back to article Clunk, whirr, buzz, whine. Shared office space can be a riot and sounds like one too

It's that hum in the office. It's getting to me. I have spent the last hour picking up active devices around my current nine circles of open-plan hell and holding them to my ear to see which one is the culprit. Various strangers – I call them "colleagues for the day" – are obviously taken by surprise to have someone waltz over …

  1. Franco Silver badge

    I genuinely thought last year (after having seen several very loud bands) that I was developing tinnitus, until I realised it was only at home. Turns out that the digital switching PSU for my laptop and the buzzer entry phone for my flat aren't friends, and the phone was generating a noise.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      that I was developing tinnitus

      Had it for many years - triggered by consumption of painkillers. Which are pretty much the only thing making moving bearable and hence I have tinnitus all the time.

      Fortunately, it's only a mild polyphonic whistle (dominant note is a high C) in my right ear so it's bearable.

  2. imanidiot Silver badge


    A hammer is the best solution to noise problems. It makes a lot of racket while you're doing it, but goes quiet after that. You've got to love that stunned silent look you get from co-workers as you send that annoying shit flying with a good whack.

    1. Antonius_Prime

      Re: Sometimes

      "A hammer"

      You mean a User Expectation Recalibration Device?

      It Recalibrates the users expectations of such things as continued use of fingers, kneecaps, smartthingys and wrists, if its utilised in the proscribed manner...

      1. theblackhand

        Re: Sometimes

        Or a ClueHammer(TM) if applied carefully to someones head in order to ensure any provided clues are retained.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Sometimes

          For that I prefer a clue bat, allows for some safe distance in case stupidity is contagious.

          1. ClockworkOwl

            Re: Sometimes

            A "Clue by Four" is also useful in cases of DIY...

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge

              Re: Sometimes

              so many possible references to the same *kind* of appliance...




              but my favorite is STILL the Cat-5-o-nine-tails

              I once made one using 4 cat 5 ethernet cables that came with wifi access points, being too primitive for modern networking (so they were in a boneyard bin), and I used a modified noose-not which gave me a nice handle and 9 perfect "tails" with plastic ethernet thingies on the ends - ouch! Took a photo even, hanging on a cube wall.

      2. Spanners Silver badge

        Re: Sometimes

        if its utilised in the proscribed manner...

        Who proscribed it? Spoilsports!.

        I prescribe multiple uses of a lump hammer.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes

      Also known as a banjo mute.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes

      that annoying shit flying with a good whack

      And you don't get done for ABH? You must have a *very* tolerant workplace..

  3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    My pet peeve in the noise-making stakes is things like phone chargers, laptop power supplies, etc.. In the past couple of years I'm finding more that emit an annoying whine. Just the right pitch to be annoying, just loud enough to be noticeable, yet just quiet enough that they're right b*****s to locate.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      EMF testing and mitigation has taken a back seat in the last few years, lots of switch mode power supplies are just shit designs or even downright dangerous.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        How dare you disparage Quality Chinese Engineering?

        Why, just today, I read they are planning to build an entire hospital for the folks in Wuhan and they plan to have it finished in a week, because, the quote said, they are the best at engineering.

        Not sure I would want to spend much time in that building.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If you believe the media hype* - I don't expect that the patents will stay long.....

          * after all the previous press about that we were all going to die from bird flu, and then swine flu, I'm not to worried about Chinese flu

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            I'll just leave this here:

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "I read they are planning to build an entire hospital for the folks in Wuhan and they plan to have it finished in a week, because, the quote said, they are the best at engineering."

          I think they did that in the SARS outbreak. Probably built out of a pile of shipping containers.

          1. Aussie Doc

            IIRC the SARS unit consisted of basically prefab 'villas' (for want of a word).

            The current design that I saw was similar - prefab and lots of assembly off site leaving a sort of large village with interconnecting 'isolation' rooms or something.

            Doesn't look too different to a large Australia holiday caravan/camping site that has on-site accommodation available.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      IKEA's Internet of Shit lightbulbs have an annoying tendency to whisper like a forgotten spirit in The Ring, but only when they are turned off. Which is exceedingly annoying indeed, as when you turn the light on so you don't stumble in the dark whilst trying to locate the source of the bloody noise that's keeping you awake...

      1. Anonymous South African Coward

        They're whispering subliminal messages to get you to buy more Internet o' Schitte stuff...

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        There's an easy solution to that one. Really cheap too, comparatively. It's a called a wall mounted light switch. It connects directly to your lightbulb with wires. You don't even need a smartphone to operate one!

        ==> Or am I?

        1. Gerrardstut

          worked well

          Tried this one last week, worked really well! thanx mate

      3. theblackhand

        They are saying "...if you buy something it would be a good excuse to have more meatballs..."

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "yet just quiet enough that they're right b*****s to locate."

      Just like "cricket" kits that chirp at odd intervals to drive people out of their skulls. The more clever pranksters would add a light detector so they only chirp when it's dark. If you pull out a torch to go searching behind things, it shuts up.

      1. Shadow Systems

        At MachDiamond, re: noisy bits.

        The device you're describing is called a "Annoy O'Tron" from ThinkGeek. It's not much more than a CR watch battery, a bit of PCB, & a tiny pizo speaker. It emits a cricket chirp at random intervals & random volumes in order to be as annoying as possible.

        Take a Roomba, a Raspberry Pi, & an AOT: rig the Roomba to the Pi & use the Pi as a random direction picker, light detection sensor, & "Human! Run away! Run away!" cockroach mode enabler; then the AOT to the Pi to trigger the chirping once it finds a quiet, dark, uninhabited spot from which to chirp.

        If anyone goes looking for it with a torch & the beam falls across the Pi, the Pi triggers the Roomba to make a run for it to find alternate shelter. If someone just turns on the lights & floods the room with illumination, the Pi makes sure the device finds the darkest spot in which to hide. All the while chirping at random & driving folks bonkers.

        You get bonus points for tweaking the Roomba to run at MUCH higher speeds, the AOT to operate at MUCH higher volumes, & equipping the Pi with a laser for self defense.


        Or so I've heard....

        Oh shit, I forgot to tick the post anonymously box again haven't I?

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: At MachDiamond, re: noisy bits.

          It emits a cricket chirp at random intervals & random volumes in order to be as annoying as possible

          Or you could take the much less techie route and just have a multi-cat household. With a mixture of ages so that exciting "chase each other over the humans in bed" game happens at random intervals during the night.

          With extra bonus points for "ooh look - human toes! I wonder what they taste like?".

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: At MachDiamond, re: noisy bits.

            "just have a multi-cat household. With a mixture of ages so that exciting "chase each other over the humans in bed" "

            Just one cat here that one does just fine all by herself. 4kgs stood on tiny little feet landing on one's soft bits does make one sit up in bed rather quickly. yeah, yeah, yeah, food. Message delivered.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: At MachDiamond, re: noisy bits.

          "The device you're describing is called a "Annoy O'Tron" from ThinkGeek. "

          Nope, I'm older than that. They've been around for ages. I'm trying to remember if they were around when I was in school, but I'm having a bad case of CRS.

  4. big_D Silver badge

    At least...

    he got an 'ology!

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: At least...

      He's a proper scientist, then!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: At least...

      Yep, this why they pay Dabbsy the Big Buckstm. He spots the odd clever linkages with the real world.

  5. thondwe

    Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

    At least you could just buy some noise cancelling headphones.

    AND, the car is even worse - annoying untraceable rattles, A/C humming at only 19C, ...

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

      If I could give you more than one upvote I would.

      Old age + tinitus can be an absolute nightmare. Not only have your ears seen better days (too many rock concerts standing 10ft from the speakers does that to you) but with tinitus, your hearing goes into overdrive trying to separate the sounds but fails miserably.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

        "your ears seen better days"

        Don't you mean they've heard them?

        1. ClockworkOwl

          Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer


      2. Aussie Doc

        Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

        "If I could give you more than one upvote I would."

        Don't worry. I gave him one for you.

        My wife (60+) suffers from tinnitus and hasn't been to a concert nor worked in loud environs.

        Says she's used to it and likes to have her music on low to block it out. Her GP can relate - says hubby is the same and has music on low.

        I don't have tinnitus myself but 'suffer' from being able to hear very high pitched frequencies that others can't seem to hear. Has been useful over the years in pinpointing certain problems with electrical stuff.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

          My wife (60+) suffers from tinnitus and hasn't been to a concert nor worked in loud environs

          Same is true for me (other than the 60+ - I'm only in the 50+ bracket). I rarely go to gigs (other than prog gigs - maybe 3-4 a year) and, when I do, tend to wear my old motorbike custom-moulded earplugs[1]. In my case it seems to be triggered by using opiates - if I don't have any for about a week then the tinnitus subsides. Since my regular prescribed painkillers *all* contain opiates, that ain't gonna happen any time soon - not if I want to be actually upright and mobile.

          [1] Riding bikes at high speeds and for long periods without earplugs *will* destroy your hearing. When I used to ride bikes a lot, I'd always wear earplugs for journeys of more than 10-15 minutes. I got some custom-fit ones made at one point - which involved having foam squirted down the ear canal. Not an entirely pleasant experience..

          1. Loyal Commenter

            Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

            Riding bikes at high speeds and for long periods without earplugs *will* destroy your hearing.

            I'm guessing you ride a Harley Davidson then. Motorbikes designed to make a lot of noise, rather than putting the power into the back wheel.

            I'd be very wary of wearing earplugs when riding. As any biker knows, everyone else on the road is trying to kill you, and every bit of sensory information is there to help you stay alive. With a decent helmet on, you're already reducing the amount of sound getting to your ears by a fair bit.

            Or are you left-pondian where the idea of not dying instantly if someone hits you hasn't caught on and helmets aren't mandatory?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

          I'm the lucky bastard that has BOTH tinnitus and the ability to hear high frequencies.

          The high frequency thing is handy at times. When we were designing and testing a product that included an on-board charge circuit for a SLA battery, I could hear when the charge circuit went into an unstable oscillation condition. It sucks when the cheap aftermarket wall wart charging my wife's iPhone went into a low duty cycle mode (doubly so because it happened i, the early morning hours, after the phone reached full charge).

          Didn't realize I had tinnitus until I got a nice set of noise cancelling headphones. In relatively noisy environments (loud office with noisy HVAC) they're fine. Tried them at home, and I thought my laptop's sound card was inducing a high pitched tone. Nope, tone is from between the headphones.

      3. wolf29

        Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

        "The first written reference to tinnitus dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt. A medical text named the Crocodilopolis (dated to c. 1650 – 1532 BCE) makes a reference to a “bewitched” ear or “humming” in the ears. In an attempt to cure it the text recommends creating an infusion of oil, frankincense, tree sap, herbs and soil, and administering this to the external ear with a reed stalk. The Mesopotamians also referenced the condition and would chant to try and get rid of “whispering” or singing in the ears."

        I think the "Blame the victim" explanations for tinnitus are just that. (not a peer-reviewed journal, but certainly a place to start as I sit in this little room with a branch-office server that sounds like Frank Zappa's grandmother's refrigerator. (has that constant dynamo hum) and my high-ringing tinnitus.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

          infusion of oil, frankincense, tree sap, herbs and soil, and administering this to the external ear

          Tinnitus can sometimes be caused (or magnified) by solidified wax in the ear canal so (in those cases) removing the hardened wax with something that softens it (like warm olive oil) can help.

          Not sure about adding soil to that mix - I suppose if it was sandy soil it wouldn't be too bad.

          Under no circumstance use a hard object to try and dig the wax out. That way lies perforated eardrums..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

      Yep, kids be warned but you'll probably make the same mistakes we made and then tell your kids not to make the same mistakes and the cycle of life continues. I just wish I'd listened to the nuns, these hairy palms are a bitch along with my tinnitus.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

        By the way, hows your eyesight?

        1. Aussie Doc

          Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

          They told me to stop or I'd go blind.

          I only stopped when I started wearing glasses like him ----->

    3. WallMeerkat

      Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

      My car is a large hatchback with a long bootlid. I use hearing aids and the bootlid has this vibration sound that no-one else seems to hear, but I haven't been able to prevent by adjusting the stoppers. At worst on certain concrete roads it sounds like the engine is labouring (it isn't and it is an automatic anyway, it changes down when it needs to)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

        I remember the mid-80 Vauxhalls that were known as "laughing cavaliers" due to the incessant squeaking of the rear hatch.

        1. David Haig

          Re: Welcome to the world of the Tinnitus Sufferer

          Earlier Cavalier estates could do a great impersonation of bagpipes at any speed over 50....

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Sorry Dabsy

    "Fart Phone" has been reserved for the upcoming 'FaceBook Mobile'.

    Mines the one with some bright yellow earplugs in the pocket. (Available from reputable (sic) Motorcycle Dealers).

    At least then your workspace cow-workers aka Colleagues will know when you don't want to hear about what bit of [redacted] is trending on anti-social media.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Digital Tinnitus

    I have recently acquired an affliction I've named "digital tinnitus".

    For so long, moving my mouse caused that dreaded digital interference in my expensive Yamaha reference monitors. It drove me crazy, until I finally, finally resolved the issue with a number of devices.

    But, even now, I still hear it, even though it is not happening. It comes and goes and it's very bizarre, but deeply annoying!

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Digital Tinnitus

      Reminds me of an old Compaq desktop I had at work. Sound out of the onboard speaker was OK but the signal path for the headphone output must have been too close to the CPU - there was a faint high-pitched buzzing when listening to music on headphones, and it used to fluctuate depending on how hard the machine was working. That was the PC that persuaded me to buy an MP3 player.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Digital Tinnitus

      Oh god, mine used to do that to my headphones as well. I'd completely forgotten about it, must have been on my old computer...

  8. 0laf

    I can barely stand to be in a car with a rattle. Much to amusment of my mate who drives a 170k+ mile passat that sounds like being on the inside of a recycling skip as it goes down the road. He knows it drives me nuts, it doesn't bother him at all and the fucking thing refuses to die.

    I've sold cars that have had unfixable rattles probably losing thousands and nearly crashed trying to find the source of little tappy noises (usually a zip on a jacket or a coin in a door pocket) but I just can't bloody stand it.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Hi mate! Wann'a ride?

      (yeah, my Passat refuses to die, that's why I love it)

    2. Andytug

      Simple cure

      Turn the stereo up until you can no longer hear the rattles!

      1. Antonius_Prime

        Re: Simple cure


    3. Stork Silver badge

      You would have liked my old Accord (same model as the Rover 600 series), the best UK built car I have been in. When I sold it with 340000km on the clock the only thing that rattled was the ice scraper.

      I can live with rattles that I know, but get worried about new, unknown creaks.

      1. Alistair Dabbs


        >> I can live with rattles that I know, but get worried about new, unknown creaks.

        Are we still talking about cars or have we moved on to personal health?

    4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      VW Golf - Squeaky Earring

      (Golf: Rabbit on the other side of the pond)

    5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      I can barely stand to be in a car with a rattle

      Don't ever take a ride in a 1966 Morris Minor then. You'd die of apoplexy after less than a mile..

      (I used to joke that we ought to attach a drag net to the back of ours to catch all the bits that fell off. Herself was *not* amused.)

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
  9. Andy Denton

    I hate open plan offices with a passion. My current contract has me working in a huge building that is one enormous open plan area (with a mezzanine) that contains over 600 people. I long for the days when I had my own office and I could shut the door and actually concentrate on some work.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Agreed. I got lucky last week ; I had a 5-day contract in a university and, upon arriving the first day, I found out that they had reserved an actual office for me, and I was alone in it ! In my 25-year career this must have been the first time I've had an office to me and me alone !

      Needless to say, I agreed to everything they asked of me and did my absolute best to solve their problem.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Active Noise Cancelling headphones might not be the absolute solution, but for me they absolutely help a lot. Put on some music if you're so inclined and it helps even more! (Or even just some brown or pink noise at low level if you have to focus but want more "blockage". I don't usually use white noise as the higher power density at higher frequencies is a little harsh for long term listening)

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Ironically some years ago I found a set of Bose (Noise cancelling, possibly) at the Apple store in Bluewater, a blast of Coldplays (Ironically) Speed of Sound blew away the whistle for the rest of the night.

        Damn the whistle has got more intense now I'm talking about it.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        if you have to focus but want more "blockage"

        Oddly enough, music actually helps me to concentrate. And, during a migraine, if I *don't* have music on then the pain seems a good deal worse. I suspect its because my subconscious is trying to visualise the intricacies of the music and is able to ignore the "ow ow ow" messages..

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "I hate open plan offices with a passion.

      I do as well. Studies have shown that the number one killer of productivity is interruptions. Open spaces where the company has gone to "hotelling" where you don't even work in the same place everyday means your sonic environment keeps changing. I would notice that when I would move house, it would take some time to get used to the change in traffic and ambient noise. After a while you learn to filter out the usual sounds. Most people wind up having to put in ear buds or wear headphones to blot out the noise in their office so they can work, but the loud environment makes phone calls difficult.

      Whether I need it or not, I run the HVAC at a hotel to drown out all of the new noises or I have a hard time getting quality sleep.

  10. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Splendid Isolation

    Any noisy devices are sequestered in the attic. My synology had cricket drives, always chirping when they wake up, I swapped them out for bigger newer drives, silence is golden!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I have a DS414j sitting pretty with 4 3TB drives and it's never made a peep - except when I turn it on, obviously. It is resting on a slab of styrofoam though, just like the boombox of my speakers.

    2. Mage
      Thumb Up

      Re: Splendid Isolation

      Visitors used to wonder what the funny noise in the bathroom was. Server used to have 5 x 15,000 RPM Ultra Fast & Wide SCSI. It's in the attic. Now it has one SATA drive and there is also now a wall extractor wired to the light switch.

    3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: Splendid Isolation

      In my first machine (way back when) I had a Seagate drive that seemed to have a nest of young swallows in it, rather than crickets. I new the sound well as at my parents' place there were several swallows nests just outside my bedroom window. It was quite a nice sound to wake up to in summer, so I didn't mind the gentle chirps the drive gave mainly during startup (I was only too glad to have a whole 80 MB of space, after all!!)

  11. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Companies in France

    Ah, the days when GEC-Plessey Telecommunications still existed. Universally known as GPT, caused no end of amusement in France,

    At least the advent of digital technologies means that newly-arrived Brits browsing the small ads for used cars no longer have to wonder why they're all labelled K7. My French friends in the UK still snigger at preservative-free jam, and people living in cul-de-sacs, though.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Companies in France

      Ah yes, the cul-de-sac.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Companies in France

        "Ah yes, the cul-de-sac."

        I well remember as a spotty teen on my first visit to Germany and giggling at all the signs stating "Ausfart" along the autobahns.

        1. BostonEddie

          Re: Companies in France

          Much giggling in Swedish class (Elementary and Advanced Swedish, so we could listen to Bergman films), lesson on desert: "cake dish" sounds like, "kokfart"

        2. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Companies in France

          You would have enjoyed a visit to the Swiss national stadium at Wankdorf then

    2. Uncle Slacky

      Re: Companies in France

      > newly-arrived Brits browsing the small ads for used cars no longer have to wonder why they're all labelled K7

      Also, the French don't use the acronym for CDs that you'd expect ("DC") as it sounds like death...

      I wonder why there are never any Toyota MR2s for sale in the small ads either?

      1. WallMeerkat

        Re: Companies in France

        Was going to post about that sports car

        Apparently it was rebadged MR-S for the French market?

        Other UK rebadges include the Citroen Evasion as Synergie (someone explained to them that it means getting away *with* it, as in taxes, rather than *from* it, as in a holiday), and the Great Wall Wingle became the Steed when it was briefly sold.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: Companies in France

          Apparently RR did not check the German reaction to Silver Mist

          1. Spamfast

            Re: Companies in France

            Apparently RR did not check the German reaction to Silver Mist

            I was told by my GCE German teacher that they spotted it just in time and released the model in question Silver Ghost instead.

            Hearsay though so I could be wrong.

        2. rskurat

          Re: Companies in France

          The Chevrolet Nova didn't sell very well in Latin America. I'm sure GM twigged early on, but I don't think they ever re-badged, since The Company Is Never Wrong.

  12. Dr. G. Freeman

    There's a annoying hum here in the lab office.

    sadly can't fix it as it's coming from one of the undergrads.

    1. Evil Scot

      Febreze, wit a vengeance.

    2. Antonius_Prime

      Someone earlier on mentioned a hammer, go with that...

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "sadly can't fix it as it's coming from one of the undergrads."

      One place I worked was plagued with an incessant whine from the interns. They didn't read the fine print that part of their duties was to bear the pranks from the permanent staff.

    4. Spamfast

      Plenty of post-grad techies/engineers with aroma issues.

      Not just the ones who live alone or with their mum's either. (I can only conclude that their partners are anosmic, they are dynamite in bed despite the miasma or they are on a much higher pay grade than me.)

  13. Andytug

    So many things emit 50Hz noise, or a harmonic of it..

    Pretty much used to that, but for odd ones.....

    The one gadget that winds me up in our house is the Wii, if the kids have left it on you can hear it upstairs! (It's on a rigid built in MDF unit under the TV, right under our room, and the vibration from the disk drive travels right up the chimney breast.).

    I am afflicted with "engineers ears" though, I blame my grandad. For example I can tell if just one the revolving arms in the dishwasher isn't spinning, just from the noise it makes.....

    1. Ivan Headache

      Re: So many things emit 50Hz noise, or a harmonic of it..

      Our diswasher (a Miele) started playing up on Boxing Day (annoyingly with a house full of freel..guests.

      When the engine came to fix it he sat on the floor switched it on and listened for a moment or two then said, "Something's obstructing the pump."

      10 minutes later he's got the dw on its side and the pump in his hand, 2 chewed-up bay leaves and an olive stone are removed from its innards and he puts it all back together (with a new rubber seal of course) and its as good as new.

      Out of curiosity - what it the purpose of a bay leaf?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So many things emit 50Hz noise, or a harmonic of it..

        Bay leaf - in my missus spag bol, it's the equivalent of a lucky sixpence in a xmas pudding!

      2. Spanners Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: So many things emit 50Hz noise, or a harmonic of it..

        what it the purpose of a bay leaf?

        I understand he was the gardener for Sir Basil and Lady Rosemary...

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: So many things emit 50Hz noise, or a harmonic of it..

        what it the purpose of a bay leaf?

        Flavour dear boy, flavour.

        Used in a number of cuisines (Italian & French being but two - lightly used in some Indian cuisines too).

        It does have a distinct flavour - it's not strong but acts as a flavour enhancer/modifier for other things.

  14. Anonymous South African Coward

    You know what: they should rename hardware products that contain moving parts to match the annoying noise they produce. The Western Digital BuzzDrive, for example, or the HP WhistleJet. And given the unexpectedly loud amplification of a vibrating alert when a smartphone is resting on a tabletop, Huawei should consider marketing its next model as the Fart Mate.


    'ere you go... ---->

  15. Kubla Cant

    Computer says "If you must"

    Quite a few years ago I had a PC where the CPU temperature was linked to the speed of a noisy cooling fan. Whenever I asked it to do something strenuous like a compilation it would make an aggrieved moaning noise as it woke up, followed by the sound of a mighty rushing wind. The complaining got so bad that I was reluctant to ask too much of the computer.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Watercooling is your friend. The kits are efficient and easy to install these days.

      1. molletts

        I might have to give that another go sometime. I'm told modern setups are nearly silent.

        I fitted a closed-loop watercooler, some years back, to my office PC to tame the CPU temperatures (they were on offer and cheaper than a good big-air cooler - I think it was a Corsair H100i) and it nearly drove me crazy. Even over the racket of the fans in the servers & switches and the aircon, I could hear the pump go "brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" every time I put any load on the CPU.

        1. quxinot

          Next time, set the pump to run at a constant rate, and the fans to reference their speed against the temperature. The pump should be basically inaudible once any air has primed out (from shipping/handling/assembling, they're often noisy for a few minutes until they settle).

    2. TrumpSlurp the Troll

      Re: Computer says "If you must"

      "it would make an aggrieved moaning noise as it woke up, followed by the sound of a mighty rushing wind"

      That could be me in the morning.

      1. Spamfast

        Re: Computer says "If you must"

        See icon!

      2. Aussie Doc

        Re: Computer says "If you must"

        Yeah, I'm in my 60's too. Never to old to shout you one of these -->

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing new

    A while back I switched on a BBC micro CRT monitor with a load of people in a room and they reacted to the 15KHz whine immediately.

    In the 1980s I battled with a number of CB radio power supplys that had the transformer pop riveted to the thin metal case, although the loud hum was often less aggravating than channel 19.

    1. WallMeerkat

      Re: Nothing new

      As a child in primary school, if I passed a classroom I could 'hear' the CUB monitor of their BBC micro if it was on.

      In later years my hearing is banjaxed.

    2. smudge

      Re: Nothing new

      When I was in my early 20s - 40 years ago :( - I could hear ultrasonic motion detectors. And bloody painful they were too. On a couple of occasions - once in a pub and once in a big house, neither of which I had been in before - I actually proved to the dubious that I could do this, by pointing out the locations of sensors which none of us could see because they were hidden behind curtains.

      A few years later - approaching 30 - I was working in an office in a big country house. Every now and then - and it seemed to be roughly the same times every day - I would be conscious of this very high pitched sound that no one else could hear. At least it was soft, and not painful. Eventually I realised that the estate manager would take his dog out into the grounds at these times, and this was him using a dog whistle to summon the pooch.

      A couple of seconds' research suggests that I was hearing sounds at 25Hz or higher. Needless to say, that ability disappeared long ago.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Nothing new

        I understand the pain you suffered, I used to be kept awake while camping on summer holiday by bats. Damned noisy critters.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nothing new

          Are you two chaps asthmatic by any chance?

          Read somewhere that they have excellent hearing for high frequencies

          1. smudge

            Re: Nothing new

            Not in the slightest!

            And I also used to hear bats, too. I see that they produce sounds in a range between 14KHz and 100KHZ.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Air con

    Can't believe I'm this far down without someone having mentioning air conditioning noise.

    I'm always surprised by how silent the office is when it turns off at 6pm.

    Active noise cancelling headphones should be tax deductible as 'necessary tools'.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Several members of staff had DVD-R drives, God knows why.

    Unfortunately it one of those things that, like printers, you can't completely do without. Occasionally it's the only thing that does the trick.

  19. WallMeerkat


    The worst about the Open plan office are other people

    I've had colleagues play nerf wars when I was trying to build a complex regex.

    Colleagues who ran across the floor, their footprints doof doof doof doof.

    The ones by the window who won't close the blinds when the sun is beating in.

    1. ColinPa

      Re: OpenOffice

      Some people would have "ping - you have an instant message" enabled. I used to prowl around the open floor till I found the culprit. Often they would say "I didnt know it was on - ping - oh that noise". It was often hard to find the culprit because it was hard to locate, and sometimes the ping bounced off the walls.

      1. tfewster

        Re: OpenOffice

        Plus one twat who had "pong - you sent a message" enabled. And keyclick feedback, just in case he'd forgotten that he just pressed a fucking key on a physical fucking keyboard.

        Wow - that was 10 years ago, and remembering it still triggers me.

      2. Montreal Sean

        Re: OpenOffice


        So it was more like Pong?

    2. baud

      Re: OpenOffice

      In addition to the nerf wars, I also got guys trying small drones in the office (you know the ones with high-speed propellers that do a lot of noise). Another open office, above a Peugeot factory near Paris, was nearly empty (25~ person out of a 200 capacity), but the other team there had enough shouting arguments that the noise levels were the same as if it was full.

      1. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        Re: OpenOffice

        "but the other team there had enough shouting arguments that the noise levels were the same as if it was full"

        My pet hate of open plan is when conversations start of normally but as more start and the background noise level rises, each group talks louder to hear themselves starting a positive feedback loop that eventually makes a Disaster Area concert sound quiet

  20. D@v3

    background hum

    There is something in our office, that apparently only i can hear. It seems to come from 'behind me' no matter where i am in the room. On a quiet monday morning before anyone else got in, i went round and switched off every plug socket, regardless of if it had anything plugged into it. Still the hum continued. Tinnitus had crossed my mind, except it seems to only happen when I'm in the office, which wouldn't be a big deal if i didn't spend more time sat here than i do in another other one place. I think i finally found the culprit. The emergency exit sign, out side the office and down the hall. Bastards.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: background hum

      My youngest could hear the squeak of his classroom door & he would stop his school work to look, caretaker solved that by lubricating the hinge. :D

  21. mr-slappy


    Never mind noise, what is it with all those LEDs they have nowadays? I switch the light off in our living room and it is bathed in the ghostly glow of half a dozen devices that are announcing their presence for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

    I seem to spend half my life reading user manuals (ugh!) for instructions on how to disable the little buggers, only for them to reappear soon after following some sort of unrequested software update...

    1. Alister

      Re: LEDs

      how to disable the little buggers

      a pair of side-cutters or a soldering iron can offer a permanent solution, or black insulating tape as a temporary measure...

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: LEDs

      This reminds me of Firesign Theatre's "Eat or Be Eaten" where a car would announce everything that was blatantly obvious already. (I need to listen to that again)

      In "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", there is the incidence of Manny trying to find a light switch while floating around in free fall. He wonders why, for the short time they were going to be in this "spacecraft" they couldn't just come up with a lighting system that stays on the whole time.

      For some reason, if I leave a memory card in my reader, the blue light stays on when the computer is switched off.

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: LEDs

      I'm re-fitting my workshop and needed a fluorescent fitting to finish off and match the three already there. Went to sparky shop. Oh, nobody buys them any more, everybody used LEDs.

      yerwot? When did this happen? Am I going to have to rip all my tube fittings out just because "everybody" now uses LEDs? And I want continuous light, not loads of points, that's the whole point of tube lighting in the office in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: LEDs

        Philips makes LED tubes with an even output. The quick option is to replace the starter with the supplied shunt and pop them in. You can modify the tube fitting to get rid of the transformer thingy (don't know the English term) That will save some extra electricity. LED tubes use 1/3 of the amount of Watts so depending on usage and electricity price it pays for itself.

        1. H in The Hague

          Re: LEDs

          "transformer thingy (don't know the English term)"

          Ballast. The early ones were simply chokes to limit the current going through the fluorescent tube. Later ones were electronic.

  22. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    " It's that hum in the office. It's getting to me."

    Dabsy, you must be related to SWMBO.

    One that particularly annoys her is my dimmable QI reading light which can start buzzing very quietly even when switched off. The awkward thing about that (apart from the fact I can't hear it above my tinnitus) is that she bought it for me as a present.

  23. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

    Moving parts?

    You don't need moving parts to cause horrendous noises!

    I had an employer-supplied 24" monitor, back in the days when monitors bigger than 17"/19" were seriously expensive. It was OK when in use, but if I turned it off using the button on the front, it went into a whistle-state. I had to turn it on and off at the power switch!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Moving parts?

      if I turned it off using the button on the front, it went into a whistle-state.

      Not an uncommon issue with early switch-mode PSUs, when lightly loaded their switching frequency changed.

    2. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Moving parts?

      Back before LiDAR was a commonly-used technology, my employer of the day had a LiDAR unit mounted on a tripod with an automatic pan / pitch attachment. I protested whenever it was on because when it panned (and ONLY when it panned, never pitch) I was treated to a deafening high-pitched whine from some controller card or other. No-one else could hear it and all thought I was having a laugh... until the owner of said unit installed it behind my desk, linked it up to his PDA and randomly set it panning from across the room several times a day, watching me instantly wince.

      I was accused of being a bat in a previous life.

  24. LoPath

    Noise Complaint

    I could have lived a lot longer if I hadn't known that was a cover song. Hell, all of Quiet Riot's songs pretty much sound just like that. Time to find a pint to wash that out of my mind!

    1. Androgynous Cow Herd

      Re: Noise Complaint


      GO dig up the stuff when Randy Rhodes was still with QR. ...Slade never got close...

  25. Morphology

    Mrs Thatcher

    was oft ridiculed behind her back in France - Thatcher being pronounced Tas de Chair which means Pile of Flesh......

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    haven't seen that one...

    "and my buttocks".

    Sounds like a punch line from a LOTR porn parody...

  27. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Dealing with environmental noises

    Treat your temporary cow-orkers to an ominous hum of your own.

  28. lglethal Silver badge

    Uni days and laptop fans

    When I was back at uni (so 10-15 years ago now), I had a high powered gaming laptop, for uni reasons of course. The only downside of it was the fan was a monster, and when doing anything heavy it could get quite loud. After a couple of years, the problem got worse so that even under light loads it got pretty loud, but by then I was kinda used to it and it never bothered me.

    One day, I was in a lecture with about 100 other people, I'd got there early and was making notes on the laptop, and all went well. About halfway through the course, I shut down the laptop and the room went silent, dead silent. Every one in the class, the lecturer included, looked up at the ceiling, and the lecturer announced "Thank god that air con switched off. I'm going to have to have get Facilities to come look at that." Needless to say I did not own up.

    I decided it might time for a new laptop after that...

    1. Andy A

      Re: Uni days and laptop fans

      Probably just time to clear the crap from the airflow. It's amazing how much fluff accumulates on the cooling fins even when you try to keep usage to "clean" places.

      10 minutes with the usual screwdrivers and a brush usually suffice to get the temperature and noise back to the sensible range. Ignore it and the icon applies.

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: Uni days and laptop fans

        Actually my first stop was to a repair shop (it had proprietry screws so i couldnt get access to the interior to clean it myself). Apparently one of the fans had died and the other was on the way out, and it wasnt possible to get replacements at any sort of reasonable expense.

        Thats why it was new laptop time, but that seemed like too much info to add to the story.

        It did speak pretty well of the designers though that even on one fan it could generate enough cooling to operate at full pelt. If you could ignore the noise factor... ;)

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Uni days and laptop fans

      "I decided it might time for a new laptop after that..."

      or a pencil.

      It blows my mind that people lug laptops to class to take notes. The most tech I would bring (decades ago) was a micro cassette recorder and a shotgun mic for my Russian language classes. Most of my lecture courses were recorded and available from the media center on cassette (byo). Between my spotty note taking, the text book and the recording, I did really well in those classes. Classes without recordings were much more work.

      1. ibmalone

        Re: Uni days and laptop fans

        These days even moderately priced laptops can be pretty light, almost certainly lighter than the stack of notes I used to cart around for lectures. That said, even though I can type pretty quick I still prefer a notepad for talks, since you can sketch down diagrams and equations, leave space to fill things back in later, jot asides, and generally do what you want with the structure, without having to fight with a bit of software to do what you want while trying to keep up. (I'm sure there's software that will do this with a tablet now, I'm also sure it will cost more and come with more adverts than an A4 pad, and will store stuff in the cloud to disappear at a future date.)

  29. Frumious Bandersnatch

    Who the hell hit my PS/2 keyboard with a hammer?

    he yelled. "If I find out who's responsible, there'll be hell toupée," he snarled, glancing daggers at the boss with the ill-fitting hairpiece. However, the boss was either innocent or completely mutt and jeff since his comment seemed to go in one ear and out the other.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Private noise maker

    8000 music tracks and Podcasts on an iPod Classic and good headphones.


  31. nojobhopes

    The Sound of Silence

    "Sounds" like you have just watched the Sound of Silence - if not, it's worth a listen. Directed by Michael Tyburski.

  32. gnasher729 Silver badge

    One place where I worked had a rather loud server. Nobody knew what it was serving, therefore nobody dared turning it off.

    One day it stopped working. Noise gone. No negative side effects at all. Except I noticed for the first time that my Mac was actually making audible noise, with that server ten metres away I hadn’t noticed before.

  33. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    As a child I was sure we got our furniture from MI5. :D

  34. earl grey

    make your own noise

    I prefer bagpipes myself.

  35. fobobob

    Motion detector

    Recently had an ultrasonic motion detector at my office go haywire and emit a high frequency whistle at an unusually high volume. The pitch was roughly what one might expect from a large CRT television, but much louder. It also created hot/cold spots (constructive/destructive interference) where it was unbearable/inaudible. Even older employees whose ears had poor high frequency sensitivity could hear it at times, or at least feel the sound pressure. Solved by wrapping masking tape around it until the interference patterns were 'adjusted' to not bother anyone while they were at their desks. It eventually stopped emitting noise, having failed entirely. Still has a working PIR module on the same unit, so all is well.

  36. Aussie Doc

    Glory be...

    "The Western Digital BuzzDrive, for example, or the HP WhistleJet."

    I will forever only refer to said products by these titles.

  37. SonofRojBlake

    British furniture store MFS???

    DFS are still extant.

    MFI are defunct since 2008.

    Who are this MFS of which you speak?

  38. NerryTutkins

    wang king

    Huang is most definitely NOT a rewriting of Wang in Chinese.

    Wang is a common surname, and Huang is too.

    I used to work for a company where my boss was Mr Wang and his assistant was Ms Huang.

    Wang is most commonly 'King' and Huang means 'Yellow'.

    It did amuse me once when I saw Wang written with the English translation afterwards in a book

    Wang (King).

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: wang king

      Exactly, Huang is an alternative spelling of Wong not Wang.

      (My ex is a Wong, and uses Huang when using Mandarin)

  39. Danny 5


    You would not survive for long in my home. I have central heating that has a dodgy fan, causing it to produce a low hummmmmmmmm. I have a PS4 that's getting a little older, causing the (I assume) CPU fan to work quite a bit harder, making quite a bit of sound and there's plenty of other tidbits that will be generation some form of auduler disruption

    There's noise pollution everywhere nowadays, I've managed to largely tune it out.

  40. Celeste Reinard

    Better late than ... alive

    Doing the left-overs in this very inbox, as I do like the taste of ... vintage news, of course I was touched. ... I quit sobbing, as it being superfluous, and giving me a snotty nose.

    Going over it as concise as possible - I know you have a job, unlike me - I go blow by blow.

    In french, the brand known to the world as Nike™, is known in France as 'nique ta mère' - meaning 'f*ck your mother'. One of the best...;

    About the noise-canceling things. My neighbore from number &$ that likes to defoliate the trottoir (but only on sunny days) with a leafblower bigger than himself that transcends the 110 dB soundbarrier, wears them inhouse, while shopping, and doing the defoliage of the trottoir, appears to have more than one. At least three.;

    And last but not least, I do stil have to walk with a cane, as I suffer from nerve damage in my ear induced by low-level noises, created by machines. I know the pain as translated above is real. A machine-free world would be welcome. A de-peopled one as well, but I think that is over-asking. And regardeing the way it's going, why should I.

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