back to article Captain Caveman rides to the rescue, solves a prickly PowerPoint problem with a magical solution

Well, that was quite the week wasn't it? Perhaps Friday should start (rather than end) with a stiff drink. The Register's On Call feature is on hand to kick things off. Today's story takes us back nearly 30 years, to the early 1990s and the unalloyed delight that was the Windows 3 era and its interpretation of multitasking. …

  1. petethebloke

    I once got a call-out on Boxing Day to "fix" an installation of some Christmas software on a Windows machine.

    After a few unsuccessful attempts, I removed the CD and wiped a fat, greasy thumb print off it (probably turkey-flavoured). Everything then worked fine.

    "Twenty-five quid??? For wiping off a thumb print!!!", he shrieked.

    "No. Twenty-five quid for knowing how to", I answered.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      I once 'cured' a friends computer of a nasty virus that neither he nor anyone else he had contacted before resorting to asking me (oh, the shame!) to help.

      Turns out some joker had changed his background image to include a pop-up box that couldn't be clicked on to get rid of (unsurprisingly). Found the original file and restored his background. When my 'mate' came back to the computer he was amazed and asked how I had done it.

      Foolishly I told him. My reward? A disparagement of my skills, claiming I hadn't 'fixed' anything and was treated as if I had cheated him somehow, even though I didn't charge and it cost me petrol and time to sort out.

      His reward? Never to see my face at his house ever again. After all, I wouldn't want him to feel cheated again would I?

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        I had a similar thing about 18 years ago. Neighbour desperately wanted their internet back. I called round after work to be met with (I shit you not!) "Oh can you come back another time? I've got friends here and I'd be embarrassed having a nerd come in!"

        When he collared me the following morning when I was walking to school to ask if I'd come round later, I made it very clear he could expect no help from me ever again. He was quite miffed "Can't you take a joke"?

        My answer..."Apparently not, but I do know how to fix my internet connection"

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          My cousin-in-law is much better behaved.

          Usually it's a matter of being asked to call in when I have time. A few weeks ago he rung up in a panic and said he was bringing his laptop round for me to look at right now. Unfortunately just as we were about to eat so SWMBO was finishing making dinner so that had to be put on hold. It turned out he was updating his anti-virus on his W10 <spit> laptop and it had just hung and wouldn't respond to anything, not even attempts to switch off.

          A few minutes later - he only lives a mile away - he arrived. The screen was dark but the power LED was on. Fair enough it wouldn't respond to anything, not even a prod at the power switch. Best described as lights on but nobody at home. So while he was busy explaining his woe to SWMBO I gave the power switch a press and hold and watched it power off. Fortunately* it recovered itself to a stable state.

          Unlike some folks' friends and rellies he was prepared to accept the difference between an long and short press on the power button as yet another thing to be grateful to learn. I wonder if that's because he himself had spent his working life in a skilled occupation and takes a fundamentally different attitude to practical knowledge.

          * It's Windows: I wouldn't want to have to start debugging a mess and as he insists it's for his grandchildren to use play games on he wouldn't want me to install Zorin on that one; that being my usual approach to debugging Windows.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Ah, but there you go. Why would you expect that holding the button down for a few seconds makes the little bugger turn off? That is not what buttons are meant to do. They are meant to push > on. push again >off

            Anything else is just madness. The very idea should never have been allowed to see the light of day. It deifies rationality. Where else is the concept that if something doesn't work you keep doing it considered rational?

            If you didn't already know would you consider it?

            What would your response be in any other circumstance if you caught someone saying "The switch refused to work so I'm gonna hold it down until it surrenders".

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Even in experienced hands this can cause problems. I've had devices that should have turned off after 10 seconds of holding the button down refuse to play until over a minute has passed. I had a router where the manual said hold the paper clip in the little hole for 10 seconds to reset to factory and the support engineer over the phone said 'not another one' and we chatted for near 5 minutes before the bloody thing reset -any longer and I would have started bleeding!

            2. ZeroDrop

              Technically, a short press is software, a long press is hardware.

              A short press simply sends a signal to the O.S.: "You shut down now, please". O.S. may obey you or not, because Windows is temperamental. Any Windows user must know that Windows has his own mood.

              A long press, after 5 seconds, pulls the plug from the wall and don't care about the Windows mood. Like a kick in the balls. And a kick in the balls sometimes has consequences, like not booting up again, needing a doctor to bring it back to life.

              1. Sir Runcible Spoon

                This is why it shouldn't be common knowledge - it is incumbent on all those who know how to reprogram computers with an axe to keep such knowledge safe for those who know *when* to use it, and when to try and be reasonable.

              2. Andy A

                It appears there is now only one design of power circuitry in use.

                My mum's washing machine responded to the long press on the power button.

            3. PerlyKing

              Re: It deifies rationality

              That makes a change!

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        This goes back years and years but I was called by a Directors PA to fix a Powerpoint presentation at 8pm. As I worked late this just meant a trip to the Directors floor which was fairly easy. Before I was allowed to go anywhere near the offices though I had to have a talk with somebody from legal. This was because the presentation I'd be working on was for the annual results. Therefore it was price sensitive information and I'd be shot if I bought/sold shares or passed any info on that I saw or heard before it was released to the market. Suitably endowed with my new restrictions on what I could and couldn't do I headed into the directors offices.

        PA who I knew well looked at me slightly embarrassed and said she'd fixed it. She'd done so whilst I was having my legal chat. The issue was a problem with putting a picture into a slide. The picture was added to the slide quite easily but after that it vanished when she added something else. She'd discovered the "bring to the front" feature in between calling me and my being allowed into the offices. I mentioned she might also like to investigate transparency on images. We

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge


          Please, do go on...

          1. Sir Awesome

            Clearly a reminder to take your allotted toilet breaks..

            1. Cynic_999


              Clearly a reminder to take your allotted toilet breaks..


              Can't do that. No loo roll ...

              1. Trollslayer
                Thumb Up

                10am this morning, the local Saisnbury's had some loo rolls on the shelves.

                Expect loo rolls going on eBay cheap in about a month.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Went to my local M&S/BP for bread yesterday. White bread, nothing. Shelf completely empty.

                  Wholemeal ( I like wholemeal), shelf completely full.


                  1. TRT Silver badge

                    It's a bit like Izal and Andrex.

                    You can wipe your arse better on a slice of soft white. Wholegrain tends to scratch.

                    1. Wapiya

                      He doesn't know how to use the three seashells, snigger.

                      Mine is the coat with the swearing citations.

                  2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                    Yesterday (Sunday) I guessed correctly that Marks & Spencer is expensive enough to have bread left to sell if nowhere else has. I took a brown seeded loaf. Didn't even need to put it on the credit card.

                    I did see some empty shelves there though. The government continues to tell us to buy only what we need but that there is plenty of food and other necessities, but when I go into a shop, no there isn't.

                    However, picking up this and that, here and there, I have a small fridge and small freezer both quite well stocked. Not what I'd call hoarding, just normal, with very slightly more care taken so that if my next planned supermarket shop finds that the Horseman of Famine has got there before me again, I can give it a few days. Or if I actually get what I expect Donald Trump to start calling californiavirus or sanctuary sickness or whatever else is twitching his toupee this week.

            2. jake Silver badge

              Nah. Cats.

              Here at Chez jake, if you turn your back for a second or two with an unfinished post in view, one of the cats invariably manages to post it. It happens so often that it seems to be a law ...

          2. JimboSmith Silver badge

            The rest of it read.......

            We developed an even better working relationship after that incident. I solved a few more problems for her even when I wasn't in a support role anymore. Sadly when we merged with a rival her director was a casualty. She therefore was also a casualty which was a real shame.

          3. MrDamage Silver badge

            He can't. The lawyers found him.

    2. Jaspa

      I once had the pleasure of being sent to a rather famous Stadium in Cardiff while it was being constructed.

      Big Cheese was having trouble with His CD drive.

      Oddly, optical drives struggle with dusty environments.

      A swift blast of air duster and a brief tour of the work in progress was my reward.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Did they blast you with the air duster before or after the tour?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Nowadays it's "When you've finished, we'll treat you to some alcohol..." And then a liberal dousing of 70% and hand gel.

    3. NoneSuch Silver badge

      My word...

      Politeness from management and a hesitancy to interrupt IT staff on their days off? A thank you and bottle of wine for services rendered?

      Look how far have we fallen...

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: My word...

        All the way through the earth to India.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My word...

          In very strong Mumbai accent...

          "Hello. My name is Jeremy Johnson. May I ask, please, am I speaking to Mr insert name here?"

          Right. I know a bit about probability. There MIGHT just be someone with that name who has a really thick Indian accent, and they might even be calling from a call centre in Purely even, but I get 3 calls every day from similarly accented persons with names the likes of Steve Bradshaw, David Beckenham, Richard Pilling, Julie White etc and what are the chances of THAT? For crying out loud, use your real name. I can cope with it, for goodness sake. I have colleagues with names from all over the world with 20 character surnames and letter combinations that resemble a good hand at Scrabble. Common courtesy isn't it? I wouldn't phone up someone in India and in a broad cockney say "Awright cockle, it's Ranjit Malik here." As soon as you start pretending to be someone else more Anglo-friendly in the hope that my brain can cope with it, the alarm bells go off that the rest of what you're about to say is bullshit that's just drained my day of five minutes.

          1. Glen 1

            Re: My word...

            Lets face it, between the accents, and the amount of time the legit staff have to deal with their equivalent of "cup holder broke off" type folk, Giving a name that has more than 2 syllables is asking for trouble.

            Add to that, people taking an anglo name for professional reasons (it's a lot easier to be racist to a CV), or perhaps they are fed up of us mangling their name. I used to work for a chap who was 'Bobby' on all (non-official) correspondence, but had a very different given name. He said it was because people took him more seriously with a western first name - especially when combined with a local accent.

            Add to that again how, if they are scammers, they require a made up name. (Legit call centres notwithstanding) So if you were trying to scam, say, a German, calling yourself Hans or Gretta doesn't seem that daft of an idea.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: My word...

              It's not the scammers. It's the sending you a white paper on what cloud computing can do for your organisation. Can I check your Email address and is it ok to send this to you?

              They got my email address from an IT event at some point. Or The Register or somewhere like that.

              And it's dozens of calls every week.

              And given the topic of conversation their name is not important even. I represent Suse Linux is good enough for the purpose.

              1. rskurat

                Re: My word...

                Who is Susie Linux and why can't she just ring me up herself?

          2. MrDamage Silver badge

            Re: My word...

            > I wouldn't phone up someone in India and in a broad cockney say "Awright cockle, it's Ranjit Malik here."

            I do, however, answer the phone that way if they make the mistake of calling me and trying one of their scams.

          3. Bowlers

            Re: My word...

            Don't tell them! It's how I know to put the phone down too.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: My word...

              "It's how I know to put the phone down too."

              Mine is "Hello, yes, I am calling from Windows..."

              Windows is the product. The company is called Microsoft. You just revealed yourself as a scammer... and no I am *never* going to tell them that!

              Actually, I wish my scam calls these days were these folks instead of automated messages. I'd love to ask them "Which Windows machine? Which version?" etc. only to reveal (about 5 minutes later) that I don't HAVE a Windows machine at home. That or fire up a Win98 VM...

              1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


                You think you are wasting their time. But actually you are wasting yours. Which one is more important to you?

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Though

                  "But actually you are wasting yours."

                  As we've seen with the call centre hacks, the scammers are mules working for a handler - and they're expected to take in X amount of money per day, of which they get about 5% - if they don't being in the money, the handler gets shitty with them.

                  The longer you keep them busy with nothing to show for it, the harder life gets for them at the end of the day. These are hoodlums they're working for, not reasonable employers.

      2. AlbertH

        Re: My word...

        My favourite - ever - service call was from a well-known band's manager. They were on a world tour, and had reached California. I was flown London to LAX First Class on American Airlines (as pleasant as flying can be made). I was chauffeured the the hotel in Beverley Hills where the band were staying.

        I was handed the two problem laptops - one used for the band's set lists, and the other for on-line Amazon ordering of "incidentals". Both had succumbed to moisture from condensation in an aircraft hold.... Open, wipe with tissues, wipe with isopropyl alcohol, leave open in the warm air of a hotel room for a couple of hours.... Reboot, and away they both went!

        I got two days in LA, got to see the band's gig in LA, complete with backstage pass, got well fed and watered, and then sent back to London the same way I'd come over. I also received ~$3500 for my "prompt attention to their problems"!

        There isn't a "smug" icon, is there?

    4. M. Poolman

      "Twenty-five quid??? ...

      For wiping off a thumb-print might be a bit steep, but for coming out for a home-call on Boxing-day sounds like pretty damn good value to me.

    5. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      "No. Twenty-five quid for knowing how to & another Twenty-five quid for coming out on a Christmas holiday ", I answered.


      Icon - Back to the partying.

  2. Sir Runcible Spoon


    "Well, that was quite the week wasn't it?"

    shouldn't that be followed by..

    "You ain't seen nothin' yet"?

    I'll get my coat - I won't be going far, just to the loo-roll tree I've got growing in the greenhouse.

    1. Dave K

      Re: Understated..

      Almost any tree can be a loo-roll tree, assuming you have your own portable paper mill :)

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Understated..

        ....paper wonder the wife was complaining about splinters*!

        *There's a joke about little pricks in there somewhere, but I'm too shy to find it.

      2. A K Stiles

        Re: Understated..

        Depending on the tree / bush you might be able to simply harvest some leaves?

        Laurel seems a bit tough, Nettles seem a bit... spicy... too early for the grape vine... perhaps some judicious (and external only) application of rhubarb leaves?

        1. Andy Non

          Re: Understated..

          Due to the current shortage of loo rolls, the government is advising people to use both sides.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Understated..

            Also known as 'redacting the Russian report'.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Understated..

          Too hard and shiny? Just like the bog rolls of old.

          1. Huw D

            Re: Understated..

            Nobody is stockpiling Izal. That's a fact.

        3. druck Silver badge

          Re: Understated..

          At last an actual use for lettuce and cauliflower leaves.

          1. Alan Newbury

            Re: Understated..

            A use for lettuce leaves? That's just the tip of the iceberg.

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Mage

        Re: paper mill

        I wonder did Nokia sell ALL of them?

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Understated..

        If you can manage with narrow loo roll a finely set plane and a steady hand might do the trick.

    2. NATTtrash Silver badge

      Re: Understated..

      Greenhouse on boggy ground I assume?

    3. Rol

      Re: Understated..

      A few options:-

      1. Minimise your use of what little roll you have by just using one sheet to wipe the worst away, and then finish off with yesterdays undies. Advisably your own.

      2. Fill a large bowl or your sink if its close enough to the toilet with water, then get a bowl that will hold about a litre. With the small bowl in your dominant hand, pour into your cupped other hand and wash your crevice clean. Dry with someone else's towel, or one you have specially demarked for the purpose. This method also helps you to grow longer fingernails, because, funnily enough, you stop biting them.

      3. Get a dog to lick you clean.

      4. Use the bidet that you had fitted, but stopped using after a week.

      5. Saunter through the middle-class estates of your area looking for expensive cars parked on the road, now break into their garage and help yourself to a few of the thousands of rolls they have stored.

      6. Take imodium for the next few weeks, and then go down to any shop and buy some.

      7. Take Imodium for the next 6 months and then buy at a discounted price from the hoarders that want to put their expensive car back in the garage.

  3. 45RPM Silver badge

    Everyone is working - Except the boss

    A little later in the 90s, when PowerPC was the flavour of the month in the world of Anything-But-Windows, and MacOS 7.6 was considered pretty decent (well, when compared with the monstrosity that was 7.5), I got a call from a graphic design business which was in some difficulty. Everyone was able to work - except the boss.

    This graphic design company was in a small town, just off the A44, and at the bottom of the car park ran a tributary of the River Avon. The business itself was in a single story shed or nissen hut - and when I arrived there I saw that the car park was flooded (so I parked on the road). I grabbed my wellies from the boot and sploshed over to the building to discover that, whilst the power was on, the building too was more than slightly damp inside. The computers, PowerMac 8600s, were sitting on the floor in a few inches of water whilst the designers (also wearing wellies) were beavering away at their work. No, I don't know why they didn't just turn around and go home again.

    The boss, being the boss, had splashed out on the more prestigious and powerful PowerMac 9600 - which, at first glance, looked identical to its inferior sibling. His computer, also sitting in water, would do nothing more than impudently flicker its power light when the power button was pressed.

    The problem was plain to see when opening the case. The 8600 had a little logic board and the bottom of its case was filled with nothing more fragile than air. The 9600 was chock full of now rather soggy electronics. I took his computer away, cleaned the board with Iso, left it to dry - and it was right as rain. And the boss received a valuable education in why water and electronics really don't mix.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Everyone is working - Except the boss

      "splashed out" - was that deliberate? :D

      Reminds me of when I came home from work to find my wife in the kitchen cooking using various electric utensils all of which were plugged into a 4-way extension that was sitting on the work surface. However, the aforementioned work surface was, for some totally unknown (to me) reason, flooded with 1/4" of water which, due to it neither exactly being level but sealed against the wall behind, wasn't resulting in the water running off onto the floor. She was somewhat surprised when I screamed and immediately shut off the power. A bit of necessary education followed.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Everyone is working - Except the boss

        The still not quite ex Mrs Oncoming Scorn, shortly after we were wed, decided it was a good idea to be nice, then try & blow dry my hair while I was in the bath... While vocalising my dismay with a lot of four letter words & threatening to punch her lights out if she didn't stop waving the dryer over the tub with a "It's perfectly safe it's switched off (At the handle end)" forthwith.

        It was new house with ECB's etc, but I really wasn't about to put my faith in those, having seen enough 60/70's ITC crime dramas, where spouses were topped by electrical items in the bathtub.

        Icon - PH, shes been known to have a electrical item in the bath, but not dumb enough to have it plugged into the wall.

    2. Mage

      Re: grabbed my wellies from the boot

      When did Nokia sell the wellie boot division?

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Everyone is working - Except the boss

      Reminds me of a recurring call for a PC that was failing. I'd come out fix it and double check it and a few days later it failed again.

      On the third call out I was asked to come earlier than usual. This is when I notice the A/C was not running at the time, though had been the previous times. In the middle of summer. A very hot summer (as they normally are here)

      I instantly realized what the problem was. The client actually wanted to argue that heat was not the problem.

      Oddly, I did not have to go out a 4th time and learned they were no longer having problems.

    4. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Everyone is working - Except the boss

      Ah. The myth of the waterproof Mac.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        Re: Everyone is working - Except the boss

        My Mackintosh is perfectly waterproof.

        See icon ->

  4. John70


    I got a call from my cousin that needed help with setting up a "home office" yesterday.

    The company she works for have told all their staff to work from home due to the coronavirus.

    Their IT Dept. just dropped off the equipment at her house and left her to set it up.

    Got the computer up and running and connecting to their VPN but not the VOIP telephone. It required configuring and there were no instructions. At least she can email the IT Dept and vent at them.

    1. NATTtrash Silver badge

      Re: Yesterday

      Their IT Dept. just dropped off the equipment at her house and left her to set it up.

      Does she work for that well known Swedish company?

      1. John70

        Re: Yesterday

        Nope, a local company that does work for the council.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Yesterday

          That explains a lot, like a lot of other things, incompetence flows downhill.

      2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Yesterday

        Gotta say in the current chaos I've had the exact opposite experience.

        Our IT department have been absolute heroes, sorting out everyone with what they need for remote working (including soft phone via Avaya) and making what kit they can available such as extra monitors and cabling. I already had softphone installed, but it hadn't been configured. One quick email to the helldesk and within 5 minutes a document appeared with all I needed in it to set it up (30s work).

        So I'd like to take a moment to raise a virtual pint to all the unsung backroom heroes helping to get all we enforced working from homers (d'oh!) up and running.

        This is for you guys and gals ---------------------->

        1. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

          Key workers

          Interesting that has issued its list of key workers, and it doesn't seem to include telco/data/internet services.

          Wonder how long before they amend that next time O2's certificate server goes down, or similar?

          1. TrumpSlurp the Troll

            Re: Key workers

            Version I read seemed to include comms infrastructure.

            It wasn't that specific, though.

            1. richardcox13

              Re: Key workers

              Government document

              Says IT and telecommunications but with the caveat "their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service".

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Key workers

                Says IT and telecommunications but with the caveat "their specific role is necessary for the continuation of this essential public service".

                Sssh! Our local nursery has read as far as "IT" and decided that I qualify as a key worker! I'm not intending to correct them...

                Anonymous 'natch.

              2. TRT Silver badge

                Re: Key workers

                NB. Working in a call centre does not automatically mean you work in telecommunications!

          2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

            Re: Key workers

            The problem is that most IT people can work from home perfectly well already. So they're key but don't need to get to the office etc.

            There's also a larger than average proportion who are well practised at self isolation/social distancing, and probably also a larger than average proportion who are single/have no distracting kids. Yes, I include myself in that assessment.

            1. Cynic_999

              Re: Key workers

              Being able to work from home does not mean that you will be able to look after your kids while doing so.

              1. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

                Re: Key workers

                But if everybody is "sheltering at home" kids can still be quite distracting whether you are looking after them or not.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Key workers

                  There are many films portraying "collapse of civilisation" scenarios. One thing they tend to have in common is that they often depict the importance of suitable guns or other improvised weapons.

                  I don't recall any films that demonstrated sufficient insight to correctly predict that the main purpose of such tools was to deal with kids who refuse to shut up while you are trying to write an email.

                  AC because I wouldn't want this post to be used against me if I need to report an accident.

            2. Lilolefrostback

              Re: Key workers

              Oddly, we software types have been asking for years for the ability to work from home (at least occasionally) only to have the infrastructure types say that it cannot be done securely so "NO".

              Last week, management decided that we were essential workers and that all essential workers that could do so would work from home. Lo and behold! We were told by infrastructure that yes we can work from home and that we've had that capability for years. That did not improve their reputation.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Key workers

                "We were told by infrastructure that yes we can work from home and that we've had that capability for years."

                Note the absence of the word "securely" in the second paragraph...

                I'm pretty sure this won't end well for a lot of companies

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Key workers

                  Indeed. A week ago I wrote: "Do all your corporate lawyers understand that everything discussed using such software can easily be captured for future reference? And after letting them know this, did they OK the concept of remote working for the masses?"

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Key workers

            But that is the 'unsung hero' part a lot of us techies play on a daily basis. We *try* and keep things running despite the best efforts of senior management to under-invest and kick us to the kerb 'because we don't seem to do much and we're a financial burden'. Right up until the point the shit hits the fan.....

            A pint, to all my fellow techies out there. You deserve it.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Key workers

              A pint, to all my fellow techies out there. You We deserve it.

              FTFY or were you excluding yourself as undeserving?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Key workers


                I'm on callout so I can't drink. I'll settle for a cup of tea though. :)

            2. ecofeco Silver badge

              Re: Key workers

              Well said and sadly too true.

          4. Cynic_999

            Re: Key workers

            It includes call center staff. If you are not on the list you can ask your boss to declare that you are a key worker and you magically become one.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Key workers

              My step-dad's a locksmith. I guess that makes him a key worker.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Key workers

                I'll bet he's his only employee, too. Should be easy to keep a one-person shop functional, even without drop-ins. People will need locks worked on, regardless of what we're being told to be paranoid about today. And of course the little old lady locking her keys in the car, or her house, is a valid reason for him to move about. Sounds like a good career to be in, all in all :-)

          5. Spanners Silver badge

            Re: Key workers

            Here is an article from one of the organisations that owns the Government...


        2. GlenP Silver badge

          Re: Yesterday

          Thank you for the virtual beer!

          That's exactly what we're doing here. Trying to sort people out as quickly as we can.

        3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

          Re: Yesterday

          o I'd like to take a moment to raise a virtual pint to all the unsung backroom heroes helping to get all we enforced working from homers (d'oh!) up and running.

          This is for you guys and gals ---------------------->

          Thank you very much.

          I have finished the mad dash to get WfH all setup. All that remains now is the firewall, the firewall guy is busy with a shit ton of other requests from other companies as well, so we have to be patient.

          So now we have to see if we can actually pull an unplanned WfH scenario off. My suggestion to the CEO was that we do make it a regular excercise just to see that we are prepared for a worse-case scenario.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yesterday

          TPTB decided to issue me with a Win10 laptop, just in case I need to work from home... except I can't work from home because I'm configuring big bits of Cisco kit in a workshop environment and the logistics would be impossible

          All I could do is answer emails, but I can't as the laptop was set up for someone else and uses 'Windows Hello' to log on and set up the VPN, and naturally I don't have access to either (I haven't been migrated to The Cloud yet)... and, besides, the IT dept don't want too many people trying to use VPN


          (calmly locks unused laptop in cupboard to gather dust and prepares to fire up company webmail portal on home computer)

          1. AmenFromMars

            Re: Yesterday

            "except I can't work from home because I'm configuring big bits of Cisco kit in a workshop environment" that's when you need a terminal server. Admittedly you do have to go in to connect everything up but it works a treat for me doing the same.

        5. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Yesterday

          Too bad the boss will eventually fire some of them.

          Very rarely is heroics rewarded these days. Very often, it is punished for making the boss look bad.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Yesterday

            And the really worrying thing is that the boss is firing the wrong person. The one making the boss look bad is nearly always that same boss.

        6. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Yesterday

          "Our IT department have been absolute heroes"

          They usually are.

          It's MANGLEMENT who pull shit like dumping stuff on unprepared workers, then pulling the rug out from under IT whilst they're attempting to help.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yesterday

      We told our users to take their laptop with them when they left, and if they needed a better keyboard and an external monitor, take the stuff on their own desk.

      I'm not effing going to hand out a truckload of monitors or keyboards and mice. Or be the unfortunate guy who has to recover all that crap again when the hysteria is over. Just the thought of cleaning all that kit before storing it away...

      I have been reimaging spare laptops, though, and have nearly 3 dozen ready and waiting for breakages...

      (So far, just a couple of completely knackered batteries... )

      VOIP phones?


      Skype for business works well enough for most.

      Now I'm working on the junk pile, sorting what can still be used, what should be recycled, and removing the evidence.(user data, 'cleverly hidden' notes about passowrds in the DVD drive, the usual stuff)

      I may even take the time to clear out the tangles in one or two of the comms closets now that there's no users about...

      It's an ill wind that brings no good...

      This brought me peace and quiet to get things done!

      1. Terje

        Re: Yesterday

        Graduate from the BOFH school of IT i see! :)

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: Yesterday

          No, a true BOFH would have issued the users with their own shovels, cement, quick lime and full printed instructions to carry out their own DIY burials. Possibly, to help them on their way, the company-issued keyboards would have come pre-fitted with (mostly) concealed cattle prods whose only visible sign is a tiny but sharp metal spike stcking out betwen the R and T keys ready to catch an unwary finger for an unexpected surprise >kzzzt!<.

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: Yesterday

            No, a true BOFH would have issued the users with their own shovels, cement, quick lime and full printed instructions to carry out their own DIY burials.

            If any member the family should die whilst in the shelter, put them outside, but remember to tag them first for identification purposes.

            Patrick Allen in Protect and Survive/Two Tribes Frankie Goes To Hollywood

            1. Andy 68

              Re: Yesterday

              "Use your wheels - it is what they are for"

          2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

            Re: Yesterday

            in case of virus attack, put a white bedsheet over your head and proceed slowly to the nearest cemetery.

            Why slowly ?

            So as not to create a panic.

            (adapted from an old soviet joke)

        2. Simian Surprise

          Re: Yesterday

          > Skype for business works well enough for most.

          That's how you know he's a BOFH.

      2. Rol

        Re: Yesterday

        Our IT department is buying in bulk loads of Jizzaway, to decontaminate the returning IT gear, before it starts an STI epidemic.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Re: Yesterday

          Clorox sheepdip tank

    3. PM from Hell

      A bit of kindness

      I've been involved in several emergency deployments over the years where we have had to get kit out to sites disrupted by fires/ lightning strikes/floods. When the brown stuff hits the fan the guys delivering kit to site are unlikely to be technical specialists and probably have a van full of stuff to drop off. A this point anyone who can image a machine is doing so, network specialists are probably working to increase external network capacity and anyone who can help out with user support is attached to the help desk pool. Some people will be able to put the kit together them selves, some will be lucky enough to have friends/ relatives who can help them out and those both pressure off the help desk to support the people who really can't manage it. You can either take the time to ensure everything is fully configured and tested (my usual approach) or you can get kit out to as many people and possible then mop-up the issues over the next few days. When a team sized to deploy 10-20 machines a day are suddenly asked to deploy several hundred some corners do need to be cut

  5. Rol

    Excel-Word-Excel-Word. Bored! Rat-a-tat-tat-tat, bang, bang, whoosh

    I'm currently buying shares in KVM manufacturers, especially those with multiple monitor support.

    I have my own office set up and have no desk space for the firms work from home gear, so a KVM switch will be the ideal solution.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Excel-Word-Excel-Word. Bored! Rat-a-tat-tat-tat, bang, bang, whoosh

      I've heard that oddly they're not seeing quite the upswing that they thought. I'm surprised! It may come later if the WFH rules stay in force for longer. Not many people have dual 24-core Xeon PCs with 192GB RAM, 90TB RAID arrays, dual Quadro RTX6000 graphics cards and twin 32" UHD screens. Not that you could KVM the bandwidth of 4KUHD down an IP pipe less that a 10Gb fibre... Not even the magic of 5G could do that. Remote infrastructure my bottom.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The way our Govt handled this outbreak surprised me. I expected lots of waffling and faffing whilst Rome burns.

    I'm just glad Zuma got outed.

    1. Cynic_999

      The problem is that the cure is fast proving worse than the disease. The loss of jobs and economic collapse will end up killing more people than the virus would if unchecked. I have friends in other countries who have lost their jobs as a result of the restrictions and now cannot feed their children (not being a country that has welfare). Their family and friends are in the same boat and so cannot bail them out. So the kids will suffer malnutrition related diseases.

      Even in the UK, the elderly may survive the virus only to find that the market collapse has wiped out their pension. So they will live until hypothermia gets them as they cannot afford to heat their homes.

      1. whitepines

        I'm surprised so few people are talking about this. I'm not sure if it's a case of the poor don't matter and deserve to die (which I strongly disagree with) or if it's just plain stupid shortsightedness, but from the first day this was a concern I had.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge

    the other clippy

    I once used a paper clip to remove a stuck floppy. I was Mr. Wizard for a day...

    1. Imhotep

      Re: the other clippy

      I was looking for a paper clip the other day - looks like they're becoming rara avis. Thankfully, so are the floppies.

      1. Criggie

        Re: the other clippy

        True geeks keep a paperclip in their wallet at all times. Its rarely needed, but when it is you're golden.

        (checks) damnit must have used mine! Its gone!

  8. Imhotep

    Designated Whipping Boy

    The PA for the CEO had been working on a Powerpoint for a board meeting the next day.

    The file was created on a network share, the hard disk had maxxed out - and she was unable to save her work.

    She called the Help Desk and they had her reboot her PC. Then realizing what they'd done, they called me and had me go to her desk to see about an undefined problem - the bastards.

    Wasn't unable to recover any file, so all I was able to do was deliver the bad news. This did finally result in a hard drive upgrade for that server.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Designated Whipping Boy

      Been there, got the scars.

      Now I always know to ask a LOT of questions these days and update my ticket FIRST.

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    The hidden object

    When I think back at my struggles with mastering new bits of software over the decades the biggest group, by far, were when something was happening that couldn't be seen.*

    Like when a graphics programme automatically created a new layer,say, but didn't show this anywhere so I'm trying to select and copy a section of blank space that looked like the image I'm working on.

    Or there's an essential space in the instruction I'm following from a book, that's not obvious either visually on the page or by purpose, but is needed on the computer. ( Or the converse, of course).

    Key here is that the developer/writer could have easily made this clear - some online guides do indeed say things like "be careful about the space between..." because it's not rocket science to realise that this is a stumbling block.

    *I'm also averse to computer games that require you to push a random, but not actually visible, element that you have to locate by pure random chance. These invoke the same feelings in me as the items above, but with less motivation to continue. If I'm stuck in a dark room at the start of the game and I've pushed every fucking object I can locate and I'm still stuck there then I'm not going to keep going. I do wonder if software designers' expectations are in some way very different from other people's. I want to be shown the tools so that I can do the action. Not spend hours looking for the tools.

    1. mezrac

      Re: The hidden object

      You can add the use of the "magic" right-click. You just have to know that you need to right-click here.

    2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

      Re: The hidden object

      "Not spend hours looking for the tools"

      Sounds like my workshop when SWMBO has been in and "tidied up" :-(

  10. Cleryoptrus

    Can you help?

    A little (very) old lady of my acquaintance brought her Kindle round to me, "Can you help me, you know about computers, it won't work". I did the standard holding of power button for a minute and, lo, it rebooted. After a few minutes I checked that it was OK - to be met by 50 Shades of Grey! I instantly realised that she would die of mortification on the spot if she realised I could see her reading tastes so I set it to the Home page and handed it back without comment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can you help?

      [...] to be met by 50 Shades of Grey! I instantly realised that she would die of mortification on the spot if she realised I could see her reading tastes [...]

      No, I suspect you were actually meant to see that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can you help?

        Maybe she thought it was about hair styles for the elderly - 50 shades of Grey (hair)?

        Or the Kindle try to committed suicide?

        Seen on Internet - "I refuse to degrade my book collection with that book, or my porn collection with the DVD"

  11. Steve Kerr

    Called by the head of the dealing floor

    Back at the end of the 90's

    Guy calls the helpdesk at 18:45pm, comes through the Ops (me) as helpdesk finished at 6pm.

    He's having a problem printing so I call the desktop people that work to 19:00, guy answers the phone and says "nah, I'm going home" and hangs up.

    Phone the bod back and said that no-one is available from desktops and I can come down and have a look.

    Get down to his office with his own huge HP Laserjet 4 in there and ask what the issue is, he says that the when he prints an email, nothing happens. I look on the printer and it says "load letter", knowing that outlook from the late 90's defaulted to letter and was rather hard to force to A4, I just pressed continue and his emails then came out.

    He then said "Is that all I needed to do? I've been back and forth with desktop team for weeks about this and all they needed to do was to tell me to press continue on the printer?" He was very happy to just press continue each time he printed an email and was rather annoyed that no-one in desktops could give him that small snippet of info which he would've been happy with.

    Ops 1 desktop 0

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

      To me this is just another of those hidden tripwires. If the paper's actual size is different to the loaded size but there's no indicator that this is an issue, or that there is a response, then that's just crappy design. This should present a pop-up message - even if it's only a vague one- so that the user has a chance of knowing what has happened.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

        The message did pop up ... on the printer.

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

          “‘PC LOAD LETTER’? What the f*ck does that mean???”

          (*takes printer out to field, smashes it up with baseball bats*)

          1. Dwarf

            Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

            PC Load Letter = Paper Cassette (PC) Load Letter Paper

            So, in the paper tray (paper cassette), put in Letter sized paper as thats what the print job called for.

            Like everything in the world, its trivially clear when you know what the terms mean

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

              It also helps to be american, as someone who only understands english would not know that "letter" referred to an exotic paper size used in one of the collonies.

              It is a shame that US software developers chose to have their software default to "letter" size, as "PC load legal" or "PC load executive" have many potentially ammusing interpretations that could help with morale. I of course refer to the fact that either the legal department or management will assist with the worload by fielding trivial support calls, rather than suggesting a way to have a user dispose of whoever keeps refusing to remove that clause from your employment contract.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                And who the hell calls it a Paper Cassette? It's been a Paper Tray since the first one I used, the Canon LBP I. Prior to that, on daisywheels and dot matrix it would be a sheet feeder.

                1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                  Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                  The printer calls it a cassette and that's who / what you are negotiating with.

            2. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

              Letter sized paper

              What are you on about?

              Where in the list from A3 to A5 (normal office sizes) does this come?

              I have never seen any such thing. I have always assumed that it's some American thing that no one else in the world uses but we all have to work around.

              You write as if it's normal.

              1. SImon Hobson

                Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                Ha, to some people our "quaint" A-series sizes are oddball. OK it was a lot of years ago now, but I remember having to call from home in the evening to get around the timezone differences when I was trying to get a piece of software to default to A4. I got a question along the lines of "what is A4, is it some sort of company specific size ?".

                Yep, this US software support person had never even heard of A4 !

                Of course, it's one thing if the printer has a display to tell you what's wrong. A lot fo the smaller ones (like the LJ1320) have no display - just a multi-purpose indicator on a multi-purpose button. If the problem is the above mentioned "load letter" problem, the light flashes and pressing the button will make it continue (IIRC). But at other times, the light can also flash, but pressing the button will trigger printing of the test/demo page. Sometimes there are a lot of notes/jottings lying around with half an LJ1320 demo page on the back.

                Icon sums up my feelings on some of these printer UI designs.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                  "Yep, this US software support person had never even heard of A4 !"

                  IIRC, the US Govt.standardised on A and B sized paper many years ago in an attempt to get the rest of the US to accept it, but very few commercial operations will change to the standards the rest of the world uses.

              2. Dwarf

                Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                I’m English but still know what letter paper is. Never seen a sheet of it in my life but they didn’t stop me reading the manual that came with the printer to understand what it was trying to convey.

                The OP posting was about what it meant, rather than if it was a good idea, so down voting me because you didn’t like the answer is just shows how fickle the el reg forums can be.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                  didn’t stop me reading the manual that came with the printer to understand what it was trying to convey.

                  Manual? When did an office worker get given the manual? Even when the thing was new and shiny it's improbable that anyone actually using the printer would see a manual - let alone down the line. Not would they expect to be asked to read it, or be asked to for that matter, or even given time to. Or even have the skills, background and interest - assuming that there even is one, which these days is unlikely. They're all online.

                  And while techie minded folk on El Reg might know what this "letter" thing is, to the rest of the world, other than in rebel colonies, letter is what you write, not what you write on.

              3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                "I have never seen any such thing. I have always assumed that it's some American thing that no one else in the world uses but we all have to work around."

                Anyone who ever used a dot matrix printer with fanfold tractor feed paper has used US Letter paper. It was possible to get it in A4 size, but required special handling as the sprockets and default linefeed distance didn't align vertically with the 297mm length of A4.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

                  Except that the size was irrelevant then. It was just The Paper.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

        Tripwire? Somewhat. Printers from that era were limited by the display tech in the info they could convey. HPs were always good about "I don't really give a rat's ass about A4/letter or plaon paper vs. Fancy paper, just do the best you can and print the dang thing"

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

          The HP LJ 4000 series had a config setting that ignored the whole Letter\A4 mismatch thing IIRC.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      A4 vs letter

      Over 80% of this world uses A4 and somehow all software and printers still default to letter. For Windows this should by now be in the Regional Settings with sensible defaults for most if not all countries.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: A4 vs letter

        Yes, should. Guess what my PDF printer does.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: A4 vs letter

        "Over 80% of this world uses A4 and somehow all software and printers still default to letter. "

        More specifically:

        Postscript (and PDF by inheritance) standardises ALL english locales to US-letter/legal/executive and all non-english locales to A4. It's set in stone and can't be revised without a spec update - and after 30 years that has about as much chance of being taken up as an icecube lasting more than 5 minutes in a glassblower's furnace.

        So you're screwed if you're in Mexico, etc (US Letter), or any of the 18 or so non-US-english locales which use A4

        PCL uses the _same_ standardisation (inherited from the PS spec)

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

      There are a LOT of egos and not enough practical knowledge in helpdesk at all levels.

      I know. It's my world.

      Yet somehow the less knowledgeable remain while the experienced are fired.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

        The good techies I've worked with came in three flavours.

        The ambitious moved on.

        The ones that were actually proactive (unless also in the first group ) got pushed out by resentful or self-serving managers

        The happy or needing to remain got bypassed and overlooked/taken for granted, and became resentful then either became less useful or also felt forced to move on.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

      "Guy calls the helpdesk at 18:45pm,"

      Just be grateful it wasn't 18:45am! :-p

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Called by the head of the dealing floor

      "knowing that outlook from the late 90's defaulted to letter and was rather hard to force to A4, I just pressed continue and his emails then came out."

      This isn't one of those problems that's gone away either. The number of comments shows that clearly.

      Thankfully MOST printers have a "override A4/US letter" option - but you have to enable it. I mostly solved the issue in our network with that and a filter to rewrite pages from US letter to A4 on the fly if any slipped through the "A4 ONLY" modified drivers provided to anyone attempting to use networked printers (easy enough, just remove all mention of the sizes you don't want people using...)

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    Ah Power Point 3

    My first regular PC jobs were making slides in Power Point 3 (Win 3.5), Genigraphics (remember them? Dedicated consoles late 80s-early 90s) and Harvard Graphics (DOS 5)!

    Targa cards (and the like, and there weren't many makers in those days) were the only way to get the image to the cameras.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah Power Point 3

      Upvote for Targa!

      Used to work for a reseller of Truevision kit, providing technical support and later repairing them.

      Had some salesman come in with a Powerpoint presentation - one of the backgrounds was a circuit board which looked quite familar - it was part of a Targa+ board! I had recognised it even though it was upside down......

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dial-in Capacity

    I was privy to an accidental "reply-all" from my employer in NZ (IT Services company) where someone had demanded major increases in remote dial-in capacity and the response from Networks was something along the lines of "and who's effing budget are the licenses for that coming out of? Cos it aint mine"

    And the government department where I am contracted to has regional offices shutting down and sending people home to work remotely but forgetting to tell IT there will be an increased load on their VPN services. So the techs are running around with kit between data centres trying to shore up the infrastructure. At least I have my token (nyah nyah)!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dial-in Capacity

      The IT industry are smart enough to know that this situation can be leveraged to highlight to management the importance of properly funding essential business departments that are normally neglected.

  14. earl grey

    ugh, all sounding too familiar

    Having been employed by and worked for over 40 years for a major telco which infamously pushed tele-work to the general public but NOT to its own employees...

    all i can say is Bastwards.

    when i did work from home, i used my own computer as i refused to take their lappie home with me because I would be liable if anything happened to it whilst off the company premises.

    glad i am not there any more.

  15. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    ...and the Teen Angels -->>

  16. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Back in the days of high speed 300 baud modems

    I took a DEC 11/23 from work to the local CP/M user group with three VT100 terminals so that they could see multitasking - it was fun, they could not believe that it was possible on a computer that just rolled into the room on four casters. For the demonstration, I fired up Adventure and let them play it.

  17. J.G.Harston Silver badge


    Wonderful, you've pushed one earworm out of my head and pushed in another one. :)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excel memories

    Bought back memories.....

    Windows 3 and Excel. Somehow they have managed to move the window so that the top of the window had been moved off the top of the screen and so were unable to access the menu. They had spoken to an "IT" company who was going to charge them an arm and leg to reinstall it all again. I was asked to look at it.

    Quick Alt-Space, Maximise. Quit and opened up Excel to make sure it still worked. I was so embarrassed about taking money for something so simple.

    Think it's down to a tight fisted MD that wouldn't buy enough mice for all the PC's in the office - as I was often out and about, my mouse would be missing on my return - so learnt to use a keyboard with Windows.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Excel memories

      And a thirty or so years of bosses thinking technology, even wholly new software, shouldn't need staff training - they should be able to just pick it up. And software designers thinking that it's someone else's responsibility to make sure that uses can err use their software. They're both wrong. The software should be intuitive and easy to adjust to, no hidden surprises or unpredictable consequences. But the bosses should provide some training for new stuff when they start to use it.

  19. Dr_N

    Powerpoint in the 90s

    What joy.

    Then print to ½cwt of overhead projector acetates and lug them around from site to site.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Loo trees and shrubs...

    That reminds me of a time when a patient showed up in our office who had used a plant to wipe ... the plant unfortunately for her, turned out to be poison ivy.

  21. I Am Spartacus

    Fake News!!!

    I'm calling Bullsh*t on this one. It was believable right up to the point where he said the manager REWARDED him with a nice bottle of wine.

    That never happens. Never. And not a nice bottle, may be we could stretch to a bottle of Australian gut rot. Nut not a nice bottle.

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