back to article When even a power-cycle fandango cannot save your Windows desktop

It's Friday! Come board the On Call bus to a time when Program Manager was king and Windows was a mere teenager. Today's dip into the archives comes from a Register reader dubbed "George" by the Regomiser and takes us back to the golden days of Windows 3.11. George's task back then was providing tech support to a team of …

  1. Little Mouse

    I think everyone who did desktop support back in the day, especially if it was over the phone, learned very quickly to get the user to positively identify the beige box under the desk, or under or close to the screen, before getting them to press any buttons, precisely because of this problem.

    Users have always found ways to confuse even the most straightforward of requests. Hell, they still do.

    1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells
      Paris Hilton

      That big beige box is the hard drive, you idiot!

      1. quartzz

        until I was into my second month or so of using PC's (1993?) the 3.5 floppy disk, which wasn't floppy, was still a bit of a mis nomer for me.....:^)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I have been told by multiple South African friends and acquaintances that 3.5" floppy disks were called stiffies back home. This is the same nation that refers to traffic lights as robots.

          1. elmarm

            Floppy's and stiffies

            Strue. Floppy's were the old 360k disks. Stiffies were the 1.44MB disks. And yes, we do refer to traffic lights as robots but I have NO idea why :)

        2. AbortRetryFail

          @quartzz

          "Floppy disc" refers to the disc of magnetic media, which even on a 3.5" Floppy Disc is still floppy despite the outer jacket being rigid. So not actually a misnomer but a misunderstanding. :)

        3. SuperGeek Bronze badge

          Have you got a "3.5" floppy, mate?". Flabbergasted reply, "Aha.....I beg your pardon, pal?!?!?"

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Listen for the *loud beeping sound* as the user turns off the UPS under their desk.

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      been there , easiest way to judge is by the speed, if in 5 seconds the y say "no problem still there!" you know they did

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Bugger your "back in the day".

      I was still going through this in the early 21st C.

  2. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Happy

    In defence

    of the poor inexperienced user, this was a perfectly understandable error to make, a little gentle education by the PFY earlier on might have helped.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: In defence

      Are you thinking Clue Stick here?

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: In defence

        Cluesticks should only ever be applied after standing behind the user and asking them to show you what they did to cause or replicate the problem

        "Please show me exactly what you're doing" has solved more problems than I care to think about

        1. Karl Vegar

          Re: In defence

          Eh, yes, and no.

          Though when the user demonstrates "exactly" what he/she did, and it suddenly just works, I usually hum a little queen tune as I leave.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p_1QSUsbsM

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: a perfectly understandable error

      When it happens once or twice, yes, but when it happens every day without fail, it is no longer an error and the gentle education needs to be upgraded to cattle-prod instruction.

      That said, it would have probably been beneficial for the PFY to hang around a bit in the morning to witness just exactly how she managed to mangle her desktop icons like that every single day. By catching her red-handed, the lesson would have likely had more impact.

      1. Black Betty

        Re: a perfectly understandable error

        I'm not sure which are worse, the otherwise highly educated people who decide it's impossible to learn the most basic of computer skills, or those who refuse to learn, because they have "you" to deal with that sort of thing.

        Then there are those who say, "There was an error message, but i closed it because it was in my way."

        1. shedied

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          You left out the preface there are two types of people in the world

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          having spent 20 years working with boffins in a lab I totally agree. How some of them found their way home of a night time amazed me!

          1. Vulch

            Re: a perfectly understandable error

            Probably why a lot of them in Oxford and Cambridge particularly have a small bedroom as part of their office...

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: a perfectly understandable error

              Not just Oxford and Cambridge, it's quite common among academics. One gets used to walking into their offices and having to ignore the bed/clothes

          2. Rob Daglish

            Re: a perfectly understandable error

            You mean like the guy who during lock down had to put his wife on the phone so I could explain to her how he needs to use one password to decrypt and a second one to login to windows? The one designing the automated plant to process nuclear waste? I’m not worried about it. Much...

        3. nintendoeats

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          Whereas I, being an educated computer user, NEVER click through error messages and just blindly hope that they don't come back :p

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: a perfectly understandable error

            Experienced computer professionals always click through the first time. After all, if it's real it will come back and if it doesn't - well, what could possibly go wrong?

        4. jonathan keith Silver badge

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          Then there are those who say, "There was an error message, but i closed it because it was in my way."

          Round these parts they do only say it once, mind.

          1. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: a perfectly understandable error

            Here’s an idea for a brilliant feature: A menu item that lets you replay the last 100 or so alerts. Should be quite easy.

            1. Emir Al Weeq

              Re: a perfectly understandable error

              Agreed. A button to copy the error text to the clipboard would be helpful too.

              1. heyrick Silver badge

                Re: a perfectly understandable error

                And useful descriptive errors, because it's no bloody good if a box opens up screaming "Error." Uh, yeah, that much is obvious. And......?

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: a perfectly understandable error

                  "And useful descriptive errors, because it's no bloody good if a box opens up screaming "Error." Uh, yeah, that much is obvious. And......?"

                  Or a sad face and a QR code. While setting up some new kit in an office the other day, I noticed a tiny little chocolate bar phone, ie not "smart" in any way. On asking if it was a corporate one (likely with this particular health oriented government entity), three of the other four people in in the office piped up all proudly showing off their non-smart or, in one case, feature phone and all were their own phones. Not a smart phone amongst them. :-)

              2. the hatter

                Re: a perfectly understandable error

                Something like ctrl-insert, would that be the kind of useful button you wish for ?

                1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                  Re: a perfectly understandable error

                  Some dialog boxes actually allow the error message to be copied. Otherwise, on Windows, Alt+PrintScreen, which is actually Windows screen capture, just captures the whatsit that has the focus. So you get a picture of the dialog box. I also have Windows Paint on speed dial to paste and save the dialog as PNG format.

              3. veti Silver badge

                Re: a perfectly understandable error

                How about a button that takes a screenshot? We could call it something like "print screen".

            2. quartzz

              Re: a perfectly understandable error

              I seriously cannot believe that chrome's entire 'undo bookmark delete' feature is a 5 second 'undo'. (I haven't investigated more bookmark managers)

            3. Montreal Sean

              Re: a perfectly understandable error

              Printers keep a log of the last several errors, should be easy on a computer.

            4. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: a perfectly understandable error

              "A menu item that lets you replay the last 100 or so alerts."

              It's called the system log. Linux used to have that.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: a perfectly understandable error

        "hang around a bit in the morning to witness just exactly how she managed to mangle her desktop icons like that every single day."

        More likely something that happened gradually throughout the day.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          Definitely. It was fairly easy to do for a user who wasn't able to press the mouse button and to not move the mouse at the same time. I think there were settings in win.ini or system.ini (can't remember which, doesn't matter now, could even be control.ini) that allowed one to change the sensitivity to movement of the mouse when clicked. Increase the value in this setting and it made the system much less likely to move icons around.

          The more thorough fix was to either write protect the offending file or have a safe copy of this file copied over every time the system (windows) started up.

      3. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: a perfectly understandable error

        No, the cattle prod can be thought about for a few seconds but then what *needs* to happen is the IT guyzengalz need to figure out why the user cannot get their head around whatever is obvious-duh to IT.

        Because elided thought processes are a common source of error in every damned facet of our business.

        It is, for example, why in one shop I worked at with a frantic schedule I came up with the plan that if anyone had a code problem they had looked at for 15 minutes without seeing the problem they could and should grab the nearest colleague and make them sit through a line by line explanation of said code.

        99 times out of 100 it went: "I do this, then this, then if that is true I do ... I see the problem".

        (The other 1 was Fred not understanding that he had to test an error status after both the find *and* the get on Honeywell DML. "I find the record, get a good status returned, then the update errors!").

        Sometimes it is simply a matter of a crib card with pictures. Say, you don't think the right switch could have been communicated to ghe librarian from the get-go do you?

        Remember folks, "Users are too stoopid" never sold a single person on adopting Linux. Linux distros had to move toward the user. One to grow on.

        My mother in law can't use a mouse because she hammers the buttons so hard the mouse moves an inch or more, performing an unwanted drag'n'drop instead of a click. We explained it, she still hammered the buttons and complained. So I bought her a trackball, which she loves because "it works".

        I had to move toward her because she couldn't (for whatever reason) move toward me, and we both just wanted the problem to go away.

        1. PM from Hell
          Facepalm

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          I was introduced to this technique in my first dev job ( I wasn't a great programmer and ended up thriving in tech support) it was called the cardboard programmer. just try and explain the issue as if you were talking to someone else and you invariably find the problem. In the very rare cases where you can't at least you can explain in more quickly to a mentor and be sure you have got all the information to hep you

          1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

            Re: a perfectly understandable error

            It's called rubber duck debugging - explain the problem to a rubber duck.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: a perfectly understandable error

              If you try to keep explaining it to real people you'll drive them quackers.

              The one with K&R in the pocket.

            2. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: a perfectly understandable error

              You get better feedback if you explain to a contented cat.

              I swear she's a better coder than I am...

              1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                Re: a perfectly understandable error

                Ah, the mythical "content cat". They're not contented at all, they just look that way while they are calmly plotting the next way to try and kill you.

                1. heyrick Silver badge

                  Re: a perfectly understandable error

                  Oh, we have an agreement. She'll only kill me if I cease providing Felix at regular intervals.

          2. General Purpose

            Re: a perfectly understandable error

            Or try emailing someone about it, someone that you respect enough that you'll take the time to lay out exactly what's happening.and what you've tried so far. A lot of emails don't get sent.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          >My mother in law can't use a mouse because she hammers the buttons so hard the mouse moves an inch or more, performing an unwanted drag'n'drop instead of a click. We explained it, she still hammered the buttons and complained. So I bought her a trackball, which she loves because "it works".

          How long was it before she stopped moving the trackball like a mouse?

          Had to swap out my mother-in-law's ergonomic trackball as she just couldn't get to grips with moving the ball rather than the 'mouse'.

        3. Old Used Programmer

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          I call that debugging technique, "two heads are thicker than one". I've also used it, and it does indeed--often--work. I've also had system programmers that were the Font of All Knowledge tell me that, (a) the questions I brought to them were far out of the ordinary, and (b) I never brought them the same problem twice. (They tended to appreciate both points.)

        4. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          > My mother in law can't use a mouse because she hammers the buttons so hard the mouse moves an inch or more

          There is another solution for this on Windows!

          Tool with GUI: https://github.com/paulmooreparks/WinDragSens

          Registry:

          Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

          [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]

          "DragHeight"="48"

          "DragWidth"="48"

          Default is: 4 pixel

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a perfectly understandable error

        Librarians are strange but lovely people, They start work in time to ensure that the library is ready and waiting before they are due to open and that's usually before any hell desk staff are around.

        I was married to an academic librarian for 20 years technology was not her forte, once things were embedded she was fine but system upgrades etc could result in confusion.

        Unbelievably when she was involved in the setting up of a new university the librarians were tasked with setting up several hundred PC's from a text script. Not one single screenshot.

        Now I know that she would have followed the instructions exactly as on the page but she had tried it 4 times before calling me (she was sure she had done something wrong). Sure enough there was an error in the script and this resulted on them going down a rabbit hole end only stopping when there was no button on the screen corresponding with the script. They actually came to a halt somewhere in a TCP/IP settings screen but god knows how they got there. I reassured her that if one of my team had produced instructions without screenshots they would have experienced a cattle prod moment and got her to talk to the project manager. Sure enough once the correct scripts were produced and they could confirm that they were where they needed to be at each stage they went on to complete the configuration of all the remaining machines successfully while the PFY who'd produced the flawed script had to rebuild the 6 machines which had been initially worked on. This was early in the PC universe but as a tech support manager I had already bought 'Ghost' for my team so we could deploy PC's faster and more reliably. the university IT team felt it would be more cost efficient to throw warm bodies at the problem

        1. druck Silver badge

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          The advantage of screenshots is not only the pictures for the end user, but that person writing the instructions has actually had to perform all the steps, rather than rattling them off from memory and invariably missing something vital.

        2. Glen 1 Silver badge

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          "I had already bought 'Ghost' for my team so we could deploy PC's faster"

          Ah the heady days of imaging 1-2GB drives over a parallel port. (pre-usb boot)

        3. C R Mudgeon

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          Every program needs to be debugged -- even if it's intended to run in a human brain.

          That's especially true in a case like this one, where the readers, through no fault of their own, don't have the background knowledge to make intelligent decisions. These librarians were put into a position where they were really little better off than actual computers.

          That is to say, the same advice applies here as for all writers: know your audience.

        4. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: a perfectly understandable error

          Ahhhh, I remember my days of Ghost and then PC Anywhere for my clients in the early days.

          My shout ------------->

      5. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: a perfectly understandable error

        >That said, it would have probably been beneficial for the PFY to hang around a bit in the morning to witness just exactly how she managed to mangle her desktop icons like that every single day.

        Well from the article it is obvious, the mangling was most probably associated with the way she was powering off her PC, namely via the monitor on/off button...

      6. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: a perfectly understandable error

        > the gentle education

        I remember a not so gentle education from a manager along the lines of "you don't mix up your TV and refrigerator, do you, eh? do you ever try to get a soda from your TV?"

    3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: In defence

      Honestly: Downvote from me. Users who are incapable or unwilling to learn? You take the job od "educating" them. Reality will change your opinion.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: In defence

        Unfortunately they tend to exist. They often wind up with "manager in their job title as well.

        (checks own job title)

        Nooooooooooooooooo......

  3. A K Stiles Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Opposite and identical problem

    "Help - My screen's gone blank and I've got customers to sort out NOW!"

    Brief check, pull keyboard out from under the monitor, press the monitor power button to turn it on again.

    "All sorted - try not to jam the keyboard or anything back under the monitor where the switch is..."

    Icon for the state of so many of their keyboards. Yeuch!

  4. TonyJ Silver badge

    Toshiba

    Ah Tosh again.

    When they made a short foray into desktops they recounted a tale to me of a woman who had to have the monitor replaced due to going bang one Friday morning. A replacement was shipped to site and it was swapped the following Monday.

    A week later, the replacement went the same way.

    And a week later so did the third.

    Someone asked her to leave the machine exactly as it was so that they could investigate the environment. When they turned up they immediately noticed that she had a potted plant on top of it. No saucer or plate or bowl. And yep, she watered it the night before. Water dripped through into the monitor and it inevitably blew.

    The thing being that because she watered it on a Thursday night, she didn't make the connection. And because it was only a small amount of water, by the time it got back in for diagnosis, it'd dried without a trace.

    1. onemark03 Bronze badge

      Potted plants

      Clearly, computer support involves out-of-the-box detective work.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Potted plants

        If the plant had stayed up there much longer, there would be a root kit installed.

        1. JeffB

          Re: Potted plants

          Potted plants!! That could describe some of the users...

        2. quartzz

          Re: Potted plants

          bad earth.... (upvote 4u)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Toshiba

      Reminds me of a nice plant in a pot I had on a wooden floor.

      A couple of years later it turned out the pot had holes in it and no saucer..

      Mom also called that the computer didn't work turned out sis did turn of the

      screen the day before.

    3. Tim Greenwood

      Re: Toshiba

      IBM monitors were sturdy devices back in the day. In an open plan office with a monitor on each desk, you could spot Val's monitor from a distance. It was the one with the "Gaudi" inspired case, where it swooped and drooped in most interesting shapes. This was ever since the day she watered the plant on the wall shelf above her desk and spilt quite a lot. It ran down and straight into the vents on the monitor without any apparent effect for quite a few seconds. Then there was a literal shower of sparks flew back out accompanied by hissing and spitting sounds, and then a cloud of steam/smoke. The colleague at the next desk leapt across and ripped the plug out of the wall which stopped the internal light show from the case and rapidly reduced the noises from within. Since it was the end of the day (hence the last minute watering before leaving) things were left alone without reporting anything and it was the following morning before damage was properly assessed.

      Val came in and started things up as normal and to everyones incredible surprise it worked fine, and continued to work fine for years. The only external visible evidence was that the heat generated had caused significant reshaping of the plastic casing and the grille was just about touching the internals it had slumped that much.

      They don't make them like that anymore !

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Toshiba

      Had the same thing almost exactly but with a lamp instead of a monitor. User was the finance director and had put their expensive floor lamp directly below the wall mounted AC unit. They then left the AC unit on overnight and it had inevitably filled up the drip tray which had overflowed. This had dripped onto the light and both the bulb and the fuse had blown.

      Despite protests that we didn't look after personal items and certainly not ones that weren't PAT tested, my colleague 'Ron*' was told to just fix it. Having manhandled the gold and black monstrosity onto a sack truck and brought it down to our office. We after drying everythig thoroughly we replaced the blown components and it worked.

      We kept the light over the weekend in a cupboard out of sight. Then Ron went upstairs and told the finance director that he'd had a mate fix the light. That if it hadn't been a mate doing it the cost would have been horrendous. Reminded him about the inviolable rule regarding having personal electrical devices at work safety tested. He explained that he'd have to report this violation of company rules.

      Finance director immediately suggested that he might be able to find a little extra cash for the IT budget. All Ron had to do was keep his mouth shut. As a result the IT Christmas party was a much more lavish affair than it otherwise would have been,

      *The name has been changed just in case.

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: Toshiba

        Truly in the BOFH style.----------------->

    5. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Toshiba

      was this woman housetrained?

      Does she do that at home?

      puddles all over her carpet , mantelpiece , windowsill where the plants re???

      1. keithpeter
        Windows

        Re: Toshiba

        @Mr Jeltz: have a chat with a gas fitter sometime. Or a plumber. You'd be surprised about people's houses.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Toshiba

          Or those of us who have, in the past, done on-site warranty repairs in peoples homes. Like the jammed printer with a toy soldier inside it, the CD tray bitten of by the dog, the one that smelled so strongly of cat piss I refused to touch it, BERed it and left...quickly.

    6. Old Used Programmer

      Re: Toshiba

      In one shop I worked in, we had a "flood" in the machine room on the 14th floor and some of the water wound up hitting our 3270 terminals on the 13th floor. out of about a dozen 3270s, one had to have one board replaced, and all of them worked. The cases had rust spots in places, though.

      (The flood was caused by a faulty fitting in the water distribution system feeding to the water cooled IBM mainframe. It drained the 10K gallon tank on the roof of the 45 story building because no one had told the operators where the cut off valves were. Said valves were under the false flooring in the machine room lobby where we dropped off SBDs and picked up output.)

      1. SuperGeek Bronze badge

        Re: Toshiba

        "in the machine room lobby where we dropped off SBDs and picked up output"

        Why am I getting visions of Beavis & Butthead? "Uhuhuh! SBD!! Uhuhuh!"

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Toshiba

        10,000 gallons to cool a computer !

        wow!

  5. BenM 29
    Pint

    >>Or had to draw upon reserves of goodwill that you'd thought were exhausted by a career in IT support?

    Nearly every day...

    What amazes me is that I have not yet exhausted my reserves of goodwill after 30-odd years in IT. Every day one or other of the users manages to restore my reserves a little... how that keeps me (mostly) civil I don't know!

    Beer cos well it's Friday innit? and nearly Christmas to boot!

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      "Every day one or other of the users manages to restore my reserves a little..."

      This struck a note for me. Yes it's fun to rag on the lusers, and lord knows we all have plenty of difficult ones to deal with. But there are a few that genuinely do appreciate the work we do for them, will try their best not to burden unnecessarily and will repay the favour in kind if the opportunity arises. There are a couple of users in my company that I would do an awful lot for.

      And, back to rag-on-lusers-mode, there are plenty that I curse daily due to their complete inability to perform even the slightest act of problem-solving for themselves, or even to retain a piece of information for longer than a day.

      There needs to be a tea / coffee icon. I've not yet appropriately caffeinated for the morning.

      1. cookieMonster
        Happy

        Not quite the same, but goodwill related.

        In the last long term job I had (10yrs) there was a little old lady who looked after payroll and expenses and two very nice girls in the office with her, the receptionist (who doubled as our travel / flight/ hotel booker) and the CEO’s PA.

        From the first year I always bought them a nice big box of chocolates at Christmas. Since I travelled extensively I always managed to get really good chocolates in Switzerland, Belgium, Austria etc. etc.

        I never once had an expense report questioned, got put in a crap hotel or had to take a flight at stupid o clock.

        :-)

        1. Triggerfish

          As a young lad etc. One of my first non helldesk jobs at a company we had the CEO PA/office manager who would think things like word had broken because the icon had been moved on the desktop. I was always happy to fix, just as I was always happy to be told that the Audi A3 TDI was sitting in the company carpool for the weekend and the keys were available.

        2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Yup, the holy trinity of secretaries/PA's, storesmen and technicians.

          Ensure you keep them sweet and you can get anything done in almost any institution.

          Forget managers and C-suite, those three are the ones who actually run the place and get things done.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Depending upon your work, you may wish to keep sysadmins sweet as well. And having a BOFH on your side in a disagreement with manglement can also be very worthwhile.

          2. agurney

            I completely agree. As a student teacher in the 1970s I was advised of the importance of schools' janitors (caretakers). Sage advice.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              And the "Office". An admin can make or break a teaching career with a bit of awk at a difficult time

          3. Andy A

            Don't forget those in charge of security. Keeping them sweet can make your life a lot easier too. At one place with very restricted parking, I had the use of the "secret space", out of sight just outside the server room. Need to get onsite at an awkward time and don't have your pass? Personal escort with all the right keys.

        3. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Angel

          Neat title here

          Guilty, m'lud.

          Always pays to be nice - nice people appreciate it and it annoys the not-so-nice people enough to give you untold entertainment.

  6. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    My new pc isn't working

    Had a very irate customer on the phone, was very vocal about his brand new pc wasn't working. Went through the usual, all plugged in correctly, power light on monitor. Asked him to tell me if anything happen when he hit the pc power button. His reply was "I'm not turning it on till I know it's working". Gotta love the user

    1. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: My new pc isn't working

      I've got an endless fund of similar stories; the user who swore her monitor had stopped working - she was a bright, sensible person, so I assumed she was correct and carried the massive CRT monitor up 4 flights of stairs and swapped out her old one. Nothing. "Did you unplug anything?" I asked. She denied having done anything, but I followed the tangled cables back under her desk and found that her monitor had been unplugged in favour of her phone charger.

      Or the user who phoned IT support after a power cut to insist I fixed his PC. "Are the lights back on?" I asked. " what the **** has that got to do with it, rant rant do you know who I am...". Power was still off in his office, he was sitting in the dark using a torch ....

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: My new pc isn't working

        I had something similar when laptops were a new thing. The power was out, not only to the porta-cabin where the manager had his office, but to the whole village! The manager thundered that his cheap personal laptop was still working, so why weren't our expensive IT computers working?

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: My new pc isn't working

        Or the user who phoned IT support after a power cut to insist I fixed his PC. "Are the lights back on?" I asked. " what the **** has that got to do with it, rant rant do you know who I am...". Power was still off in his office, he was sitting in the dark using a torch ....

        I must confess those newfangled VoIP-phones have the great advantage of becoming unusable in case of a power cut, makes the above impossible.

  7. GlenP Silver badge

    Too Many Stories!

    After over 35 years I've probably got too many power switch stories to relate them all but here are some highlights. These mostly go back to the days when you had to physically turn a computer off!

    The HP full height tower with the power switch adjacent to the floppy drive eject button, fixed with the aid of a hinged cover made from a tape cartridge case.

    There was the user who phoned late one afternoon asking how to turn her computer off (back when they had physical power switches). When asked if she'd turned it on that morning and it being suggested she use the same switch the reply was, "I know that, but I've forgotten!"

    Apricot managed to produce a PC-Compatible where the power switch was on the back of the box and shaped just like a grey plastic cover over a port. Even I struggled with that one.

    I had a Schneider PC at home acquired from the company I worked for. It would turn on OK in a morning but wouldn't turn off again (by this stage desktops had "soft" power switches). We eventually found that the 12v line on the PSU had failed, the PC ran fine on 5v but for some reason wouldn't register the switch-off button press.

    IBM's PS/2 Model 50 was notorious for blowing PSUs if turned off and on again too quickly, providing support for a large number of them remotely was a nightmare. If we had to ask a user to power-cycle them it was a case of saying, "Turn the switch off and now take your hand away, don't switch it back on until I say so!"

    More recently I inherited a large floor-standing IBM server used for a photospectrometry system. Whoever had installed it had made it "secure" by removing the power and reset switches from the front panel and leaving them dangling loose inside.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Too Many Stories!

      I just remembered - back in my electronics engineer days, the company that I worked for built a new workshop.

      We weren't a big team of engineers - half a dozen or so.

      The new workshop was actually a very nice place but for some reason the builders decided to put the emergency stop buttons on the front edges of the bench.

      We all leaned back on them at least once before they came back and put a transparent lift-able shield over them (which I am sure was not compliant with any kind of regulations).

      1. MJB7

        Re: Too Many Stories!

        Transparent liftable shields over emergency stop buttons almost certainly *do* conform to regulations. They even have a name - "molly-guards" (originally named for one "Molly" who kept turning off a mainframe).

        The scary thing is that Molly is probably only in her 30's now.

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Too Many Stories!

          No, emergency stop buttons for dangerous machinery aren't allowed covers. They're also supposed to be mounted where you can reach them easily while being dragged into the sharp spinny bits.

          1. TonyJ Silver badge

            Re: Too Many Stories!

            "...No, emergency stop buttons for dangerous machinery aren't allowed covers. They're also supposed to be mounted where you can reach them easily while being dragged into the sharp spinny bits..."

            Quite - this was an environment that had some hefty PSU's - not necessarily high voltage, but very high current. And DC lines at that. Combined with some high voltage, high frequency stuff as well. By the very nature of the work, it had to be exposed.

            1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
              Angel

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              Last century I designed a system to test the sprinklers of the Hozelock company.

              Lots of water spraying around and lots of both electronics and large electrical pumps.

              The stop button against each 'head' was the largest I could buy at the time.

          2. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

            Re: Too Many Stories!

            When your left hand gets caught in a conveyer belt ( don't ask) being dragged towards the motor and the buttons on the left, it's a bit tricky even without a molly cover.

            1. H in The Hague Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              "When your left hand gets caught in a conveyer belt ..."

              Happened at I plant I used to visit. Fortunately it was just his sleeve that got caught and he could resist the pull for long enough so the motor protection tripped.

              The other day I wanted to use a hole saw. I must have been a bit tired and applied it to the panel at an angle so the saw part, rather than the drill in the centre, touched the panel first. Made the whole thing skid, saw grabbed my jumper and pulled it and somehow kept pushing my hand against the trigger of the drill. An interesting experience!

              Here's one for the weekend -->

            2. sandman

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              Ah yes, when I was a sprog doing technical drawing and engineering at the local technical college, one of our instructors got his tie caught in a lathe. Unbelievably, ties worn with boiler suits were a mandatory part of the uniform. That time I had to dive for the emergency button before we had an unfortunate meeting of chuck and face.

              1. irrelevant

                Re: Too Many Stories!

                Only time I saw the Big Red Button pressed in earnest, Ferranti Training School, nearly 40 years ago. Instructor had just started teaching us how to use this big fancy machine tool. Might have been a lathe, but my memory is hazy. One of us still-really-kids watching at the front suddenly fainted.. I've never seen anybody move so fast to shut things down. I guess it was pure reflex, as the lad didn't even tip towards the machine.

            3. Yes Me Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              Speaking of conveyor belts (well, not really) I once heard from a purported eyewitness of a safety person investigating how a worker had managed to seriously staple her finger with a heavy-duty industrial stapler, despite its safety guard. "How did it happen?" asked the safety person. "Like this!" said the worker's supervisor, before they rushed him off to hospital. (This was decades ago, in a factory in a city in the East Midlands.)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Too Many Stories!

                A coworker, who used to work in construction, once witnessed his boss scratch an itch on his head with the business end of a framing nailgun. While, of course, putting a bit of pressure on the trigger. My coworker said that everyone laughed at the boss... then zipped him to the hospital. How a 16D nail managed to miss anything important is still a mystery. (Could be he didn't have much there...)

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Too Many Stories!

            If you have an E-Stop button that gets accidentally hit from time to time, the cardboard center from a roll of packing tape or duct tape works nicely. The tube prevents inadvertent presses, but you can still intentionally push the button. Plus, if you are flailing around looking for the button, you can knock the tube away.

            Not sure how OSHA approved the trick is, but if the alternative is that someone bypasses the EStop loop after annoying trips, it's worth it.

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              I was going to say, install a used, probably washed yogurt carton over the button. You can hit it hard and it'll crumple and the button is pressed, but it'll resist accidental touches up to a point.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Too Many Stories!

            Yeah one year after the Christmas party the on call (and therefore sober) staff member went to answer an alarm. On entering he noticed that the air temp was much higher than normal and that all the chillers were switched off. This was done with a yellow and red turn switch as opposed to a big red button. Whilst investigating this he heard noises coming from the other end of the room. There he found two far less sober members of staff down one of the aisles who were clothed as nature intended on packing blankets. If the floor had been covered in something different their actions could have been described as "Rhino on the Lino". They were so into each other that they didn't notice him standing there and then walking past.

            They'd obviously thought that they'd found the perfect location to get "Jiggy With It" but it was obviously too cold. Their mistake was turning off the cooling which in turn alerted us that there was something wrong. The first time the pair paid any attention to the world was when the large yellow and red chiller master switch was turned back to the on position. He didn't have to wait long for the temperature to drop a few degrees and for there to be a reaction. A figure covered in a packing blanket around the waist appeared and then disappeared the second they saw someone else. The on-call staff member yelled that they had two minutes to get dressed and get out before he'd be back with a camera (no mobiles allowed in there). When he came back with a camera they'd gone and the only evidence they'd been there was a scrap of packing blanket that had caught on a nail by the door. Everyone knew who it was because 'someone' had leaked the access logs for the security doors!

        2. Manolo
          Headmaster

          Re: Too Many Stories!

          "The scary thing is that Molly is probably only in her 30's now."

          According to the jargon file, Molly was a toddler who used to trip an IBM 4341.

          That would place it in the early eighties.

          http://catb.org/jargon/html/M/molly-guard.html

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_4300#IBM_4341

      2. KBeee Bronze badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Too Many Stories!

        Thinking of Big Red Buttons, I was once accompanied by a new trainee into an electrical main substation underneath the Barbican in London. As we entered the Aux. room I saw the emergency lights flicker on and off.

        Looking round, I saw the young man had seen a red button on the wall and had walked over and pushed it! Luckily it was only a button to test the emergeny lighting system and not an emergency trip for a 25MVA transformer.

        A long chat ensued...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too Many Stories!

          OK - I can't resist adding another one. On offshore rigs and platforms, all new arrivals get a guided tour of key areas, where the safety rules and precautions are highlighted (when I say "new arrival" I mean someone who hasn't been to that installation before or in the past year). Installations have ESDs (Emergency Shut Down buttons) in strategic locations and these are often pointed out on tours. On one installation tour the Safety Officer pointed out an ESD with the advice that it's there "just in case" but you will probably never need to use it. "How does it work?" asked one bright spark, lifting the cover and pressing. Later that day, when the platform muster had been stood down, the helicopters sent back to their original routings, and the platform was beginning to restart production, a certain "bright spark" found his light was now to be hidden - as he was firmly put on a flight back to shore and his employment prospects experiencing a downturn.

          It could be seen as an easy mistake to make, and a harsh response, but anyone behaving like that can be a danger to all, setting aside the fact that the incident probably cost the operator north of $1m.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Too Many Stories!

            I can't help feeling that although the spark mightn't have been that bright neither was a tour that didn't start off with a warning not to touch any controls they weren't instructed to touch.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              Do you really want people who don't understand on their own not to push emergency buttons or activate any controls during a tour to operate expensive and dangerous machinery? There's a certain amount of common sense that becomes an absolute requirement when the dangers of lacking it are big enough. To me, that means that if lacking common sense means the person involved is about to end the day greater one permanent disability or less one coworker, demonstrating too large a lack means it's time for them to go before that can happen. This would also apply with a high enough financial cost. Fortunately, I don't work somewhere where those safety risks are experienced, so the worst that a colleague lacking common sense can do is irritate everyone and slow us down; I can try to train that away.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              That training is done before ever setting foot in the heliport - people arriving offshore are meant to be competent for whatever role they're to fill. The tour is to ensure they are sufficiently familiar with the layout and any installation-specific features (each installation is different - even "identical" ones). If the alarm goes off, everyone needs to know their own way to their allotted muster point; if they don't, other people's lives can be put at risk searching for them.

              Having been alone in a module when the alarm went off (a sound that was preceded by a loud bang, the lights going off and the emergency ones coming on), just hours after arriving, I was glad I had been given the tour. Not that I was worried about my safety - the module I was in was the gas compression one, where I probably wouldn't have had time to hear a serious bang. Opening the door to make my way to the refuge, I could feel the heat from the flare so I guessed it was probably "just" the main release/purge valve opening. No, my concern was the embarrassment of an auditor not turning up for the muster (partly my embarrassment, of course, but also theirs for losing an auditor)!

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Too Many Stories!

          Something tells me it was no accident that button was placed there with that specific function instead of something more serious. Both visitors and trainees are notorious for their inability to resist the temptation to push those buttons.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Too Many Stories!

            "A sign just lit up saying 'do not press this button again'"

            I've been tempted on a number of occasions to make "booby trap" buttons

            The other side of this is the idiots who hammer repeatedly on doorbells or other knobs making a nuisance of themselves. I used to solve that issue with a monostable. You got one press per minute and that was it (the fun goes out of it very quickly when you don't get the expected response)

            1. swm Silver badge

              Re: Too Many Stories!

              The campus police had a red button in their office that was plastic with a needle in the center. The police said that it drew blood frequently.

              1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                Re: Too Many Stories!

                Ooh. I suppose if you want DNA samples, that works...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too Many Stories!

      shite designs of desktops is still alive and well today. I have the misfortune to use a Lenovo ideacentre 620S-03IKL at work, its all style no substance. its a vertical design slim but tall. For starters its 2020 and there are NO USB ports on the front of the box just a 3.5mm jack socket! All the ports are around the back, so a pain to access, but the really show stopper (literally) is the placement of the power button on the TOP of the box! Just in the position that you naturally find yourself placing your hand to hold the box steady when reaching around the back to plug anything in the ports! FECKING awful design how these things pass UAT is beyond me!

      1. MoreBeerPlease

        Re: Too Many Stories!

        Similar design flaw in my HP G2 Docking station the whole top of the cube is the on/off switch so it's almost impossible to plug/unplug anything in to the docking station without turning the laptop off.

        1. Antonius_Prime

          Re: Too Many Stories!

          Just beat me to it! :D Have my upvote!

      2. Antonius_Prime
        Devil

        Re: Too Many Stories!

        HP Thunderbolt Dock G2 - AKA The Whack-A-Dock

        (https://store.hp.com/UKStore/Merch/Product.aspx?id=2UK37ET&opt=ABU&sel=ACC)

        Entire top is the power button. Exactly what you need when you're trying to reach in behind and plug in USB devices or network cables for the users who can design complex, complicated piping, HVAC, electrical & CAD designs but apparently basic matching sockets eludes them...

        The dock is related to the icon...

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Too Many Stories!

          We've got some users with from memory Dell Optiplex 7470 or 80 all in one pc's.They've got the power button on the lower right hand side, it's not recessed or flush it's sticking out. This is also the side that most users have their desk phone. The number of times people have accidentally knocked that sodding power button when answering the phone is amazing. The cables for the phone and the PC are bundled together. Plus most people like having the phone next to the PC. One person decided to put the phone on the left side of the PC and the mouse mat on the right. They were hitting it more that way than the other layout. a work around is to leave something open on the desktop that halts shutdown without user intervention. Or a small plastic cap that somebody taped over theirs.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too Many Stories!

        its this little fecker

        https://www.lenovo.com/gb/en/desktops-and-all-in-ones/ideacentre/600-series/620S/p/99IC96S0284 note the Power button on the top, genius design

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Too Many Stories!

          The website can't even display images without javascript enabled. That should be a clear warning in itself. Kids today. Mutter, mutter.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too Many Stories!

        Our Pastor had bought a new laptop which we used to do a power point of the service bulletin.

        First time I went to plug in a USB stick into the right edge I found out the power button was on the left edge.

    3. l8gravely

      Re: Too Many Stories!

      My power switch story is much more personal. I had a pile of old boxes under the bench where my wife and I would work on our individual computers. My young toddler, I think he was two at the time would happily play with Thomas the Tank Engine trains, etc while the wife would work a few hours a day remotely. I'm a solid 30+ minutes from home at work when I get a panicked call that the son had got his finger stuck in one of my computer cases and I could hear him crying bloody murder behind her.

      Made my excuses to the boss, ran out the door and headed home at a speed quite a bit over the legal limit, luckily without a stop. Driving a black Passat wagon might have been a good thing at the time. Anyhoo, the wife had meanwhile called the local coppers who were only too happy to come over and help her out, carrying the computer case, son and all up the stairs to better light.

      Turns out I had left the case slid forward a bit because I had been fiddling around in there the other day, and the son decided that the button the front needed pushing. All that held it in was a metal strip behind the plastic button, which gave it the oomph to spring back nicely. But since there was no real button behind it, the plastic had popped through and his finger got caught like a chinese handcuff. The more he pulled, the more the wife pulled, the tighter it held on.

      I could head the screams (from the wife) while still driving him, if only mentally.

      Arrived home to find a teary boy eating some treat, an angry wife about me leaving a dangerous machine just lying around, and two very nice policement who wanted to chat about computers.

      All in all, it ended up ok now. Suprisingly, the son really isn't interesting in the insides of computers these days... and the wife still doesn't trust my stuff in the basement.

      Cheers!

    4. PM from Hell
      Happy

      Re: Too Many Stories!

      I'd forgotten the PS2 issue, we our Helpdesk used to get the user to count to 20 before switching back on

  8. Dabooka
    FAIL

    If only it was just then

    Only yesterday in my office a colleague asked how to turn the computer on.

    I pointed to the big ugly base unit and suggested they try that. The indignation in their voice was palpable as they blurted out that they 'thought it was one of those all in one desktops that some staff have'.

    I did not feel the need to point out they had tried the power button on both of the monitors in this supposedly 'all in one' setup.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: If only it was just then

      They probably thought they had the prestige version: the all-in-two desktop.

    2. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Pint

      Re: If only it was just then

      Yep.

      Love of my life has an old Dell desktop setup ("It does what I want it to do so feck off with your games machines").

      Big, round, bright logo on the front (the Dell, not the LOML), middle of the case .

      Would be an obvious ON/OFF button but no.

      That's a tiny black, round thing on a black background, off to one side, less than halfway up and not visible to the human eye.

      Turning it on early in the dim morning light is always entertaining even if you haven't had one of those ----->

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: If only it was just then

        It would be worth sticking a white thing onto the tiny black thing, I suppose.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: If only it was just then

        I suffered with one of those too. New system was purchased for CEO, so slightly upmarket model compared to the usual workstations. Not a problem, nothing too excessive. Until I got the embarassed call that he couldn't work out how to turn the damn thing on... I turned up and sat in front of it and struggled to find the power switch as well. It was black, with no signage at all, on a black case, designed to look a part of the front styling of the case. When we'd both laughed about the stupidity of the design we found a sticker and stuck it on it to make it obvious in the future.

  9. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Always check everything

    Many years ago I had a summer job as an accounts clerk, literally just counting and tabulating the daily take from a bunch of shops. They knew I was "computery", so I was also asked to fix various things. One morning, the company secretary said that her new 21" CRT monitor was broken, could I take a look.

    2 hours later, having lugged this monstrosity to a different PC, reseated graphics cards and checked drivers, I found out that the contrast wheel was all the way at zero, making the screen completely black.

    I don't think I even fessed up to it, I think I told her a driver update fixed it, or it was misconfigured.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Always check everything

      Used to be very easy to turn the contrast wheel on a lot of monitors because they wereunder the lower bezel just about the same height off the desk as a keyboard with legs extended. You'd do something like pick up a pencil from the keyboard, brush against it, and if the monitor was off at the time it wouldn't be obvious what happened by the time you turned it back on.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Always check everything

        And instead of a clear printed label it would simply be moulded into the case, effectively invisible so it wouldn't be obvious there was even a control there.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Always check everything

          with such monitors, a long strip of tape over the controls wasn't such a bad move once the they were set

          It was invisible to the user and stopped the things being rotated without _really_ intending to rotate them

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Always check everything

      Had a similar kind of issue with staff moving their desks around and the CRT monitor stopping working. Sensibly they'd lifted the monitor holding onto the bottom of it (rather than just the stand or pushing it) and had moved the control wheel for the contrast or brightness all the way down. Followed by a panicked call from the user that they'd broken it...

  10. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    some people have a block

    they can't remember some basic steps, it's all wizardry for them, they will never make heads or tails out of it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: some people have a block

      So often the block is just "It'll be all too complicated for me so I won't even try.".

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: some people have a block

        So often the block is just "It'll be all too complicated for me so I won't even try.".

        SEP, I have a block understanding those people.

  11. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Lest we forget.

    Win 3.11 ran on top of DOS on a FAT filesystem.

    Habitually turning it off and on again was guaranteed to get the Disk Corruption Fairies[1] to sit up and take notice.

    [1] As in: "Did you turn it off with the power switch again?".

    "No I didn't!"

    "Right. Must have been the Disk Corruption Fairies at work then."

    1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

      Re: Lest we forget.

      and the swap file was named something like windows.tmp

      and since it could be rather large at a time space was at a premium, one of the first thing you may delete if running out of drive space...

      leading to a Windows crash and reinstalling it since it couldn't be recreated at Windows startup.

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

        Re: Lest we forget.

        That was before you learned system.ini :D. After you learned that you "took hours to install over night" and cached in the overtime in your preferred pub, I suppose.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lest we forget.

          Once DOS was installed, the next thing I did was create a directory and copied all the Win3 files from floppies in there. Run Setup from there to install or when there was a problem and had to reinstall - so much quicker

  12. Peter Prof Fox

    How do you shut down Windows?

    I remember being rather cross that there was no way to shut this fancy software down. In desperation I tried clicking on START.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: How do you shut down Windows?

      Same logic as a car - Use the ignition key to stop the engine as well as to start it.

    2. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

      Re: How do you shut down Windows?

      That is because you didn't find the EJECT button

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: How do you shut down Windows?

        On the car or on the computer?

        1. Spanners Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: How do you shut down Windows?

          The best eject option is on the F111.

  13. BeverageBeast

    Always amused me doing desktop support when you asked the user to press the power button and they replied "Do you mean on the computer or the box under the desk?"

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Amused? You should have been relieved that they realised there were two.

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re:

        Obviously a PFY in training, then. She's not, any more ------------->

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I got everything sorted, saved a copy of the desk.ini (or whatever it was called), put a line in autoexec to copy it back, and - crucial part - set a timer to log off after 30mins inactivity. That saved loads of heartache, morning logon everything was neat and tidy; turn off the monitor and wander away, eventually the machine closed itself down.

    I also replaced the shutdown screen, replacing "You can now turn the power off" with "You can now turn the power off **or press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to restart**" (my emphasis). Way way way too many times I'd see people approach a logged-off machine and in order to log on they'd turn the power off.

  15. ColinPa

    We from the movies

    Many films have the computer "blowing up" as we see when the monitor explodes. Therefore the switch on the monitor controls the computer. Obvious!

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: We from the movies

      Those movies, where the monitor explodes, are all rather old and just use the fact that CRTs are pretty easy to induce to explode (really implode) rather spectacularly.

      1. swm Silver badge

        Re: We from the movies

        Probably a divide by zero.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: We from the movies

      What monitor? It's usually the reel to reel tape that explodes.

  16. mikebanks
    Holmes

    Apricot Qi anyone?

    The Apricot Qi of the late 80's had a power button down the side. We got a call from a client saying the monitor was just "flashing". Could not figure what the problem was over the phone. After a few minutes on site the engineer realised that the new tape backup (DAT?) box was pushing the keyboard cable against the switch causing an endless power cycle.

  17. andy gibson

    PROGMAN.EXE

    IIRC the Windows 3.1 interface was still present in Win95 and 98?

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: PROGMAN.EXE

      Is that something that they open sourced recently? I'm having trouble looking it up because "Program Manager" mostly comes up as someone's job title.

    2. TSM

      Re: PROGMAN.EXE

      Because, of course, there was a lot of software that relied on PROGMAN.EXE rather than bothering to check what the user's shell actually was (which even in the 3.x days didn't *have* to be progman, but usually was)

  18. Giles C Bronze badge

    Not quite the same

    I think I have mentioned this on here before.

    But the best related story I can give is this one.

    The old (10-15year) HP docking stations which where the size of a full size PC.

    User had a laptop stuck - in this case you pulled the back cover off and slid a lever to make the laptop manually eject.

    Just below this level (and the same colour) was the switch on the PSU to move it from 110 to 240v.

    I don't really need to send any more - do I?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not quite the same

      BANG, blue smoke. "Can you smell burning?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not quite the same

      Following such an event, we got a manager asking why we had given their staff such a dangerous device.

      How was I to know that, after I had put the PC behind the monitor with only the front showing. They must have pulled out the PC, turned it around, found the very small slider, found something to move it and then put it all back in place before pressing the button?

    3. knottedhandkerchief

      Re: Not quite the same

      The real problem would occur when slid from 240V to 110V...

      1. Giles C Bronze badge

        Re: Not quite the same

        Oops typo on my part it was moving the switch from 240 to 110, resulting in the escape of blue smoke.

    4. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Not quite the same

      Ahhh, the old "Let's allow the magic smoke to escape" routine.

    5. Andytug

      Re: Not quite the same

      We had a bunch of faulty Fujitsu base units back in the day which auto-sensed 110/240V and set the PSU accordingly.

      Faulty in that every so often one would get it wrong. Picture the scene, 0700 or so, desks back to back, user sans coffee so barely awake, colleague over the desk turns their PC on and "bang" there goes the fuse. User is now thoroughly awake!!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    sales rep

    This was at a major entertainment company, back with W98.

    This sales rep had only one application in use for the whole day. Firing it up at the morning, and closing it in the afternoon.

    This was the only shortcut of her whole desktop.

    For reasons that science has yet to explain, every single week (everyone of them), she'd call for help, saying her

    app had "disappeared".

    Yes, she'd managed to remove the shortcut and no, no-one was brave enough to try the herculean job of teaching her how to launch apps via the start menu.

    The helldesk dudes were usually caught saying, upon a call from XXX, "ah yeah, XXX, I'll go and re-create her shortcut"

    Good times.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: sales rep

      For regular calls like that, you should have a copy of the shortcut & drop a copy via the network.

      Certainly saved me a lot of pointless trudging up & down a hill to 225, usually in the rain (See icon), when at a certain pharma company in Dartford.

    2. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Holmes

      Re: sales rep

      The heady days of "OMG!!! SOMEBODY DELETED MY INTERWEBTUBES!!!"

      Yep - the old 'delete-the-IE-shortcut-from-the-desktop' routine.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: sales rep

      > she'd call for help, saying her app had "disappeared".

      We had a customer like that - she'd ring us up, blaming our techs for eveything under the sun and her programs disappearing as "nobody else touched her computer, so it must be us"

      They'd show up, unminimize the program from the desktop, explain what they did (and demonstrate it) and a few days later the pantomime would repeat

      About a year later her husband piped up and admitted to minimising her program so he could run solitaire

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: sales rep

        "About a year later her husband piped up and admitted to minimising her program so he could run solitaire"

        Ah ah, LOL. I wonder how many IT "ghosts" have been reveled this way ...

    4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: sales rep

      You could put up ten shortcuts that are all for the same thing. "Your move."

  20. theOtherJT

    "All my stuff is gone"

    Ah yes, that one. Had one member of reception staff at one place I worked who called in with this one every couple of weeks or so. We had 3 buildings, and in reception for each building there were at least 2 computers on the desk. She was part time and did a funny shift pattern where she'd be in Monday -Thursday one week, then Tuesday - Friday the next week. Throw in a few days off here and there and you were never really sure if she was on shift or not or which building she might be in if she was.

    She would arrive at work, log into a computer, open stuff, move it around and then just leave it like that until her shift ended - which if it was one of the ones that crossed a weekend might be 12 days from first login. Of course the first day she's off one of her co-workers would come in, find her session open sitting at a lock screen, and then reboot so they could use the machine.*

    Next time she's in suddenly "all her stuff is gone" because she's now logged into a totally different computer, possibly in a different building. She just could not get her head around the idea that although she was using the same credentials on every desktop they were somehow not all the same machine and open programs would not follow her from one machine to another.

    * Obviously this would also frequently lead to her losing work because she'd leave things open without saving them.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: "All my stuff is gone"

      Roaming profiles (Especially large ones & with "default printers" not always being the one you want), can be both a curse & a blessing.

      Shifting from one branch of the pharma to Dartford, they eventually twigged my profile was roaming & counteracted it.

      Being the lazy sort of git, I am, I set up the build room PC with a copy of everything I needed on my desktop & ran a script to drop everything needed on any machine I was building or fixing.

      1. irrelevant

        Re: "All my stuff is gone"

        I loved the idea of roaming profiles. Set it up at one client as they transitioned to a proper Windows network rather than ad-hoc PCs. But it got slower and slower as time went on, to the point most users stopped logging off and on at all. Too many users storing too much local data (despite server shares for it all) on a 10Mbps LAN all trying to sign on at once..

        1. Spanners Silver badge

          Re: "All my stuff is gone"

          A few years ago, we quietly moved their desktop folder to a folder on their network share but didn't tell them.

          It also makes it easier/faster to put shortcuts back on their desktop.

  21. LDS Silver badge

    "For the impossibly young, Program Manager was"....

    .. exactly like your latest smartphone home screen.... a bunch of icon to click to open an app....

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: "For the impossibly young, Program Manager was"....

      ...and for many users, just like their PC desktop now.

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: "For the impossibly young, Program Manager was"....

      Not exactly that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Program_Manager

      Program Manager presents "program groups" - in effect, small windows inside the big window, or minimised to icons - that could be toggled or cascaded, although I think my preference was a carefully arranged tiling of these windows so that everything I wanted to use often was on display. That does equate to the typical phone screen, except that the icons have titles - but I think that was optional too.

      And there was Windows 8 of course......

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you ever transitioned users from green screen terminals to PCs, you knew this was coming. The concept and the muscle memory of having one power switch in your immediate field of view made sense.

    1. irrelevant

      Yep.. We had a few sites where we did that.. Upgrade their system and they got a new box next to "the computer" that was accepted as necessary but otherwise ignored.

      On power switches, I had occasion to ask one user to switch off and on again, once, and she asked how. Press the power switch. Didn't know where it was.. It turned out that the computer had been switched on when she started at the company, several months previously, and she'd never turned it off since.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's not the power button?

    One Very Large PC maker turned off monitor sleep mode for several years in the 1990s because people would buy a PC, set it up, play with it, go away and come back to find it had "shut itself off". They'd poke the monitor power button a couple times and nothing would happen, so they'd take it all apart and return it as 'defective'. As a bright young engineer, I wrote a little bit of code that would detect this via the DPMS signal from the monitor and wake the system. For all I know, thousands of people used their monitor switch as an On button for years afterwards, so sorry about that.

    1. swm Silver badge

      Re: That's not the power button?

      At Xerox, around 1980, some secretaries ran Interlisp for their desktop (mail, document creation, printing etc.). They never seemed to have a problem. If there was a power failure, on restarting the machine all of the icons, open documents etc. were right where she left them.

      It's too bad we can't do this even with a controlled shutdown nowadays.

  24. Marty McFly
    Coat

    Training class from 1995...

    "Monitor" = The TV part

    "Keyboard" = The typewriter part

    "CPU" = Big brain box under the desk

    Next we will learn how to double click your mouse.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Training class from 1995...

      "Next we will learn how to double click your mouse."

      windows3 included minesweeper and solitaire for this purpose (also teaching right clicks)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Program manager

    IIRC It wasn't documented anywhere, but all you had to do was set the readonly attribute on the program manager .grp files and that would prevent the icons being accidentally dragged about or deleted. No need to let the user screw it up and have a script to restore them on a reboot.

    I liked program manager more than the win95-win7 start button. But the start button is infinitely better than the sheer horror that came after it with W8 and W10.

    Openshell is the very first thing I install on any PC I use nowadays.

  26. Annihilator Silver badge

    To be fair...

    This would be the first machines that came in two parts. Prior to that, most computers that end-users will have had access to would have been monitors with the PC within it. Most office "computers" being an Amstrad PCW or something.

  27. Rabbit80

    Current issue..

    One of our customers recently had a truck reverse through their wall.. in exactly the spot where all utilities entered the building. This knocked out power, water, gas and phones. They have had much of it repaired now however they had to run off generators for the past month.

    I get support calls a couple of days in a row. Emails not working. Upon logging in to the server I see power failure messages and the Exchange databases are in a dirty shutdown. backups have also failed. I ask if they had a power cut and they said yes.

    Only on the third day this happened did hey tell me the story about the generators and the truck. They weren't shutting the servers down each night - just simply powering off the generators. A quick tutorial on shutdown procedures followed.

  28. sinsi

    Progman (Program Manager) is still the Windows 10 desktop shell window.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You sure? Progman was taken out during XP. Explorer.exe has been the shell for some time now. For a while they could run in parallel, but a quick check of an old XP VM I've got suggests it was gone by SP3.

      1. sinsi

        The actual program may have gone but the window class and title live on - spyxx will show it.

  29. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Pint

    Re:

    I stopped at "Ever had a user swear..."

    Beer, because we all need one ---------------------------------------------------------->

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Re:

      Beer, because we all need one ---------------------------------------------------------->

      Frankly, I prefer and need something a little stronger than that extremely immature whisky.

  30. Kev99

    Never underestimate the stupidity of the human animal, especially where technology is concerned. We had a lady who was in charge of running the backups for her office. She dutifully put the tape cartridge into our MicroVAX 3600 and start the backup. She'd then sit around waiting for the backup to finish. Unfortunately, to her the backup was done when she no long heard the tape drive. With no noise she pushed the eject button and out would pop one ruined backup. Our operators got to the point they'd distract her or even sit directly in front of the drive to keep her from destroying the cartridge and MicroVAX.

    1. pmb00cs

      Was once called to help recover a failed server from backup. Asked the receptionist who had been tasked with maintaining the backup tape rotation to fetch in the previous nights backup tape. The tape was there on my arrival, still in the cellophane wrapper in it's carry box. A label with the previous day had been stuck on the box, but the tape had clearly never seen the inside of a tape drive.

      The poor woman had been taking a tape offsite everyday, and bringing that day's tape from the previous week back into the office for the better part of two years. Ten mint condition tapes with labels stuck on the carry boxes. Clearly no one had properly explained the relationship between the tapes and the tape drive to her, to start the backup she had been pushing the same demonstration tape back into the tape drive each morning, where the backup routine was happily overwriting the previous days backup, until the tape had completely worn out. Fortunately the hard drive wasn't completely fried, and I managed to recover most of their data.

  31. Gil Grissum

    Been through this sort of thing, many times before, when supporting users, who insisted they typed in the right password but it wouldn't take it, and their active directory account, got locked, but we had an Active Directory tool, that not only told us if they typed in the right password, but how many times they typed in the wrong password, before there account became locked, so we had them dead to rights, on what they actually did and how many times, they did it wrong.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Didn't matter, everybody knows you can't trust those machines.

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