back to article Today I shall explain how dual monitors work using the medium of interpretive dance

What's worse than having to deal with an idiot over the phone? Having to drive thousands of miles to deal with the same idiot, face to face. Welcome to another Register reader's experience of helping those who won't help themselves in On Call. "Jack", for that is not his name, is a member of that special breed tasked with …

  1. TVC

    Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

    I had a user who had a laptop and external monitor. It was beyond him to understand that he did not have two computers. I suppose having an external keyboard and mouse as well didn't help.

    Still he was only the company accountant so you can expect much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

      You know the amount of times I've seen someone think the monitor is the computer is shocking. "It's on but not working". Then you show them the "box" and ask why they haven't switched it on. "Oh I didn't know I had to". Shine a light. I wonder sometimes how we ever got out of caves.

      1. Ragarath

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        I've had this many a time. More recently I think it has been down to AIO computers and iMac things that people expect the monitor to be the computer.

        Just don't try explaining that it is not a T.V., there be dragons.

        1. chivo243 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Laptop + Projector = two computers?

          Just today, tried explaining that the laptop and the projector are the same computer, but with two working spaces(or desktops) I'm still waiting for the call back! It's Friday, hopefully it comes before noon!

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Laptop + Projector = two computers?

            There are two white boards in the meeting room, but only one really boring PHB doodling on them.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Projector = two computers?

              Did you swap the whiteboard pen for a permanent sharpie?

              1. the Jim bloke
                Devil

                Re: Laptop + Projector = two computers?

                I used to do that before morning production meetings.

                Also used to microwave a pie for breakfast just before the meeting, so the room smelt of hot food - apparently some people found that distracting. Personally, I found missing breakfast more distracting..

                1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

                  Re: Laptop + Projector = two computers?

                  Also used to microwave a pie for breakfast just before the meeting, so the room smelt of hot food

                  That's one of the nasty trickses of a good BOFH

        2. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          I always thought that for dual monitor users, Apple should sell monitors that look exactly like their iMacs. Maybe with a small marker somewhere. Which would look good if you want to have two screens, which would let you pretend you have an iMac when you have a MacMini, which would let you pretend you have a Mac when you have a PC - and which would confuse the hell out of some people.

          Maybe where other monitors display "no signal" it should display "this is a monitor, not an iMac".

          1. Pete B

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            Well you can use an iMac as a second monitor to another iMac...

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              Part of me just died.

              Not least because we have actually done something very like this at work, using an AIO computer as a monitor for another computer (we had no spare monitors).

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            Maybe where other monitors display "no signal" it should display "this is a monitor, not an iMac".

            Maybe something like this should be the standard message on all monitors. "No signal" is a message tor techies who would just as easily understand the significance of the luser version: "If you can see this message you haven't switched your computer on. This screen is only your monitor. If you're not sure what your computer looks like follow the cable coming out of the back of the monitor and it should be on the other end. Not the cable that leads to the power socket, the other one."

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              Should have added "If there's nothing on the end of the cable, that's the problem."

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            They used to.... I know this first hand as I used to use an iMac as a second monitor... Then a crayon fondler left and I snagged his Apple cinema display. Almost identical save for the lack of top vent and being slightly thinner.

            The iMac was left in it's place and to this day they were none the wiser in the daycare centre design team.

            Anon because who wants to admit to working with designers?

        3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          You'll have heard that Arthur C Clarke quote about sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? Turns out the level of advancement doesn't have to be that high...

          Almost everybody seems to treat technology as magic. Get in the car, turn the key, and the engine starts. Magic. Walk into a room, flick a switch, magic happens: the lights turn on. Turn on a computer, point a browser at Google, get a search engine. Magic once again.

          Technical folk such as the commentards here are the new magicians.

          Which is fine, for now, until people recall they used to burn magicians...

          1. keithpeter Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            Science developed originally from alchemy and magic, and also the need to entertain patrons with 'demonstrations' of various phenomena.

            Google John Dee for an example of someone who was in transition from magus to mathematician. Arthur Koestler's The Sleepwalkers is a good story about early science, if not fully historically accurate. Hooke and Galileo were paid 'demonstrators' - demonstrations before society members and aristocrates morphed into experiments slowly.

            We are only something like 10 to 15 generations from Dr Dee, and a couple or three away from when there were 32 kilowords of memory in the world.

            Coat: mine's the one with the unix escape characters embroidered on the sleeves.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              What are you talking about, Unix escape characters? There ain't no such thing. Terminals or terminal emulators have have escape characters. Unix itself, not so much (unless you count "screen" codes, and there are not too many people who use "screen".

              Mine's the one with the copy of /etc/termcap and the ANSI X3.64 standard in the pocket.

              1. keithpeter Silver badge

                Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

                I bow to your knowledge of the standards.

                What do I call characters such as #!~|?%@ used with their special meanings in regular expressions &c when engaging in informal discourse? Is there a collective noun?

                1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

                  > What do I call characters such as #!~|?%@ used with their special meanings in regular expressions &c when engaging in informal discourse? Is there a collective noun?

                  'Unmemorable'

                  1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

                    Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

                    "What do I call characters such as #!~|?%@ used with their special meanings in regular expressions &c when engaging in informal discourse?"

                    Risky use of words there. Easily mutated.

                    Not sure. "Special characters"?

                    They would be conventions of the program or hardware you are using: "sed" used certain ones, some programming language other ones, and so on. Terminal hardware reacted to a bunch of special characters by moving the cursor, blanking a position, clearing the entire screen, and that sort of thing.

                    "Escape" would precede some other character(s), to alter that/those character(s)'s meaning. Hence vastly enlarge the amount of commands one could encode.

                2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

                  > such as #!~|?%@

                  How dare you sir! My mother was a saint.

                3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                  Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

                  Metacharacters?

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            > Get in the car, turn the key, and the engine starts. Magic

            For normal cars yes. Or at least the sort of 10th hand Fiesta/VW you had as a youngling.

            First visit to the USA with a rental automatic.

            Turn on, doesn't start.

            Seems you need to have one foot on the brake, gear stick in park, other hand on your chest singing the star spangled banner before it will turn on.

            Then when you turn it off, discover it wont restart until you have locked it , arming the alarm then unlocked it, disarming the alarm, before it will restart.

            1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              It's all a question of the right incantations.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              I haven't had the problem of having to lock the car to restart it.

              But I like to use the key instead of the FOB every once and awhile to make sure the lock isn't gummed up. Today I used the key and my truck thought I was breaking in. It gave me a warning on the screen but started honking the horn before I got it started.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            You'll have heard that Arthur C Clarke quote about sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic? Turns out the level of advancement doesn't have to be that high...

            Just reposting that line so it can get more upvotes!

            I need to go dry my eyes now.

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            "Turn on a computer, point a browser at Google, get a search engine. Magic once again."

            For a very limited value of "magic".

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            > Which is fine, for now, until people recall they used to burn magicians...

            Turned me into a newt[on]!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Which is fine, for now, until people recall they used to burn magicians...

              We just have to get that removed from Google and it won't be a problem. Then people can't recall it. ;-)

          6. Auntie Dickspray

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            Now the magic is even stronger. I have a smart key fob that I keep in my pocket. To unlock the car door, I just put my hand on the handle and the door automatically unlocks. To start the car, I press a button. The key never leaves my pocket.

          7. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            Was discussing vaccine resistant with the youngest (also PhD) she says there are folks who won’t have the Covid vax because it’s made by Biotech companies. They see ‘Tech’ and imagine being injected with microchips (hell damn whoever came up with that meme).

            Never mind how to power these microchips or get a signal out through meat and skin sans an aerial. In their worlds they don’t have to explain that stuff, or even be aware of the problems in their little schemes working in any way.

            If they knew what those with pacemakers have to go through to connect them and then get that info to their cardiologists. Hint: a mobile is absolutely necessary. I think we should start putting aerials back on mobiles. Folding them around the top inside of the case is too subtle.

            Noting that with a strategically placed hole punch you can take out the aerial in your smartcard so it won’t swipe.

            1. Dante Alighieri
              Boffin

              contactless

              Having x-rayed them, a slit with a hacksaw 6mm deep on any edge will do - easier than a hole punch.

              Just below the mag strip on almost all my cards.

            2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              "there are folks who won’t have the Covid vax because it’s made by Biotech companies"

              Darwin is working really hard nowadays.

          8. midgepad
            Linux

            Some of us are ...

            Some of us are Open-Sourcerers.

            1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

              Re: Some of us are ...

              The eighth son of an eighth son...

              A wizard squared...

              A source of magic...

      2. Calum Morrison

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        The "box" under the desk or on the desk or wherever it's been put is always, always referred to as the "hard drive" by these people. Always.

        1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          No it ain't.

          I did hear a tale once (and if I can find it again I'll post a link) of a luser with a posh, expensive computer getting a new modem card (it was a while back) as his old one was knackered/obsolete/ not supported or something.

          "It will take a day or two to arrive and for us to get an engineer to you to fit it." they said.

          "What should I do with the old modem?" he asked.

          "Chuck it" they said.

          Modem arrived with a nice engineer to fit it.

          "Where's the computer?" he asked.

          "On the desk." Said the customer.

          "That's the monitor" said the engineer. "Where's the (very expensive) computer box?"

          "Oh, the old modem?" Says the luser. "I chucked it like you said."

          .

        2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          always, always referred to as the "hard drive" by these people

          Except when it's the "memory".

        3. mdubash

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          Just like people refer to broadband as WiFi - as in "the WiFi isn't working", when the connection goes down. Sigh....

          1. Graham Newton

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            We had a new telegraph pole installed near us. My broadband was fine afterwards. Everyone else had problems which they blamed on the new telegraph pole despite most of them being WiFi related. Last week all the Sky customers blamed connection issues on the new telegraph pole ignoring the big article in the local paper saying Sky were having broadband connection issues throughout the county.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              Ironic that the experts complaining that people call broadband WiFi still call them "telegraph" poles.

              (and to all the EEng out there spluttering that broadband is any modulation scheme where message bandwidth significantly exceeds the coherence bandwidth)

            2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

              Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

              "We had a new telegraph pole installed near us. "

              You must be really good at Morse Code around there?

        4. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          In my childhood, I was advised by a person close to me who shall remain unidentified because they're nice that this box was the CPU. Admittedly, they did make it clear that you turned on the CPU box in order to compute, but they didn't explain what CPU meant and I kept using the term until I learned on my own about the parts involved and realized how ridiculous it sounded.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

            One evening, long ago, when men were men and the University computers were made by ICL and had model numbers starting with 19, I was sitting the at a card punch when one of the staff came through taking a conducted tour of the computer centre so I tagged along. We went down into the computer room. Slightly embarrassed member of staff discovered the box (at least 6 foot high) whose door he opened wasn't the CPU, just some of the memory and thought the engineers must have rearranged them.

      3. slimshady76
        Holmes

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        What about dealing with users who set their virtual desktop bigger than their screen resolution? I had one of those "Honey, I shrunk the kids" moments thanks to one of such folks a long time ago.

        In the end (after an equally physical demonstration, involving the stunned user looking through a paper towel cardboard cylinder onto a printed A4 sheet, and moving closer and farther away to simulate the desktop size changing) he liked it because he was able to hide his naughty Netscape instance away in a corner, while leaving the work-lrelated one in the opposite one.

        1. adam 40 Bronze badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          LOL I will have to steal that!!!

        2. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          I love the type of user who instantly sees a practical use in something TOTALLY new to them.

      4. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        I'm more with the late Mr Adams on that...

        “Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.”

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        Some of them have _not_ got out of caves.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

      I do have a desktop PC and also a low spec laptop that I use to carry around on site.

      I have a software utility from Microsoft(!) called Mouse without borders. It allows me to use the mouse/keyboard to control the desktop AND laptop. I move the cursor off the edge of the monitor and it's now moving the cursor on the laptop!

      1. Fading
        Windows

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        Have an upvote for mouse without borders - nice little program I use daily. Two problems - the odd occasion when it loses connection and you need to re-enter the security key and secondly, Excel does not like what it does to the clipboard (even if you disable this feature) - causes problems copying and pasting large datasets (well large for excel).

      2. cosmodrome

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        x2x on UN*X. Worked even between Solaris 10 and Linux machines, Just to point out how old it is...

    3. Mike Lewis

      Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

      You would be surprised by what you can expect from the company accountant.

      At one place I worked, the CTO didnt know much about technology. When a network or computer started acting up, he would sit down in front of it, tap a few keys to confirm it wasn't working then hand the whole thing over to our accountant who was quite good at fixing it.

      This was a company making medical equipment, by the way.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

      "I had a user who had a laptop and external monitor."

      I don't get the fascination with having a laptop for work. I have one but don't admit to it. The last thing I want is to take work home with me. My desktop is on massive steroids and doing anything on the laptop feels like something's been amputated.

      1. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        Until COVID, it was mostly a status thing. However, now the ability to tell much of our workforce to grab their laptops and go work from home would be a wondrously helpful thing. We had to scramble madly to enable those whose jobs permitted to work from home.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          >mostly a status thing.

          Funny thing.

          It used to be that being pale was high status because it meant you weren't out working in the fields.

          Now the lowest status is the pale person with the most powerful machine - because they do the work.

          The tanned person with the least powerful but thinnest laptop is the big cheese.

      2. Dante Alighieri
        WTF?

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        Work policy - you are allowed ONE computer and if you need to work in more than 1 location your desktop will be removed and a laptop supplied and a docking station.

        Thanks NHS

      3. 9Rune5 Silver badge

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        The local power company decided to do some upgrades today and I was left powerless for four hours. Laptop battery kept on for three hours while the ups powered my network. Sometimes a laptop can be a lifesaver, but I too prefer a beefy desktop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

          We've had a number of power outages lately, mostly blips or just couple of seconds long. Had one in the middle of the night that was likely half an hour. Server hasn't noticed the difference, as it, router, and modem are on UPS. Got briefly interrupted during WFH when my external monitors quit for few seconds, but the laptop kept right on going.

      4. WhereAmI?

        Re: Laptop + Monitor = two computers?

        We get supplied with pretty powerful (where pretty powerful = can run a VM inside them easily) laptops and dual 24" monitors as a matter of course when in the office. WFH, I didn't bother bringing the monitors home because I already have two 32" monitors here. I log in to the laptop from the desktop via Radmin which unfortunately only gives me a single monitor view and 'make up' for the loss of the second monitor by using Stardock Groupy to ensure I don't lose windows in the background.

  2. bofh1961

    IT managers were always the most difficult

    Explaining anything to them, especially anything related to file systems, always seemed to result in blank looks. Most seemed unable to understand the difference between snapshots and backups but were gullible enough to believe everything the storage salesman told them. As if the salesman knew what he was talking about...

    1. TiredNConfused80

      Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

      As an IT manager (also only IT person in the business) I respectfully disagree. Marketing / Sales Managers on the other hand....

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: salesman

      Very old joke warning: What is the difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman? The car salesman can probably drive.

      1. James Haley 2

        Re: salesman

        The car salesman knows when he's lying.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: salesman

          What makes you think that the computer salesman doesn't lie. I turned down a very lucrative technical presales jon because I would not be able to hold my tounge if I was present when an untruth was told!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: salesman

            Posted here once before, but relevant:

            Went with a bunch of other people from a previous company to a sales pitch meeting with a large client at their London head office. I was there to provide answers about Citrix but didn't get asked anything. The lead sales woman spent some time waxing lyrical about all the wonderful things the network could do (was a while ago so can't remember the exact details). What I do remember is the client paused for a few seconds then turned to face the lead network engineer and said "Can your network really do that?". Brief pause, then "Errr, no".

            Beautiful.

    3. Lilolefrostback

      Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

      Recently asked a user to send me a screen shot of the error message on her screen. She pulled out her phone, photographed the screen and emailed me the picture. But our management insists that all of our users are perfectly competent computer users. And pigs fly.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

        Found that the younglings here exclusively use their phone as a post-it note.

        Makes sense, instead of screen capturing an error, using paint to paste it into a file, draging that file into a teams message, or trying to get an attachment into outlook. Especially for a lab machine that isn't on the domain or a server that doesn't have outlook.

        Just grab phone, press camera, swipe to send it to email / mms / signal / etc

        1. swm Silver badge

          Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

          Yep. I've seen people take pictures of library book pages so they could read them later.

      2. David Neil

        Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

        I had an IT manager in Singapore do that.

        She actually managed to somehow embed it into a word doc as well, for bonus points

      3. Jou (Mxyzptlk)

        Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

        I see that in IT-related groups on Fecebook all the time. "I have a Powershell problem with my script, this is my code" snagged with a phone... Computer illiteracy is more widespread than we want to know.

        1. cosmodrome

          Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

          Heck, if they'd just use OCR on the screenshots it might even be a smart idea.

        2. PerlyKing Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

          Argh! I get that from some of my "customers": "this isn't working, please investigate", with a screenshot of the results from a SQL query, carefully cropped to cut off the query itself and anything that could identify which environment it's from. I suppose at least it's an actual screenshot, not a phone pic.

      4. Archivist

        Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

        And if the error is showing in the boot screen, or screen grabs can't traverse across different networks?

        I'm happy with a photo as long as it shows the problem.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

        I get this a LOT from clients - random pics of error messages from regular clients show up in my WhatsApp, along with pleas for help. In a way it's quite logical, and certainly much easier than them trying to explain what they're seeing. Most of them are domestic users or small home-based businesses, and getting an accurate description of a problem is often difficult enough in person - over the phone it's pointless.

        On the flip side, in the days before plague engulfed the world, SWMBO and I went to a concert. Never having parked in this carpark before, I pulled out a notebook to scribble down floor number and parking bay (yes, my memory is that bad!!) SWMBO was most disparaging as she took out her phone and snapped a pic of the same info. I was only slightly smug when, on return to the carpark, she found she was out of charge and had no idea where we parked :)

      6. D@v3

        Re:photos of screenshots

        we get that all the time. Sometimes it makes sense, for example email on PC isn't working, or network connection is borked.

        what is a shame is that the photos are taken with 20 mega pixel cameras, so the attachments that come through are huge.

        Which is almost as bad as people who send a full screen grab (on dual high rez monitors) for a small error box in the middle of one screen.

  3. Richard Gray 1

    Examples...

    I used to use a similar analogy for people who got confused between Memory and Hard drive space.

    Usually after been asked by the Big Boss (my wife) to look at a friends PC that they bought cheap from PC world or something, I would suggest that it could probably do with some more memory to make it run a bit quicker. I would usually get the but it has 500Gb of memory...

    So imagine you have a desk, and some filing cabinets

    Your memory (ram) is your desk and your filing cabinets are your storage (disk)

    some of the space on desk is used by your computer and screen and stuff so you don't have all the desk free

    You pull documents out of your filing cabinets and onto the desk to use.

    If there is no space on the desk you need to put the documents you are not using back into a filing cabinet.

    The bigger your desk the more documents you can have on it at the same time.

    You can have a huge filing cabinet but if you have a small desk putting all the things back and pulling them out again will take up time.

    I find this is a useful explanation for non technical people like parents, friends and office managers, and is useful for them to buy the ram they need and stop bothering me

    1. Michael Hoffmann

      Re: Examples...

      That's with people you like I assume?

      For those I don't like I throw in things like flash RAM for SSD (nowadays) and video RAM, just to hear their anguished sobs.

      (who am I kidding? it's *my* anguished sobs when I have to explain these)

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Examples...

        SSD vs spinning disk is easy - spinning disk is your file cabinet, you can easily get things that are next to each other, but hunting around for different things is difficult, you have to open and close different drawers. SSD is like an enormous poster board, you can get anything from anywhere really quickly.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: SSD is like an enormous poster board,

          I think, at this level of explanation, saying something simple like "SSD's are just a better sort of filing cabinet" might be safer.

          1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

            Re: SSD is like an enormous poster board,

            Or the SSD is a cabinet of paper documents vs the hard disk as a box of stone tablets.

        2. The Axe

          Re: Examples...

          Spinning disks are the equivalent of a standard filing cabinet. SSDs are like a filing cabinet with automated drawers that open to just the right place.

          1. swm Silver badge

            Re: Examples...

            "Spinning disks are the equivalent of a standard filing cabinet. SSDs are like a filing cabinet with automated drawers that open to just the right place."

            but have an attached shredder that will occasionally destroy documents when they become too old.

      2. Negative Charlie

        Re: Examples...

        > For those I don't like I throw in things like flash RAM ... just to hear their anguished sobs.

        You can probably hear my anguished sobs right now. It's flash EEPROM, dammit!

    2. fgeva

      Re: Examples...

      Thank you! That's an *excellent* analogy that will come in handy!

    3. John Doe 12

      Re: Examples...

      I do something similar except using a kitchen as the comparison - the chef being the processor :-D

    4. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Examples...

      "people who got confused between Memory and Hard drive space."

      To be fair, thats because RAM and storage are both memory. Giving a detailed explanation of how a hard drive isn't memory is always going to result in confusion because it's just plain wrong. Your analogy works precisely because it makes it clear that they are different types of memory that handle data in different ways. Most people are capable of understanding the distinction if you just explain that you have short term and long term memory without even needing the analogy. It's only when you start calling one type of memory "memory" while pretending the other type isn't memory at all that it starts causing problems.

      1. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

        Re: Examples...

        bonus points for explaining the page file!

        weren't hard disks fast backing store back in the day?

        1. Morrie Wyatt
          Boffin

          Re: Examples...

          Compared to the floppy disks they replaced as primary storage, yes they were.

          You could now lose a lot more data in a fraction of the time.

    5. The Axe

      Re: Examples...

      And to continue the analogy, every night the cleaner will remove everything off the desk, so if it's not in the filing cabinet it will disappear.

    6. juice Silver badge

      Re: Examples...

      > So imagine you have a desk, and some filing cabinets

      My go-to explanation was always Argos (or Index, going back further in time!).

      If you want something, you give a code to the man behind the desk (the CPU). If it's something that gets sold a lot, it'll be on the shelf behind them (the RAM). If it's something else - or something too large to fit on the shelves behind the counter, they'll have to go into the warehouse to find it (the HDD).

      So if you want to make your machine faster, the quickest way is to give the man more shelves. Or the CPU more RAM.

      People generally seemed to nod and smile when I used this metaphor. Though maybe they were just hoping I'd stop talking ;)

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Examples...

        That sounds more like a cache to me.

        1. juice Silver badge

          Re: Examples...

          > That sounds more like a cache to me.

          The key point is that you have fast storage (RAM) and slow storage (HDD), and a warehouse-store like Argos is a fairly good/understandable analogy for this. The further the wee man inside your CPU has to go to get your data, the longer it takes ;)

          To be fair, von Nuemann architecture is based around the concept of a CPU hooked up to a unified storage device which would store both data and instructions.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Neumann_architecture

          This just proved difficult to implement in the Real World(tm), and so we ended up with the CPU cache/RAM/HDD architecture which we use today.

          After all, 90% of what's in your RAM is stuff that's been pulled from the HDD to speed up access ;)

          Anyhow, this sounds like pub talk, so mine's a pint of pilsner, please!

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Examples...

            RAM + HDD is still von Neuman. Unified memory just means that memory used to store data can also store instructions. The idea was that code can be modified at run time - which it rarely is in practice - at least not deliberately!

            A lot of microprocessors (eg some Arduino-AVR) don't have this architecture because instruction memory can to be slower, or lower power, or remain intact when powered off.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Examples...

          "That sounds more like a cache to me."

          If you allow them to have you start explaining cache, you'd be better off just ramming a fork into you leg for an hour or so. Far less painful.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Examples...

            Even more painful when they start pronouncing it as "kaysh" as they do here in Oz. Suppose it could be worse - "kashay".

            I finally backed down on saying rowter instead of rooter due to the funny looks, but I still refuse to use Oz pronunciation for cache and data.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Examples...

      Yeah, I use the desk as ram \ filing cabinet as disk analogy.

      And for the technical I also add that swap space is throwing the overflow from the desk onto the floor.

      1. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

        Re: Examples...

        Extending that...

        How about the HDD cache being a secretary that brings you the files you need from the filing cabinet but can only hold one thing in each hand at a time.

    8. Rtbcomp

      Re: Examples...

      Or the difference between text in a document and text on an image, and why you can edit one and not the other.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Examples...

        DO...NOT...GO...THERE

        1. DwarfPants
          Trollface

          Re: Examples...

          But surely a PDF file is just a word document in disguise.

    9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Examples...

      "I find this is a useful explanation for non technical people like parents, friends and office managers, and is useful for them to buy the ram they need and stop bothering me"

      I've used exactly the same analogy many, many times. I've even managed to get some users to understand swap space by using the floor as the "swap space", ie if there's no room left on the desk, some of your "stuff" gets moved to the floor to make room for the stuff you need now. And it takes longer to switch documents if they are not all on the desk because it's too small so some had to be moved to the floor. "swapping" stuff between floor and desk takes time and slows things down, so more memory (a bigger desk) might help. (Or not keeping everything you might possibly need open all at the same time!)

    10. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Re: Examples...

      I used to teach Operating Systems at a uni and this is exactly how I always explained memory hierarchy to students.

      You are preparing for an exam. The book you are holding in you hands is in the register. It is immediately usable by your "CPU". [Aside: there was a time when I explained having more than one CPU as being female - the female part of the class always loved it.]

      Your desk is the cache: the books strewn on it easy to retrieve and swap into the register.

      Your bookshelves are RAM - it takes more time and effort to get up, find the right book, and put it in the "register". If you think you might need it again soon you'll keep it on your desk (in the cache). As your desk space is limited you may put some of the books you have not consulted in a while back on the shelf.

      A library would be the hard drive.

      Last time I taught that subject was some years ago. I have a horrible suspicion that I might have trouble explaining to today's students what a library is. Or, indeed, a book...

    11. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Examples...

      Mine is slightly different, but considerably more comprehensive...

      There is a monkey (processor) sitting at a desk (cache). He's not at all bright, but is really good at following extremely specific instructions, and is exceptionally fast. When he wakes up, he reads the instructions engraved on the desk (BIOS), which tell him to send a message to the warehouse next door (hard disk), asking for the contents of pallet #1 (boot sector) to be put into the pigeonholes (shelves? mailboxes?) on one wall of the monkey's room (memory). The monkey then goes and gets the contents of the first pigeonhole and does what the instructions say, asking for more pallets as the instructions require.

      What's particularly nice is that it explains the speed differences between cache, memory, disk drive, and internet (imagined as items shipped from another company). Cache is lightning fast, internet takes a few days.

      How do you make it go faster? Well, you can increase the desk size so the monkey has more within reach (bigger cache), you can increase the number of pigeonholes (bigger memory) to decrease how often he has to ask for stuff from the warehouse, or you can give him cocaine (overclocking), which comes with its own risks (like the monkey dying if you give him too much). You could also put multiple monkeys at the one table (multicore system), or add monkeys at other tables in the same room (multiprocessor system). Startup is the watchman waking the monkey. Shutdown is the watchman knocking out the monkey with a blackjack and throwing away everything on the table and in the pigenholes (memory and cache cleared).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

    ROFL.

    So, a couple of hundreds miles to teach those how to do dual monitors ?

    Not sure the planet can cope with so much fossil fuel being spent for so low achievement.

    We're doomed.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

      It does sometimes work the other way. I was once talking to a very overworked and stressed secretary about how it was impossible to keep the Very Important Spreadsheet in view while at the same time updating the Very Important Document that relied on data from the VIS, while at the same time replying to Very Important Emails containing updated instructions for said VID. Quick glance around the back of her corporate-supplied Dell revealed a VGA port not in use, and I happened to have an ancient (1024x768 IIRC) monitor knocking about.

      Having this additional workspace was an utter revelation to her and she took to it like the proverbial duck to water, so much so that when the corporate machine was upgraded a couple of years later and the new one didn't have VGA, she was able to persuade IT that two monitors was absolutely vital for her role, and blagged new monitor. We also fitted a dual monitor arm for her.

      Ooh, it warms the cockles :-)

      M.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

        I'm remembering a 2 monitor system where the desktop layout didn't detect when you unplugged 2nd screen.

        So it was possible to lose a document/icon because it was on the extended desktop.

        In this case it was hard to convince people the document wasn't in the "other computer"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

          Even more annoying is the software that remembers where it was when you last used it, but fails to take into account that your display might change at some point in the future. When the user undocks the laptop and asks where their document/application is, I have to point to the wall to the right of the screen and say "its there".

          Then try to explain how to use Alt Space - M - Cursor keys to move it back to where they can see it.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

        "Having this additional workspace was an utter revelation"

        My first dual monitor setup was two Mac SE's on the desk. Ya, I'm old.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

          Terry Pratchett was allegedly once asked why he had six monitors. His answer was "I don't have room for eight".

          1. DuncanL

            Re: "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

            And that was in the days of tube displays - so his desk must have been huge!

  5. UCAP Silver badge
    Joke

    Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

    Over the years I have become pretty certain that people should pass a simple exam before they are allowed near a PC. It would go something like this:

    Can you can think and breathe at the same time?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Think and Breathe at the same time

      Blank look followed 1 minute later by a clunk as they fall off the chair

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

      The secret to fixing many computer problems: Read, Think, Guess.

      At some point I will have to deal with Die Hard 4.0. I was going to try showing that no-one sells explosive PCIe cards but Amazon shows 44 results for that search. Regrettably I have users who are not yet paralysed by indecision because of fear of making the computer explode. They got stuck earlier in the fault fixing process. One day I will have to explain thinking but the difficult step usually comes before that.

      Somehow words on a computer screen are magic and cannot be understood using the same skills as reading a letter or a book (a task I have seen that they are able to accomplish). Pointing at the words and asking them to read aloud results in a hurt look as if I had just asked them to perform brain surgery on the Queen's favourite corgi.

      If I ever get past this barrier there are some web designers I would like to feed to a pack of revenous brain damaged corgis. The words "Check your internet connection" some how cross the internet to my users with no problem at all. Perhaps the real problem why the cannot log in is because of "32,700 users currently logged in" and the pointless hi-res video in the background of the home page?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

        Back when I used to get my hands dirty fixing printers, I tried to explain that if the printer came up with an error message in English (e.g. PAPER JAM, TONER LOW), then it's a user problem that it can easily resolved. Errors with numbers is my problem....

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

          It says "PC load letter" I've been putting letters into my PC for hours and it still doesn't print !

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

            Easily fixed by the Override A4 with letter option (Well back in the day on HP LJ 4000 series).

            As pressing the Go button on the top panel, was too dangerous & complicated for my users.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

              It was the way that HP used the perfectly obvious abbreviation "PC" for "Paper Cassette" because what else would PC stand for ?

              1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

                Problem Creator, at least around here...

                Either that or Porn Collection in some cases.

    3. The Sprocket

      Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

      CORRECT. I've been saying that for eons.

      Basics like how to attach a JPEG to email, adjust the size of ones browser window, enlarge or reduce type on a web page, etc, etc, etc.

      And upon failing, a simple series of tutorials to remedy the issues. But I can now hear the excuses . . .

      "I'm too busy—and besides my kid knows more about that interweb and computers than I do."

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

        Groucho Marx had that one covered:

        Why a four-year-old child could understand this report.

        Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head nor tail out of it.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Qualifications before being allowed to use a laptop

        "I'm too busy"

        "So am I"

  6. Dazed and Confused

    The Internet's not working

    One 130-mile trip was to deal with a complaint that "the Internet isn't working" only to find the network cable stuck to the top of the monitor.

    OK, it was probably only 13 miles but one day I got a call from the idiot a friend paid to man the phone. Quick check from home and I couldn't even get as far as the BT router.

    So I dutifully drive down to take a look.

    First thing I notice that it's awfully quiet where the idiots desk is. Now the desk is in the antichamber to the computer room.

    I glace through the window in the door... nothing... This is supposed to be a computer room so full of racks you have to move things to get behind either row.

    Now there's nothing.

    Walking in I find the normally packed room isn't quite empty, the rack of my own personal kit is pushed into one corner where it can't be seen from the door, it's disconnected. The fibre from BT is strewn across the floor and isn't connected to anything. BT's router is propped against a wall at an angle and not plugged into anything.

    I turn to the idiot. "So anything I should know?"

    Oh yes, they came in yesterday to take all the kit away. Does that make a difference?

  7. ColinPa

    Some people!

    I was recently sent this.

    If you think people are smarter than previous generation... 50 years ago the owner's manual for a car showed you how to adjust the valves. Today it warns you not to drink the contents of the battery.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Some people!

      I have a t-shirt that says "This country went from landing on the Moon to "This bag is not a toy!" and arguing about evolution in 40 years"

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Some people!

      Well, you have to factor in that 50 years ago you needed to do that (or the timing, or the spark plug gap or whatever), depending on the car you owned.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some people!

      If you think people are smarter than previous generation... 50 years ago the owner's manual for a car showed you how to adjust the valves. Today it warns you not to drink the contents of the battery.

      Or it could be the planet didn't have so many ambulance-chasing lawyers back then.

    4. Dante Alighieri
      Boffin

      Re: Some people!

      My last car (exmilitary) came with a manual on how to disable it.

      From the radio kit (transmit v receive) then the transmission susceptibility v engine and what to use for each. Series III airpirtable

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    A hammer

    is the only tool you'll need

    Been teaching the PFY the value of buying the right hammer, because the right hammer does not leave incriminating marks on the body.... did I say body I ment luckless idiot who happens to be standing in front of the moniter saying 'machines broke' even though theres plenty of noise from the fans and all the lights are on(clue dumbass had spent so much time sitting in the toilet this morning that the screensaver had kicked in..... and thats 45 minutes)

    The PFY showed wisdom though "I dont think luckless idiot will be having much more of a career here.."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A certain wife of mine has problems with the concept of whatever is being shown on our TV screen actually coming from anything but the TV.

    She normally watches stuff on the PVR, either what was recorded, live broadcast or live broadcast time shifted. Occasionally it'll be stuff on one or other of the online catch-up services, sometimes via the smart TV, sometimes via the PVR smart bits.

    It's something damn near impossible for me to get a sensible answer if I ask her exactly what it is she's watching.

    Anon cos it's possible she might just stumble on this and I like my testicles.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The metaphors that computers & other CPU-based kit use just don't register with a lot of people. Not necessarily their own fault but their brains just don't grok some stuff even though they are wizard at other things. Lots of computery stuff is just a recipe for my wife, and she never remembers it beyond a week or so. Daily stuff like Facebook, Zoom (now) & general web surfing is OK, but trying to run the backup periodically is hard work, even though it's just a specific click or two after opening the application. On the other hand she knocks spots off me at pattern matching - spotting sharks teeth when fossicking on the beach, doing any kind of anagram-based puzzle.

      Anon for the same reason, though she's unlikely to read El Reg.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I remember reading, a long time ago, that the function of a Unix kernel* was to provide an illusion of place and an illusion of process**. Some people seem unable to perceive these illusions. I don't think it helps that modern UI (and that includes web) designers seem to go out their way to conceal them. UX designers, of course, are amongst those who don't perceive the illusions at all.

        * Other OS kernels are also available

        ** The reality, of course, is a scatter of segments on a disk and slices of time on a CPU

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "A certain wife of mine has problems with the concept of whatever is being shown on our TV screen actually coming from anything but the TV."

      How many wives have you got? You sound like you might have my wife in your harem!

  10. The Sprocket

    The Obvious not being so Obvious even after 20+ years

    Mine has been discovering that people STILL (over the last 20 years) have no idea that a web browser in a laptop/desktop environment can be made narrower/smaller by just grabbing the lower right corner and pulling it in. I suspect this has accounted for a large amount of 'why' we ended up with 'responsive design'. (The other reason, of course, would be people's obsession of trying to do everything on a fondlephone)

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: The Obvious

      Browsers have to be run full screen so there is room for a wide column of white space down each side.

      1. Andy the ex-Brit

        Re: The Obvious

        That's what my bank seems to think. I couldn't possibly be making the browser window wider so that the transaction description text stops wrapping and it can therefore fit more rows on the screen. I just wanted whitespace.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: The Obvious

        Being for a while without a TV aerial and therefore reliant on iPlayer I was annoyed when family kept maximising the browser. I mean you use 'fullscreen' when playing the programme, so why waste screen space when browsing?

        Turns out that iPlayer has a really annoying feature in that the text menu near the top which contains the 'TV Guide' and 'My Programmes' links stays pinned at the top of the page only if the window is maximised. If you have a smaller window, it scrolls off the top so that if you are perusing the day's TV listings, you need to scroll all the way back up in order to go to My Programmes. Not so bad on BBC4, but on (say) CBeebies, which has an overabundance of 10- and 15-minute programmes, that can be quite a lot of scrolling.

        Ugh.

        Oh, and why is it impossible to make a setting to prevent iPlayer automatically choosing and starting another programme when the one you have watched is finished?

        M.

    2. ColinPa

      Re: The Obvious not being so Obvious even after 20+ years

      I had some corporate software that assumed you had a full width browser. As I typically run with narrow window, I could not see there were icons called "SAVE" and "CANCEL" off the right hand side - and assumed it had autosave. My mistake when I lost hours of work.

      I found this out when I contacted the help desk who said "press the save button" I asked "what save button", they said "it is the button off the side of the window".

  11. GroovyLama
    Windows

    Data Centres are like potted plants, right?

    First time poster, long time lurker!

    As part of a managed service for a client, I once had to explain to a new Project Manager how we were performing a Data Centre move and DR project all in one.

    We were moving from having a single production site, into a new a set-up where we had replicated hardware across two Data Centres with a new DC provider.

    The approach would have been something like this:

    Site A: "legacy data centre"

    Site B: first location in new Data Centres (newly built up hardware)

    Switch Site B to be active, following a period of data replication/sync

    Move the hardware from Site A to Site C (second location in the new Data Centres)

    After completing configuration, switch to Site C as the primary site (so the original hardware will remain as primary site going forward)

    He just couldn't understand this concept of moving things around, so I had to use the potted plants lying about in the clients office to get the point across, much to the amusement of his colleagues as he stretched his brain cells to understand.

    Some people were surprised when his contract wasn't renewed, others were not....

    Icon as that's what people thought of his PM skills.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Data Centres are like potted plants, right?

      Welcome to the gang, have a beer.

  12. DS999 Silver badge

    I would have thought the solution was obvious and even easier than his

    Just disconnect the second monitor and move it to the office's storage area, since the user didn't know how to use it they will never miss it!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the lost art of just looking at stuff

    It is depressing how many questions could be answered by the user just pulling down menus (or pulling up "settings" or clicking "more options" or ...) and seeing what is there. Obviously won't solve all problems, but will solve many.

    1. yetanotheraoc

      Re: the lost art of just looking at stuff

      Settings, settings, wherefore art thou my settings?

      - INI ? Long time gone.

      - Start | Control Panel ? Maybe ...

      - REG ? Yes, but these days likely in a packed binary data type.

      - Start | Settings ? Maybe ... Or was that Control Panel? Why are they different?

      - Other ?

      I always loved the Advanced button, in Outlook for one setting you had to drill down Advanced three times (one Advanced tab, two Advanced buttons). These days they just don't bother. Any changes are decreed from on high, no user configuration possible. I *really* hate the search in the title bar in Outlook 365. I think the more the users might hate something, the less chance there will be a setting to turn it off.

  14. Herby

    Two monitors...

    Back many moon ago (1987) my nephew showed me a two monitor setup on a then new Mac II. I was suitably impressed. My experience before was possibly two monitors on a PC, one monochrome, and another color. Not much integratoin between the two at all.

    The moving between two monitors with the mouse pointer truly amazed me.

    Of course now it is second nature, but 35 (more or less) years ago. it kinda blew my mind.

    Time marches on.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Two monitors...

      two monitors on a PC, one monochrome, and another color. Not much integratoin between the two at all.

      That was the sort of standard high-end CAD setup back in the late '80s or so. I did a sandwich year at an electronics company and was required to do some work on their very precious CAD system. The smaller monochrome screen was for entering commands and listing elements and suchlike, while the larger colour screen showed the actual drawing. IIRC the monochrome screen was entirely keyboard-flown, while there was a "digitiser tablet" (complete with crosshaired puck) for placing things on the colour screen.

      Seemed like rocket science at the time, for someone more used to making photoresist masks using marker pens and (if I was feeling flush) transfers (like Letraset)*.

      Or just, you know, leaving projects at the wirewrap or Veroboard stage. Veroboard is still very much my weapon of choice these days :-)

      M.

      *actually, now I come to think of it, I did make at least one by drawing it in Acorn !Draw and printing it using my laser printer directly onto acetate. Looked quite professional, but it was a little bit hit-and-miss getting the dimensions exactly correct; something that claimed to be 0.1" on screen rarely printed out at exactly 0.1", though usually close enough for an 8-pin op-amp or 555, or a 14- or 16-pin 74 series with a bit of effort.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Two monitors...

        From the early days of my career, when I drew PCBs out with blue and red pencil on graph paper:

        1) Oops, I drew it upside down. Bugger.

        2) Now it's the right side up I realise I used 2mm paper instead of 0.1"

        3) Somehow, now I have the right paper I've managed to get it upside down again.

        4) Finally managed to get it the right way up and the right size.

        And yet this very week, forty-odd years later, I managed to send a set of gerbers off to China with the wrong drill files, leading to little issues like a ground plane and a Vcc plane being accidentally tied together...

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Two monitors...

          A small typo in the header of a chip mask set data I generated once meant the 5mm wide chip would have been 500m across.Fortunately only laughter was produced. I have been very keen on writing sanity checks for ever last thing I can think of - especially where I've fucked up before!

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Two monitors...

          Oops, I drew it upside down. Bugger.

          We students were tasked with creating a PCB. Or rather, we had to produce the artwork and then let the overworked technicians actually produce the thing. It took about a fortnight to get the things back, and the whole project only had a five or six week run IIRC.

          My group suffered the misfortune of said technicians returning a PCB printed upside-down (as in, they'd put the acetate on wrong side up so everything was mirrored).

          Several in my group were all for giving up as there wasn't enough time left - even if we could have persuaded the lecturers to give us extra budget - to get another PCB made, until I realised that the fairly simple single-sided (IIRC) circuit would work if we soldered the components on the trace side rather than the legend side.

          It was an awkward soldering job, but the thing worked. Not terribly well (probably due to our poor design skills) but it did work.

          It was an ultrasonic rangefinder with the circuit lifted pretty much directly from one of the electronics magazines we found in the library.

          M.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Two monitors...

        I had the good fortune to get my first job out of Uni working as a chip designer at BT Research Centre as it was then. I used to work on high end CAD systems, one of which cost 50 times my annual salary!!!! Large colour screen at eye level (how I miss that) keyboard and digitiser tablet with a 4 button crosshair puck. Something I fell in love with was the ability to use scribbled as commands - Z to zoom in on an area , writing it backwards to zoom out etc. You could also make your own command strokes so long as you moved over the imaginary grid in a unique way while holding down a button so each 'shape' could have 4 different results. In my line of work at the time i was an incredibly powerful tool and I've reproduced it in Javascript to some resounding 'mehs'. Even when I'm far more productive than anyone else because of the gestures no-one seems to want to use them!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drove to Edinburgh

    Once had to drive from Yorkshire to Edinburgh to turn a server on. Customer had a low end IBM Netfinity with no remote management card. When you applied power it would briefly light up and spin fans before shutting everything down. When the customer called to describe exactly this, I asked in as many ways as possible "have you pressed the button on top to turn it on?"

    When the inevitable "Do you think I am stupid?" question came up, I had to chew my knuckles to avoid answering. Jumped in the car, drove across the border, walked in, pressed the on button, walked out again.

    I managed to fit in another job, so it wasn't a completely wasted trip. Also, tried a new route home and had a nice scenic drive back through Kielder forest. I think I have managed to find just about every route across the border on my numerous trips.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021