back to article The curse of knowing a bit about IT: 'Could you just...?' and 'No I haven't changed anything'

On the sixth day of Christmas, the bork gods sent to me: Fix the printer, nerds, Scottish parking whi-i-i-i-nge, one dead DB, petty angry user, flightless Windows signage, and a server they said had ceased to be. Welcome to the Twelve Borks of Christmas (12BoC): a collection of Register reader stories of amusing and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Printers attached to PC's

    is so old skool... :) :)

    now we have them broadcasting over WiFi. One has appeared near me since Christmas that is so wide open (no I have not sent anything to it but I can get at the control panel)

    It is an HP thingy. Beware folks if you are having anything to do with HP printers that have WiFi.

    I could easily bork the printer but I'm not going to.

    If stuff comes this wide-open then no matter how many firewalls you have... they ain't gonna stop a thing.

    Meanwhile, my own website is coming under a concentrated hack attempt from a range of IP addresses in Serbia. I've had to resort to blocking the whole *.* in 111.222.*.* (not the real numbers). Those Serbs seem to think that I have phpmyadmin on the server in /var/www/html. numpties.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      You could just start sending random print jobs to it in the middle of the night... or send a message telling them they have could have been hacked and this is how to stop it occurring.

      Seriously though the security on these home printers is laughable and should never be allowed out the factory. Forget the unknown IoT stuff, the mainstream manufacturers need to get in order first.

      1. don't you hate it when you lose your account

        Re: Printers attached to PC's

        Not just printers. The amount of stuff inflicted on users that should be shot at concept is scary

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Re: Printers attached to PC's

          Anything electronic? With some people two rocks would be over complicating things

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: Printers attached to PC's

            Some people could do significant damage with just one rock.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Printers attached to PC's

              Some people could do significant damage with just one rock.

              To be fair, thats been the standard MO of most hominids for the last couple of million years, it's just a shame that some of us seem strangely reluctant to let go of the lifestyle...

              1. Cynic_999

                Re: Printers attached to PC's

                I once worked with an apprentice who I would definitely not trust with two rocks. I estimate that within a week he would have lost one and broken the other.

            2. IceC0ld

              Re: Printers attached to PC's

              doesn't have to be tech either, brought my then 3yo daughter an 'UNBREAKABLE' toy






              she broke EVERY OTHER toy with it :o)

              1. Aus Tech

                Re: Printers attached to PC's

                "she broke EVERY OTHER toy with it :o)"

                Would that toy perhaps look something like a hammer?

                BTW, I nearly choked, laughing at the quote.

              2. shedied
                IT Angle

                Re: Printers attached to PC's

                ..and THAT was how she had stumbled her way into I.T.

            3. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Printers attached to PC's

              Some people could do significant damage TO THEMSELVES with just one rock.

              There, FTFY

          3. Imhotep

            Re: Printers attached to PC's

            One rock is plenty unless you need to avoid a single point of failure.

            1. jonathan keith

              Re: Printers attached to PC's

              You really need three rocks to solve any sensor disagreement problems.

              1. Is It Me

                Re: Printers attached to PC's

                This makes me think you might be a rebreather diver (I know there are other places that use 3 sensors and voting logic)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Printers attached to PC's

        "or send a message telling them they have could have been hacked"

        ...or a screen cap of one those "This website has been taken over by the FBI", modify and add a suitable scary warning about contraband ink or something and print that on it.

        1. Cynic_999

          Re: Printers attached to PC's

          Nah. Not entertaining enough. Just send a few ponographic photo prints and wait for the raised voices as the finger-pointing starts between the family members.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      Our mail server sees a login attempt from "Russia" every 30 seconds, this is normal. My rule is "drop all" unless it's from my specific IP address and even then I don't trust it, but I let it try and log in.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      A cousin's new wireless HP printer had a set-up disk for his W10 laptop. It insisted in trying to set it up with a 10.x.y.z address even though the laptop itself was on 192.168.x.y. Fortunately it also had a USB connection so I could configure it via CUPS from an old Dell he had which ran Zorin (relatives ask for IT assistance, they likely end up running Linux).

      1. Wayland

        Re: Printers attached to PC's

        "(relatives ask for IT assistance, they likely end up running Linux)"

        Exactly right!

    4. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      To be fair, that is the way of things these days. It's so ${luser}'s iThing can print to it from ${wherever}.

      If you can get into the config and change things well, it's not the fault of the manufacturer that ${user} didn't completely run through the setup and SECURE THE BLOODY THING.

      It's provided open so $(user}'s iThing can access it wirelessly OOB[1] and then, once it's connected, secure it. The problem occurs when ${user} gets it to print and immediately crashes out of the setup process "cuz it worx nows innit".

      [1] You wouldn't believe the number of one-star reviews that requiring a USB connection for setup gets your product. While teh internets allows sheep to post reviews and that, in turn, controls how well it sells, there is no answer to this one.

    5. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Colin Wilson 2 - Apple have got this right!

      Redirect the traffic from Serbia to the HP printer

    6. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      It's not just printers that are open to the world. One day when bored I'm going to play with my neighbour's WiFi enabled robot vacuum cleaner.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Printers attached to PC's

        It's not just printers that are open to the world.

        There was this case of a bluetooth sex toy that didn't require pairing.

        #include <penetration_testing_joke.h>

    7. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      Those Serbs seem to think that I have phpmyadmin on the server

      You could always make the URL an alias for /dev/zero.

    8. Anon 17

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      In the early 2000's I was back at school for a (non-IT) graduate degree. My first year, I paid the local ISP for a dial-up connection, but subsequent years saw WiFi installed in dorm. Several of my fellow students were startled when their printers spewed out a warning that someone would be by shortly to help with their security.

    9. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      Beware folks if you are having anything to do with HP printers

      ... newer than a LaserJet 4.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Printers attached to PC's

        I've written this before, but I love an excuse to say it again.

        I stopped trusting HP printers some years ago when an update made my HP printer useless.

        It failed on the update because a specific dll couldn't be installed, because the previously installed dll wouldn't remove itself from the computer.

        I went through the labyrinthine multi level uninstall routines, which wouldn't remove this fucking .dll.

        I tried every trick I knew to remove it manually. It wouldn't remove.

        With it in place the install fell over. Wouldn't skip over writing it. Just came to a crashing halt. BUT it was the same fucking version in the new install package

      2. PeterM42

        Re: Printers attached to PC's

        HP LaserJet 4 was the LAST good one from HP.

        1. Wayland

          Re: Printers attached to PC's

          Samsung made some pretty good printers and now HP owns that business. I will say that HP have since 'improved' the Samsung models to the point where I would where I would not recommend them.

        2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Printers attached to PC's

          I recently took a LaserJet 1100 to the skip when its paper pickup mechanism failed beyond my ability to repair with the few parts still available. Since it had been running continually since 1999, it did pretty well.

          A few years ago I bought a cheap HP All-in-one DeskJet thingy. It had wifi. but setup failed and that's when I discovered that you got precisely one shot at it. There was no "undo" or "factory reset" facility, so if something went wrong with the setup there was no way to try again. It only cost £30 from Tesco and it worked OK on USB, but still ...

          I now have a Brother laser printer which is a flimsy thing and probably won't last long. On the other hand, it cost me £60 and the LJ1100 cost (iirc) about £200, twenty years ago.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Printers attached to PC's

            My flimsy Brother HL-1110 laser printer has lasted for years. has been loaned out/given to my late sister and my student daughter, is now sat USB'd to my main PC with the colour Canon wireless multi function consigned to a spare room.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Printers attached to PC's

          "HP LaserJet 4 was the LAST good one from HP."

          It was a rebadged Canon

    10. russmichaels

      early viruses

      generally a wireless printer should be connected to the owners wireless network, so nobody else would be able to see it or connect to it unless they also had access to your WIFI as well.

      Although some do seem to also act as their own WAP, which is kinda strange. Not really sure what is the point in that, as it means you have to disconnect from the WIFI to connect to the printer.

      My neighbours have a couple of these, although they are secured.

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      The numptie is the one thinking it's the Serbs trying to hack his network and not a nerdy kid somewhere just gotten his hands on a hacking tool and an access to a bot network... which happens to be in Serbia (or could also be forged to look like it is there...)

    12. Aus Tech

      Re: Printers attached to PC's

      Speak for yourself, AC. If I can avoid using Wi-Fi networking, then I do so, even if it means jumping through hoops to get updates for our tablets and smart phones using USB to get updates to them. As for the printer connected to my computer, I only use USB now.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    XP and network discovery?

    I don't recall that being a feature... Especially in XP Home! Nothing like trying to get one of those to talk to the rest of the computers at your house!!

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: XP and network discovery?

      Ah... the memories. Yes indeed. It was pot luck if XP-Home could connect to another computer 3ft away. One day it would work and the next... no chance. Windows 7 improved things but Microsoft is responsible for millions of hours wanted as people tried unsuccessfully to get their network... you know networking.

      At one job we used a MacBook to prove that the network was fine. A laptop running Linux did the job equally as well (once you got the Broadcomm WiFi sorted). Those were the days.

      Once upon a time there was a tavern

      Where we used to raise a glass or two

      Remember how we laughed away the hours

      And dreamed of all the great things we would do (when we got that MS network working)

      Happy new year to one and all. Carry on Borking!

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: XP and network discovery?

        Yes, I can remember in XP times successfully connecting a PC to my little home network, then totally failing to get a second one to be seen, with the same settings and stuff.

        Or random combinations of seen and not seen; PC A could see B but not C. C could see A and B but B couldn't see A ( Or something of that sort- it's thankfully a long and distant bad memory).

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: XP and network discovery?

          "totally failing to get a second one to be seen, with the same settings and stuff."

          There's ya problem! The settings need to be different, like, ya know, the IP address :-)))

          1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

            Re: ya know, the IP address

            In a world where DHCP rules that is hardly a problem now is it....

            Oh wait....

            I've seen MS's DHCP issue the same address for two totally different systems (And then complain loudly). That was a good while ago though.

            1. Cynic_999

              Re: ya know, the IP address

              It is perfectly possible for a network to end up with two DHCP clients having the same IP address. It can occur when the DHCP server is re-booted. In that case the next client to request an IP address can be given the same address as another client already has, because that client's lease time (given before the reboot) has not expired, and the server does not know what addresses it issued prior to being rebooted. To reduce the chance of that happening the server will ARP an IP address it is about to allocate to ensure it is not already in use - but if the DHCP server is also the WiFi hotspot (quite likely), and the client with the duplicate address has not yet reconnected to the WiFi after the reboot, it will not reply to the ARP. Things will get sorted when the lease expires on one of the clients with the duplicate IP.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: XP and network discovery?

            UUUH is it new year already?

            Why's there no icon for head on hands?

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: XP and network discovery?

          IIRC, XP Home had a limit to the number of other network devices it would talk to. And it wasn't that many (was it something like 5?)

          I was already using Linux on my home network when XP came out, and I found that XP was very aggressive about discovering other devices on the network. It literally scanned the network (I spotted this by using tcpdump and Ethereal), and I was worried that even my Linux systems would count towards the limit, but it seemed not, although at the time I only had three other Windows systems on the network.

          I did actually use internet sharing and printer sharing from XP to my other systems (including Linux) and I never had a problem. But when I got an always on dial up package from Virgin, I installed a Linux firewall on an old fanless Pentium 100, and inverted the network so Windows just became clients on the network.

          I think the reasons why I had no problems was that I did not use DHCP to allocate network addresses, but fixed all of the PC addresses by hand. I could never get my head around systems acting as servers with uncertain IP addresses.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: XP and network discovery?

        "Carry on Borking!" friend,

        we thought they'd never end

        ...and they haven't! :-)

      3. Captain Badmouth

        Re: XP and network discovery?

        @Steve Davies 3

        +1 for the Mary Hopkin reference.

        Anyone else read "12BoC" as 120BC?

        Some days it feels like it...

        I need a drink.

        1. C R Mudgeon

          Re: XP and network discovery?

          I've been reading it as a Blue Öyster Cult reference.

          "Your pwned like a box with the security of XP."

      4. Martin

        Re: XP and network discovery?

        I remember my next door neighbour telling me excitedly about this wonderful new networking that he'd got his Windows XP computers to do at work. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'd been using UNIX on Sun workstations for about ten years, and I really wasn't all that impressed by the idea of two computers being able to see the same printer or disk.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: XP and network discovery?

          The point about XP was that it was impressive when the bloody things would actually see each other over a network

      5. Toni the terrible

        Re: XP and network discovery?

        Sigh, Mary Hopkins....

  3. EvaQ

    Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers

    Better state of mind for everybody: Do not touch other's computers. Useful quotes:

    "I do not repair your car, and I do not repair your computer" / "If you clean my house, I'll repair your computer"

    "You can consider to go back to Windows factory settings. You will get a fresh computer"

    "Buy a new computer", and since some time "Buy a chromebook"

    In case of wifi problems: "Call your ISP"

    1. The Basis of everything is...

      Re: Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers

      Sorry, I don't work with Windows, my computers have 1000 CPUs and run entire companies. Windows really is just a toy by comparison and my own PC run Linux anyway.

      I know it's a lie. You know it's a lie. Apart from the Linux thing...

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers @The Basis

        I thought you were stealing my lines.

        I do look after systems with 100s of processors (at least in this role, the last one was around 40,000 Power 7 CPUs) that do not run Windows and run large environments. My employer provided laptop runs Linux, as do all of my own systems, and those of my Wife.

        Unfortunately, I do have to run Windows on a remote-access system, just enough to get Putty running through Citrix gateways (the RAS system is built around Windows), and my kids have Windows gaming rigs, but I don't actually look after any of those systems.

        None of this is a lie. It can be done. And it is possible to gloat a little when people say "You know about computers, can you help me with my PC" and I turn around saying that I know very little about Windows.

    2. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers

      And that works with people you consider close friends/family? Or do you not have any of those?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers

        Or do you not have any of those?

        There's a good chance he doesn't. Not any more.

        1. jtaylor

          Re: Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers

          My family doesn't know what I do.

          I tell them I'm like a diesel truck mechanic for computers. I work on big engines that use the same basic concepts, but work differently. That's why I don't know how to fix their problem, because the computers I use, don't have printers. Or screens.

          Of course, what they really need is Someone They Can Trust. So they reassure me that I'll figure it out, and it's okay if it takes me a few hours. *sigh*

    3. Wayland

      Re: Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers

      Just upgrade them to Linux. It's only Windows experts who have a problem with Linux, ordinary people just think it's Windows XP.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Better state of mind for everybody: I do not touch other's computers

        This is what I've been doing. My Wife only uses Linux now (although I have put an XP skin on Cinnamon), and I was considering the same for my Dad, but sadly he passed away before I felt it important for him to ditch Windows 7.

  4. TWB

    Sorting other people's stuff

    The main problem I get is the user who only switches their computer on occasionally and it a low spec machine with 2GB of RAM and a spinning HD and all the original bloatware is still active and installed. I go round (or did before lockdown...) and the laptop is not charged and switched off. The user switches it on and I watch for 15 minutes while it 'boots' and all the bloatware tries to launch. The ('free') AV and Windows phone home and check for updates (and try to install them) The machine is usable in that you can move the pointer around the screen, but if you click on anything it takes an age to actually do anything. Even getting Task Manager up to see what is happening is painful. Many users seem to think this is 'normal' and tell me it always takes this long.

    It saddens me greatly as it lead to landfill as many users think the machine is then too old for anything useful and go and buy something new, when turning off all the cruft and letting it do its updates for a few hours would make a world of difference.

    I know, us nerdy-geeks know how to keep our machines running nicely.....

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Sorting other people's stuff

      Added to which they probably got sold a machine by a PC World droid. The machine will have Porsche claims but Morris Minor performance and inadequate storage at a price that would have got a device twice as fast if they'd shopped around with the same diligence as they used for their groceries.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sorting other people's stuff

        And if it just happened to be a Medion (or some other brand beginning with M - my memory is hazy), it might also come with a BIOS error which guaranteed a BSOD/fatal error as soon as you powered it on.

        That happened while I was on their call lines. They'd just launched a mega-specced gaming 'rig', and it had only gone on sale that morning. It was a Medion.

        I twigged something was wrong when I took two calls part way through my shift with the problem.

        It was quickly established higher up that there was a BIOS fault, which Medion were working on a fix for, but under NO CIRCUMSTANCES were we to tell anyone or advise them to take it back to the store for a refund.

        My conscience wouldn't let me lie outright to people, and I remember having one caller where part of the conversation from me went ' you've just bought a new machine today and it doesn't work. At all. You can't do anything to fix it, but it doesn't work. At all. What do you think you should do?'

        Customer: 'But that's why I'm calling you'

        Me: 'No, listen to what I'm saying. I'm trying to tell you what to do'

        I hated those sorts of situations. Completely no-win. For everyone, except the management.

    2. GrumpenKraut

      Re: Sorting other people's stuff

      > it lead to landfill...

      That's when you kindly offer to recycle it, actually either using the thing yourself or passing on to someone. I have seen systems "recycled" like that having an afterlife significantly longer that its original use time. Obvious icon is obvious.

      1. cookieMonster

        Re: Sorting other people's stuff

        Practically every computer at home is a recycled machine. My latest is a Dell optiplex 755, apart from the loud fan, it runs great (LM20).

        For any web browsing, printing, office type work it’s more than capable.

        1. Andytug

          Re: Sorting other people's stuff

          Same here, all you need to do is find your local friendly firm that takes ex business laptops at refresh time, fits new SSDs, reinstall W10 and sells them at 1/3 of the original RRP or less. Choice of models etc. Had 5 from our local one and every one a good one. Buying new is stupid in my view,

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Sorting other people's stuff

          Practically every computer at home is a recycled machine.

          Laptops: second-hand Thinkpads, the newest being an X220 and an T430. All of them fitted with an SSD, and with maxed out memory.

          Others: home-built, the majority from fresh, choice components. Two always-on systems a few years old based on mini-ITX boards, and all of them built to requirements.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Sorting other people's stuff

        This is a very good thing to do when people want to get rid of things. Although it helps to have plans for how to deal with the machines afterward. I've recycled machines so often that the charity I used to donate them to has had to tell me that no, they don't want any more computers. It probably doesn't hurt that I've been maintaining the ones they have too so they're also lasting a lot longer. I need to find a new place that wants them. I've tried selling computers on occasion, which sometimes works, but the older ones don't always go as fast as I'd like.

        1. MarkSitkowski

          Re: Sorting other people's stuff

          If you manage to find that new place that wants them, let me know the contact details. I have a Sun 3/60, three SPARC-2's and two Ultra-5/10's that I need to recycle... (recipient collects)

          1. Robert Sneddon

            Re: Sorting other people's stuff

            I've got some circuit boards from a Symbolics LISP machine, free to a good home? Anyone? Pay for the shipping and they're yours.

          2. jtaylor

            Re: Sorting other people's stuff

            Hah! I feel better that I'm not the only one with old Sun workstations in the garage. Nothing 68k, though; that 3/60 is a proper relic!

        2. SamJ

          Re: Sorting other people's stuff

          If you live in the U.S.A., check with Goodwill. They accept the old machines and train folks to repair and/or recycle them. They also take televisions and other electronic kit. At least locally they do - and I assume that they do elsewhere as well. Also, companies that sell computers (like Staples, Best Buy, etc.) , I think, have to accept kit for recycling.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Sorting other people's stuff

            Good advice. I can definitely recycle them if needed, and if it's old enough, I do so. The problem for me is the ones that are new enough that they'll run modern software (very well if it's Linux, but Windows 10 will work well enough until too many other programs are added) but old enough that the specs don't sound modern. I don't like to recycle something in such good working order until I've failed to find anyone to reuse them.

        3. Wayland

          Re: Sorting other people's stuff

          Laptops always sell if they can browse the web and run Office.

          Desktops need to be converted to gaming machines.

          8GB RAM

          4 core CPU

          1GB GPU such as HD 5870 or better

          I'm looking into GamerOS which runs on an i5 using integrated graphics. Many games play very well. You can sell them a decent GPU once they're hooked.

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Sorting other people's stuff

      About five years or so ago my graphics card borked, so I took the PC to a shop to get a replacement card. The fitter expressed amazement that it booted to working in less than five seconds. Fairly ordinary no-name PC with WinXP, but regularly "cleaned" and de-crufted.

      Today, at work, I'm often waiting half an hour to even get to the logon screen with Win10 on the PCs I maintain, and then another five minutes to log on.

      1. Martin

        Re: Sorting other people's stuff

        "Today, at work, I'm often waiting half an hour to even get to the logon screen with Win10 on the PCs I maintain..."

        How the hell are the users not throwing a complete wobbler? How are you expected to do your job if you have to wait half-an-hour for your PC to start up?

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Sorting other people's stuff

          They are, and we're constantly fighting Purchasing to get Financing to release sufficient funds to buy replacement kit, and in the meantime as a stopgap we're swapping them out for laptops with hairy masses of port extenders and hoping they don't melt a hole in people's desks

    4. Wayland

      Re: Sorting other people's stuff

      I've been building budget gaming computers. These are very fast after I build them. However when they come back for an upgrade the user has installed their own bloatwear. One came back with so much cruft that it could not even accept the password without missing keystrokes.

      Nice and fast again after I formatted with the latest Windows 10 and run CTT Debloat. yeah I know, I should install Linux but it won't play Fortnite if I do that and that's all that matters.

    5. AOD
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sorting other people's stuff

      This particular nerdy geek has an old HP Elitebook (owned from new) with a 2nd Gen i7, 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD (thanks Black Friday). It manages to boot from cold to the Windows login screen in around 10 secs.

      Admittedly the machine isn't much use for playing games but it can do everything else I need and I can service the damm thing myself if needed. The battery won't hold more than an hour's charge but given that I'm not slinging it in a backpack to pull out at my nearest Starbucks, who cares?

      Meanwhile my daughter has managed to kill a couple of HP Pavilions in the space of a couple of years. I decided to bite the bullet and when her last machine got trashed, I replaced it with a (relatively) up to date Elitebook convertible (not purchased from new since that would be daft) which it if lasts for 4 to 5 years, will be doing well given it's basically for docs, vids and t'interweb.

  5. Mike 125


    "Two firewalls are better than one, right?"

    "Remy gently explained that the DSL router had a firewall that would deal with most threats and sticking another one on the PC with everything cranked up to maximum"

    By my reckoning, that makes 3 in total. And yes, as with drinking: 1 is good, so more must be better.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: 3

      Its when you find 11 in the machine/network...

      But then everything is better when it goes to 11 ... right?

  6. Blackjack Silver badge

    Ah yeah Windows XP....

    The last Windows I ever did tech support for and the one besides Windows 98/SE I knew the most about. I still have those old manuals and PC magazines that taught me most of what I needed to know about XP.

    I would still use it for games but all my Windows XP capable machines died so I use VMs and Wine instead.

    I have both fond memories and horror stories about XP..

    1. Wayland

      Re: Ah yeah Windows XP....

      Windows XP was the pinnacle of MS Windows. Obviously modern drivers and modern APIs are missing but only because support stopped. Windows 7 was a worthy replacement but not as good. Windows 10 has just got worse at every update to the point where unless it's essential for essential programs then switch to Linux.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Being The IT Guy

    In the late 90s/early 00s, I was known as 'the IT guy' at my squash club, and did a lot of fixes for people there.

    One time, someone asked me to go and have a look at their sons' computer, which had stopped working. It was a very old Pentium machine from one of those pop-up builder/seller outlets you used to get back then (they usually only lasted a few years before going out of business).

    It was dead. So after the usual basic checks, I replaced the PSU - and you remember how under-powered THEY were to keep costs down - with one of my spares, and it fired up. It took about 20 minutes to boot up and become usable, and once I'd managed to overcome the wiggly tentacles of the Undersea Theme people insisted on having, and all the other flashy animated customisations, a quick scan showed it to be infested with various spyware and malware. The kids, who were the only users, had also installed that bloody BonziBuddy thing (spyware in itself), and so underpowered was the machine for what it was being asked to do, as BonziBuddy leapt around the screen (in slow motion), he left a trail of unerased sprites everywhere.

    As 'an IT guy' - as opposed to being THE GENUINE IT guy - my favoured solution in these cases was to ask if there was anything they wanted to keep - there never was - and then do a complete format/reinstall, so they effectively had a new computer. They readily agreed to this.

    So, after several hours, I left them with their 'new' machine, all working fine, connected to the printer, nice new AV software, and warned the kids not to install things they didn't need or mess needlessly with the settings, because the machine wasn't powerful enough for it.

    A week later, I got a call from one of the kids (they were young teenagers), who informed me they were having trouble printing and it had all gone slow again.

    I went round, and had to wait 20 minutes while he finished 'printing off his homework' (it was the entire and unedited Wikipedia page about Shakespeare). Once it finished, BonziBuddy again started slowly bounding across the screen as a continuous smudge!

    I slapped my hand to my forehead, and said 'What did I bloody tell you? This machine is too old for all that crap, and it doesn't help you with anything anyway.'

    After restoring a clean image, they didn't do it again after I had a word with their parents.

    1. HellDeskJockey

      Re: Being The IT Guy

      Reminds me of my married days. The wife would load every piece of software/adware known to man on her PC and in a few months would complain about how it was so slow. I would get on her computer kill all of it and amaze her with the speed. That's why to this day I don't share systems. I would rather have a less powerful system that I control.

      Networking too. When I was setting up the XP network it was click here with the mouse and load a floppy and the network will be set up as if by magic. Several days and a lot of %$#@&( later the network worked. Same thing with the new router load the CD and as if by magic it will set up. Several hours later more &^%$#) the network was working again. The new DSL bridge said the same thing about the CD. Stop right there, I checked the manual and it had a back up manual install procedure. That's for me says I. A few minutes of command line jiggery pokery everything worked.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Being The IT Guy

        Wife/husband/partner/an other member of household is going to be on a user account not an admin and non-the wiser about the difference. Safer that way for all(-even self- arguably) to be on user accounts.

        1. Blackjack Silver badge

          Re: Being The IT Guy

          Better waste a few more hundreds quid and get your family member their own machine because limited user accounts are a joke in Windows, malware bypasses them like a hot knife with butter.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Being The IT Guy

            It just stops them installing stuff.

      2. swm Silver badge

        Re: Being The IT Guy

        At college we had a talk from someone from McAfee and he said his wife was banned by her ISP because she would always click on all buttons that said "click me". Her machine was loaded with every sort of malware/trojan etc.

    2. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Being The IT Guy

      Oh well. Relatives came to my home with an iPad that spontaneously stopped working. Well, it turned on, asked for username/password, and then for an appleId and password. AppleId and password didn’t work. “Maybe the appleId is” something almost completely different. “Maybe the password is” something with random letters uppercased and random digits appended in different variations.

      I gave up. Three days later they remembered the right appleId and password.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Being The IT Guy

        And that reminded me of the days when you'd ask someone if they got the email you sent them a week ago.

        'Oh, I haven't checked my email'.

        Or when you'd ask 'what is your email address?'

        'Oh, it's.. umm... something like... um..'

        I lost count of how many times I told someone that trying to guess what their email was was like posting a letter with nothing written on the envelope.

    3. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Being The IT Guy

      My first freeview recorder took 20 Watts permanently, 24x7, and had a 21 Watt rated power supply. That was the _one_ product I bought 3 years insurance for. Which paid for the much improved newer model, the old box with a 60 watt power supply for £19.95 went into the bedroom.

      All in all they replaced three of these boxes plus gave me full insurance for free! They always managed to die just before the insurance ran out, and each time I just picked up the latest £199 model in the store.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I hate the stuff they sell these days to access TV. I'm on Orange, and although the fiber line is great, their TV box is a piece of shite. Whether it is on or "off", it's always boiling to the touch.

        I'm not an electrician, much less an electronician, but it seems clear to me that if the thing is hot, it's most definitely not off.

        Thankfully, there's a switch at the back that actually cuts power to the bloody thing. If there wasen't one, I'd have bought a switch and spliced it into the power cord. I do at least know how to do that.

        So it's only turned on when we actually want to watch live TV - which is not all that often.

  8. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Firewall vs router

    It is interesting how in home user kit, router = firewall. However, in real world big-boy networks they are fundamentally different devices.

    It sure is great how the ISP has full access to the router to 'fix' any problems that might exist. You know, in the interest of good customer service - which all ISPs have. Administrative access, with a master password, available on the WAN port is not really a back door in to a home network. Sure, fine, the ISP forces me to run their kit. Double NAT that thing and all it sees is the WAN port of a real firewall that I control. Sadly, those of us here on El Reg get it and are probably doing the same - but we are the 1% and the rest of the world doesn't know how craptastic their home network security is.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Firewall vs router

      ISP routers are crap, in my case I set the VM device to "modem mode" and use my own OpenWRT based router and firewall instead.

      But the move from dial-up style connections to NAT'd routers was at least a big step forward in security as by default nothing could get in directly to the attached PC, only in response to an outgoing request, so internet worms were basically blocked.

      Of course that did not last due to the abomination of UPnP being added and enabled by default and the ne'er-do-wells moving to email and web-based infections.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Firewall vs router

      I agree with you, yet I am grateful that ISPs have started putting actual security into their kit. There was a time when said router came with a firewall that left everything open.

      At least, the one I got from Orange when I subscribed two years ago came a firewall that was pleasantly closed tight when I checked.

      Yes, your ISP can access your router. Well what do you expect ? Your network admin at the office can also access your computer, whether you want it or not.

      That's just par for the course.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Firewall vs router

        At the office, the network admin is someone who was hired specifically to do that, the computer I'm using isn't mine, the information I'm processing on the computer is information the company already has, and there's a way to deal with a malicious admin by firing them. An ISP has none of those conditions, so their stuff gets a data stream from a single downstream device which does everything else. Also, any ISP which lets me bring my own equipment without anything from them gets a leg up if I have a real choice to make.

    3. albegadeep

      Re: Firewall vs router

      And for bonus points, my ISP (CenturyLink) leaves that port accessible from anywhere in the world. And their own tech support (at least anybody I ever got to talk to) has no idea it exists, and doesn't want to hear about it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you SURE you didn't change anything?

    A real old school setup of a serial dot matrix line printer connected to a Unix box has been working fine and suddenly stops. Muggins the engineer is called out, usual question "did you change anything?" No was the confident reply. Some time later having proven the printer and cables were OK I start looking at the Unix OS setup which is far from right. Having put it all right I comment that I simply can't under how it EVER worked as it was, are you SURE you didn't change anything I asked? Weeeellll replies the customer, I did re-install the operating system..........I came very close to reinstalling his printer where the sun doesn't shine!!

    1. swm Silver badge

      Re: Are you SURE you didn't change anything?

      In the early days of time sharing or batch programming we would get complaints that their program suddenly stopped working.

      "Did you change anything?"


      "Then why did you rerun the program?"

      "Well ..."

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    Even better!

    Two anti-virus programs! (my favorite)

    See icon.

  11. bigtreeman


    "Fixing the kit of friends and family is a fixture for many of us over the festive period."

    Got a t-shirt for that

    Too late for Xmas, oh feck just get a few for yourself

    1. Bogbody

      Re: t-shirt

      Funny how the "Fix my computer" calls stopped when I started charging call-out plus an hourly rate. :-)

      Tier 4 now so cant anyway ...... :-(

  12. Binraider Silver badge

    My rules for PC tech support are simple. If it's windows, I'll only help you turn it into Linux. Just because I know how to deal with windows update does not mean you can ever persuade me do do it on someone else's behalf, ever. Every one of us that burns three hours of our life poxying around with the godforsaken mess that is Windows for it to inevitably need the same treatment 3 weeks later, all over again, more often than not on under specced hardware incapable of running bloatdows; is another three hours we'll never get back.

    Seriously, people, it is good for ones sanity, and good for ones health.

    Could not pay me enough to return to Windows Tech Support

  13. Sanctimonious Prick

    Another IT Guy

    I had a friend call up one day saying;

    "My laptop won't boot up. It looks like something is about to happen, but then the screen goes blank, then nothing."

    So I asked this friend to remove everything connected to the laptop i.e. all USB devices, any audio products, the power lead, and the battery.

    "Make sure nothing is connected to the laptop." I said.

    Friend: "Nothing is connected to the laptop."

    Then I got him to just plug the power lead in and try turning it on again.

    Same thing - looks like something is going to happen, but nothing really happens at all.

    "OK. Leave it as is. I'll see you in a couple of hours."

    On arrival, I found the wireless mouse receiver still plugged into one of the USB ports. Upon removing this, the laptop booted straight away.

    Someone had used much effort in trying to connect a USB device with the plug being the wrong way around.

    He bought me lunch :)

  14. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    It's always the same - I stop listening to the customer when they start giving their own solutions to the problem. "It must be the router. I've done nothing to my PC" sort of thing. And the number of times I say to customers to bring round just the laptop, and the power adapter, and NOTHING else, and they bring round the case, the manual, a driver CD for a printer they bought 18 years ago and no longer have, a restore floppy from a 1998 Tiny or Time brand PC, an AOL CD from 2003, and possibly a wallet with credit cards in it, a passport and other useful personal stuff!

    Users/customer - call them what you will - they speak a different language.

  15. six_tymes

    'Could you just...?' and 'No I haven't changed anything' and "Two firewalls are better than one, right?"

    I laughed quite loudly at those two titles.

  16. Sparkus


    I've **always** used a registry cleaner and defragger, they always seem to help.......

  17. FrankeeD

    I'm not in IT, but . .

    I was an academic librarian for years and we always got IT related questions, mainly because we were easily available and not located in a basement across campus. For a number of years we had a problem where faculty who had a laptop connected to the LAN for printing but were using wireless for internet access, couldn't access the library resources. It was a common enough problem that al the librarians knew the workaround (unplug the ethernet connection to the LAN) but not a big enough problem that IT was interested in figuring out what was happening.

    One day a faculty member was in the library and stopped by to mention that he was having trouble accessing the library resources from his computer in his office. I asked him if it was a laptop or desktop computer, as it wasn't a problem with desktops. He said it was a desktop, so I told him he'd have to check with IT.

    About 20 minutes later he was back to tell me that he thought perhaps he did have a laptop computer in his office. I'm assuming he thought that because it was on his desk that it was a "desktop" computer. I gave him the fix and never heard back.

  18. Slow Joe Crow

    Firewalls and servers

    I had something like this at a client site once where after a power outage they couldn't connect to the SQL server. After a bit of poking around I discovered the SQL server thought it was on a public network instead of a domain network and Windows Firewall was in full lockdown mode. The problem was that the SQL server VM booted before the domain controller, the fix was to disable Windows firewall since a server VM was hardly going to be taken to the coffee shop and connected to WiFi

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