back to article Let's... drawer a veil over why this laser printer would decide to stop working randomly

Friday is here, and with it a tale of extraordinary sleuthing courtesy of The Register's On Call. Today's story, from a reader Regomised as "Steve", concerns the world of toner cartridges, paper and laser printers. Steve filled the engineering role many of us have done at one time or another, and was responsible for first, …

  1. Chris G

    Low IQ or low volition?

    That is a typical example of a vampire user; too lazy to think their way through even the simplest of problems when they can whine at someone else to think for them so they suck on the abilities of others.

    1. A K Stiles

      Re: Low IQ or low volition?

      Exactly - first time, you've demonstrated that

      a) there's a power switch

      b) it's easy to check / flip

      So why is the first instinct, on the next instance, to call support rather than just check? Gah!

      1. tinman

        Re: Low IQ or low volition?

        But did they demonstrate it? Or did they walk in, fix it, and then walk off without telling anyone what the problem or solution was, because that's what we usually get from our helpdesk

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          Turning it off and on again regularly? Sounds like the kind of IT auto fix. If we had PCs that rebooted every time someone sat down to do some work help desk calls would halve.

          1. JK63

            Re: Low IQ or low volition?

            If we had a reliable OS that didn't require reboots as frequently that would be a solution too.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Low IQ or low volition?

              It would be even better if we had an OS where reliability INCREASED the longer you left it between boot-ups but that too is fantasy.

            2. FIA Silver badge

              Re: Low IQ or low volition?

              If we had a reliable OS that didn't require reboots as frequently that would be a solution too.

              These days, unless you've got driver issues, it's generally the applications that require the reboot, not so much the OS.

              One of the ways they chose to speed up the Windows startup was to have 'Shutdown' actually log you out (thus quitting all the applications) and then hibernating. (If you're on a modern windows, check out the uptime in task manager, it might be a lot highter than you expect).

            3. veti Silver badge

              Re: Low IQ or low volition?

              My last work computer, I'd leave on (hibernating overnight) for weeks on end. What do you think is a reasonable interval between reboots?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Low IQ or low volition?

                "What do you think is a reasonable interval between reboots?"

                Mine typically only get rebooted when required following a patch, usually in the kernel (just about anything else can be restarted without a reboot) ... and then only during a routine maintenance window, unless it's security related.

            4. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. TomPhan

            Re: Low IQ or low volition?

            You first make sure everyone knows they should reboot their PC as part of the end of day routine, then you start a job running which automatically reboots any that keep getting left on.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Low IQ or low volition?

              And you'll still get the ones that won't accept that turning off the fucking monitor isn't turning off the computer. Let alone listening to how to do this safely.

              1. gnasher729 Silver badge

                Re: Low IQ or low volition?

                They are called “iMac users”. And there is only one power switch. You may add laptop users as well.

                1. Snapper

                  Re: Low IQ or low volition?

                  Well, I REALLY doubt iMacs have be rebooted as often as Windows computers.

                  Unless a 'Windows Engineer' has been 'fixing' it, and that's easy to spot as it will be running at 50% speed.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Low IQ or low volition?

              "You first make sure everyone knows they should reboot their PC as part of the end of day routine, then you start a job running which automatically reboots any that keep getting left on."

              Or you get some green-eyed tech-illiterate moron who believes that switching every piece of kit off overnight improves performance, saves time and money and protects the environment. Every bit of kit they can reach, that is. Thankfully the switches and servers are kept well away from their grubby little fingers but it took a few snarky words to get them to leave the printers alone. That, and making them wait for their prints until all the others were out before telling them (again!) that other people in the office work different hours and often print out stuff they will need the following day... or they would if some idiot didn't keep switching the printers off!

              They still do it with the PCs and monitors and don't realise - or don't care - how fricking long it takes the hardware to boot up in the morning.

              Anon because I know a few of these candidates for retro-active birth control read El Reg.

          3. Blackjack Silver badge

            Re: Low IQ or low volition?

            Unless the PC was already on before that, then they would double.

            The reboot when you sit? Seen it happen, it was a power cable under the chair. Moved it and solved the issue.

        2. John 110

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          If it was anything like the place I worked, you'll find that the 1 minute it takes to get to the user's office is too long and they've buggered off for coffee or a crap.

          So you fix it and bugger off for etc etc...


        3. ThinkingMonkey

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          Sounds good in theory but I tried that "explaining what went wrong" thing many times with 0% success rate. About 0.03 seconds into my explanation the glazed eyes and facial expression silently said "You have performed your duty and you are now dismissed." I stopped trying to explain unless they asked. Even then, the facial expression usually signalled that they were sorry they asked.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Low IQ or low volition?

            I did try to start such explanations off with "next time......" which helped.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Low IQ or low volition?

              Not always. Had a call about a cordless phone not working. They had put in normal batteries instead of rechargeable. Fortunately I had a coupe of spare and did the explanation and closed call.

              Six months later, had another call. Same person, same phone.... This time the batteries had leaked and despite my best efforts had to be replaced. I started to explain about the batteries and "Ohh, I remember you telling us that last time!"

        4. Aus Tech

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          The first time that happens, you just switch the printer back on, and leave. The second time it happens, you look to see what is going on around the printer, and a quick check reveals that the user has re-arranged their furniture to suit their requirements. Result: the first time that they open their drawer, the printer gets switched off, accidentally and unnoticed, until they want to print something. If it happens again, you threaten them with disemboweling, or a dawn execution by firing squad, NOT, even if you would like to do that to them. The world is full of users who don't think that they need to learn to do some basic checks when simple things don't work.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Low IQ or low volition?

        At a council in Zummerzet, users (Usually in the social services dept - Icon.) would go on holiday & return screaming that their computers were dead, not powering up etc, eventually the call would come down to the ITSC wooden hut in the car park after deskside support passed it down to us to get it resolved sometime after lunch\mid afternoon, amid much grumbles that they had been unable to work all day impacting schedules & important cases etc.

        This was followed by acute embarrassment when the power switch was flicked on the rear of the Sony monitors, after having complained loudly to their boss about why hadn't IT fixed anything yet & would now have to offer up that root cause to that same manager.

        1. jaffy2

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          Fun memories of working in that hut!

    2. EVP

      Re: Low IQ or low volition?

      Such a situation requires taking the printer away to be inspected, informing the user^w vampire a couple of days later that it needs to be serviced and it will be back in 2-3 weeks. Repeat as many times as needed.

      1. Empty1

        Re: Low IQ or low volition?

        I used to give them an old loaner from the scrap pile complete with toner everywhere to stop them complaining about being left with no printer and getting new one by devious routes

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          And when they absolutely must have a colour one, they tend not to specify that the printed colours must be the ones commanded, so blue toner in the red cartridge and vice versa? Test patterns look fine (unless you know what it should look like), monochrome is perfect, ....

        2. ThinkingMonkey

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          Same here. Any repeat printer problems, such as changing "Default Printer" in Windows 3 times a week and then telling me they didn't do that, a phenomenon that I do not understand to this day, (Does anybody know why users do that so much?), they would occasionally require a "prolonged servicing" on their nice printer while in the meantime using one from the supply closet that although it printed, its arrival in the office or cubicle reduced the property value of said office/cubicle by about 75%.

          Needless to say, as all of you can attest, the tech problems started getting solved when possible by "teamwork", that is to say, they asked other users if they had any ideas about fixing a small problem instead of calling us. And of course, they did and it worked fine.

          1. TSM

            Re: Low IQ or low volition?

            > changing "Default Printer" in Windows 3 times a week and then telling me they didn't do that, a phenomenon that I do not understand to this day, (Does anybody know why users do that so much?)

            Are you aware that current Windows, by default, manages the default printer setting for you? It does this by setting it to "whatever you last printed to at this location", so that every time you print to a non-default printer, your default changes.

            I'm not sure who came up with this idea, but it seems like a bad solution for most users; I suspect most people follow the pattern "print to this one printer 95+% of the time, but once in a while somewhere else", rather than "print exclusively to this printer until the next office reorg, then print exclusively to the printer nearest my new location" which is the only scenario I can come up with where this makes sense.

            1. Screwed

              Re: Low IQ or low volition?

              Agreed it is mostly a ridiculous decision but it can be sort-of right in other circumstances. Such as when a PC is built in one location and shipped to the user in a place with one printer. They plug it in, do one print - then it is right for the future. Similarly if they replace the one printer at that location.

              However, options like Print to PDF entirely screw up the concept. The user might only have one physical printer but many also produce PDFs.

      2. Trollslayer

        Re: Low IQ or low volition?

        You are the BOFH and I claim my £50!

        1. EVP

          Re: Low IQ or low volition?

          Did you mention something about £50? Oh, I must have misheard. Be assured, your printer will keep working tomorrow, too.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Low IQ or low volition?

        +1 but...

        ...should be median....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          that's a mean comment

          1. Intractable Potsherd

            Re: average

            Merely á la mode...

          2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: average

            From a standard deviant!

      2. SuperGeek

        Re: Low IQ or low volition?

        Common sense.......Where? I don't see it! Nope, it isn't under the desk! Nope, it isn't in the bin. Nope, it isn't in the big roundish thing on your neck, or grabbing a (nasty rat-shat-in-it-tasting) coffee from the machine. You must have left it on your pillow this morning!

        Common sense isn't very common!!

  2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

    Pretty much my introduction to the helldesk. User had an intermittent problem caused by their keyboard getting stuck under the monitor, depressing one key. And when they picked up the phone to call support, they had to move the keyboard, fixing the problem until the next time.

    Back then I didn't have the experience to figure it out, so that was the first use I ever had for the shovel and bag of lime.

    1. A K Stiles

      There's normally a roll of old carpet that needs disposing of, but you try claiming for the shovel and lime on expenses...

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Creative naming.

        It's not lime, it's an ISO-compliant server room desiccant.

        And it's not a shovel, but a high volume Low Order Analogue Media transfer device, with CLA/Y* adaptations.

        (Corporate Liability Avoidance, Y-class)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Creative naming

          Every IT department needs an Earth Inverter, surely.

        2. Stoneshop

          A manually-operated, pedal-force augmented, composite soil transfer and reshaping implement.

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


        invested in a wood chipper for the dumb employees and signed it up saying "Please reach inside for your P45"......

        Partly because its quick and cheap but mostly because the lift cant get to the ground floor any more

        1. SuperGeek

          Re: We've

          Mincemeat for tea again then? Just watch those tendons and bits of gristle! Fancy a chilli? Mushrooms? Peppers?

      3. David Hicklin Bronze badge

        I've got an old carpet that needs disposing of...mind its a bit soggy now as it is in the back yard...

    2. macjules

      My introduction to IT was as a Grade 9 intake into Whitehall. First ever job was to solve an "I.T." issue with a truly gigantic government green telex that had stopped working for some unknown reason. This was a machine that must have seen serious usage in WW2 and ever since: the power cabling was vulcanised rubber-coated wire with cloth wrapping and slowly disintegrating - so much so that you could see the live copper cabling. Replaced the mains cabling and everything started up ok, at which news my boss grumbled that he could have got a month of doing nothing out of fixing that machine.

      1. Snapper

        Oh god, you've just given me flashbacks to working for the Civil Service, you bastard!

  3. jake Silver badge

    Sometimes there is no need for the curtain ... other times, though ...

    Back in the day I worked on a lot of T-carrier stuff. I can't tell you how many times an owner/client ranted about a shiny new (fractional) T1/E1 link being down, how the equipment was shit, the field guys were incompetent, and how pretty much everybody involved with the installation should be taken out behind the barn & horsewhipped. Most of the time[0], it was an incorrectly set loopback switch on the new node. Seems bosses in general can't resist flipping switches ... and can't read blinkenlights.

    Sometimes I'd casually reached out and toggle the loopback switch, thus fixing the link and painting the boss's face an interesting shade of red when I presented him with the bill reading nothing more than "Call out. Flipped loopback switch. $1,000" on an official invoice.

    But once in a while, after inspecting the node, I'd stand aside & motion the boss through the door before me. While he had his back to me, I'd flip the switch ... and we'd go off to his office for a chat about fixing the obviously broken machine. I'd let him rant on for several minutes, around 20 was the record, but always ending up with "so what are you going to do about it, then?". To which I would quietly reply "Oh, I've already fixed it. We'll invoice you for the call out". Sometimes the resulting sputtering reached epic proportions ...

    [0] The rest of the time it was a cable that had fallen out of the CSU/DSU because it hadn't been screwed down properly. We always took the blame for that, even if it was their guys bolting stuff together. We've all done it, we're only human, I'll take the blame, no charge ... sometimes it's handy to have a friendly couple of faces in a client's datacenter who probably won't ever try to throw you under a bus.

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes there is no need for the curtain ... other times, though ...

      What happened when you flopped the switch, went to the bosses office, let him chew you out, you then state its fixed AND its not fixed?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Sometimes there is no need for the curtain ... other times, though ...

        Never happened. I can read blinkenlights.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Sometimes there is no need for the curtain ... other times, though ...

      Cruel, but appropriate and necessary.

  4. jch

    Well, you say that but ...

    A long time ago there was a PDP11/70 with an intermittent crashing problem. Engineers were called out to scratch their heads, mutter under their breaths, and leave the problem unfixed.

    Eventually, by accident, one of the engineers happened to swing the rear door panel of the cabinet out of the way so he could get past. The 11/70 promptly crashed.

    It transpired that there was a cable that was disturbed when said panel blew in the aircon breeze. The cable was replaced and all was happy until it rained.

    (The machine room was underground and the building covered an old stream which occasionally resurfaced in the far corner)

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Ah, the good ol' let's put all the expensive electronics in the only room that can get flooded decision.

      Amazing how quickly the floorplan can get changed after a good rain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Many years ago (around 40) I worked for the UK part of an international oilfield services company (on the manufacturing side, not IT, I hasten to add). We had a fairly powerful IBM mainframe controlling operations, with dumb terminals around the offices and workshops, punch card readers at strategic manufacturing stages, etc. This computer recorded orders, receipts, inventory, production routing, material issues, traceability, nonconformances, etc. Central to the whole operation and backed up overnight via a satellite link to HQ in the good 'ol USofA.

        It wasn't set in a basement - it had its own purpose-built building. However, whoever designed it overlooked a couple of features:

        - It had a sealed and bunded floor (to avoid risk of water entering);

        - It has water pipes running through it (and no convenient stop cock).

        One of the pipes has a plastic section. One day a maintenance muppet decided that section would take his weight when he needed to reach up high...

        It was just chance that all the susceptible kit was about an inch higher than the step out through the door. Production still suffered that day as IT weren't taking chances keeping things running while maintenance were baling!

        1. Mast1

          Plan B fail

          Many moons ago, a certain broadcaster built an isolated studio suspended on springs within an outer building. Site was next to a canal, so high groundwater levels. "Never mind we will (a) tank it, and (2) put in an emergency float-activated pump in case the tank fails". During a wet period, the tanking fails, basement floods, float switches on pump, pump cannot initially keep up, float continues to rise and eventually flips over, switching OFF the pump.

          1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

            Re: Plan B fail

            The company I used to work for had a medium size skyscraper a few years ago (about 20 storeys, IIRC). They've since moved out, and the building has been refitted (as flats,I believe).

            The design of the building put all of the utilities in the basement. The company counted their Server room as a utility, so that went in the basement as well, as did the lift motor room.

            Nice idea, and actually a very intelligent use of space, but the building had a design flaw. It had crap water insulation, and, being built on the banks of the Thames, flooded regularly. Everytime it flooded, the flood took out the electricity supply, lifts, phones and all the servers.

            Thankfully, by the time I worked for the company, they had actually moved everything apart from the lift motor room and electricity supply from the basement to one of the upper floors, and improved the insulation, so the flooding pretty much stopped, and even if it did, the damage was limited.

      2. Caver_Dave Silver badge

        I'll raise you

        Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and emergency generators

        [Icon, because nearly]

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: I'll raise you

          Absolutely nowhere "nearly" at all.

      3. GlenP Silver badge

        Not Just IT...

        My present abode had a ground source heat pump, brilliant piece of kit but...

        It's mounted behind the house, about 4 inches lower than the adjacent patio. The garden slopes up form there to a field and the local impervious clay is an inch or two below the surface. Cue really heavy rain not long after I moved in and I could see the water running down the so-called lawn in streams. Mine only flooded to just below the mains power, the next door neighbour's one tripped the electrics so she's on her own with a young child and no heating or hot water. She did the sensible thing, turned everything off and went back to her parents!

        All the builder shad to do was make sure the heat pump base was level with , or above, the patio.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Rain? Luxury!

        There are worse things than rainwater to flood your basement/server room with!

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Rain? Luxury!

          Colleague told me of a 10-storey block of flats, all identical design with bathrooms in the same place. Whoever plumbed them installed a vertical main soil pipe, with each bathroom connected to it as it descended.

          The pipe, standard plastic, arrived in the basement, where it made a 90-degree turn to run across the ceiling to the main sewer connection.

          After a few months the landlord started to get calls about a terrible smell in the building, and when the plumbers investigated they found the basement a foot deep in sewage. As my colleague colourfully commented "nobody had calculated the terminal velocity of a turd after falling 10 floors". After a while the repeated impacts had punched the 90-degree elbow off the pipe where it entered the basement...

          1. Mast1

            Re: Rain? Luxury!

            Try living on the ground floor of a rubbish bit of 1960's 3-storey UK-built maisonette/flat combinations (Planked floors between successive floors, with plasterboard on the underside. You could easily hear the microwave bell from the kitchen above). The route of the PVC foul pipe was boxed in behind wooden panels inside the corridor, and the bend was just below the floor. Acoustic, rather than physical, leakage was the problem.

          2. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: Rain? Luxury!

            I hate this, I really do, but I remembered you've already posted this back in 2013 (the year I got from checking when it'd been)

            Although "terminal velocity of a turd" is a sentence hardly forgotten, congratulations!

            1. Tom 7

              Re: Rain? Luxury!

              TBF water from that height could probably do the job. If you dont believe me try dropping a plastic bottle of water from height onto concrete and see how fast it shoots out the sides on impact.

            2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

              Re: Rain? Luxury!

              Myself & a few others have also drawn reference to the "terminal velocity of a turd story".

              I think it goes back even further than that!

          3. Tom 7

            Re: Rain? Luxury!

            After some cheap mods in a 10 story privatised block of flats emptying the bath on the top floor would suck so much air down the pipe it would empty the u-bends and stink out your flat until you refilled them.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Rain? Luxury!

              I used a drain snake to clear a blockage on the 8th floor of a block. Didn't realise the end wasn't attached to the drum, and gravity pulled it all the way in. No idea where it ended up, not my problem anymore. But that thing was designed to go round corners, so ground level is the best guess.

          4. JulieM Silver badge

            Re: Rain? Luxury!

            There was a reason why they always used to put the sewage pipe on the outside of the building .....

            OK, so the reason probably was mostly "to show the whole world that you have an indoor toilet"; but even without the passive aggression, it still seemed the more sensible place for it.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Rain? Luxury!

              The reason was because the place was originally built without (indoor) plumbing, and there was no other logical place to put the pipes. Sometimes sneaking even half inch copper[0] around joists, through walls and the like is a pain in the ass (arse, if you prefer). Figuring out where to run a huge 4" cast iron soilstack makes the outside walls look mighty attractive.

              This is not unique to the Old World, BTW. Here's a lovely example in downtown Sonoma.

              [0] Pex makes this almost an order of magnitude easier. I'll never run copper again, unless forced to do so by the building code.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rain? Luxury!

          There are lots of pipes of "stuff" above you in a hospital. If nasty coloured marks appear in the ceiling appear, we will cordon off the area beneath them. Unless they are in the server room where nobody goes...

          1. TimMaher Silver badge

            Re: Rain? Luxury!

            ...and I know that hospital.

            I claim my free bus trip between sites.

        3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Rain? Luxury!

          There are worse things than rainwater to flood your basement/server room with!

          Been there, done that, still remember the smell with a shudder 30 years later.

      5. Nunyabiznes


        "Ah, the good ol' let's put all the expensive electronics in the only room that can get flooded decision.

        Amazing how quickly the floorplan can get changed after a good rain."

        You would think. We bought some sandbags, floor dryers and a portable sump pump - because "It doesn't flood THAT often". Facepalm.

    2. benjya

      Re: Well, you say that but ...

      My current office building had a small stream through a basement corridor when it rained, although it's since been fixed (was a leak in next door's draining). My server room is in the basement, but worse, in the "sub-basement" is the electricity sub-station for the whole area... it actually has a "water detector" (a ping pong ball in a vertical tube with straws to let it move up but not back down again) in the corner...

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Well, you say that but ...

        Basements is weird. A mate of mine inherited a 15thC cottage with a massive earth cellar seemingly just dug into the ground. It was dry as a bone even when modern cellars on the same street flooded. One neighbour even offered to pay a small fortune to drill into the earth walls and floor to see what they'd done 600 years ago that worked so well. Didn't occur to him it might spoil the seal.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Well, you say that but ...

          Most likely they dug down to bedrock and built the building on that, then backfilled the celler with soil to get a level surface. That's how my 1890 terrace is built, with stone flags on the levelled soil.

        2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Well, you say that but ...

          It's a very simple trick, but won't help unless you have a time machine. All you have to do is get there 600 years ago and build the first house on the one bit of ground that stays dry all the time.

          1. Lindsay T

            Re: Well, you say that but ...

            A few years ago a wide flat valley near here had its "once in a hundred years" flood (that happens every thirty). It was only when they took an aerial photo that folk realised that all the old farmhouses and steadings were built on imperceptible rises and remained dry while the modern dwellings flooded up to window level. Our ancestors were not quite as daft as we imagined.

    3. stungebag

      Re: Well, you say that but ...

      I worked on a Burroughs mainframe in the City in the 70s. On Monday mornings we had a couple of operators from a discount bank come in and use some time, supplementing their own machine. And they complained about things just stopping. No error, just the lights stopped flashing, the card reader and printers silent, the tapes not turning.

      In those days computers weren't too reliable but this was a good one. It had 50kB of *semiconductor* memory and everything, What on earth was going on?

      We soon found out. The operator's console had a bar, about two inches by half an inch, labelled STOP/RUN. Guess what it did? And guess where someone had put her handbag?

  5. fgeva

    Something similar

    One of our customers used to have a PC that had some stability issues. It rebooted every now and then without an obvious reason.

    One day, I happened to have to check something at that PC. I sat down, slid the chair forward, felt my knee bump something, and the PC rebooted. Some slight rearranging of things so the reset switch wasn't right in front of the user's knee then fixed the problem.

    1. sofaspud

      Re: Something similar

      I had a similar-sounding issue -- intermittent PC reboots and freezes, no obvious reason. This went on for several weeks while the user got increasingly frustrated. But per my boss at the time, I couldn't replace anything unless I could document what was wrong with it, and "intermittent failure" was not on the acceptable reasons list.

      Then, one day, I'm at $problem_user's desk and he gets a call while I'm watching his PC happily boot back up. He reaches out, picks up the phone, and I hear a distinct sizzle from the speaker.

      Ten minutes later I'm back with a grounding mat I swiped from the IT office, pop that under his keyboard, and we never hear from him again.

      Static discharge can do some *weird* things.

      1. the Jim bloke

        Re: Something similar

        and we never hear from him again.

        the phrase inspires thoughts of more.. dramatic, wiring solutions..

    2. Chris 239

      Re: Something similar

      These days every Windows 10 computer does that ! - It's called "updating" I think.

  6. Barking House

    Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

    Had a major corporation that was moving to using biometrics for user device logins (Finger prints login), in part to improve security, part to remove the users requirement to remember passwords which was problematic in this company and partly to demonstrate to their leadership that they were adopting high tech solution for security (!!).

    The project itself for the design, implementation and deployment went pretty well and we started with a small group of high profile users first to test the technology (Before committing to a mass roll out). In this group was the CEO executive assistant (The one with real power :-) ).

    First morning of the first day we get a call that the Exec Assistant could not login using finger print reader, a IT tech was duly dispatched - They said the finger print reader worked fine when the Exec Assistant tried it again when they got there.

    Day 2, same issue reported by the Exec Assistant, same result when IT support etch went there, already got rumblings from Exec Assistant that she was not happy and thought this solution was wasting her time.

    Reviewed other support calls and although some problems we understood the cause etc, no-one else had similar problem.

    Day 3, same issue !!!!! It is at this point that I went to see Exec Assistant, to calm her down and to review the issue first hand. I was talking to the Exec Assistant about her morning routine to gain some insights into what was happening first thing in the morning - It was clear the CEO needed a lot of "looking after" and she would be in early and straight to work.

    I asked the Exec Assistant (As it was January) did she wear gloves, she confirmed she did - She also confirmed that the first thing she did was login to her computer (Laptop - Which stayed in the office full time) and always did that before taking off her coat and gloves (So she could view messages etc - multi-tasking).

    Being careful not to offend, suggested a slight change to her routine, gloves off first and then login with finger print - She had not connected the finger print requirement and having her bare finger being presented to the scanner, she had understood it just needed her finger to be "scanned".

    A quick update to the training materials, guidance and FAQ's .......

    1. WanderingHaggis

      Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

      We had a lot of fun with fingerprint readers. It was deemed a good way to get users too lazy to do a decent password to be secure only one problem. The build up of sweat or dirt would cause it to fail. The standard conversation was "the login is broken" -- "go wash your hands and it will work". We didn't singing happy birthday.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

      Facepalm indeed.

      Sounds like the Executive Assistant needed almost as much "looking after" as the CEO.

      Never ceases to amaze how someone so obviously unable to figure out really simple problems can end up in such powerful positions. Nepotism? Blowing the CEO (with her gloves on, natch)?

      1. Just An Engineer

        Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

        Always remember, you cannot Idiot Proof almost anything.

        There is always a bigger idiot...

        1. Randolf McKinley

          Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

          It's not really all that fair to call someone an idiot because they have no clue how a finger print reader works. You might know, I might know, but there's no great and compelling reason for a non-technical person to know it needs skin contact or optical visibility of the finger to work. I bet you could use a number of very expensive and generally impractical methods to detect a fingerprint through a glove, there's no reason to assume, unless you know better, that they generally can't be read through a glove.

          1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

            Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

            Hmm. If that worked you could give the gloves to someone else, so I don't think this passes the logic test.

            But then again, neither do most end users :)

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

            I was thinking this. At the time they probably just thought ( at least the ones who hadn't been listening when the word "fingerprint" was used, or never watched/read crime fiction) that pressing it was enough, in some magical techy way.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

              "or never watched/read crime fiction"

              It seems that this is where that line of argument really falls down.

              OTOH SOCO and fingerprint examiners make their livings from ne'er-do-wells who obviously haven't. One SOCO did send me in a glove-print to compare with a knitted glove. The match of knitting pattern wouldn't have been much good but, oh look, it's also included the odd fibre matching the glove.

          3. jake Silver badge

            Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

            Exactly, Randolf.

            For example, I had one end user refer to the fingerprint reader as "the button". Seems he thought he was simply pushing yet another one of those magic buttons in our modern technical world. Like the CEO's assistant above, he didn't connect the b0rken login with the finger cots he was wearing. It wasn't his fault, it was his training's fault. A simple upgrade from "place finger here" to "place bare finger on the fingerprint scanner" fixed the problem forever.

            As a side note, don't discount the corporate secretary. They might not all be techno-nerds, but make no mistake, they run the company, know everybody, know where everything is, and can expedite whatever needs expediting. Their care and feeding is vital to any decent consultant, along with that of the janitorial and security staff.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

              "they run the company"

              BOFHs let them think that.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

                BOFHs, when you boil it down, are just operators. Operators are, in general, the most junior of IT staff, not even allowed to access corporate data. Anybody who identifies as a BOFH is a legend in their own mind.

                1. heyrick Silver badge

                  Anybody who identifies as a BOFH is a legend in their own mind.

                  Got balls posting that around here.

                  I would stay away from windows if I were you.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: Anybody who identifies as a BOFH is a legend in their own mind.

                    I've been staying away from Windows for about 11 years now ... Slackware on the desktops, BSD on the servers. But thanks for the suggestion ... others would do well to heed your advice!

          4. Allan George Dyer

            Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

            Randolf McKinley - "there's no great and compelling reason for a non-technical person to know it needs skin contact or optical visibility of the finger to work"

            Where do you find employees who have never watched a crime drama? If it's not a major plot-point, it generally gets mentioned as an aside.

            Why do users remember the dodgy "zoom and enhance" and magical hacker cliches, but not a simple 'wearing gloves = fingerprints hidden' ?

            1. Randolf McKinley

              Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

              Arr, no, wearing gloves just stops fingerprints being transferred onto other things. Not the same as fingerprints being read through a glove by a magical button on a laptop or whatever.

              Seriously, it's really depressing that supposedly technical people can't put themselves in the place of people who aren't. That's why so much bad design happens, and we're surrounded by so much poorly designed crap.

              1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

                Most gloves, you can't -see- the fingerprint of the finger so...

                But, asking as a non user of this technology - what happens in any of several cases where I don't have that fingerprint with me?

                There is also "What happens if someone else has got my fingerprint" but that's usually pretty extreme.

                Slightly less so in this case from 2002:


      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

        If you view some field as a big black box in which magic happens, it's possible to be extremely dumb because basic common sense can't be applied to magical effects.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

          It is false to assume the user is "dumb" when corporate training policy and procedure is awful. Or do you consider yourself "dumb" because you can't diagnose a dead fuel pump in your car on the side of the road with no tools at your disposal?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

        Oh yes.

        Quite a few years ago we were, as consultants, helping to set up a company division. As it was an IT driven outfit, decent IT people picked up alerts of the I Love You virus on online forums before we even received the first infected emails.

        As a result, we pretty much breezed past the whole shambles (whereas, very amusing, it took our HQ out for 4 days or so), and we had zero infections other than on the box on the test network we set up to have a look at what it did.

        That is, until the exec secretary returned from holiday about a week later who naturally opened the dodgy emails and thus installed the virus. Thankfully we noticed this immediately (we kept some monitoring online, just to be safe), but this outfit was running Lotus Notes (I did mention it was a while back). For Outlook users, infection was but a click away, but Lotus Notes made executing such an attachment an actual challenge - one that this user, against all odds, clearly had overcome for the one time where this was NOT desirable. Classic.

        On the plus side, at least it enticed her to listen. If everyone is breeding instances you just become part of the herd, but in this instance it was just her which made it all a tad embarrassing :).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

          Going back to the early days of email in general use, my company had a virus while I was on holiday and as my boss "had to have my login credentials in case anything bad happened" he had decided to turn my computer and email on in the middle of the outbreak to check if it was OK! Bad enough, but no-one thought to leave a note on my PC not to use it, or anything useful like that.

          I came in early on Monday morning and had the chance to catch up for an hour before anyone else came in and I found out the sad truth.

          Given that my address book contained multiple VIP's/MP's/etc.and apparently I had infected the Houses of Parliament I received an 'interesting' visit from the Special Branch.

          All for the cost of a post it note from any of my colleagues!

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

            "I was on holiday and as my boss "had to have my login credentials in case anything bad happened""

            a) In a properly designed system, that is not necessary.

            b) Always have your Boss write down the login details ... but transpose two letters/numbers so they are non-functional. After you get home, the implication is the Boss made the mistake. Change the login details immediately afterwards.

            b') Alternative to the above: always have a dummy account ready for this purpose. It's not like the Boss would know what to do with the real one ...

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

              I like the dummy account. Make it close to your real account name and you can use the excuse that it's fumbled like the password. Or, make it "your test account" which you only mention after it has been tried and been found not to include access to your private stuff...

              Does the situation remind anyone else of:


              I could tell you now it is "that" one, but I suppose it's just possible that there's more than one.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

              a) In a properly designed system, that is expressly prohibited by company policy, and a boss insisting on it would be subject to disciplinary action.

          2. Down not across

            Re: Never under estimate the ability of a user to out stupid you

            Going back to the early days of email in general use, my company had a virus while I was on holiday and as my boss "had to have my login credentials in case anything bad happened"

            in case? Boss having login credentials is bound to ensure something bad happens, as your story proves.

            I have always refused to give my credentials to anyone. If for any reason someone would need access, then at least it would entail changing password by someone with sufficient access, and I would be aware (whether notified or not) as I obviously could no longer login with the old password.

            Password in sealed envelope trusted to someone that the boss will need to justify himself/herself is another approach, but lacks guaranteed notification/awareness that account has been accessed.

  7. Lazlo Woodbine

    Similar call to our Prep School site, the printer in the Boarding kitchen office wasn't working, it's 10 miles down very rough b-roads to get there, but it's not too far out of the way that I can't do the run on my way home, so I said I'd be there about 6pm

    No, she says, I need it fixing now so I can print menus, so I get in the car, 40 minutes later I'm stood looking at a Brother printer with a power lead sitting in the paper output tray.

    Err, that's the printer power lead, I point out

    Yes, I have to unplug it to use the fan heater

    Don't you think your printer will work better if you plug it back in

    She didn't even blush, just blustered about it being a rough day etc etc...

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      At least you got to leave work early & go home....

  8. /\/\j17

    Ah, supporting printers takes me back...

    User: "The printer's stopped working".

    Me: "OK, let me just pop down." - thankfully only 1 floor below in the same building.


    User: "The printer's stopped working. It was out of ink so I changed the cartridge but it's just printing blank pages with smudges on them.".

    Anyone else guess the issue/solution?

    1. Open printer.

    2. Remove new, black as my heart toner cartridge.

    3. Pull the (as bright as the sun) orange tab marked "Pull" and at the end of the big white arrow and text saying "Pull tab before fitting.".

    4. Refit toner cartridge.

    5. Manage to politely say "Try it now...".

    6. Return to desk.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Ah, supporting printers takes me back...

      And this is why you make the cartridge seal not only visibly obvious, but also bulky enough to make it physically impossible (short of taking a sledgehammer to the damn thing) to insert an unsealed cartridge into the printer...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah, supporting printers takes me back...


        "And this is why you make the cartridge seal not only visibly obvious, but also bulky enough to make it physically impossible (short of taking a sledgehammer to the damn thing) to insert an unsealed cartridge into the printer..."

        And that is how you get new printers. I kid you not I saw a deputy use the butt of his service weapon to hammer in a toner cartridge because he didn't check that he was putting the blue one in the black spot. That's who you want to "Serve and Protect" you.

        Anon just in case...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah, supporting printers takes me back...

          Ex Marine?

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: Ah, supporting printers takes me back...

            Hmm the marines, just off the top of my head....

            Officer destroyed LS120 laptop drive as the officer took a knife (See icon) to it to eject a disc.

            Officer destroyed 3 laptop screens within hours of receipt of each unit claiming they were faulty out of the box....despite the evidence of his username, event logs documents in his user profile.

            Officers laptops with soft BDSM porn on it & a very unflattering photoshop picture of the Queen Mother topless while eating custard (She still had her little hat on so that was alright).

            Dropping off 10 laptops, locked in a server room, got a signed receipt, within 30 min's travel back to the company 4 (or possibly 6) have disappeared.

            One RM showed his mate (Ex RM motor pool & our stores guy) his new home PC, identical to the ones we supplied & running Windows NT4 licensed to the RM.

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Ah, supporting printers takes me back...

        Problem is, they _will_ use the sledge hammer and then your job is ten times worse.

    2. ciaran

      Re: Ah, supporting printers takes me back...

      5 minutes ago I got a request about an application not working. Admittedly its a first install for a new client, but all the same...

      The error message says ...

      No X11 DISPLAY variable was set, but this program performed an operation which requires it.

  9. tinman

    Surely moving the printer an inch is a very temporary fix as it may easily move back with people loading paper or changing toner and slamming the covers shut with their usual vigour. This sounds like a clear case for a molly-guard instead

    1. RockBurner

      Sounds like a good case for an orbital strike to me.

  10. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Yesterday: lady in flat next door ranting that "the boiler's broken, call an engineer!". Look at boiler. Move switch from 'hot water' to 'heating + hot water'.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      I did manage somehow during / after a power cut to disable our own boiler, a couple of weeks ago.

      Lights went out across the street and from later advice, two postcode areas. Or part of, perhaps.

      I rang up, the number of actual supply service is on the electric bill, "Do you know" yes they did. If you don't want them to be embarrassingly solicitous after the event, you might just assume they know.

      They said turn off the boiler and other things, for safety, so I did.

      Lights on, and stayed on. So - when I remembered, or noticed - I switched the boiler on too.

      But! Somehow I managed to switch the timer half on, so the boiler came on, and at the due time at night, switched off... and did not switch on, the next morning. Not until I fiddled with it again (legitimately).

    2. JulieM Silver badge

      She has a "heating + HW / HW" switch (no "heating only" position)?

      That suggests an ancient system with a gravity-fed hot water cylinder, and probably a boiler with a standing pilot burner getting through the best part of a kilowatt of gas.

  11. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "The user," he said, "had not made the connection of opening the drawer and the 'printer isn't working again'.

    To be fair going over which drawers you've opened today its not the first thing on anybody's diagnostics list.


    Checking its switched on however IS literally the first thing to do.

    Ideally *before* ringing for help!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "To be fair going over which drawers you've opened today its not the first thing on anybody's diagnostics list."

      Noticing proximity of switch to drawer when opened might be somewhere on anybody's joined-up thinking list.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        I dont want to defend the luser in question too much, but do we all know where our laser printer's switches are?

        Could be on any side! top or bottom.


        1. stiine Silver badge

          Dr. every time I do this, it hurts.

          Well, stop doing it.

        2. jake Silver badge

          On the other hand ...

          What's the first thing you look at when you open (or close) a door/drawer that stops abruptly before you expect it to stop? That's right, you look at the thing that it ran into.

          I ran an experiment on the 7 adults on the property a couple hours ago. I put my boots behind the kitchen door, leaving plenty of room for people to pass through, and called 'em in, one by one. All opened the door into the boots, looked around the door, found the boots & gently moved them out of the way. Just now, I re-ran the experiment without the boots[0]. All gingerly opened the door, and made sure the boots weren't in the way.

          Not certain what, if anything, I have just demonstrated (other than the fact that I'm weird, which all y'all already know). Just throwing it out there as a datapoint.

          [0] My smooth collie picked them up and put them away in the mud room, as is her wont. Her kennel name is supposed to be Martha, but I call her Lilo because she's such a good boot manager.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: On the other hand ...

            "I call her Lilo because she's such a good boot manager"

            You should be ashamed of yourself. Have an upvote and

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: On the other hand ...

              No, seriously. She was born here, one of 8 pups, about ten years ago. Originally we were going to find homes for all of them, but very early on we knew we were keeping her. She got the name Martha after my favorite Great Aunt, because she was always in charge, trying to organize the rest of the litter. (Auntie Martha has a good sense of humo(u)r and wasn't offended.)

              The pups were just beginning to be allowed outside when a long, rainy winter started. Over the next 6 months or so, we always came in through the mud room, and took off our wet, muddy footwear before entering the rest of the house. The pup took very careful note of all this ... to the point where one day, when she was about 7 or 8 months old and the weather had dried up a bit, I went through the mud room, grabbed a cuppa coffee and sat down in the kitchen. Without removing my boots.

              She had a conniption fit ... barked & nose-nose-nosed at my boots. So I took 'em off and put them on the floor. She picked one up, took it into the mud room, and then came back for the other one. I followed her, and was surprised to see she put them into the same spot I always put 'em. I gave here a "good girl!" and a cookie ... A little later I heard my wife come in, and I yelled through the door "don't take your shoes off, just come into the kitchen" ... Martha again made a racket until the Wife took off her boots, and again the pup put them away, where they belonged. And got another "good girl!" and a cookie, this time from my Wife.

              Nearly ten years down the line, she doesn't make a racket anymore, she just frowns at us if we try to wear our outdoor shoes in the house. When we take them off, she puts them away for us. If she doesn't see us come in, and discovers a pair of outdoor shoes somewhere where they don't belong, she picks them up and deposits them in the mud room. She still gets a "good girl!" and a cookie occasionally, but doesn't demand it. She's just going about what she perceives as her business.

              I started calling her Lilo after a couple weeks of this, and she's been responding to the name ever since. Silly? Absolutely! But fitting, nonetheless.

              Ta for the beer. My round, I think.

          2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: On the other hand ...

            " I put my boots behind the kitchen door"

            not the same test.

            problem occurs instantly.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: On the other hand ...

              When you slam a desk drawer into your printer, you don't notice it instantly?

  12. TRT Silver badge

    There’s the well known I assume tale of a user who couldn’t log in when standing up but if they sat down on their chair all was well and good. Carpets were ripped up looking for damaged wiring but nought to be found. In the end someone spotted that at some point two key caps had been transposed and when they typed their password when seated muscle memory took over but when standing up they were one-finger typing.

    1. disgruntled yank

      The story is told in Jon Bentley's Programming Pearls, a collection of columns from the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery. Or maybe it's in the successor volume--my copies are at the office, and I haven't been there in a while.

      1. jake Silver badge

        I've seen this ...

        ... in situations where programmers have re-mapped their keyboards to make them more conducive to touch typing (they put the caps lock key WHERE‽‽‽), and then trying to login to their usual computer from a remote location.

        Warning! Devs with upwards of twenty years of experience do NOT find this to be funny when they are the person doing it! Don't say I didn't warn you. (Personally, I giggle at myself when I do it ... life's too short to get uptight over little shit.)

        1. irrelevant

          Re: I've seen this ...

          Just trying to log into an ESXi VM remotely with a UK keyboard, with the guest OS set to UK keyboard, why are all the obscure punctuation characters, like # and ' still all wrong..

        2. paduan

          Re: I've seen this ...

          This comment is for nothing other than to say congratulations on the interrobang usage - my favourite of all punctuation! Have a --->

  13. Xenobyte


    This remind me of something from way back...

    I was working at a small shop selling hostnames and whatnot, and we had this really weird problem where one server would go offline at roughly the same time each morning and then come back online about 20 mins later. Logging into it it was clearly rebooted. But why?

    Did someone for some weird reason set it to reboot every morning? - No cron jobs seemed to exist to that effect.

    I was all a big mystery until one morning where I happened to be at the office pretty early. The cleaning lady was shuffling around doing her stuff and all of a sudden I heard the background sound change and a few seconds later a vacuum power up. When she was done the vacuum sound stopped and a few seconds later the unmistakable sound of a server powering up appeared.

    Turns out the server at some point in time was moved to the office and left under a desk (it was a Sun minitower) and it got its power from the nearby powerstrip which was plugged into the only obvious power outlet in the office. The cleaning lady unplugged it and plugged her vaccum in every morning.

    The server was then moved to the server room where it belonged.

    That server survived several hundred hard power failures without damage and it ran for a dozen years after I left that job. Its function was to be a caching nameserver and it never once crashed since. It was a decade out of security updates before this so it was never patched.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Cleaning

      go offline at roughly the same time each morning

      yeah , we all know where this is going!

      The Cleaning lady!


      Look guys, its about time we took some responsibility for "Cleaning-lady-server-unpluggings"

      It should henceforth be assumed that any cleaning lady will do everything in her power to unplug a server to use the socket, even if other sockets are more convenient!

      It should be on the list , right up there with aircon , halon and backups.

      "Clear signage" - do not unplug!


      "Training priovided" - on how to not unlpug servers.

      or better yet deny access to the location and empty your own goddam bins!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Cleaning

        It's their job to clean the place, floor to ceiling, board room to bog, watering plants, replacing dead light bulbs & emptying the trash in their wake. The modern world wouldn't run without janitorial staff. Extending this to include the labs that evolved into computer centers in the 1950s wasn't even thought about, it just happened.

        Janitorial staff having the keys to the entire kingdom (as it were) was the norm until we in the glass room started putting our collective foot down in the late 1970s/early 1980s. It wasn't until the late 1980s that it became uncommon. By the late 1990s it was as rare as hen's teeth. The last time I witnessed a janitor coming unannounced into a data center "in the wee hours" at a place I was consulting for was 2005 ...

        I submit that if anyone still has this issue, it is not the fault of the cleaning staff, it's the fault of whoever it was who decided that servers didn't need to be under lock and key.

        Note that they don't necessarily have to be behind a locked door. They make locking outlet covers that fit over an inserted plug or plugs, preventing the removal of same. The locks are trash, easier to pick than a file cabinet, but they work for this kind of thing. Under twenty bucks, and usually in stock at your favorite purveyor of sparky stuff.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Cleaning

          Or use Walsall gauge sockets.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Cleaning

      "it was a Sun minitower"

      Some of that old Sun hardware was built like a brick shithouse. My previously used, fell into my lap, 1988 Sun 3/470 "Pegasus" is still happily serving email, gopher, usenet, ftp (and that new-fangled WWW-thingy) for my friends & family, as she has for over thirty years :-)

      1. Down not across

        Re: Cleaning

        All my old Sun kit still works perfectly fine. Only issues I've had have been with Ultra 30 and Ultra 60 that both have chewed through couple of PSUs.

        The later SunFire and Vxxx series seem to be bit more temperamental.

        No, I don't consider Larry's machinery to be be Sun. At least not in this context.

    3. gotes

      Re: Cleaning

      Oh. I was hoping for something more unique than another "cleaner unplugs computer to use vacuum cleaner" story.

  14. TeeCee Gold badge

    Similar one.

    On this aging system there was no such thing as transaction control, so a user's screen dropping or hanging in certain applications meant shutting the system, checking the ledgers and unpicking any partial transactions. A right, royal pain.

    One day, a user's screen dropped in Credit Control. Ohshit, hands to the pumps, etc.

    The next day the same user's screen dropped. Ohshit, WTF?, hands to the pumps, etc.

    The next day, the same user's screen dropped. Ohshit, WT.........HANG ON A BLOODY MINUTE!

    On arriving at the user's desk, there was a screen, a tray rack to one side and a folding umbrella in the top tray pointed right at the power button, with the handle sticking out where it might easily be knocked were one to grab something from a tray. It wasn't a gun and it didn't smoke, but...

    The user really didn't want to move their tray stack, until it was explained how much cost was incurred every time this happened and how much cheaper it would be to just sack them if it kept happening.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Similar one.

      "how much cheaper it would be to just sack them if it kept happening."

      The really effective cure.

      1. Nunyabiznes

        Re: Similar one.

        Except the next one will be even worse. The devil you know and all that.

        1. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Similar one.

          Just tell them why their predecessor was sacked.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Similar one.

            A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The

            parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary.

            Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious

            and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to

            change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only

            polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could

            think of to 'clean up' the bird's vocabulary.

            Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot.

            The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the

            parrot got angrier and even more rude. John, in desperation,

            threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the

            freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked

            and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet.

            Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

            Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly opened

            the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out

            onto John's outstretched arms and said "I believe I

            may have offended you with my rude language and

            actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate

            transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can

            to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

            John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude.

            As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a

            dramatic change in his behavior, the bird spoke-up, very

            softly, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T OPS, Crash

    I was an on call tech for ICL for a decade, the most common call in the dark wee hours of the night was for printers not printing, Invariably crashing the output scheduler would resolve the issue, create a diagnostic dump for later investigation but preserve the print queue. This would allow the operators to finish that incredibly critical print run which needed completing before 7 am. dont forget businesses were driven by paper back then.

    I had a young family at the time and was working 3 out of 4 weekends (the 4th being on standby for 48 hours) and on call for 1-2 weeks a month, the out of hours team also knew I was always at home and would redirect calls to me if the on-call tech didn't answer. this did lead me to be a tad tired at times.

    It actually hit the stage where my wife answered a couple of the printer issue calls, refusing to wake me unless this failed, there was never a call-back.

    I would have occasional disagreements with ops who were worried about losing these jobs this came to a head with one company where after crashing the scheduler the print started but not in the data centre. This company were printing off the end of year accounts from a job which was not re-runnable and which didn't create an output file, just spooled the output to the printer. After some screaming and shouting from the IT manager, threats of losing my job etc It turned out that the operators had turned off the printer in the data centre and the mainframe had decided to use the next available printer which was connected via an ISDN line and was 70 miles away. I did suggest crashing the schuler again and offlining the remote printer but they decided to wait the 12 hours it would take to print at the remote site then have the 3 boxes of paper couriered back to the DC.

  16. OGShakes

    I am sure we had these...

    I heard a tail of a server that would go down regularly back 20 years ago, only to find out the cleaner was unplugging to plug in the vacuum cleaner.

    I had regular calls from a lady who would have her 'typing line' (the cursor) jump else where in her documents while she was typing and mess up her work as her new laptop was faulty. After a short investigation that involved me watching what she was doing as I walked towards her, it was realised that she was brushing the mouse pad with her wrist as she typed and making the laptop thing she had clicked else where on the page. Fix was 'here is a mouse and this is how you turn off the mouse pad'.

    My personal favourite was the home PC that would magically get filled with malware and come to me for a service every month when I worked at a small support outfit. This was because the owner turned off the antivirus thinking it slowed things down and installed lots of their favourite 'tools' for getting free films, these all came with bonus malware before they downloaded anything.

    1. Man inna barrel

      Re: I am sure we had these...

      Blasted mousepad on the laptop has caused me no end of trouble. In modern WFH style, I sit on the sofa, with the laptop next to me. There is no room for an external mouse. The worst error caused by accidentally touching the mousepad was a track being deleted off some PCB CAD.

      The mousepad also fails mysteriously if I have a runny nose. If it gets just the slightest bit of moisture on it, the cursor starts leaping all over the place. Wiping the mousepad dry and leaving it does not seem to work. I have to reboot.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Mouse pad moisture

        I have a similar problem starts when I wash my hands. The fix: touch the pad just left of centre, move finger left and lift before getting close the left edge. The cursor stops jumping about, the mouse wheel simulator and auto click and drag functions stop causing problems and I can use keyboard shortcuts for the next ten minutes until my hands are completely dry.

      2. quartzz

        Re: I am sure we had these...

        Logitech produce a mouse that stops working the minute there is any hint of water droplets on the mouse surface....

        it isn't very impressive at all. I've seriously gone off logitech though in the past 5 years. I think it's the M325

  17. IT's getting kinda boring

    My favourite was a call from a colleague who complained he couldn't put the CD into the CD-ROM drive on a HP workstation. I was confused - the workstation in question didn't have one. So I went around to see what he was on about, only to find him trying to push the CD into a small gap between two blanking plates! He thought it had a slim-line auto-feed drive, and assumed the gap was where the drive was.

  18. myhandler

    Long, long ago in the days of SE30 Macs, a user said her machine kept switching off while she was typing. It kept happening day after day. In the end I got a cup of coffee and sat with her while she typed. She was one of those hyped up people who fidget and she swung her lower leg so her fancy pointy shoe tapped against the power switch just enough to kill it.

    A year later she had a go at me for not double checking her sums when we placed her 'maths' in a business proposal. A marketing exec in case you wondered.

  19. Ivan Headache

    I'm sure everyone must have seen this.

    "Help! all my typing has disappeared."

    Go to have a look. An empty page greets me.

    "What did you do?"

    "Well I was working on this proposal and the phone rang, so I answered it.

    When I turned back all my proposal had gone."

    "How much had you written?"

    "I was on page 3."

    Then I pointed out that she was on page 99 (or something equally large) and that if she rested her notebook on the enter key again it would add on a few more empty pages for her.

    Deleting the 96 odd empty pages earned me a rather nice Almond Magnum later in the day.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: I'm sure everyone must have seen this.

      Almond Mangum, eh? How things have changed! In my day it'd have been a lick of a raspberry ripple.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: I'm sure everyone must have seen this.

        And I'm sure Ian Dury would have been right chuffed ... but I'm fairly certain most around these parts would prefer a pint or three. Or a nice bottle of single malt. (That's a hint to Manglement, if any are reading this august organ.)

  20. 080

    You need balls

    Can't understand why you guy's don't just chew their ears off after the first stupid call out. Worked for me for 20 years, but then it was in an industrial setting and I was the team leader.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: You need balls

      That is sometimes the answer. But most of the time it is not. Good support folks know when (and where). Not so good folks are more indiscriminate and are usually universally hated.

  21. I am the liquor


    When I saw "drawer" and "printer" in the headline, I thought it was going to be the story about the printer that never seemed to produce any output, because the printed pages were sliding into the slightly-open top drawer of the filing cabinet it stood on.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Drawer

      Or the company cat attacking them as they appeared, batting at them until vanquished between file cabinet and bookcase. I have a video[0] of this one. The cat was awfully pleased with herself after protecting her space from the invaders ...

      [0] Betamax, of all things ... must remember to convert it while I still can.

      1. Down not across

        Re: Drawer

        I hadn't realised one of the cats had decided the output tray of LJ5 was a good place for a kip. She stirred a bit as the printer started the usual whirring and clonking but only slightly. The finished page finally feeding into the output tray made her jump 4ft in the air. She decided against attacking the paper, but did eye the printer very suspiciously ever since.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Drawer

          Copy cat?

  22. earl grey

    i'm frankly surprised

    that no one suggested to the OP that the user check the back of the drawer for the solution and then rather sharpish slam said drawer closed (multiple times, if necessary).

  23. The Central Scrutinizer

    Many years ago a colleague and I serviced a laser printer (they were 600 grand a pop). Test everything is working properly, hand it back to the customer, leave the premises.

    An hour or so later, the same customer puts in a service call because the prints were horribly skewed. Couldn't fix it over the phone so back I go, only to find the guides in the paper tray were nowhere near the edges of the paper.

    Definitely my quickest fix ever. The look on the clown's face was priceless when I showed him the "problem".

  24. timrowledge

    Ringer queue misdirected

    Waaaay back I was an IBM Research Fellow at the UK Scientific Centre. We got a big (very) shiny new 4250 printer - a weird thing that did very high quality but on that horrible metallised paper that you had to then photocopy (never xerox, not at IBM!).

    Couldn’t get any output. The driver insisted it was printing. Eventually the colleagues playing with sent a job saying basically “call me at UKSC if you find this” and shortly later we got a vnet mail from the Australian scientific centre.

  25. brotherelf

    Dear readers, I am disappoint.

    There's several dozen comments and none have yet pointed out that the author has apparently never seen a DIP switch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear readers, I am disappoint.

      In this case, that could be a good euphemism for the user!

  26. quartzz

    I'll put this here...

    I've just been in the market for a new monitor. The Dell U2419H wasn't a clear enough image, I've just bought a ViewSonic VP2458. it's quite good. I'll probably keep it. thin-bezel design, for multi monitor capabilities.

    The Dell's control buttons are tiny horrible surface mount things on the horizontal lower edge of the monitor, so you have to sort of wedge your hand between the desk and the monitor and twist your wrist to press them. yuck. (and because the Dell's screen doesn't seem as clear and as nice, I found myself pressing the buttons quite a lot. Dell sent back)

    The Viewsonics buttons are on the reverse. At. The. Side. Of. The. Monitor

    so if you have a side by side monitor setup, yes, you can't adjust the left hand monitor without pivoting the screen to get your fingers round the right hand edge of the screen.

    nice one, Viewsonic......

    Dear Industry.

    Stop trying to hide this stuff. just put the f*cking buttons where we can see them, on the front panel.

    yours sincerely, my feedback.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reminded me of an unrelated monitor story:

      Back around 2000, I was setting up a personal server. Total budget was $25 - a used Pentium 100 for $15, and a used $10 monitor. (Yes, in 2000. I was broke, and didn't need much of a server.) The monitor's power button had the plastic cracked on it, and this eventually broke and half the (plastic part of the) power button fell off. Meh. Just push it at the top, it'll be ok.

      After a while, something went wrong (can't remember what, it's been 20 years!), and somehow I briefly shorted something around the button, resulting in an instantaneous evaporation of a bit of circuit trace for the button.

      No budget for replacement, so out came the soldering iron. I managed to bridge the gap in the circuit trace by soldering on a sewing pin (minus head), and kept using it for another couple of years.

      Note: I wouldn't do this now, and highly recommend others don't follow my example!

  27. Medixstiff

    I was working at setting up a small network for a client, went outside to get a cable tester and when I came back, one of the monitors decided it was going to commit suicide and flames were licking at the ceiling, so I grabbed the nearest extuinguisher and drowned everything in powder.

    That worked...unfortunately at the time, no-one was aware that dry powder extuinguishers are really good at eating electronics, so 6 months later all sorts of weird gremlins started popping up.

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