent of the ancient practice of turning up at your local hostelry with a chicken under your arm, looking to barter yourself an evening's drinking.....plus ca change plus c'est la meme chose

      1. Sherrie Ludwig

        Re: My reply is no i do servers

        im quite prepared to do labour swaps with other trades

        I have heard it called "blood for blood", you do your trade for me doing mine. I am a jeweler, have swapped jewelry repair for WIFI setting up.

    2. WallMeerkat

      Re: My reply is no i do servers

      This! I explain it as asking a train designer to look at why a Polo is misfiring.

      There was a good image somewhere, points at laptops "What you think I work with" and servers "What I actually work with"

    3. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Pint

      Re: My reply is no i do servers

      Yeah, I like to barter. Back in Windows 3.1 days had a guy needed some work done - I upgraded his PC with old parts I had, reinstall Windows add some Public Domain/(real) Shareware games for his kids (everyone loved that) and replaced a broken monitor cable. All at no cost because he was new to town (outback Australia).

      Found out he was an electrician.

      He was so grateful that he came to my place (pre-air con) and installed ceiling light/fan combos in all my rooms. We'd bought them hoping to install 'soon'.

      Spent ages up in the hot roof doing 'electrician stuff'. We fed him well that day, too.

      Total win-win all round.

      Much later on, he wired my outside shed (four car garage) for me complete with heaps of lighting and power outlets because I gave his two (lovely) kids nice secondhand laptops for their use. I think I covered some costs for powerpoints/outlets although he said he finds them everywhere. Just like we IT folk seem to score memory chips or old HDDs that still work.

      Poor guy died from liver cancer not too long ago. Quite sad really. Nice bloke.

      TL;DR Bartering works well then you die.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: My reply is no i do servers

        Poor guy died from liver cancer not too long ago. Quite sad really. Nice bloke.

        That's a nasty one that one. A guy I knew died from that some years back (also an electrician in Oz, though QLD IIRC). 5 weeks from diagnoses to funeral, and he went to the doc at the first sign of symptoms.

        RIP Steve :(

  16. ColinPa

    Im a brain surgeon - dont ask me to fix your car.

    Go back to before windows XP days when I used a "green screen" in the office. I was a troubleshooter on the mainframe, and would be sent around the world to help sort out problems. Someone from up the road knocked on my door and said they had heard I worked in computers - could I help. They had a "new printer" - which I think had been nicked from a scrap heap. They plugged it in and it would not talk. I explained I had no knowledge of PCs and said they might need to get some drivers for it - did they have the diskettes? They glazed over at words like "driver". They didnt have the diskettes so I left them to it. The next week my neighbour told me that I was being bad mouthed up and down the street because of being "a computer expert" and knowing "nothing about computers". I said it was a bit like asking a brain surgeon to fix your car. The good thing was I wasnt asked to help for any other problems in the street.

  17. MarkB

    My version of the story

    It was an open evening at my children's infant school a couple of decades ago. I was at the time teaching programming on Prime minicomputers. Didn't have a home computer and hadn't touched any thing of that type.

    Teacher sidles up to me and says "you work with computers, don't you? Can you have a look at one of ours?". Much against my better judgement, I did so...

    They had two BBC model B computers (I think that's what they were) side-by-side, hooked up to a pair of "portable" TVs (remember the days of cathode ray tubes?). One was working fine. The video on the other was all to pot.

    Starting point was to find an expert - so I grabbed a passing child to show me how they would normally start up the systems. Rebooting didn't help :-(

    OK - I know nothing, but I can see that one is working and one isn't, so how about connecting each to the other TV? Fortunately I swapped the leads at the computer end and hey-presto the first one now worked fine, the other didn't. Swap the other end of the lead, see that the lead was indeed the culprit and tell the teacher they need to get a new lead.

    I think I got a cup of tea and a biscuit, but so did all the other parents.

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: My version of the story

      100% this.

      A keen trouble-shooting mindset and some experience will enable you to isolate the causes of far more problems than pure technical knowledge could ever hope to.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: My version of the story

        "A keen trouble-shooting mindset and some experience will enable you to isolate the causes of far more problems than pure technical knowledge could ever hope to."

        Yes, but occasionally it does bite you. I had a duff power supply that blew all the capacitors on a motherboard. I correctly diagnosed that the motherboard was borked, so tried a new motherboard, but of course with the old power supply. Now I have two borked motherboards.

        That was when I learned to never use the original power supply in a system with a non-obvious hardware fault.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: My version of the story

      Talking of Prime computers, the children were going through the extras on a Doctor Who DVD the other day and came across this advert (YouTube link). Looks like a TV advert, but would they really have put that on TV in the 1980s?

      M.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: My version of the story

        It was shown in Australia.

  18. ChrisB 2

    Yep, until...

    After many 10s of hours doing freebie stuff for my (now late) father's small business, I finally, in a fit of exasperation, snapped at him, "Look, don't you know I get paid £xx per hour for this sort of stuff?" His reply was, "I wondered when the penny would drop." In fairness, he then paid me my rate.

    Lesson learned.

    1. chuBb. Bronze badge
      Pint

      Re: Yep, until...

      Had a boss like that, at the time i wasnt best pleased with him, in the intervening decades i now look back and i am very greatful for the lessons he taught me early on.

      Have a pint on me for dredging some fond memories up!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Yep, until...

      "many 10s of hours doing freebie stuff for my (now late) father's small business"

      OTOH I suppose your father's work in his small business fed, clothed and housed you for a good many years.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Yep, until...

        "OTOH I suppose your father's work in his small business fed, clothed and housed you for a good many years."

        I think that's part of the commitment when you decide to have children. Although I agree, my two-year old is a right moocher. Get out there and earn your own money for breadsticks.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not a fortune but still

    "Inside was a poxy £20," he recalled, "so for my good deed I 'earned' £15.00"

    No a fortune by IT standards, but still, he got something ! I recall entire afternoons re-installing gear + SW + patching for only one beer.

    We, IT guys, are way too kind/stupid.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: not a fortune but still

      The thing behind that is that the entire planet is using a nasty combination of complex hardware tied to (arguably even more) complex software that works beautifully when it works. And we rely on that stuff just working. But often it doesn't " just work" and most people are then pretty much screwed because working out which bit isn't doing what it's meant to can be a fucking nightmare even for the experts.

      And that's before you find a fix for it.

      So someone who "knows computers" has, at a bare minimum, the ability to work out where the problems might lie.

      The alternative for most users is to take their stuff to a possibly dodgy local place where they'll do something costly and destructive, possibly unnecessarily.

      (My late sister took her laptop to one such place because she " didn't want to bother" me. Lost all her data for her. From a hdd that would have been recoverable before they messed with it).

      1. ArrZarr Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: not a fortune but still

        On the other hand, doing something that is vehemently destructive to a recalcitrant piece of HW or SW is always tempting....

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: not a fortune but still

      We, IT guys, People who get caught in certain social situations are way too kind/stupid.

      FTFY. Nothing particularly unusual about IT guys (not to mention gals) there.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: not a fortune but still

        "FTFY. Nothing particularly unusual about IT guys (not to mention gals) there."

        There's no need to add "gals" as an alternative to guys. Every Youtube how-to video starts off with "hi guys", whether it be a male or female showing you their latest "clever life hack". Guys is now an all inclusive term.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: not a fortune but still

          But it does often ( not necessarily in this case, you can never know) indicate the "gals" are an afterthought.

        2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          "Guys is now an all inclusive term"

          It's kinda leaning towards being just blokes rather than inclusive these days.

          I thought it was gender inclusive, too, but then someone pointed out: ask a straight male friend how many guys they've dated, and witness the inclusion in action.

          C.

        3. imdatsolak

          Re: not a fortune but still

          In fact, as a non-native speaker about two decades ago I asked native speakers about that. I was informed that “guys” was usually gender-neutral in usage such as “hi guys”, but not necessarily so when used in other contexts.

          Admitted, the native-speakers were US but even then, this left me quite a bit puzzled...

          1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
            Joke

            Re: not a fortune but still

            I used the term 'muthafucka'. It's gender neutral.

    3. defiler Silver badge

      Re: not a fortune but still

      We, IT guys, are way too kind/stupid.

      We, who work in knowledge industries, are way too kind/stupid.

      Had a chat with a vet who told me he was always getting asked to look at peoples' dogs when he was at the pub or whenever. Same thing, different amount of fur.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not a fortune but still

        "Had a chat with a vet who told me he was always getting asked to look at peoples' dogs when he was at the pub or whenever. Same thing, different amount of fur."

        Vets have also other issues in the sense everyone finding a wounded animal would bring them to them, and of course not paying ... I know it is an issue for my cats' vet, to the point she's put a notice about it !

      2. Kiwi Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: not a fortune but still

        Same thing, different amount of fur.

        Disgustingly, some of the machines I've had to work on have more "fur" than any woolly mammoth!

        [El Reg, we need a 'mindbleach' icon!]

  20. Sequin

    My father in law was having problems with his laptop and asked me to look at it. It turned out that something had been spilled over the keyboard, though he denied all knowledge of any such spill. I replaced the keyboard with a spare sourced from ebay, so it took about 10 days in total to get it back up and running reliably. At this point he decided he needed to have a spare machine available to him, as he constantly buys sh*te from ebay and Amazon, and does all of his grocery shopping online. He handed four old laptops to me and asked me to get them working - a couple were over 10 years old. Two of them had XP installed and one had Vista! I managed to get a Win7 machine running, but told him that doing up the other three was not worth my effort of my sanity. He was not happy with me!

    1. OssianScotland Silver badge
      Coat

      Its not really a problem if your father-in-law is unhappy with you, its when your wife gets into the act too, and you find family loyalty remains firmly with her parents, not with you.

      Coat, please, for when I'm flung out of the house in this weather

  21. 0laf Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I spent hours reformatting the PC of a friend of my uncle (he was a nice chap but this was about the final straw with family whoring me out as IT support). After hours of doing the XP reinstall I'd forgot to put on a firewall from disk before heading for the internet and Windows update. Fucking thing got Pwned in about 30sec. Queue more bloody work.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      A very long queue....

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my day....

    Did several hours work for a work colleague who I had done work for before, he knew my payment options (beer) and handed over the appropriate fee.

    I only discovered when I got home that it was from the discount bin and was already past its "Best before".

    Strangely, my phone did not get answered when they rang in future (we worked for different companies by this time)

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: In my day....

      Well, Beer is unlikely to go off quickly and in his defence, I have had some very good beers (frequently a little unusual) from 'bargain bins.

      1. Zarno Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: In my day....

        Some of my best finds are the "oddball kegs" from the local distributor.

        Microbrews, big name, import, seasonal, all at random.

        Either close to expiring or a little over (maybe a week?), and haven't had a skunky one yet.

        They're usually discounted between 10% and 50%, and I remember picking up a half keg for the price of a 6th a few times.

        1. Andy A
          Pint

          Re: In my day....

          One pub I occasionally visited (when I could con someone else into driving) had a stock of various vintages of Courage Imperial Russian Stout - a wonderful 10% abv brew, made to a quality, not to a price. The recent stuff was well worth drinking, but I once had a bottle which was 30 years old and was like nectar.

          Some years later I found a pub which had an odd bottle stuck behind their bar, and managed to extract it from them for what I considered an excellent price. It's a 1992 vintage, so just a couple of years to go!

          No such thing as a "best before" date on beers of this strength!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

    Someone stopped by my desk with the phrase "You know about computers don't you? Could you just show me how to do a thing in excel?"

    I barely know anything about excel except that it's a tool bean counters use. I referred the user to the extensive library of manuals we had at the time.

    I was collared by my manager a few hours for being lazy and refusing to help. So I did help. I dutifully grabbed a copy of the manual, looked up the right page in the index, and read out the instructions to the poor user.

    That got me a written warning for insubordination.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

      I'd love to see the wording of that written warning, as I could see a quite lucarative constructive dismissal case coming out of it!

      1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
        Flame

        Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

        More trouble than it's worth, you can be sure.

        Half-wish I'd known about "constructive dismissal" when I had to leave a job because an office manager's insistence on standardising desks and chairs despite my protests meant I couldn't sit there for an hour without back pain. But only half-wish, because as with anything involving the law, the cure would probably have been worse than the problem.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

          "the cure would probably have been worse than the problem"

          You're forgetting the revenge element, namely the shit you'd have been dropping the office manager into.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

      Years ago (in the late '70s) I was warned that if I called a certain person for help I needed to absolutely sure that I didn't know the answer. "she can chew your balls off over 50 miles away"

      I called with a problem, she asked me 3 questions in quick succession.

      Q. "Do you have the manual on your desk?" - A. Yes

      Q. "Can you turn to page 74?" - A. Yes

      Q. "Can you read the second paragraph?" - A. Ouch!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

        That would be politeness in Germany. Not wasting your time or hers.

        It always interests me how different countries have different forms of politeness, which can so easily lead to misunderstandings.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

          I'm guessing there was a specific tone involved. Some of that comes in the phrasing of the questions as "Can you do [something you obviously can do]", which are usually designed or at least interpreted as mocking, but the tone while saying that could make it even clearer. I like the efficiency of the answer, but had it been me, I would have phrased it as "Please read the second paragraph on page 74 of the manual and let me know if that doesn't address the problem."

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

          Absolutely. These days I always respond to a snotty RTFM with “wot, the whole thing?”

          Because if I am ever moved to point someone at a manual, I always try and be as specific as possible. They are my colleagues, not my competition.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

            I used to deal with customers that would rather ring up than read the manual. Been over ten years, but the info you want is on page 28.

            Had one installer ring, gave him the page 28 - he didn't have a manual. His office just said, "Don't need a manual, just give AC a call."

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

        It's a carefully cultivated skill to offer exactly the right amount of resistance to requests for help so that:

        1) When the "helpee" is just asking you because (s)he can't be bothered, they realise that it would be quicker and easier to do it themselves

        2) If it's a reasonable request, and there's the opportunity to impart useful knowledge to a colleague who will abosrb and use that knowledge, they still come to you for assistance

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I got a verbal warning for refusing to help once.

      excel??? I only use it for my expenses!

  24. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Machivelli says

    People respect fear but not generosity, ie. if people think you will do favours then they will keep on asking. So, learning to say no or that it will cost, is an essential life skill.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Machivelli says

      He might have been a crazy bastard, but reading some of his work I can't help but think he might have been right about a lot of it. He just lost the balance and ratio.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Machivelli says

        I don't think there's any suggestion that he was mad, but The Prince has been given such bad press by the usual crowd who can't differentiate between descriptive and prescriptive.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Machivelli says

        He didn't lose the balance, it's just that the irony and sarcasm don't travel well.

  25. Nicholas Nada
    Pint

    "the landlord's daughter was not keen on protection"

    Pretty sure there's a song about that in the Wicker Man

  26. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I can scare them away!

    50 for the call out, 50 for the first half hour, 50 an hour for the rest. Plus expenses, just like Eddie Valiant...

  27. NellyD

    I helped someone once.

    And we're still together 14 years later. No cash changed hands but I did get a couple of kids thrown into the bargain.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: I helped someone once.

      I think this wins the "most excessive follow-up work" category.

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: I helped someone once.

      So, payment in kind then?!?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I helped someone once.

        No, there are two, so, payment in Kinder!

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I helped someone once.

      Sounds like you were short changed! ;-)

      Well done, you!

  28. Sam not the Viking
    Meh

    Old Dogs and New Tricks

    "Since you fixed my PC, it's running slow again." For years I had been telling my friend to replace his outdated piece of crap rather than me get involved to 'get it going' again. This was causing some irritation between us. My son was aware of the conflict. He intervened, took the computer away 'to fix', dumped it and bought a new one. After a few days he returned it, 'repaired'.

    15 years on, that computer is still being used...

  29. Jimathy

    I charged someone £20 cash just yesterday just for hitting restart, fastest £20 I've ever made.

    1. Strebortrebor

      My son drove 3 hours (round-trip) recently to sort out a "hard down" situation at a shop. The female end of the line cord had fallen out of the IEC22 connector on the back of their switch. To be fair, when the lights stop blinking on a 2960, it has often been due to a failed internal power supply unit.

  30. The March Hare
    Meh

    Captive Wonk

    I take a 30 minute ferry ride to work & other users know I'm in I.T. so it's not unusual for someone to sit down beside me and proceed to tell me their computer related problems, while everyone else earwigs madly in case pears of wisdom drop from my lips.

    Bit difficult to say "look, piss off will you I'm trying to look at farcebuk" so I listen intently (you know that look where the face says yes but the eyes say out for lunch) and then offer some banal advice such as "That's unusual, when did you last update it?" or "who else has access to your PC and what did they do last time?". This usually foxes them completely because they often have trouble remembering what colour underwear they are wearing today.

    They still keep doing it though .... <sigh>

    My daughter tells me I'm too nice... when she's not asking me to fix the computer because the kids have been on it again that is.

  31. WanderingHaggis

    I find most people are thankful and I have had some nice Christmas gifts as a result but I don't appreciate being then given ownership of all subsequent problems.

    1. Imhotep

      Ah. But you own all subsequent problems because "it must have been something you did".

  32. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    My late father

    belonged to an old car club..... and I get dragged along to the meeting(mostly because he was driving, paying and it was in a pub)

    Got one of the old duffers come upto me and say "You make stuff right?" , "err yes "(not wishing to admit to robot/CNC wrangling).

    "Can you make me one of these?" and he holds up some well worn piece of metal

    "Sure... how many do you need?"

    "2"

    "Ok that will be about 500 quid each"

    "WHAT!!!!!!"

    "I can knock them out for £5 each if you order 5000 per month"

    And that was the last time anyone asked me to make anything... or get invited back to that old car club

    Lucky they had one of those automated de-fib machines there.. a real life saver..

  33. Rob Gr

    My standard rate for *good* friends is a meal and bottle of wine. I simply refuse for anyone else.

  34. juice Silver badge

    The joys of family tech support

    These days, we're all scattered across the country, and only tend to get everyone together for birthdays, Christmas, etc. And while some of the younger generation have picked up the simpler family IT tasks, anything more complicated tends to pile up for the next time Yours Truly visits.

    As such, I did find it funny one year, when my sister (who moved into IT about a decade ago, thereby making her a prime Family Tech Support Target) made the mistake of getting to my Dad's house a few hours before I did

    By the time I landed, she just looked at me with a mixture of horror, exhaustion and awe.

    "I never realised just how much stuff you get mugged for..."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The joys of family tech support

      "Family Tech Support Target"

      Have an upvote for this one !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The joys of family tech support

        My parents moved to Spain from the UK some years ago. Everyone thinks I get free holidays, but it;s just "work" sometimes.

        I swear that one time I went over to change the time on the clock in the car. Even the bods at the dealer couldn't set it....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The joys of family tech support

      My dad makes a list of PC issues , and presents me with them on each visit.

      1. Kiwi Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: The joys of family tech support

        My dad makes a list of PC issues , and presents me with them on each visit.

        My Uncle was great with that. I'll be there 2 days before moving on to someone else... No talk of computers.. Have the bike loaded, the riding gear on, be saying goodbye and then "Oh by the way, while you're here, I've been having trouble with..." and out comes a list of things that'd take a few hours to fix, that could've been done while we were chatting over coffee on the first day... Sometimes they'd require a full backup before proceeding.

        When 10 came out and started giving him serious headaches, I made a small change and now his computer runs mint! He loves it, many fewer issues, and I can remotely correct them quite easily.

        (Dunno about elsewhere, but in Kiwiland saying a car was 'running mint" meant it was running very well)

        1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

          Re: The joys of family tech support

          I would think that "running mint" comes from the pristine status of a freshly minted of a coin.

          1. Kiwi Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: The joys of family tech support

            I would think that "running mint" comes from the pristine status of a freshly minted of a coin.

            Perhaps that is the origin.. .. But in my time in NZ it often was used to refer to a vehicle running very well, even up until a few years back.

            Cars and other things would also be referred to as being "in mint condition", IE "like new".

  35. OssianScotland Silver badge
    FAIL

    Eternal Support

    It doesn't just apply to families, but there seems to be an attitude that, once you have been within say 2 metres of a computer (and certainly if you have come into physical contact with it) that the owner is entitled to ask (and get) free support until the heat death of the universe.

    I once had a call along the lines of:

    Client: Do you remember the computer of mine you fixed a few years ago?

    Me: (pause to think...) Er... yes.... (remembering hours of work on an ancient, virus ridden object)

    C: Well, I've replaced it a couple of times since then, and the new one's not working properly, so when will you come out to fix it?

    Me: Would shortly after hell freezes over be OK?

    1. Zarno Bronze badge
      Devil

      Re: Eternal Support

      Three day forecast says it's still above freezing there.

      Hell, MI Three Day Weather Forecast

  36. N2 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I used to say Yes!

    Yes, I can fix that, looking at a dust filled pile o' shyte.

    I'll give it the once and for all fix of 'The Landrover Treatment'

    Oh, whats that then...

    I put it behind the rear wheel of the Landie and reverse over it. Seems to fix everything.

    Never get asked again.

  37. GrahamRJ

    Landlord's daughter didn't believe in protection

    I can't believe no-one's associated that phrase with potential routes for payment in kind. Or is that just me?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Landlord's daughter didn't believe in protection

      Nah, protection is vital or it could end up in some very expensive maintenance!!

    2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Landlord's daughter didn't believe in protection

      Computer support is just like sex ...... one mistake and you support it for life!!!!

  38. Imhotep

    The Ultimate Test

    I refer them to my daughter. She used to set the time on my digital watch for me after the daylight savingd time changes. Of course, I had to wait until she was home on a semester break.

  39. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Because I "work with computers" I often get approached for advice on some misbehaving machine or another. The conversation normally goes.....

    Not a customer although they are behaving like one: <charlie brown teacher voice noises>

    Me: "OK, sounds interesting describe the problem to me in a bit more detail"

    Me (inside voice): "take as long as you like, I'm mentally compiling my shopping list for trip to Sainsbury's later"

    NACATABLO: <charlie brown teacher voice noises>

    Me (loud enough for bystanders to overhear): "Hmmm...rings a bell...think I saw a problem like that before...hmmmm....oh yes, that was it...it was PC that belonged to a client, got misused a bit - you know surfing dodgy pron websites, adult chatrooms/webcam sites, that sort of thing...turns out they'd picked up a virus from somewhere...."

  40. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Just my now ex wife. Despite a degree in CompSci to her name things like networking are apparently a mystery to her. So 'my laptop isn't connecting' and expecting me to solve it was common. I'm an unapologetic MacHead but I know my way around a Windows box well enough so I was usually able to fix it.

    One thing I've noticed since her and her computer/phone have left the premises is that the wifi falls over a LOT less often. I noticed when she wasn't around anyway but mentioning the fact would not have been tactful and might have precipitated our break up even earlier. Still 30mumble years isn't a bad innings considering the average marriage length these days.

    Post split relations are if anything better than when we were cohabiting.

  41. red floyd

    Never again

    We were over at a friend's house for dinner.... Their (Windows Me!) computer was acting up and they asked if I could have a look at it. The obvious happened. My (late) wife had a lovely dinner with friends, while I was stuck at the computer for THREE HOURS. That was the day I swore, "Never again".

    Now when I'm asked what I do for a living, I say, "I'm a software developer -- and no, I won't fix your computer."

    The only person I perform free IT work for now is my girlfriend.

    1. Postscript
      Facepalm

      Re: Never again

      oh that story takes me back - a senior faculty invited a gang of staff to Christmas lunch at her house. I was the department IT person and went along. Whilst there she said "Oh, PS, my Mac in the next room is having problems - will you go fix it." So the rest of the group sat around socializing while I fixed the Mac. It's a good thing she didn't invite the custodian and demand she fix the toilet!

    2. Andrew Moore

      Re: Never again

      I had something similar- ended up spending 4 hours removing viruses and then went and asked if there was anything to eat (I was starving). They looked at each other sheepishly and then corked the remains of a bottle of red wine and handed it to me. I left it on their doorstep.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My own version of this mistake

    A new curry house had just opened in Morden, the owner was a friendly chap and the food tasty. I only lived round the corner so when chatting while picking up an order it had got onto the topic of what I did for work.

    Cue the question: could you setup the network here? (wifi setup for POS machines and owners mobiles)

    Initial response was its not really my field (unix/datacenter/perl were my main skill sets at the time) and I'm rather expensive to hire for that sort of work (at the time in 2010 my day rate was around £500)

    However being a regular at takeaway curry lark I suggested a compromise - this takeaway for free, dinner provided while I work on the network and 20% off for life. I thought it was pretty fair and we shook on it.

    The work was fairly trivial, couple of hours of config on various machines and a bit of explaining the details to the owner, all was well for the first 6 months or so - then I started to get friction on getting my discount. Turns out he had offered several other start up promotions for discount and had decided not to tell the staff that mine did not expire when the rest did. I wasn't impressed and stopped ordering from there.

    Not long after (with no intervention from me I might add) I got a text asking if I could come and do some further setup, problems with new devices on the network. In response I pointed him in the directionof a friend of mine, setting up freelancing windows and basic network support/fixing - at £25/hour which I thought rather reasonable - he was angry I wouldn't just come and fix it for a free meal...

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: My own version of this mistake

      Ah well. I once found myself helping a new (Anatolian) restaurant in Stoke Newington to (re)write their menu, because it made no sense whatsoever. Did I do it for payment? no. But even so, some gesture of thanks would have been nice.

      Did they offer me a free meal? Or at least a cup of coffee and a snack. Did they fuck. Did I make sure I told everyone I knew that they hadn't? Did I go there or recommend them to anyone locally?

      What do you think.

  43. Postscript
    Meh

    stiffed with lotion

    I spent the bulk of a Saturday afternoon helping someone at their house - setting up their network, getting backups going, some training on cameras and photo software. Partway through the afternoon she came in with a tube of hand lotion. 'I got this in London, you might like it' - er, ok, not something I wanted but whatever. When I finished up, she walked me out to the car - and didn't offer to pay me at all! Evidently the lotion was the payment (the previous time she gave me the traditional cash for work). I've done a lot of IT side work for people and never had someone just straight-up stiff me before. I didn't press it altho I should have. Needless to say, I ghosted her next time she emailed asking me to come spend my precious weekend hours working for her ... for free? She wrote again later asking if she'd offended me, but never mentioned actually paying me.

  44. pstones578

    I stopped doing this years ago

    Same story as everyone else so won't bore you but suffice it to say you learn the hard way and move on. 20 years in IT now and the only person who get's free support is the spawn point (mum)

    1. Soruk

      Re: I stopped doing this years ago

      Same here, only my mum and my wife. My mum even brought her machine over (120 miles) after Win7 committed seppuku. It now runs CentOS 8, making it much easier for me to assist from a distance, and she's even decided that she prefers CentOS to Windows. Win-win!

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: I stopped doing this years ago

        You missed out on a good one there ..... Big win-win to sin-bin Win!

        I've also defenestrated my dear Mum. Ubuntu (with Team Viewer), and support is soooooo much easier than before.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This one time, at a pizza shop...

    This one time, at a pizza shop, I was doing a "clean and update" on the back room computer, and found a rather interesting stash of images.

    I think even Paris would blush at them.

    Finished the job, didn't say anything, sanitized my hands, and got paid.

    Haven't been back to that establishment since.

  46. DeVino
    Thumb Down

    Family-yes, elderly neighbours-yes, friends-maybe, others-nope

    "Can anyone help with computer" asked lady in the village.

    Yep. Quoted my hourly rate. She agreed.

    3 hours later had not got near what she wanted done

    due cleaning the junk she had on the system and little side-trips she sent me on.

    She guilt tripped me down to half-price and I got out of there.

    She then deleted 5 years worth of emails (she is self employed).

    Said that she was "following my instructions". Was bollocks.

    I took pity and undeleted them (not just out the trash).

    She slipped me a tenner "for your little girl".

    I had just saved her professional existence.

    Last favour I did !

  47. Cleryoptrus

    Fee structure

    For immediate family / close friends I've always charged "unlimited black coffee and chocolate biscuits". I'm now on a diet so I don't even get the biscuits - bugger!

  48. IGnatius T Foobar ! Bronze badge

    Have an excuse and rehearse it.

    Eventually we become old and wise enough to know how to dodge incoming support requests. Mine is: "Actually I'm a data center guy. I work on big servers and networks. If your computer cost less than $10,000 to buy, I probably don't know much about it."

  49. Noram

    This brings bad memories.

    This article brings back bad memories of a problem I spent weeks trying to solve back in the KA7/Slot Athlon era (I think it was, although it may ave been the K6-2?), back when certain configs of Via chipsets with AMD chips and Soundblaster cards could be an issue.

    A friends machine kept crashing at random but mainly during or just after gaming (not surprising, he was a heavy gamer), it didn't matter what he was doing every now and then it would hard lock and require a full reset via the switch.

    So I duly did all the patching, disconnected non essential hardware, checked the memory (and swapped it for spares), checked the drives, reinstalled windows (again), tried it without the sound card etc.

    Over the space of about a month or more I must have stripped the machine down fully at least three times, reinstalled everything a couple of times and I couldn't get it to recreate the issue when I was working on it (I went as far as to sit the machine next to mine and use it for gaming for a couple of days), nor did I see it happen until one day I was at his house and it happened whilst I was setting up his email after an install, suddenly it struck me that the crash happened just as the mouse moved and pulled the cable a bit..

    On a hunch I swap the mouse with mine (same model) and plug it into my home machine, and after a few days I have the same crash whilst answering an email.

    It was an Intellimouse V3, and it had a bad conductor so every now and then it lost it's connection when moved, but because it was mainly happening in the fast movement's involved in gaming when the mouse cable was being jerked around it looked like a problem with the system mainly under the stress of gaming (overheating/graphics/sound driver etc).

    Now this was was back before you had many USB slots so it was being used via it's PS2 adaptor, and the computer did not like that mouse suddenly dropping off when the computer was in use and froze, if it had been via the USB port it would just have disconnected and reconnected.

    From memory that version of the mouse became a bit notorious for failing due to a lack of strain relief where the cable exited the mouse, I know I got through 2 replacements under warranty (having made sure to swap to the USB connection ;) ), and most of my gaming group who were using them ended up with at least one RMA replacement (MS were great with the CS for them).

    Great mice, really poor design on that one part and I suspect it cost MS a fair chunk of cash, I know it cost me some grey hairs.

    It taught me a valuable lesson - check everything, don't assume it's the problem that is commonly reported and don't discount anything.

    The lesson about helping out friends and family with IT problems without suitable remuneration took a few years longer and didn't really set in until the day my brother turned up at 10pm at night with one of his friends to ask me to sort out a laptop issue, fortunately it was simple (text size changed) and I managed to remain calm, but afterwards I made it very clear I wasn't doing it again (I'd just gone to bed after a bad day when the door went so was really not amused to be answering the door for what I thought was an emergency to be ambushed into fixing some strangers machine in my PJ's).

  50. Anonymous Tribble

    Pubs

    Yes, I have been asked for computer help by staff in pubs a few times.

    One was having problems with their Windows 2000 (I think it was) PC. I told them I don't use Windows. They replied "Oh, do you use Vista instead?"

    At another pub, some years earlier, they were having problems with one of the cash registers not working. I took it home and fixed the problem and took it back the next day. I got a good few free drinks for that :)

  51. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "It was the middle of the last decade"

    So, about 2005.

    1. Anonymous Coward
  52. IrishFella

    "Sage Advice."

    Don't you ever bring up that piece of s*it software like that.

  53. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Wait, what?

    You can get PAID for a friend's & family callout?

    This changes EVERYTHING.... For a start, my parents owe me thousands!

    1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: Wait, what?

      Be careful - they may want back rent and meal/laundry costs reimbursed.

      "Do you know how much it cost us to bring you up?"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wait, what?

        And that's why my parents always get free support. I figure I owe them a LOT.

  54. shedied

    @the curmudgeonly one

    "I just got off the phone with him (he's a good friend of mine); he says that it's my turn to play the rogue, as you put it, in the next round of support calls -- yours included."

  55. shedied
    Pint

    Standard rate

    For close friends I charge for a whole pizza (enough for everyone), and beer. Except the beer has to be the *imported* stuff, you know Belgian, Japanese, or anything you really have to go to a specialty liquor store for. I give them directions when they get curious about this 'acquired' taste. Either they forget about the task at hand or switch priorities; you can tell at some point.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No good deed...

    Built a friend (who was skint) a free PC from my spares. Told him it would be fine for word/excel to do CVs and job letters, but not for gaming.

    Days later he's moaning its too slow to play games on so he's bought himself a 'proper' computer.

    Lesson learnt.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: No good deed...

      Days later he's moaning its too slow to play games on so he's bought himself a 'proper' computer.

      Quite amazing how quickly some 'skint' people can come into money when the machine you spent some time on (and maybe wasn't free to you if you didn't have quite enough spares) wasn't good enough.

      Amazing how quickly some can moan about how bad you are with computers when - surprisingly - the free machine doesn't perform quite as well as another friend's $11,000 gaming rig (with 2 kilowatt PSUs, 3 top-end graphics cards.....)

      Even more fun when the machine you made clear to them was a long-term loaner that you wanted back when they upgraded becomes "Oh it was rubbish so I threw it out, I didn't want it around the house any more".

      And that gets better still when the next words are "BTW, this new machine isn't quite right, can you come round and fix it for free? You know how poor I am" ("No sorry, I don't do Windows work anymore, no clue what I'm doing with it").

      [--> Make mine a 'bitter' please, with a 'twist' of lemon!]

  57. Gobhicks

    No sympathy

    I'm not actually an IT professional but I like to think that, having used computers for fun and work for decades and faced with that scenario, the first thing I would have done would have been to make completely sure there was nothing wrong with the mouse...

  58. Uberredskn

    I’m a gynaecologist- I never get asked

  59. Hazmoid
    Pirate

    payment methods

    when i was working for a Stockbrokers, the occasional bottle of good single malt scotch or carton of beer made itself my way for fixing personal computers. However the one that really made my day was one broker who handed me a one hundred trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe. Given that it was probably worth 25 cents US, I still have it up and show it to visitors to my desk.

  60. gnarlymarley

    three button mouse

    "I duly turned up at his home," recalled Will, "and booted up the beast, and right enough, the cursor was all over the place and unresponsive."

    I had this happen with a three button serial mouse when it was switched to two button mode. Just switch that after boot up and the cursor would be weird and jumpy.

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