Well he saw right through that error message....
We do like our acronyms and initialisms in the IT world. Some might suggest we conceal the simplest of concepts behind a bewildering array of letters. And sometimes users try to join in. Welcome to On Call. Our tale, from a reader whose name the Regomiser chewed up and spat out as "Rob", was working in IT at a hospital in the …
Last weekend I pulled a soggy and bewildered X-ray out of a car that landed in my creek. Cop arrived in time to wrap her in a blanked and stick her in the back of his patrol car. Talk about your four-letter fun ... her, not the cop. Mouth like a sailor. Spent the night in the drunk tank. Her car spent the night in the creek. Late the next morning, she blamed me for putting the creek there. With more four letter words. I guess it's true that no good deed goes unpunished ...
"You're forgetting the original Casino Royale. The one with David Niven in it."
Oh, you mean that hideous spoof. After seeing that, thinking in advance that it was the first of Fleming's books, I vowed that I would NEVER again watch David Niven in any TV show or movie. The movie was an outrageous spoof (for want of a better (or worse) term. I've never regretted the decision.
I got a DEVELOPER attaching a Word document with a screen capture in it to a support ticket stating there was a massive authentication error in a production server. Turns out the asshat had forgotten the password and exhausted the 5 failed login attempts. That was it. The ticket had nothing in the description field, except for "look at attached evidence". The word document had nothing but the screen capture of a Putty session with countless login attempts. And it was a darn Sev2. Needless to say, we UNIX guys didn't perform IAM tasks so the ticket was promptly lowered to a Sev3 and sent into the right queue, for them to take care of it during business hours.
Oh the joys of working with TITSUP (Total Inability To Supply UNIX Passwords) staff, in a timezone 12 hours away from yours...
Re: I got a DEVELOPER attaching a Word document with a screen capture in it
That annoys the hell out of me. Users taking screenshots and attaching Word documents containing those screenshots. Just attach the damn JPG or PNG. Let me view the screenshot in whatever viewer I have for that file installed on my device (probably the same browser I'm using to view the ticket) rather than require me to have Word installed.
One place I worked solved that problem neatly. Any Windows user could just use an application with a drop-down menu containing all Unix usernames. Click a name and it logs in as that user. What could possibly go wrong?
(In case you are wondering, actual unix users did not, technically, have this luxury, but since most Windows users never locked their machines, one could always find an open system over lunch)
Where I used to work, we had an account manager who would, after sending an email to a client, go into "sent items", open it up, print it out, and fax it to them, to make sure it got there.
I can't imagine why that place went out of business after I left..
Exactly. I used to do something similar when sending formal reports that might be used in child protection proceedings or SEN appeals.
Fax the report.
Then immediately send the email with maybe the report attached or at the very least to inform the recipient that the fax had duly been sent.
That way I increased the chance that the fax would be picked up by the right person in that office, and not left hanging around or lost, or missed completely. With that I'd done what I could to ensure the best outcome for the child. And yes covered myself too if the case went judicial and my submission hadn't been included in the evidence pack.
Faxes are (were?) considered legal documents.
Your account manager was covering their legal arse.
Exactly this. Many years ago, in a different life from which I still haven't completely recovered, I used to get involved in the sharp end of litigation.
At the time, many parties, including a lot of law firms, didn't formally accept electronic service of documents even though some individual lawyers were switched on enough to use email. Consequently, it was very common to email the documents to them and then fax or courier a paper copy as formal service.
I gather the courts are more inclined to favour electronic service these days, but the thought of some of those lawyers being allowed to play with anything more advanced than a paperclip is the stuff of nightmares... :)
Ah, the amount of times someone has e-mailed me, then immediately phoned me as well "Hi, I've just sent you an e-mail".
Very nice. Maybe you'd like to give me more than 5 seconds to try reading it first? That's assuming I have time tor read it now and am not in the middle of something far more important...
Thing is.Too many people think it's OK to send routine emails that aren't worth reading and too many people don't read emails. There's probably some cause and effect in there of course. But if you've seen someone's screen with 400+ unread emails showing you'll know that this call makes complete sense. because sender probably knows that otherwise it may never be looked at.
[I know of people who have an official email address and an actual one. The actual one is not shared with anyone unless the person chooses to give it out with a strict oath of secrecy required.. That one gets read. The official one gets, I dunno, glanced at or something. I did something similar at one time - there was an Outlook forwarding rule for important emails].
I think the problem is with email is a lot of what I get sent isn't relevant to me. Now, we actually do have excellent spam filters on the email system, so I only get one or two emails per week from outside the company that are actually spam. Of course, being a requisitioner, I get a *lot* of sales emails from our suppliers (even though I always make sure that whatever option is available for me not to have marketing shit sent to me is set). Thanks to a few rules on the server,most of these are directed to a folder that I check periodically for any important emails. Not found one yet.
My problem is internal spam. Stuff sent to various staff mailing lists by staff. Thankfully, the ability to send to these has been reduced to a few users, who do use them for official company business. But we used to regularly have situations where one user would send an email to half the company moaning about something (the fire alarms and stuff going missing from the office fridge being two examples), then you'd have a dozen people clicking Reply all, adding their own complaints, saying "I agree" or just trying to discuss whatever the problem was.
It actually got bad enough that one of my colleagues did a reply all to one of these email chains (which was all about the volume level of the fire alarms) where he asked all the users didn't they have actual important stuff to discuss, and work to be getting on with.
The poor sod ended up with a verbal warning for that. He was just saying what nearly everyone (on our team at least) was thinking. In his defence, that was the third such email chain that week, and we had each received well over 100 emails between the 3 chains. All of which were irrelevant to most of the company.
The problem with those emails was that while I could (and did) delete them, I had to be careful because in that dozen or so emails about the fire alarms being too loud, there could have been an email about something important, that I did need to read.
No. The real problem is that some twit'll be bound to hijack the inconsequential thread with an actually important message. Framed *within* the cacophony of fire alarm dreck will be a message about something un-related that you needed to know. And they'd blithely assert that they sent it to you. Never mind the the subject was "Re: the fire alarm volume situation", the specifications for the all-important project build were in there. Sigh.
Sherlock, hoping you fiound it...
"Framed *within* the cacophony"
At both Berkeley and Stanford (and SLAC) such messages were deemed "not sent properly", and thus the word not getting out was considered to be the fault of the sender. I managed to convince DEC and a couple other companies to implement the same policy.
Those who refuse to learn from history ...
> "But if you've seen someone's screen with 400+ unread emails showing you'll know that this call makes complete sense."
400+ ??? I have a client who has 25000+ unread in his inbox. And that's only because we archived off the old unread ones a couple of years ago.
I send to be on call and get called by various people with quite strong accents. My reply was I need to get the laptop on the network first can you send me an email with the fault so I can have a look.
This saved a few problems
1 It allowed time for the brain to start working
2 I did not spend time figuring out what they had said
3 the remote access system the company used at the time (Microsoft direct access) worked first time about 1 in 10 so it could take 15 minutes to get logged in. So by the time that happened I could have forgotten what was asked.
4 when they have to write an email it generally makes more sense than an 2 am call
4 when they have to write an email it generally makes more sense than an 2 am call
You have clearly worked with some above-average colleagues. I've had emails sent to me that not only didn't make technical sense, they didn't even parse into actual sentences. Emails that looked like the sender had picked the first 30 words that passed through their minds and thrown them at the keyboard in a random order. Emails that make you question why, when you know that the user can actually talk, they lose all sense of lingual structure as soon as they start typing.
I know the user you describe. The one who comes up with all kinds of random technical words they know and tries to jam then into the description.
Thankfully we now have mobile phone cameras in pockets and so I can just ask them to take a photo.
That just leaves dealing with out of focus text, or the important parts cropped from the image - but usually gets us somewhere quicker.
'Cept most of us will have quickly found out when doing support that when they name the "it" they might not actually be referring to the correct thing anyway,
"The email isn't working" - BSOD
"The computer won't turn on" - PC lights are on but screen isn't.
"There's no sound" or "There's no picture". Computer isn't actually on - but the screen is
And so on.
Some years ago, I did put an error message in a program that said, "Fatal error. Committing seppuku. Argghhhh!"
One of the other programmers managed to trigger it when doing some testing. He came to me and said, "You put this in, didn't you?"
It was one of those conditions that was supposed to be impossible to get to...
I think my favourite description of spurious words being strung together was when a colleague asked (also a radiology consultant) what they were trying do do...
"upload files to the hard drive"
It turned out he was trying to play a music CD but had turned off his speakers.
As per your request, I am sending you this email in relation to our telephone earlier (around 1:56 AM ).
The problem is still not solved. Please refer to our telephone conversation for details about this problem.
As it is imperative that this problem is solved, I've cc:ed my manager.
In the early days of Windows, I wrote a software package that tended to be used by older people. Typically volunteers at local authorities who had little/no computer skills. Some support calls started like:-
Punter: "My thing won't work"; Me: "What thing?" - P: "I do it when I start"; M: "What does it look like?"
- P: "It's on the computer"; Me: "Where?" - P: "I need it to start"; M:"Is it a small Picture?" (an icon).
P: "Yes, its the thing I clicky!"; M: "Can you see it on the screen?" - P: "I'm not sure"; M: "Start looking at the top left hand corner, is there anything there?" - P:"Yes!"; M: "OK, now look further along to the right, is the picture there?" - P: "No" - M: "Are there any pictures in the next row down?" - P: "Yes"
M: "OK, the picture (icon) has been removed, but don't worry - Everything else is there".
At this point I know that either the punter has inadvertently removed the icon; or IT has updated their SOE. Now comes the good part, where I take the punter down the rabbit hole of finding the icon in Programs, taking a copy and pasting it back on the desktop, knowing that the same punter will be back with the same problem later. I normally asked them to get in touch with their own IT, as they had probably caused the problem by either updating the screen; or more likely, not having the skill to keep said icon read-only; but IT always said something like "We don't know how it works, talk to the developer". That's when I introduced 12 months free support, and then every call after that needed a purchase order...
I used to play rugby with a hooker* who had his preferred secret calls to use at line-outs ( used to tell his teammates where the ball was going, without the opposition being able to work it out ).
The system was based on the first letter of whatever word he shouted.
The look on our faces when he shouted "Ulysses".
* yes, yes
I thought it was in Northern California.
(The only reason I know this is because I'm helping a friend start a vineyard and winery near there. If you ever drive through, be sure to visit the Bake Shoppe ... 'orrible yuppie-tourist name, but delicious old-fashioned hand-made baked goods. Recommended.)
The problem is that it takes a few seconds to think how a word like that is spelled, even if you know.
Did he say that? Is that an 'E'? A 'Y'? I think it's a 'U'. Yes, it's a 'U'. Of course it's a 'U'.
So that means 'F'..'U'.., right so front ball. That's me. Quick I need to lift.
By which point the ball has been thrown in, stolen by the opposition and is half way down the pitch.
My current club has the opposite problem. The positions are all named and there's no disguise on it at all.
My Dad taught me this WW2 version
A fer 'orses
B fer mutton
C fer yourself
D fer nition
E fer brick
F fer vescent
G fer police
H fer consent
I fer an eye
J fer oranges
K fer Frances (ancient film star)
L fer leather
M fer Sis
N fer lope
O fer the garden wall
P fer relief
Q fer the flicks (ie cinema)
R fer mo
S fer Williams (another film star)
T fer two
U fer me
V fer la France
W fer a quid (One pound Sterling)
X fer breakfast
Y fer mother
Z fer breezes
As well as the "official" version Able Baker Charlie Dog ..... etc
Just last week I had:
> "Hello, Customer Service - Can I take your order number please?"
"Hi, yes, it's November Five Three Charlie Echo Eight Two Six"
> "No, your order number, it should be eight letters or numbers"
"N 53 C E 8 2 6?"
> "Thank you, how can I help?"
I have had more than one user ask how to spell some of those words...
"How do you spell that? Is it eff-oh-see-kay-ess-tee-arr-pee?"
Sometimes sensing this I will say things like "F for Foxtrot" and so on. It doesn't always work. I told someone that I would give them 8 letters to type in and they came back after the first letter (i) and told me that was 9 letters and 2 spaces! "I for india"
There are some people (I've lived with one for >30 years) who are completely unable to understand anything in the phonetic alphabet. I think the problem is that the part of the brain which processes _words_ doesn't connect with the part that processes _letters_ (or at least not to send info _to_ "letters"). So if you ask them to type "Quebec Echo Delta" they can't untangle those words to get at the initial letter.
If you haven't met this before, it is _very_ confusing. "Q for Quebec, E for Echo, D for Delta" is better - but even then the flip-flop between letters and words is confusing for them.
IBM abend codes. Now, I haven't encountered IBM kit since I were a nipper (lucky me!), and I've always wondered what they had to do with evening. So believe it or not it's only now, as this on-call triggered the memory, that the Omnipotent Google Oracle tells me that abend is actually short for 'abnormal end'! I wonder what other important misapprehensions I've carried through life?
"the Omnipotent Google Oracle tells me that abend is actually short for 'abnormal end'!"
I remember in my early days as a hardware field engineer being asked for the "abend" messages on a Novel server. It took a little while as I'd never heard the term before, the "word" made no sense in my brain, and it was a few years later that I figured out it was Abnormal End too :-)
"Some might suggest we conceal the simplest of concepts behind a bewildering array of letters."
And to be perfectly fair and honest, sometimes we use abbreviations to keep the uninitiated's heads from exploding. It's the humane thing to do.
CSMA/CD comes to mind.
ADPCM is another ... I'm sure all y'all have your favorites.
The BOFH once had that, baiting some salesdroid by saing he was representing a Danish bank group "Dnebonk":
"VoIP he mouths - ?? - you know, voice over IP - IP? - ... it'll make your phone calls cheaper"
Seriously, every group of people develops their own lingo....
Seriously, every group of people develops their own lingo....
That's fine if within reasonable limits. I once work for a big corp that used their own lingo extensively. Should have been wary before I joined as they even littered their public job ads with. At least, it taught me to stay away from such places: too much cult-like self-adulation and apish chest beating.
Try working for IBM. I spent 13 years there and I couldn't make sense of all the three letter acronyms they had for procedures, departments, positions... "Yeah, I know you were a SIL, but from now on, you're a SAM"* was the bread and butter...
*That kind of announcement was always counterattacked with "Will I get a pay raise?", even knowing the inevitable answer would be "Nope, just a raise in your responsibilities".
And there's always UTC... erm, Universal Coordinated Time
Most of the world would have been happy with UCT, but the French wanted TUC... so mummy said you're all being very silly and no-one should have it, and we got UTC as the abbrev.
I once got a phone call from a very worried user. "It's asking me to enter my password, what'll I do?" "Uhm... enter your password?" "I don't know..."
"What does the screen look like?"
"What were you doing beforehand?"
"What application were you using?"
No matter what I asked, I couldn't get any proper answers from her, so decided I needed to do a desk visit, just in case there was something nefarious as this was in the Accounts department after all.
When I got there, it *appeared* to be the standard login screen. "Right, so what were you doing before this appeared?"
Then I got the answer...
"I was working away and the computer said it was installing updates and it needed to reboot and I told it to reboot. And then it shut down and when it came back up, this password screen appeared."
I gently replied that this was normal and after a couple of reassuring "Yes, it'll be fine" replies from me, the user logged on and everything (surprisingly) worked...
I remember getting a very similar support call from a... let's be charitable and call her an overly cautious user.
She was just in the next office, so it wasn't even worth going through the effort of working out what the issue was over the phone - I just went through immediately. She told me that she'd been working away, when suddenly this error popped up and wouldn't go away. She didn't know what to do.
I looked at it. And then asked her if she'd read it.
"Antivirus has updated and needs to reboot. Do you want to reboot now?" she read (you all know that kind of message).
"Do you?" I asked.
"No." she replied.
"So click 'No'."
She did. Box went away, and she continued working.
The very next day, she called again...
I had a colleague who was a great electronics engineer but liked to be guided through things like software installation programs which was fair enough in those days.
However I did wonder when we would get to:
"Your software has been successfully installed. Press OK to continue."
"What do I do now?"
Don't confuse insecurity with ignorance.
Anyone not confident using techie procedures on a computer will duck taking an initiative if at all possible. Especially if the expert is stood by them.
In my early days of supporting school computer users I had to reassure staff that they couldn't break the computer before they'd try even pretty simple things like starting a programme.
I had someone 'break' Excel... it just opened with a blank screen... no rows, no columns, nothing
After a lot of head scratching, it turned out she had managed to 'window' the default sheet then drag it off the screen, hence it opened to a blank screen
Excuse me looking up the supposed academic paper example that went something like:
A complicated mathematical paper.
 Thanks to Colleague X for translating this paper.
 Thanks to Colleague X for translating the previous footnote.
 Thanks to Colleague X for translating the previous footnote.
And it stops there, but shouldn't it go on? And on and :-)
Any ICL techies out there will remember the STD Table Full error, a pain in the arse to diagnose during the day and a nightmare at 3 am in the morning. The usual answer was to get the site to start an IPL.
Getting that call meant that sitting at home on my tiny One Per Desk wasn't going to hack it so a drive into the office, fight with the security guard about parking in one of the 4 directors parking spots by the front door then a few hours of remote diagnosis using VISA. On a very rare case the IPL cleared the error and I'd be back in bed for 4:30 AM but it usually meant I'd still be working on the fault when the day shift came in at 08:00.
I really do not miss that part of the tech role
One night, I was called out from 9 pm until midnight, fortunately able to work it from home. I slunk into bed, my brain still hyperactive. At 1 am, another call out, this time for the "sister" system, and that went on until 5 am. Again, my brain still hyperactive and lying in bed not quite sleeping until my almost-a-year old child awoke at 6 am.
Fortunately, the policy was that if you had had a bad night of call outs, you could have the next day off.
It was a long time ago so I cant remember the exact details, but we had an out of hours support call come in from a customer in Hong Kong very early one morning. He had to read out some numbers but they didn't make sense. The number he was reading out was something like 3342 - eventually realised it was 3 lots of 3 and 4 lots of 2 i.e. 3332222!
A friend of mine was in a back end support role of an 24*7 enterprise. There were teams who were meant to handle the end user calls, and pass on any really difficult ones to the back end team. Some how the number of the "call out team" got into the wild, and a small group of people were phoning them directly, as they could solve the problems.
They started getting a couple of calls a night for pretty trivial things which was exhausting for the person on call.
The manager of the team took the phone for a week to "filter the calls".
The calls went a bit like
"Hello,Jo Blogs, manager of the IT support team, who are you and what's the problem?"
"Ahh are you the manager?"
After a few days the calls dropped off to the usual 1 a month.
My wife, as a very young medic, was travelling by air with x-ray film in her hand baggage
Got to the security gate (smart readers may see where this is going).
Wife: "I've got x-ray film in here, it can't go in the x-ray machine"
Security guard:"It's ok madam, it doesn't harm film"
Wife: "It's x-ray film, it will harm this"
(Repeat above several times)
Wife: "Look" holds package saying "x-ray" on it up near x-ray machine. "x-ray film, and x-ray machine".
Eventually the penny dropped for the guard, and they went into a darkened room (those were the days) where the guard fumbled with the package to make sure it didn't contain stuff which might go bang.
I call mischief.
it was either fully processed x-rays so no possibility of affecting it as it is developed and fixed,
or it was unprocessed photographic film which is susceptible - just like everybody else's cameras but with no noticeable difference (slightly increased fog if you want to do the physics).
X-ray film relies on being next to "screens" in a cassette that fluoresce ie reduce energy/wavelength down to visible light.
And there is no reason for "a young medic" to be carrying unprocessed film.
and it comes in sizes starting at 150mm x 200 (unless it is dental at 20 x 30mm)
I'm in the trade and trained in the obsolete* "wet" technology.
*digital except the dental :(
you are absolutely right.
They do have some issues around usability/positioning compared to smaller film based things. And they are a lot more delicate.
Only around 5-10k so really cheap in radiology terms. Finding one that talks proper DICOM to a non-proprietory PACS
We stick with our 1970s wet process and all the COSHH hazards.
Our local dentists have better facilities than we do as a hospital serving >200k people.
Four years ago....
Indian female security check operator who couldn't understand why my car key "key ring" had electronics in it & kept insisting on running it through the x-ray machine, then questioning me as to what it it was again.
Eventually one of her co-workers decided fortunately to intervene & explained (a few times) it was perfectly normal for a remote lock\start.
I had jury duty so I rode over and went through courthouse security. Since I was on a motorcycle, I had a key ring with a firm attachment to my belt.
Apparently this was a romper room no-no since it was A Serious And Lethal Weapon.
So I ask what to do? The guard tells me to take my keys and lock them in my car. Seriously.
So I turned around and left.
I got an annoyed call asking why I didn't turn up for jury duty, and I recounted the above story. There was a long stunned silence, then she told me in a tired voice that I was excused and she would deal with it.
It seems like I've (unofficially) been on call for longer than I remember. My usual automatic response when woken up at some unmentionable time in the morning is to go onto autopilot and say hello, ask what the problem is etc... and then when they've finished get them to repeat it all again as this time my brain might have switched on.
Another problem is that for most people I work with everyone knows the acronyms, how best to pronounce server names and mostly how to best identify the application instance. However sometimes when I get called up by some of our more far-flung colleagues a lot of that goes out the window and it's a bit more time consuming to figure it out. The worst was many years ago there was a US-based ops guy who would very slowly spell out the hostname, which even during the day confuses me as for example my brain is much used to hearing something like "web (oh) one" opposed to "w, e, b, zero, one". Then consider some hostnames are often 10+ characters long and will start with location/env identifiers before what the box does and which one it is...
I did overnight support when I was in a Knowledge Management group, and all our servers had "km" in the name. When the automated text-to-speech called us it always converted that to "kilometre" so the server name would come through as "el oh en kilometre pee ess one two three" or whatever :-)
Clearly, one of the perks of being a late-night hospital security guard is being able to x-ray bits of yourself whenever you feel like it. And this perk is so official that the guards have no fear of ringing up IT support if their off-book x-raying breaks the multi-million pound piece of equipment somehow.
Our building security guards used to let themselves into the labs to play games on the PCs. The ones that were running overnight QA tests. After they'd ignored the polite Post-It notes several times we had to invoke the nuclear option, one almighty bollocking later and we had a new set of guards.
The problem is that people don't read them anyway. Perfect case in point would be an error message that says
"Please call the help desk on 555 5555 and say that the Rostrum app had error Bingo"
They call and what you're told is that
* I can't log on
* There's no error message
* Windows is broken
* It's definitely not the same Bingo problem in Rostrum that twenty people have reported.
How do you make that any clearer?
Company I worked for got taken over by IBM, who were obsessed about giving our customers 365x24x7 product support. As a lowly dev, our group was allocated an ancient Nokia featureless phone to take 3rd level support calls. We had a voluntary rota to carry the phone, for which we were paid a reasonable consideration. Turned out our customers kept normal office hours and the phone never went off. After that realisation, there was a bit of a queue to take the phone!
Around the turn of the millennium, I was tasked with setting up a new network monitoring tool for the place where I was contracting. I spent a couple of weeks adding all the important kit, baselining the data and setting & tweaking alert thresholds. Once I had a nicely tuned system, it was time to setup notifications - email to the help desk, escalation actions, out-of-hours SMS, yadda-yadda-yadda...
The boss also wanted a big screen in the department, showing a dashboard full of nice green icons, showing what a great job he was doing of running things - me and my mate nearly ruptured ourselves hoicking the biggest Iiyama monitor money could buy up on top of the cupboards against the office wall. - The boss also wanted an audible alert to sound in IT, if something went awry and the tool allowed any WAV file to be played as an alert. As he was a big Red Dwarf fan, he sent me "the perfect" sound file.
All went as planned, the system went live and all was good. Until the 3am phone call the boss took from a security guard whose patrol had taken him through the IT office, who was concerned about the disembodied voice of Norman Lovett repeatedly intoning "Emergency, emergency, there's an emergency going on..." The Holly WAV was replaced with the default alert ping the next day.
If it were me, I'd have just put an out-of-hours limiter on it, so the "Emergency..." wav only played during the hours that the office was normally manned.
And "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn..." on repeat, with echo, at low volume at all other times >:D
..I remember a waitress in one of the restaurants I supported at the time turning from the credit card terminal and saying deadpan: "Why does it say it's dilating?"
Visions of it at 9 cm and ready to give birth flashed through my mind for a second before I realized she meant "dialing"...
Last week ago I needed a remote user's IP address so I could remote in. I tried to walk him through getting a command line and running ipconfig. God, it was the most frustrating ten minutes of my recent life. I thought I'd got him to a command line, but trying to walk him through typing i p c o n f i g return seemed beyond him. Go the the start button. The bottom left. The button at the bottom left. Down there. Down! Down! No, the other down. Left. That's it keep going, left. That's it! That's the Windows start button. Clock on it. No, just clock, not double... no! just. Gah. Look, press the WIndows key on the keyboard. Just left of the spacebar, is there a key with a Windows picture on it? Left. LEFT! That's it, now just type cmd, that's short for command, and press return. Have you got a black box that says Windows Command at the top? "Yes". If there a flashing underline? "Yes" Ok, I need you to enter the ipconfig command by typing eye pee see oh en eff eye gee and pressing return. "Ok, done that". What does it say? "Nothing".
We were connected via a Zoom call so I was trying to show him by showing him the actions on my machine, warning him that his would look slightly different. I think at one point he was trying to put the focus in *my* command window. I ended up frustratingly telling him to bring his laptop into the office.
This is why I don't "do" remote support, if I can't see the machine with my eyeballs I can't see what happening. I can't understand this belief that I can see through other people's eyeballs.
I had one many years ago early 1990s as tech support for a well known computer maker, a guy rang me he was having problems with his computer so I went through the usual test but he kept saying he couldn't see the computer we seemed to be going round and round he was sat in front of it but couldn't see it. Anyway to cut a long story short after an hour. The computer was fine all working but the guy couldn't see the computer because he was blind. It would appear someone had convinced the guy to buy this computer at great expense they even set it up for him but he couldn't use it as he couldn't see it. I immediately arrange a refund and pickup of the computer also had strong words with the sales people and mangers.
We have a major hospital, Shands Hospital, attached at the hip to the University here. At some point they were trying to rebrand their tech organization, and had tentatively settled on Shands Hospital Information Technology. Fairly straightforward, and it was all systems go until somebody happened to notice the resultant acronym. :D Oh, SH**
One college job was night watchman at a local hospital. It was by this random chance that I learned that at least one hospital in the early 1970s used Telautograph machines to communicate prescriptions from nurses stations to pharmacy. Any method that did not include a signature was not legal, and apparently at that time (at least in that state) a fax (or other image) of the signature was not sufficient.
On Call A tale of theft, fraud and understanding the meaning of "Delete" to end your working week. Welcome to a legally questionable episode of On Call.
Our story is another from a reader Regomized as "Ellen" and once again concerns Digital Equipment Corporation's finest. In this case, DEC's ALL-IN-1 office automation suite of the 1980s.
ALL-IN-1 was quite the thing back in the day. By modern standards it was pretty rudimentary, but with its email and word processing functionality it must have seemed like a whole new world. It was also highly customizable.
On Call Sometimes it just works. Sometimes it just doesn't. And sometimes users do the most curious of things. Welcome to an Apple-tastic episode of On Call.
On Call Welcome back to On Call wherein a Register reader accidentally improved an airline's productivity by the simple virtue of knowing their stuff.
"Eric" (for that is not his name) spent much of his career working on systems in the airline industry. "Since airlines were the first commercial organisations to use large-scale transaction processing systems, many of their features date back to the late 1950s," he said.
"Some of them were surprisingly sophisticated for the period. In the IBM mainframe world, each user terminal could support up to five simultaneous sessions which were designated by the letters A through E."
On Call Sure, you might use words like "boom" and "explode" when it comes to errors with your system. But could a whoopsie have the potential to render a chunk of a country uninhabitable? Welcome to On Call.
Our story comes from a reader Regomized as "Ellen" who spent the early part of the 1980s toiling away in the IT department of a company producing software responsible (in part) for running nuclear power stations.
A brand new system was in the process of being rolled out, which would keep track of which stations were online, how much power they could provide, and so on.
On Call This week we bring you a shocking incident for a Register reader who was party to an electrical engineer's earthly delights.
"Andrew" takes us back to the 1980s, the days of DECNet, DEC Rainbow PCs, and the inevitable VAX or two.
Back then, DECnet was a big noise in networking. Originally conceived in the 1970s to connect PDP-11 minis, it had evolved over the years and was having its time in the sun before alternative networking technologies took over.
On Call In this week's episode of our On Call column, an exasperated Register reader nearly walks the plank after failing to break the laws of physics.
Our tale comes from "Rob" (not his name) and concerns the time he was working for an ISP that sold satellite connectivity to the super-rich on their super-yachts.
He had an issue with one customer regarding iffy service at sea. "It was an ongoing case that had resulted in replacement of lots of expensive hardware for stabilized satellite platforms and DVB-S modems over the course of the last couple of weeks," Rob recalled.
On Call There was a time in IT when "brute force" meant something other than guessing at passwords while wearing a favorite hoodie. Welcome to an edition of On Call that really pulls out some memories.
Today's tale comes from the era of coaxial cables and thinnet. "Ben" (most definitely not his name) was working on the campus of an educational institution. "We got a call that the network in a building out on the edge of campus was 'flaky'," he recalled.
"Some machines were working, some weren't, especially the department director's."
On Call Modes of operation always present a challenge for users. Especially when they invent their own. Welcome to a mysterious On Call with an all-too-obvious solution.
Today's contribution comes from a reader Regomized as "Ivor" and concerns a particularly puzzling support call from a customer struggling with Ivor's software.
It was regarding a PC setting he'd never heard of. We should explain that Ivor worked as a developer and development manager for his employer for well over a quarter of century and would be forgiven for thinking he'd heard it all. But there's always that one ever so special case.
On Call We take a trip back in time to the era of floppy disks and cabinets of PDP-11 hardware for an On Call where knowing the difference between hard and soft makes all the difference.
Our tale comes from a reader Regomised as "Don" who describes himself as "an electrical engineer with credentials dating back to HP 2114 16-bit rackmount computers." Ah yes, the 2114. Not, we suspect, the tediously modern Pavilion model but something a good deal more historic, replete with knobs, switches and flashing lights.
It would be fair to say that Don enjoyed the golden age of computing. He told us he used a Digital PDP-LSI11/03 as his "desktop" until the era of the PC dawned. It also meant he was (and is) blessed with a lot of experience, something that came in handy when he decided to pay a visit to his wife's workplace over a lunch break.
On Call An important lesson in conductivity lies in wait for the unwary or downright incompetent. Welcome to another tale from the On Call archives.
Today's story comes from a Register reader we shall call "Peter" (not his name) and concerns his experience at an electronics company at the turn of the century. The company had been acquired and, as is so often the case, the new owner was getting to grips with what the purchase meant.
"The company had tried to build our PCB test equipment," Peter told us, "but none of it worked."
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