back to article Wi-Fi not working? It's time to consult the lovely people on those fine Linux forums

Welcome to another edition of Who, Me? in which a Register reader makes the impossible possible and actually gets Wi-Fi working on Linux. To be fair to the Penguinistas choking on their mince pies, our tale is set more than 10 years ago, when making Wi-Fi work under Windows could be challenging, let alone on everyone's …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

    Actually, the first thing to do would have been to read the manual of the machine.

    Right, I'm off now. Mine's the one with the manual I forgot to read last year.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      You do know that no self respecting chap will read an operating manual until after the kit has failed to work or is irretrieveably broken?

      1. Antonius_Prime

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        As Sir PTerry himself once wrote:

        "One of the universal rules of happiness is: always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual."

        (I think from Jingo, but I'm open to correction...)

        1. Martin
          Happy

          Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

          In the old days, when you bought a DEC VAX, you got about twenty fat ring-binders with everything you could possibly want to know about the machines. No-one could read the whole manual, but you got good at looking up what you needed to know.

          When the MicroVAX came along, the machine was quite small. But you still got twenty fat ring-binders....

          1. GlenP Silver badge

            Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

            you got about twenty fat ring-binders

            I know! In my first job as a Civil Servant I had the job of inserting the monthly updates for both the VAXes and a PDP-11/45 that was never actually turned on*. The trick was to tear the old pages out before opening the rings to insert the new ones otherwise it was very easy to get confused.

            *The default position was that we had to buy ICL unless we could provide a strong justification. I'm not sure how they'd got the PDP through but the justification for the VAXes were that they were compatible with it so it couldn't actually be decommissioned. We also used to buy "sound monitoring systems" that were 11/23s with a few £s worth of extra kit just for the computers.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              The EELM System 4 came with many, many manuals for the several OSes and application suites. In the early days there were weekly updates - most of which expected you to make small text corrections on a page.

              We learned to put the updates in a pile. Eventually we would have a purge. Working in reverse order - most of the text edits had been superseded by complete pages. Oh joy! when the whole manual content had been re-issued. The whole content was still a block glued on the back edge - so could easily be dropped into its ring binder.

              These ring binders had a sort of paint for the front and spine legends on plastic covers. Borrowing the tape deck "window" bottle of acetone from the KDF9 operators soon cleaned the legends off obsolete binders for more general use.

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

            When the MicroVAX came along, the machine was quite small. But you still got twenty fat ring-binders....

            Ah yes, two palettes delivered, one with a box containing the MicroVAX and one with the box of documentation. Those were the days when manufacturers did things properly.

            1. Martin
              Happy

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              In a later life, HP outdid even DEC for that sort of thing. I was working for a bank, and we ordered a batch of linux servers from HP. We got a pallet full of boxes, each one containing a new server, and another pallet full of similar sized boxes, each one containing a licence agreement for a server - one A4 page.

              1. Mr. Goodprobe

                Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

                I remember that madness. Server-size box, tons of padding, and on the bottom of the box, in a heavy ziploc bag, a 1-page single-side letter page (our A4, if you will). Man ,those guys hated trees...

            2. CuChulainn Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              "when manufacturers did things properly"

              I'm fairly sure that a lot of the pages in our manuals (maybe HP3000, but it was a long time ago) only contained the text: "This page intentionally left blank" or something like that. Or there'd be a single sentence under a heading and the rest of the page was blank.

              I remember thinking at the time how they would be a lot smaller if they used a smaller font and more of the page, and thus not need their own bookcase to store them.

              Mind you, as the years have passed, and both the manufacturers and the users have matured somewhat, you need a bloody magnifying glass to read the A6 booklet you get now. And once you've gone through the legal stuff in six languages, you eventually find out where the full manual is online.

              1. Down not across Silver badge

                Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

                I found the HP3000 and MPE/V manuals very comprehensive. Especially the manuals about SPL and all the intrisincs. Much fun (for varying values of fun) was had with IMSGE (TurboIMAGE) and COBOL.

            3. JT_3K

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              I still have both the motherboard and 80286-IC electronic diagram (large format) that was inexplicably delivered with our consumer-grade 286 back at the end of the 80's. Really need to dig that out and frame it.

            4. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              About 30 years back, an educational institution not too far from here and dispensing knowledge pertaining to agriculture had quite a bunch of VAXes, MicroVAXes and VAXstations, which, at some point, were ripe for an OS upgrade. So they ordered the upgrade sets, one per system as one would, or rather had to in lieu of licenses, back then.

              The upgrades arrived in a large van, as the order numbers referred to the upgrade media plus documentation.

              1. David 132 Silver badge

                Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

                About 30 years back, an educational institution not too far from here and dispensing knowledge pertaining to agriculture

                (Edit: Hmm, I see from your comments further down that you're actually in the Netherlands. So my guess of Cirencester is probably a little off, by several hundred miles. Oh well. Still mad about the Tunnel House, though.)

                So how is Cirencester these days? I'm very sad that the Tunnel House closed permanently - that was a nice place.

                (Aside: Hmm, I see too that the Royal Ag College now has delusions of academic purity and has renamed itself a University. Hmmm.)

          3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

            We donated the manual for the IBM 7090 to the National Museum of Computing: apparently, while there's still lots of the kit around, there's a dearth of the manuals.

            1. swm Silver badge

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              I have a 7090 manual and even a 7030 (IBM stretch) manual.

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge

              while there's still lots of the kit around, there's a dearth of the manuals.

              Indeed.

              About a decade back we (hackerspace annex computer museum) were offered "a cellar full of computers". Most of those systems had been repurposed to create a campus-wide network for the students to use after the machines had been retired from their respective departments, with a lot being at least 25 years old already, so fairly interesting as museum inventory. Said cellar was underneath one of the flats on Twente University campus, and as three of the museum team (including me) had lived on the same type of flat we expected about 20m^2 floor space, piled fairly high with stuff.

              The deal was 'all or nothing, no cherry-picking', so it wasn't a matter of just going there with some van; it was clear it wouldn't easily fit in one. So we arranged a visit to check things out.

              It was not just the cellar we had (rightly) figured.

              It was the entire crawlspace underneath the rest of the flat too. And it was not just systems and peripherals. There were dozens and dozens of boxes with documentation. And media. Tape reels and cartridges, floppies and several disk packs. Especially the documentation convinced us to take the offer.

              Of course we then needed a plan to move it all out. All. Of. It. Which can be seen here.

              Most of that documentation has now been scanned and uploaded to archive.org, currently amounting to 1424 manuals. Stuff larger than A4/letter still needs to be done as well as microfiches, plus some books we don't want to cut up. Once we get the required tape drives fixed and set up we can work on reading the tapes and transferring those too; we already did most of the paper tape.

              1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

                Re: while there's still lots of the kit around, there's a dearth of the manuals.

                Incredible. And very impressive.

                Good on you for saving all that equipment. And videoing the process.

            3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              I have scanned a few hard-to-find manuals and uploaded the scans to scribd or bitsavers. Others seem to have had the same idea, since obscure manuals for obsolete equipment seem to be fairly available.

              Of course, before I got clueful in this regard, I binned some things which, in retrospect, I should have scanned & uploaded...:-(

          4. vogon00

            Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

            Assuming you used to enjoy the luxury of a Kilostream or Megastream circuit or two, those VAX manuals saved your arse several times that you don't know of, but us ex-RENACE types do:-)

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

            "In the old days, when you bought a DEC VAX, you got about twenty fat ring-binders with everything you could possibly want to know about the machines."

            Yes I remember the "Orange Wall" (VMS 4.x) and the "Grey Wall" (VMS 5.x) as we called them - the full set of manuals was A LOT MORE than just 20 ring-binders.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              We'd just got used to the Blue wall (2.x) when the Orange wall showed up. Wow!

            2. Martin
              Happy

              Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

              Twenty was just a vague guess. You're right, now I think about it properly, it had to be a lot more than twenty.

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                Re: Machine that weighs less than its operating manual.

                The smallest set were the user manuals, five or six IIRC. Then you had the system managers manual set which was twenty or so, and there was also the programmers' manual set detailing all the system libraries. Never had occasion to actually count those, but they easily took twice the shelf space of the system managers manuals.

                On top of that you would have one or more binders for each of the installed products.

        2. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          Nowadays you need to buy an industrial washing machine if you want it to outweigh the manual (assuming you actually get a physical, dead tree manual).

          Buying anything that has a battery in it, or was even once close to a battery or has any moving parts, will get you something where the first fifty pages are Elfin safety warnings and disclaimers in a couple of dozen languages.

          Then when you actually find your language of choice, the instructions refer to numbered parts that are not included on the fly leaf drawing.

          I almost always go to the website so that I can scream at the forum link that is 'under maintenance' for the first few tries and then has no reference at all to my problem.

          Asus, I am looking at you.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            "Asus, I am looking at you."

            I recently got myself a Xaoimi (or however you spell it) phone. Plugged it into my PC, an old XP box that works fine with my Samsung phone.

            Nothing.

            Not a diddle. Not even the buh-bong of new hardware found.

            So I go to the website, pick up the PDF of the manual. It points out the USB port and the volume buttons and has a bunch of disclaimers and warranty information. Then it repeats the exact some thing in five hundred other languages.

            So back to the website, look around, there's a better manual. This one tells me how to use the camera, good start. But, alas, all it says about the USB port is basically "it exists". Jeez, can it even cope with OTG? Isn't that the sort of thing manuals are for?

            Off to Google. Plenty of information on installing ADB and a driver to hack the bootloader. Not what I wanted.

            Eventually I found a site with a set of drivers for that brand. I downloaded it, threw the file at VirusTotal, then scanned it with my own antivirus just to be sure.

            It installed ADB (what, again?) and failed with an error 10. The site said "don't worry, just reboot". So I did, and upon connecting the phone it started installing some extra stuff and finally I could see the files on the phone.

            But what a bloody palaver, and how nice of Xaoimi to give a reasonably nice camera and easy 4K and 8K (!) video recording capabilities, and then say nothing whatsoever about how to plug the device into a computer. 'cos, you know, one might actually want to back up stuff, copy things across to DVD and free up space on the phone...

            <sigh>

            1. Paul Shirley

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              TBF ADB has always had an annoying habit of needing new drivers with every new phone you use. Don't remember any problems just connecting my Xiaomi phone normally in Win10 but did need another ADB driver change to get it working with the hacking tools.

              But XP? Does it even know how to mount the driver install image most Android phones I've owned present?

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              "But what a bloody palaver,"

              Maybe it's only supported "out of the box" by Deepin or Kylin Linux?

            3. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              Because the phone expects the Chinese government spy software to be on your computer as everyone has in China. So it only started working after you installed it.

            4. jmch Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              "say nothing whatsoever about how to plug the device into a computer. 'cos, you know, one might actually want to back up stuff, copy things across to DVD and free up space on the phone..."

              We have cloud, cloud, cloud, wireless, cloud, cloud, wifi, cloud, spam and cloud

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                We have cloud, cloud, cloud, wireless, cloud, cloud, wifi, cloud, spam and cloud

                "I don't like cloud"

                "Well, there's cloud bluetooth wifi and cloud, that's not got much cloud in it."

          2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            "Then when you actually find your language of choice,"

            In a few millenia, the Rosetta Stone of our civilization will be the instruction manual for a VCR.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              Did VCR manuals come with emojii translations too?

            2. Steve Aubrey
              Thumb Up

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              Stolen - thanks!

            3. EnviableOne Silver badge

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              VCR Nah, it'll be the framed copy of the install instructions of some piece of Whitebox kit made in several non-descript factories with questionable English, and I suppose most other languages ...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          Being a former CEGB employee, Sir Terry would have had a lot of experience of excellent documentation.

          Unlike some the crud that is shifted today onto highly-suspecting utilities that have to rely upon the market! (Not all suppliers are bad ofc).

      2. Jenny with the Axe

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        This is one of the reason I'm a better sysadmin than 90 % of the self respecting chaps...

        1. heyrick Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          Upvote for the username alone.

          1. Jenny with the Axe

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            The axe was quite useful when I started out as a sysadmin - my first job was managing email systems, including handling spammers...

            My proudest moment was when one of our clients posted in a comment thread about spam that "you'd better not spam from Algonet because their postmaster has an axe".

      3. spireite Silver badge

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        Just proving that he was a noob in the industry.

        When you've been in the industry as long as me, you have an allergy to anything made of paper.

        If a printed manual gets close enough to you, then it's usually holding the monitor up 'securely'

        If an online help of some description, you are always looking for the wrong keyword. Again this is usually due to the fact that a noob knows the current 'name' of something to look for. For the old/ancient we always use the nomenclatue of our youth......

        1. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          When you've been in the industry as long as me, you have an allergy to anything made of paper.

          Speak for yourself. I've been doing this for few decades and I prefer good old paper. It is always available whether you have connectivity or not and is not subject to vendor's whims of what is made accessible.

          Of course today nothing ships with any actual paper manuals. You get some leaflets of safety or legal blurbs in umpteen languages and any actual manual needs to be downloaded from manufacturer's site which sometimes is an adventure in itself.

      4. OldSod

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        I don't know why some consider it a badge of honor to NOT read instruction manuals. When I got started with VAX computers, I read the doc set. When I took a DEC Rainbow 100 out of its box, I read the manuals before I tried to turn it on. When I got started with Cisco routers, I read the doc set. When I got started with the Internet, I read the RFCs. I startled a friend who had a sendmail problem when he found out that I kept my sendmail book in my gun safe (so I always knew where to find it).

        It is a strategy that has worked well, and led (eventually) to me being comfortably retired earlier than otherwise expected. The major downside to it is the strangled "thanks" I get from my spouse every time something "just works" for me that hasn't for her (she appreciates the fact that it works for me but somehow wants to hold me responsible for it not doing so for her).

        It is hard to get engineers to document things, so when someone goes to the effort to write it up, the least I can do is take the time to read it. And due to a cumulative advantage effect, the more documentation I read, the easier it is to read and extract valuable knowledge from documentation.

        1. fajensen
          Pint

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          What knowledge? Today, finding information is like picking peanuts out of a pile of not very healthy stool!

          For Example: My new sports watch came with two fat bundles of disclaimers and warnings in every possible language there is, except perhaps Emoji, and tiny folded paper with pictures on it "explaining" how to turn it on.

          The Internet's problem solving skills are: "try this, try that, try that other thing, try reinstalling xyz, in a Borges Library of ignorance, hiding the incapability of Ever knowing the Root Cause of any Problem!

        2. Potty Professor Bronze badge
          Boffin

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          I spent many years writing Technical Manuals for large installations, such as Nuclear Reactors, Desalination Plant, Water (and Poo) Treatment Works, and vehicles such as Gully Emptiers and Sludge Gulpers. I often had to answer queries from Site Managers about esoteric parts of the operation of their equipment, points that I had exhaustively explained in the set of manuals supplied, but which now resided, unopened, on the bookshelves of that Manager's office. There seems to be a belief on the Male Animal's part that they know, without looking, how to operate any bit of tech straight out of the box. My life would have been much easier had I just written This Page Intentionally Left Blank throughout the manual, and added my phone number at the bottom of the first page.

          1. keithpeter Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            @Potty

            Wasn't the real purpose of writing the manuals to ensure that you had the detailed structured knowledge of the various systems required to answer the questions from the client's site managers?

          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            In many contracts I've had I find I end up spending the first week re-writing what technical documentation they have, translating it into actual human language. Things like translating "oh, Bob knows how to do that, y'know, the chap we've just fired" into "A: form user name from initials+surname, B: create user in AD (Start->Admin->User Admin), if clash increment digit at end C: create email account on server web interface C1: go to ((url)) C2: log in as email admin (your initials + admin, eg fsadmin) etc.

            Stuff that after a few goes you know automatically, but clear enough that my replacement knows how to go through it, and you can use it as the record of actually completing the process. Form user name: write it here. Create user, tick. Create email account, tick. etc. Get interupted. Come back. Know where you left off.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            Taking a cue from H2G2. The manuals should have had "RTFM" in large letters on the front and back covers - probably the spine too.

    2. pavel.petrman Silver badge

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      This reminds me, tnagentially, of a recent small talk I had with an elderly gentlemanin the doctor's waiting room. We talked about lithium batteries and how they are prone to catch fire when physically abused beyond their design limits, like throwing a smartphone on a concrete pavement from a window on the 8th floor. Or trying to force charge them when outside their designed temperature envelope. The gentleman, exasperated, exclaimed, but why nobody tells us? This is the first time I hear about this! Sir, was my answer, watch your grand children closely next time they unpack the newest electronic gadget you bought them, and marvel at the now inborn muscle memory of throwing the several booklets, chock full with warning and hazard information, nicely into the paper recycling bin, like a good child they surely are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Doctors waiting room?????

        What are these things?

        didn't they go extinct sometime in early 2020? When it was deemed that doctors were too important to actually see people in person...

        Nowadays, getting to see even a nurse in person (for a blood test) requires membership of the magic circle inner link at least around this part of the world (Surrey/Hants border).

        Everything is done online or by phone or if a real examination is required, you are sent to A&E where real physicians still exist.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Doctors waiting room?????

          It helps if you've been diagnosed with something that is potentially life-threatening, and require regular blood tests.

          I'm sure that my doctor's use caller ID to prioritize who they talk to. When I call from my mobile, the phone gets picked up quite quickly, and they already seem to have my records up on their screen.

          When my wife calls from the landline (yes, we still use one of those, she's a bit of a techno-luddite), she is kept waiting for ages before she gets through to try to book anything for me.

          Of course, she could have been black-listed, and the receptionists push her to the back of the queue. She can be a bit abrasive over the phone if she thinks she's getting bad service.

          1. mdubash

            Re: Doctors waiting room?????

            I guess it would be churlish of me to suggest that long waiting lists and overloaded GPs might have a different, more political root cause other than the use of a landline...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Doctors waiting room????? @mdubash

              I was commenting on the difference that I experience when calling the same surgery as my wife.

              I get through quickly on my mobile, she has long waits on the landline; I think it's because my mobile number gets flagged, and bumped up the list because of my condition.

              I was not making any comment on the underfunded or overworked status of the GPs, although this is a problem as well, and has been in my area since long before Covid.

            2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: Doctors waiting room?????

              " a different, more political root cause"

              You think Covid is political?!

              1. Pseu Donyme
                Unhappy

                Re: You think Covid is political?!

                Unfortunately it has turned out that way (closely related things like vaccination rates and attitude to wearing a mask correlate with party affiliation; this might be most extreme in the US but can be seen elsewhere as well).

                1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

                  Re: You think Covid is political?!

                  Unlike vaccines and working from home masks don’t do anything. They are just for theatre as a cheap way for the governments to be seen as “doing something”.

                  1. fajensen

                    Re: You think Covid is political?!

                    Asians don't know anything about diseases, do they?

                  2. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

                    Re: You think Covid is political?!

                    No, no. You can't say they don't do anything. You will sound like a loon.

                    Look: "No evidence that masks do anything." There, now you sound like the medical establishment two years ago. And you're basically saying the same thing - only nerds will even notice the difference.

                  3. jake Silver badge

                    Re: You think Covid is political?!

                    "masks don’t do anything"

                    So presumably, next time you or a family member are going under the knife for major surgery, you will be requesting that the OR staff not bother with the useless facemasks, right?

                  4. Potty Professor Bronze badge
                    Pirate

                    Re: Masks don't do anything

                    On the contrary, I caught Covid in July 2020, despite wearing my (brand new) mask. I went into one supermarket with the mask on, then drove, maskless, to another supermarket just down the road. I slipped the mask back on, but in my haste, I didn't notice that it was inside out (same design both sides), so that the side that had been outside at the first supermarket was now directly against my mouth and nose. Drove home and did not leave the property until four days later I woke up unable to breathe, called the Paramedics, and was diagnosed with Covid and told to self isolate for 10 days. Most miserable week of my recent life, but I am now over it and wear a one sided mask every time I am out and about. So, YES, masks do prevent the inhalation of viruses (virii?), providing you wear them correctly.

                    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                      Re: Masks don't do anything

                      The anti-mask anti-vaxx idiots use arguments like "a mask isn't fine enough to stop viruses only a (whatever) mask will work". They have a host of these superficially reasonable arguments. But they're all subtly distorted straw man arguments. Sure a mask won't block a virus particle-no one said it does- but it does block the spray that the virus travels in.

                      1. keithpeter Silver badge
                        Windows

                        Re: Masks don't do anything

                        @Terry and all

                        Its a game of exponential growth (with the ultimate roll off in growth rate)

                        Even a small reduction in the concentration of virus around a person will have an effect on the likelihood of that person becoming infected and then infecting others. Compound that small advantage through a chain of 10, 20, 50 or 100 contacts and the difference in infection frequency at the other end will be dramatic. So even if linen masks are not amazingly effective, their use at population level can have a powerful effect. Hence as mentioned up the thread people in countries who experience regular outbreaks of respiratory diseases naturally wear masks in confined crowded places when there is an infection active. No drama, no politics, just common sense.

                        I'd love to know if anyone has done anything like an Onsager model for the interaction graphs of (say) 30 people getting off a commuter train - track them forwards for a week. Say one was infected and everyone stayed on the train for a half hour ride...

                        The models currently used appear to be based on averages treated using continuous differential equations (thermodynamics if you like). It would be nice to try a detailed simulation of individual interactions and build up to a thermodynamic limit just to get an idea what shape the resulting distributions had. Perhaps a use for all the processing power that is currently used to guess what things I bought last week and show me more adverts about identical things...

                        Back on thread: no issues with wifi from about Ubuntu 6.06 onwards. Intel cards/Thinkpads.

                        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                          Re: Masks don't do anything

                          I don't think anyone would argue with that, other than the rabid anti-maskers. (See social media posts of Piers Corbyn and his crew). But in fact the broad detail is enough- masks do make a difference.

        2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Doctors waiting room?????

          No problems around here. The waiting room now seems to be the car park though (they want you to wait in your car and they get very confused when I say that I walked there)

        3. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Doctors waiting room?????

          I used to live on the Surrey/Hants border. I'm surprised you could see a doctor in 2020.

          Twenty years earlier my surgery tried "modernising" and managed to screw it up so completely that I had to take in a prescription written by one of their doctors before they'd accept that, yeah, I was really their patient. Then they asked me for my medical notes. The ones they don't deign to give you (well, maybe these days under GDPR, but back then...). Thank god I don't have any weird allergies!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Doctors waiting room?????

            I requested my notes and eventually was presented with half a tree, with much of it very effectively blacked out (in the source document, not on the paper).

            I did find in one entry (a back problem that 5 years later, when I changed practice, I found out should be operated on in 24 hours) - "Too much pain to diagnose!" FFS, if that's not a red flag, what is?

            The original and closest Doctors was in a different STD code area. It was faster to drive to the surgery and wait outside for them to open than to hope to have your call answered!

            1. David 132 Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Doctors waiting room?????

              The original and closest Doctors was in a different STD code area.

              Well I've heard of medics' notes codes like PAFO or NFN*, but this is the first time I've heard of codes for STDs. Are you sure you want to admit to having those?

              (Pissed And Fell Over; Normal For Norfolk, in case anyone's wondering.)

        4. pavel.petrman Silver badge

          Re: Doctors waiting room?????

          Sorry, it was only meant to signify the level of smallnes of the small talk. I live in the middle of Europe, where we still have doctor's waiting rooms and are still kept waiting for hours on end, even with appointment. But the comment was meant to be about manuals, how they get thrown in the bin and how people are upset afterwards for not beingproperly informed.

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      Actually, the first thing to do would have been to read the manual of the machine.

      I disagree. This may get me some downvotes but imho:

      RTFM is no longer a thing , at least not the first thing.

      My elderly father had a habit of printing the manual out for ,say, a new smartphone .

      He'd then complain 500 pages of A4 was too much to read and none of it was about the bit he wanted to know about etc .

      Even getting the manual in pdf which might have "linked" table of contents or whatever , and a ctrl-F function is not my first goto.

      The correct thing to do , like in the article , is google it and find a discussion about the same issue.

      there are caveats , and tips tricks and a knack to learn obvs , but this is the easiest path.

      A really good tip is go straight to the one with the URL stackexchange , and then remember to go to the "accepted answer" and not try to emulate the first post , which is "how not to do it" , as described by the OP.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        or is it stackoverflow . always get those mixed up

        1. Michael Strorm

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          Stack Overflow is the original website for programmers; Stack Exchange is the parent network that includes countless other sites, some of which appear to be under the "stackexchange.com" domain (e.g. english.stackdomain.com, unix.stackdomain.com, etc.) and others which aren't (e.g. askubuntu.com, serverfault.com).

          To be fair, I only know this because I always got them confused myself and (coincidentally) looked it up around a week ago.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            Thanks , I always wondered why there was sometimes a column of inane bullshit like "Why is my belly fluff blue?" on the right under the banner "Key network issues"

            .

            shame they didnt start with "Stack Exchange" and move onto overflow for the fluff , that way both names would be more appropriate

            1. Omgwtfbbqtime
              Trollface

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              Well there was always expert-sexchange... I think that's right...

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        We cleared out my fathers house earlier this year, and we found folder after folder of printed manuals for his devices. I had no idea he was doing this, but I guess he wanted to be able to try to find things without having to bother anyone else, and felt this was the best way.

        I often wondered why he was getting through printer cartridges as quickly as he did.

        A bit sad, really.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          Sorry for your loss (lost mine a couple of years ago). He was the same in that he kept all the manuals for anything he bought - even when said item was chucked away!

          Find sometimes that a hard copy manual is great if you need to make notes in the margins!

          1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            Digital is great, but...

            My dad has Ordnance Survey maps for large swathes of the country. Yeah, Google Maps does a pretty good job (ditto OrdnanceSurvey.co.uk) but sometimes there's value with drawing lines on maps (property boundaries, good picnic spots, ways around impenetrable swamps sited on footpaths, updates to old maps to reflect new realties, etc).

            And, well, just the site of all those magenta 1:50,000 (and orange 1 inch) maps on their shelves is pleasing! Along with the Michelin guides...

            1. Fred Dibnah

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              <stuckrecord>

              Google Maps is awful IMHO - pale grey roads with medium grey lines on pale grey backgrounds, and it's hopeless on a phone with a glossy screen in sunshine. It's OK for voice navigation when driving, but my car has satnav built-in anyway. For walking? Useless. For cycling? Almost useless.

              Good things are Streetview (although I try not to spoil a visit to somewhere new by looking unless I need to), and markups for restaurants, cafes etc.

              See also: Apple Maps & Bing Maps (although Bing on the desktop has OS Maps too).

              For planning a trip, rather than wanting to know the quickest/shortest way from A to B, laying out a paper OS Landranger or Explorer map on the table is the way to go. And OS Maps have CONTRAST, lots of it. Google et al don't seem to know what that is.

              </stuckrecord>

        2. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          I'm so sorry about your dad. I'll add my name to the list of people who will tell you 'it does get better'.

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      The last time I got a "manual" with a laptop, it was a glossy piece of gatefold explaining vital things such as how to remove the screen protector, and how to find a "registration" website that is a morass of circular logic that will require a serial number that might be one of the five on the bottom of the machine, requiring you to pick it up and turn it over while it is turned on, and either write the thing down, or try and remember it, before turning it the other way up and typing it back in. Invariably in the wrong format, either requiring, or not requiring the dashes in the middle, and the leading three digits that are inexplicably printed in a different font.

      The first thing to do would have been to go to the last forum post, and read that, and the one before it.

      1. Flightmode

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        > "...requiring you to pick it up and turn it over while it is turned on, and either write the thing down, or try > and remember it, before turning it the other way up and typing it back in..."

        Everyone knows it, but no-one dares to admit it:

        This is the number one reason why someone hatched the idea of cellphones with cameras.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          Oblig XKCD.

        2. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          “Cellphones with cameras”. I had to fill out a “passenger locator form” quite recently. It asks you for a QR code proving you are vaccinated. Guess what QR codes the camera on my iPhone can’t read: QR codes on the screen of the same iPhone. (I also have three QR codes in the Wallet app each proving _one_ of three vaccinations. Not acceptable. The NHS app lets you copy the QR code - not accepted because not enough pixels).

          Good news: You don’t need that QR code. Pretty annoying news: Nobody checks you filled out that form.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. slimshady76
      Boffin

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      Blasphemy! Blasphemy I shout! The proper research order when troubleshooting IT/general consumer electronics is:

      - Turn it off and on again (as thoroughly demonstrated by The IT Crowd).

      - Removal/re-attachment of the malfunctioning component (be it physically or via the OS/interface) USB thumb drives are specially prone to fix themselves by simply going through the physical option of this particular step.

      - General internet research, outside the offending product's support forum/website.

      - Specialized internet research, namely the above mentioned support forum/website.

      - Opening a support ticket with the offending product's support team.

      - Hammer (because percussive maintenance always wins, amirite?).

      - Bigger Hammer (OK, let's be honest, this might fix your problem in a Doomsday way).

      - Cupboard/storage bin/ziplock, or wherever you fancy stashing your product manuals/warranty papers.

      - Trashcan.

      - Manuals, if you're able to find them.

      TL/DR: Been there, done that, with Ubuntu 14.04 and a battered ThinkPad T43, many fortnights ago. That darn small green-lined physical switch on the side drove me mad. It had a tendency to turn itself off when I put the laptop in my backpack. Fixed it for good with a nice strip of electrical tape.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        "USB thumb drives are specially prone to fix themselves by simply going through the physical option of this particular step."

        You have to turn it round at least once before it can be successfully reinserted. Roumour says this disturbance fixes the loose joint that had caused it to go bad.

        1. slimshady76
          Alien

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          It's actually a two-step move, not just a 360 degree flip. You need to unplug it, turn it 180°, curse because it doesn't fit, turn it 180° a second time, and then plug it in.

          I heard the theory about those loose joints, but I better credit the one stating said move it's a safety measure implemented by the Earth Defence Forces, in order to re-align the Earth's magnetic fields, thus saving us from a Cat 5 solar flare.

          1. Charlie van Becelaere

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            "It's actually a two-step move, not just a 360 degree flip. You need to unplug it, turn it 180°, curse because it doesn't fit, turn it 180° a second time, and then plug it in."

            I've always wondered (but never bothered to do the research) whether the second 180° must be in the same direction as the first, must be in the opposite direction to the first, or it doesn't matter at all.

            I'm not going to check Google - someone here surely knows the answer.

            1. slimshady76
              Boffin

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              I smell IgNobel research material here!!!

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            I'm getting rusty on these things, but if my memory serves correctly USB connections have fractional symmetry. So that it requires a rotation of >180 degrees to turn them over and => 720 to return them.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              It also helps to use a different USB port on the final attempt, as Windows tends to get confused about that and re-installs the driver for you :-)

            2. Precordial thump

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              USB drives are quantum particles with fractional spin numbers.

              - two of them can't occupy the same space at the same time

              - you have to turn them some multiple of 180° before their orientation looks like what you thought it would

          3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            USB connectors always require 3 attempts:

            1. Attempt to insert in random orientation (as socket may be normal or inverted, depending on orientation of internal PCB). Fail.

            2. Reverse and attempt again. Fail again.

            3. Reverse and attempt again. Succeed, because it was misaligned first time.

          4. swm Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            The rotation group O(3) has a covering group SU(2). Electrons live in SU(2) requiring 720° to restore them. 360° changes the sign of the wave function. Or something like that.

        2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          "You have to turn it round at least once..."

          Nope, not any more. I used to waste time like that, including the double-180. Now I memorize the up|down|right|left orientation of all the USB sockets, and look at the end of the USB plug before inserting it.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            I put a sticker with a version of the USB trident logo on the "up" side of a USB-A plug. A black dot on the "down" side, if necessary. And of course USB-C fits both ways.

            1. marcellothearcane

              Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

              The USB logo is always on the top - no stickers required!

              1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

                Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

                "The USB logo is always on the top - no stickers required!"

                Ah, yes. True in *most* cases. But is the socket normal, or inverted?

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

                  ..or sideways, or horizontal? In which case all bets seem to be off.

              2. phuzz Silver badge
                Unhappy

                Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

                "The USB logo is always on the top"

                Except when it isn't. I think about 10% of my cables/devices have it on the other side instead, just to make life fun.

                1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                  Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

                  I've put the old "basic" USB fork logo on the "top" side of ambiguously oriented USB sockets, too. On "power banks" for a start. And thumb drives.

                  Y[][][][]•

                  The letters "USB" may be printed by the manufacturer on "top" or "bottom" or neither, or the trident symbol may be in the proper place but merely bas-relief or intaglio, and basically invisible. Here's a white one that I permanent-marked, so that the manufacturer's USB icon is now white in a field of black.

                  But I'd rather stick labels in the right places and draw on them, then put clear Scotch tape around the whole plug. I suppose that painter's masking tape would do to draw on.

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        My father called me in some distress because he couldn't get to the Internet from his Thinkpad T60, and needed to do some transaction or other with someone who only provided a Web interface.

        Spent about 20 minutes hacking around checking the access point before I discovered the WiFi switch (which is on the front left of that model) was in the off position. He though he must have moved it when trying to open the lid latches.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

          Must be why the new laptops I seen don't have those switches anymore - it's a combination of keypresses nowadays

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            I suspect so. The accidentally turning off the wifi was a major nuisance a couple of decades back. And since it was almost always caused by some trivial/imperceptible movement by a finger, gave no indication at the time, or after and triggered no on-screen messages it became an immediate mysterious failure. Added to which the accidental triggering of this was frequently from a switch that was non-obvious it was often quite difficult to even work out if this was a thing that could have happened, let alone find how to turn it back on again. (Helps if everyone has the same make/model machine though- you get to know).

            I have a deep seated feeling of anger about computer designs that include these booby traps. From the protruding CD button that is positioned just at the height of and in front of the mouse hand through to the WIN 8 "charms". ( I dimly recall an off switch also positioned where it was most susceptible to accidental knocks).

            IMAO no control - har or software should be hidden away beyond a simple menu or vulnerable to accidental triggering. And a special place should be created for people who develop controls that manage to be both. (Yes, like those "charms"). A place with food just out of sight and a toilet that only flushes at the moment you sit on it.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

            Yeah, usually Fn + one of the Function keys. Often right next to one you might use more frequently like volume mute or brightness, so easy to fat finger without realising you did it.

      3. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

        "- Turn it off and on again (as thoroughly demonstrated by The IT Crowd)."

        At work we have a machine that's a high speed detector gizmo that weighs products as they pass, and also scans for any metal contamination. Things with unusual weight are thrown into a hopper by activating a flipper. If metal, the other flipper to toss the stuff (as metal in the product is bad).

        It was freaking out the other day. Beep! Panic! Beep! Panic! Even with nothing there.

        So the boss turned it off, counted to ten, turned it back on. It took an eternity to boot, and was then happy and worked as expected.

        I ruefully observed that, in thirty odd years, nothing has changed.

    6. Paul Shirley

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      I thought the rule was always check the index A: exists, B: looks plausibly useful & comprehensive

      Then we wait for failure before confirming the index is a lie.

    7. Anon
      Boffin

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      Hang on... don't you read the manual /before/ buying the equipment? And compare it to the manuals of the other potential purchases if they passed the go/no go feature-set comparison?

    8. SamJ

      Re: "first read the fine forum thread until the end"

      Anyone else here old enough to remember RTFM? (Read the F-ing Manual) To those too young, this was the standard (non-spoken) reply to co-workers that would ask you how to use WordPerfect (any version), Lotus 1-2-3, DOS, Windows 3.1, etc.

  2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    crikey , I'd forgotton about those buttons .

    Totally didnt see that coming . Thrown by the Linux i guess.

    Not to brag but back then I would have .

    I remember it being on my mental checklist of things to ask users , right after , "is there a powercut there?"

    And when it became clear that users were incapable of establishing where their wifi switch was , let alone if it was on or off I collected a series of photos of the models we were using with big red lines , circles and arrows indicating THIS! HERE ! should be in THIS position.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Well, these things are important, but the universal technique of "first read[ing] the fine forum thread until the end" is also relevant – though I generally start by reading the first and last posts, then working backwards from the last if it seems likely to be fruitful.

    2. Chloe Cresswell

      We had a client with dell laptops. With a little switch on the side for wifi.

      And just on the market was the new slipcase style design of laptop cases, replacing the more business like laptop bags.

      And every time you put the laptop in the slipcase, the tightness of the case would pull the wifi switch into the on position.

      And every time you pulled it out, it would pull the switch into the off position...

      1. Alan Stewart
        Happy

        Could you put it in the case the other way round?

      2. CuChulainn Silver badge
        Happy

        When I was on tech support, that was a major cause of "wi-fi not working" calls we took.

        A lot of people weren't aware there was a switch in the first place, and the first thing I'd do is call up the database info we held for their machine and find out where it was on that particular model - either side, front or back, and towards the end above the keyboard keys (and of the electronic toggle type instead of the slider).

        When people started buying slim travel cases, the ones with external wi-fi switches were easily accidentally switched off.

    3. Trixr

      I did an exam at the end of an RHCT course lo these many years ago, which comprised them breaking a few simple things and you needing to fix them, plus set up a web server or some such.

      The course had lead us through doing the network config via the GUI (this was just for lowly "technicians" of course), and when the test machine showed a "broken" network, it was a matter of opening the same control per the earlier demonstration and toggling one setting. Alas, I can't exactly remember what it was - I think perhaps enabling DHCP on the wifi adapter.

      That was the first step. Without the network, none of the other components in the exam would work. Some poor bugger adjacent to me did not get even that far - they were struggling and sweating bullets throughout and didn't finish.

      They had seemingly bypassed the GUI for the first step and dived straight into the various conf files - at least I assume, since whenever I glanced their way, they were staring at text on the screen, whether confs or man pages. I always found wpa_supplicant and the various confs for the network stack as a whole a bit of a maze on Linux. A little config like DHCP being enabled on a specific interface isn't necessarily that obvious when you're staring at a conf file ... assuming you've got the right one. Assuming you figured out "no DHCP" was the problem you had.

      So yes, sometimes you jump to "things can be tricky in Linux" without considering first principles.

      (Although I could have done without the annoyance for many years of having to write a shell script to enable my Dell laptop trackpad every goddamned time I rebooted.... never got to the bottom of it)

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Been there, done that. 10 years ago there'd probably have been a WiFi indicator LED somewhere. There's little chance of that these days.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Same here, after exhausting SW solutions I went all the way and unplugged and re-plugged the wi-fi module on my circa 2005 HP laptop believing there might be an HW problem. Only to discover the wi-fi on/off switch when screwing the backplate in again

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        You didn't check the Access Point first?

        That's not entirely a joke because I have one that sometimes goes into a sulk and has to be rebooted.

        1. Pseu Donyme

          I tend to have these connected to the mains via an electronic timer that cuts the power for one minute in the middle of the night for just this reason (especially if I have set one up for someone not exactly techy; this seems to virtually eliminate support calls arising from this cause).

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            I use one with OpenWRT on it. It has an option to re-boot at a specified time or at set intervals through a cron job :-)

            1. Down not across Silver badge

              Whilst possibly sufficient I have had enough cases where only real power off is sufficient to resolve issues (with crappy consumer access points especially) so the previous posters of using a timer to cut power to the unit for a minute is (IMHO) more reliable option.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Been there, done that. 10 years ago there'd probably have been a WiFi indicator LED somewhere. There's little chance of that these days."

      Blame it all on Jonny Ive and Apple and the minimalist designs. Oh and the bean counters who charged extra for less.

    3. david 12 Silver badge

      Our little EEPCs from ?? years ago have the little WiFi LED. From which I can see that half of them have WiFi running, flattening the battery, in spite of their being no WiFi available.

      Disabled in network settings. Disabled in ROM BIOS. Searched for anywhere else to turn it off, but still, every reboot (have to reboot after the battery goes flat), when it gets to network initialization, they turn the WiFi on again.

      The irritating thing is that the /other/ half of the small fleet /don't/ force the WiFi to be on.

      If only there was a small switch on the side of the case...

      1. breakfast

        This has reminded me of the existence of the EEPC, what a convenient little computer that was.

  4. lansalot

    oh...

    Monitor was broken the other day - not powering on. Re-plugged the HDMI, wiggled the USB-C adapter, the whole bit.

    I'd forgotten to turn the plug on at the wall. Of course, being a laptop, that fired up instantly off the battery, and thus I was led up the "well, obviously I've plugged it in" path. Wasted a good 10 mins before my flakey battery informed me that power was running low....

    Been doing IT professionally since 1987, fyi.

    1. Wally Dug
      Facepalm

      Re: oh...

      Nope, that exact same thing didn't happen to me a couple of months ago, no siree. Honest.

      1. Antonius_Prime

        Re: oh...

        This is all part of validation of The Rules (They deserve the Capital Letters Of Seriousness)

        Rule 1:

        People Are Idiots.

        Rule 2:

        Even the smartest of people, can, from time to time, Be Idiots.

        Rule 3:

        Don't forget Rule 1.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: oh...

          Rule 4 - If you are lucky then rule 2 applies to you.

          Rule 4a - Rule 1 applies to everyone, including you.

          1. Giles C Silver badge

            Re: oh...

            Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

            Albert Einstein

    2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: oh...

      Or the plug that appears to be connected and switched on but in fact, is not fully located into the socket. And leads have two ends......

      1. Martin
        Facepalm

        Re: oh...

        Or the plug that appears to be connected and switched on but in fact, is not fully located into the socket.

        Yes, that was an annoying one. I have a bookcase in front of a socket with an extension lead plugged into it. The extension lead stopped working. Obviously, it had to be the fuse in the extension lead or something similar.

        So I emptied the whole damn bookcase (we're talking about two Billy bookcases screwed together), so that I could safely pull it away from the wall.

        Only to discover that the extension lead had been tugged by someone, and it was slightly unplugged from the wall. And if I'd just reached under the bookcase next to it, I could have pushed it back in. Never crossed my mind to try it.

        Still, gave me an opportunity to dust and tidy the bookcase...

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: oh...

          Still, gave me an opportunity to dust and tidy the bookcase...

          By which you mean, the opportunity to get dust and fluff in your hair, eyes, and nose, amirite?

      2. navidier
        Facepalm

        Re: oh...

        > Or the plug that appears to be connected and switched on but in fact, is not fully located into the socket. And leads have two ends......

        ...or the USB-A plug that fits quite comfortably into an Ethernet port but accomplishes nothing useful. Usually when you have limited visual access to the back of your machine.

        1. TWB

          Re: oh...

          "...or the USB-A plug that fits quite comfortably into an Ethernet port"

          I set my mother in law up with a USB stick backup regime once upon a time and she could not get it to work. I eventually visited her and decided best to watch her actually carry out the task (which works so often when a user reports a problem) and yep - USB stick in RJ45 hole each time.

          She still finds it too tricky to do so does not bother - but that's a different issue.

        2. Aussie Doc
          Pint

          Re: oh...

          "...or the USB-A plug that fits quite comfortably into an Ethernet port but accomplishes nothing useful. "

          If I could take a liberty and repost one of my older answers here:

          "Whenever I got the calls that meant I had to travel a long way (not hard living in the middle of nowhere!) I would always insist that the person turn off any obvious power outlets and unplug the power cord and tell me if one of the metal prongs had a bright yellow line running down one side.

          For the record, as far as I know, no Australian plug has ever had a bright yellow line anywhere to be seen.

          Them: No, I can't see one on the plug.

          Me: Is there one on the off switch when it's turned off?

          Them: No, that's clear, too.

          Me: Okay. Just try and replug it in, turn her on and see how it goes.

          Them: Well, fuck me, it's working now.

          Me: I bet it's those damn cheap power outlets.

          Them: See you in the pub next time you're in the neighbourhood.

          Works every time and no feelings are hurt."

          Rinse and repeat with the cable (and beverage) of choice.

      3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: oh...

        And leads have two ends......

        Two tangled-up leads have four ends, and no matter how carefully you followed them, the two that you've plugged in may not belong to the same lead...

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: oh...

          Two tangled-up leads have four ends, and no matter how carefully you followed them, the two that you've plugged in may will not belong to the same lead...

          FTFY, is a corollary of Murphy's Law.

        2. tfewster
          Thumb Up

          Re: oh...

          At the risk of being obvious/boring - loop a tie wrap around the lead you want to follow and then push it along the cable to the other end.

          If you can get it past the cable management - But anyone who does cable management will surely do cable labelling too ;-)

        3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: oh...

          "the two that you've plugged in may not belong to the same lead"

          Plug one end into the wall unit, the other three ends into the laptop.

        4. jtaylor Bronze badge

          Re: oh...

          "Two tangled-up leads have four ends, and no matter how carefully you followed them, the two that you've plugged in may not belong to the same lead..."

          A desktop PC fell off the network at mid-day. I walked over and learned that someone had just moved it to a desk with 3 other PCs already. The Ethernet cables were tangled, but fortunately they were each a different color so it wasn't too bad. One end was a little loose. I plugged it into the switch until the "click." People in adjacent rooms started shouting.

          A moment later, the eager young shipping clerk showed me the third end of that orange Ethernet cable.... Yup, I had just looped 2 ports in the switch.

          I severely distrust network cables with an odd number of ends.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: oh...

      The manuals for the Amstrad computer used to have a picture of the mains plug and a socket near the beginning. People unable to get their computers running, and who didn't know the answer to 'have you plugged it in?', were the most common support call before that was printed.

      1. irrelevant

        Re: oh...

        The diagram showing how to connect a VTX5000 (modem and Prestel adapter) for the ZX Spectrum omitted to include the Spectrum's power lead... Despite presumably having had it connected at some point before they bought the modem, as I'd not expect people to buy an expensive addon without having a previously working computer, we (Micronet 800 Technical Help) still got occasional calls for which the answer was, after some diagnostics, "plug it in"..

  5. Andy Non
    Facepalm

    Ditto that

    got the T shirt. A family member presented me with an old laptop he wanted me to install Linux on. No problem I foolishly said. I'd recently updated the Mrs Windows 10 laptop to the latest version of Mint so had an installation stick ready to use. It just wouldn't have it though. Kept failing to install with an unreadable error message flashing past the screen lasting a millisecond. I turned the laptop over and noticed it had a sticker for Windows XP. Ah! the penny dropped, it was so old it needed the 32 bit version. Dug a 32 bit version of Mint out of the archives and that installed great, except no WiFi. Connected the Ethernet cable and got it fully up to date with all the patches but still the WiFi wouldn't work. Tried a plug in USB WiFi adaptor, nope didn't work. Eventually after much gnashing of teeth, I waded through the BIOS settings and noticed one to "Disable WiFi" which was ticked. Bugger. Turned the setting off and the WiFi worked. It never occurred to me that there would be such a setting.

    1. jj_0
      IT Angle

      Re: Ditto that

      Ah, but if it was turned off in the BIOS the family member had never used WiFi so didn't actually need it!

      1. Andy Non

        Re: Ditto that

        He wanted to give the old laptop to his young grandkids just for them to use as a web-browser. WiFi would be more practical than tying them to an Ethernet cable (the computer not the kids).

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Ditto that

          "WiFi would be more practical than tying them to an Ethernet cable (the computer not the kids)."

          Needed to do some work at a customers recently that involved delving into their comms room[*}. I think they had been using it with the local school for May Pole dance practice!

          * Broom cupboard, still with brooms and associated stuff in there.

  6. Admiral Grace Hopper

    I'm Spartacus

    I want to be able to tell you that I have never done the same thing, but my Mother raised me to be an honest child.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: I'm Spartacus

      But you are no longer a child.

  7. TWB

    Similar problem with a moped

    Many years ago I had a Honda Express moped for getting around as we lived a little bit away from places I wanted to go.

    One morning I was going to scoot to college (6th form - 11 miles) and it would not start. I changed the spark plug, checked the fuel was on and all the things I knew but still no joy. For several days it remained like this and my normal helper (Dad) was not speaking to me because we had fallen out about something else.

    One day in a calmer frame of mind I re-checked the little fuel on/off/reserve tap and remembered that when the fuel was low, you could switch it to 'Reserve' which allowed the last pint or so to be used - hey presto.....

    I decided not to explain to my Dad immediately as we were, by then, exchanging some words.

    1. Graham Newton

      Re: Similar problem with a moped

      I had an Honda NSR125 which I had to sell last year after 20 years. One morning it wouldn't start, it was still under warranty so I got the AA out. Who also couldn't start it. I was only when the bike had been partially dismantled that the AA man noticed that I had accidentally pressed the emergency kill switch.

      1. Dave K

        Re: Similar problem with a moped

        I've had this a couple of times with my motorbike (a BMW). Sat on it, tried to start it and it just wouldn't fire. Kill-switch was off in my case, ignition was on, starter motor turned but it just wouldn't fire. 2 minutes later after lots of trying and head-scratching, I realised I still had the side-stand folded out - and on my bike there is a microswitch that kills the fuel pump if the side stand isn't folded back. It's a safety feature to prevent you starting the bike and riding away with the stand sticking out.

        <clunk>, <click>, <vroom!>

      2. Major N

        Re: Are you sure?

        Bought a Honda CBF6, first big bike. Went out for a ride over the pennines with a friend on his shiny new CBF6. Got to a roundabout, engine stopped. Wouldnt start again. Distraught I'd bought a faulty bike I wheeled it over 2 lanes of traffic to the side of the road. Friend, who has been riding bikes forever, wanders over, flicks the killswitch and hits the starter. Mortified isnt the word.

        In my defence, my previous bike didnt have a killswiotch, so I wasn't used to em, and didnt think to check if i'd accidentally knocked it

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Similar problem with a moped

        Took off the covers of a tumble dryer that had stopped working - found a thermal reset button. Pressed it - working fine!! Putting the cover back on, I noticed that there was a red plastic button and a small label stating "Thermal reset".........

        A CRT monitor with a blurry display - took cover off and adjust focus pot on the HV tripler, much to the amazement and wonder of my IT colleagues (I came from an electronics background and used to repair monitors. Once again putting on the covers found a hole marked "FOCUS".....

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Similar problem with a moped

      I picked up a second-hand campervan from the dealers, as usual with virtually no petrol in it so first job was to fill it up. Did that, paid and the blooming thing wouldn't start. I was on the verge of phoning the dealer to complain when I gave it one last try, this time depressing the clutch pedal...

      The ridiculous thing is that normally I leave the 'van in gear (I've had Citroens with front disc handbrakes and Landrovers with transmission brakes, both of which were prone to failure) so *always" depress the clutch, except for this one time!

      On another occasion I did have to Google for how to start a BMW at work (I was only moving it in the car park), you had to press the brake and clutch pedals together.

      1. Pseu Donyme

        Re: Similar problem with a moped

        A rented scooter in Greece: turns out the start button has no effect unless one of the brake handles is depressed enough to activate the brake light switch.

    3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Similar problem with a moped

      The first time I drove an automatic car, it was borrowed from my in-laws. Wife and I stopped somewhere by the side of the road to admire the view, then I jumped back in, turned the key, and the damn thing wouldn't start.

      After extensive messing around checking the battery connections and so-on, I was about to give in and call my father-in-law for help. While getting my phone out of the car I finally noticed the gear selector was still in drive. Yup, won't start unless it's in park or neutral. Doh.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Similar problem with a moped

        to admire the view,

        Err, starting with the car in drive might not have been the best of things, if you'd have been able to, tbh.

        (Why's there no falling off a cliff icon?)

        1. Potty Professor Bronze badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Similar problem with a moped

          I was preparing my car for its MOT test, checking that everything worked, when I discovered that the rear wiper wouldn't. Checked the fuse - OK, Checked the switch - Dead. Hmm.... Got in the car and started the engine, and the wiper started to work. It doesn't mention it in the User Manual, but there is an interlock with the door switches so the wiper cannot be operated with the upper tailgate open, because the wiper mechanism is mounted on the body, and opening the window would stop it moving and overload the motor.

  8. stungebag

    Yes. tell me about it. I was network manager in a school that owned 600 HP laptops and the most common problem brought to us could be easilly diagnosed by observing whether the little blue light by the little sliding switch was illuminated or not.

  9. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

    I have lot count of the number of times I've fixed laptop wifi issues by simply switching on the wifi.

    Sometimes it's been a switch, sometimes a button and sometimes a function key combination. You always get the same sort of response from the end user, along the lines of "I never switched it off" or "it must have switched itself off" or my particular favourite "I've tried that several times" all of which are evidence of the end user trying to avoid either embarrassment or a call out charge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or from the service desk "The wi-fi is on, there's a little light on"

      Yes, but what colour is the light? Blue = on, orange = off

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      No it isn't. Mostly it will be that your user will have managed to catch the fn key and wifi button at the same time or the almost invisible wifi switch. Because they ( and often we) use point and peck typing and often miss, and/or use two hands on keys at almost the same time. But they will have had no idea that they've done this- or even that they could.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Not all of those are necessarily the user avoiding embarrassment. "I've tried that several times" is, but the others could be correct. I don't know if my current laptop has a switch for WiFi. If it does, it's a keyboard combination I've never hit. If I do hit it by accident eventually, I will therefore have no idea what it is and will have to look it up when I figure out what has happened.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        if you find out what happened

        Not a FTFY because if you're on here you presumably would. Eventually. An ordinary user - no chance.

        I know this because the first time I fixed this for one of my users I spent several hours trying to find out what the problem was and only got the answer by incidentally seeing a reference to "wifi switch" in an unconnected forum thread. (Someone wanting to buy a replacement for a stuck switch or something of the sort - it was a long time ago). But it was the clue I needed.

  10. TWB

    And the silly thing is...

    ..that many of us here like proper hardware switches for such things;- camera covers, microphone cuts etc.

    I suppose ideally the OS should be able detect the switch position and report back to the user* but have no "ability" to change it.

    *Ideally something like "The wi-fi switch on the outside of your machine is in the off position - please move it to the on position to enable wi-fi" - rather than "system error 3456HZQQF227 - please contact your administrator"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the silly thing is...

      Proper hardware switches. Yes…

      A long time ago we still allowed end users to “keep” their laptops when they were replaced (i.e. buy them for what they were worth according to bean counters, which was often practically zero).

      One of the office tinkerers did so, decided to install Mint on it and came afterwards to my desk. This was a guy in sales, but credit where it’s due : he had some of the Knowledge (and was often an IT asset, in that he helped out his colleagues with the trivial stuff, which reduced helldesk tickets). So in his case I decided to have a look when he politely came to ask if I could help out, because while everything worked he could not get the camera up and running in Mint.

      Apparently he had superglued one of those plastic camera cover sliders to his machine when he got it initially, never used the camera for work (this was loooing before Covid), and forgot about it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the silly thing is...

        Have you tried switching it off and on again? As I tried to explain to users, modern electronics all seem to have all this low power tree hugging software switches. I just find it easier to yank the bloody power cable out!

        1. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: And the silly thing is...

          I had a HP laptop once that had temperamental capacitive touch panel for volume control (may even had wifi switch but can't recall for sure). Fix for when it acted up was to unplug PSU, remove battery and press power on for few seconds. At least with removable batteries you can do a proper reset, unlike the modern laptops with built-in batteries.

    2. ortunk

      Re: And the silly thing is...

      FYI linux repirts it as wifi killswitch in dmesg

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Linux

      Linux installs

      When I run into a Linux issue, my approach is to copy the error message and paste it into Google. Something relevant usually pops up, and is often at least the beginning of the path to enlightenment.

      I've been using Linux seriously for over 20 years now. On laptops and desktops. Ubuntu was a huge step forward, but now I'm using Mint. I find that installs on 3-5 year old machines work the best: old enough that any hardware peculiarities have been noticed and fixes applied, all peripherals now supported and major vendors' machines well understood.

      Thankfully, the hell of "proprietary" drivers seems to have been managed...I remember horrible problems with wifi chips, whose manufacturers refused to support Linux in any way, which are now, thankfully, pretty much a thing of the past. Likewise with graphics cards, a truce seems to have been reached.

      My latest installs of Mint have been mostly problem-free. I still need to manually disable the "eraser-stick" in the middle of laptop keyboards (I understand that some love this "feature"), and I did spend quite a while getting some USB device or other (scanner?) recognised, but for the most part, Linux installs are not the terrifying experience they used to be, and can often be done by newbies without any help.

      Linux has come quite a long way!

  11. _LC_ Silver badge
    Happy

    No intention to blaspheme, but …

    when it is a button, then it can be turned on and off by software as well. ;-)

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: No intention to blaspheme, but …

      Not necessarily. Often the button operates a toggle option in the UEFI firmware, which is not quite 'software' (since you can't arbitrarily change it)

  12. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Dunno about the distro...

    ... but I suspect it was an old ThinkPad. I went through all the BIOS settings once (after combing every line of the supplicant configuration on Linux - ouch!) before going to a Lenovo page and discovering there was a wireless on/off switch. Might have been an X200 or something...

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Dunno about the distro...

      I am thinking it was a T60 or T61. I remember that exact problem presented to me by one of my 'techs'. Of course I didn't tell him about the switch. I just did the 'laying of hands' routine while sneakily sliding the switch, and pronounced the problem solved.

      My tech eventually figured out what I did. But for a while he was amazed!

  13. Flightmode

    As always, there's an appropriate XKCD:

    https://xkcd.com/979/

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Is there a situation not covered by XKCD

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Yeah, how to avoid raptor attacks ........ Oh! Goto 292!

        Ahhh! I mean don't goto!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Is there a situation not covered by XKCD"

        Yes, and there's a XKCD for it :-)

        (don't Google it, you might break the Internet!)

        1. Precordial thump

          This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke. (There's an XKCD for that, too)

    2. Flightmode
      FAIL

      Following on from the XKCD strip (possibly derailing the thread slighly), I ran into a programming issue a couple of years back. The Google path took me to StackOverflow where I was very happy to see that someone had reported exactly the same issue.

      Then I saw that it was *I* who had made that post two years earlier.

      And closed it myself a day later with the comment "Never mind, I'm an idiot", without including what it was that I'd done wrong.

      I guess I was still an idiot. Probably still am.

      1. TSM

        I've done the very same thing. Googled for my odd problem, been happy to see there was a single forum thread about it, realised it was an old thread I'd started, read to the end, and left to ponder the "never mind, I've managed to fix it" message I left last time.

        If I recall correctly, I managed to nevertheless use that information to fix the problem - by looking in my sent emails from around the date of that last post for any that might be related to the issue. I don't think I got the actual answer, from memory, but enough hints to put me on the right track.

  14. cookieMonster
    Facepalm

    Also guilty of this

    and not decades ago, last bloody Thursday.

    I was inserting external USB drives in and out of the left hand side USB port on my X220 and flipped the switch, unknowingly, spent a good 10 mins in “wtf, what’s wrong with the WiFi now mode”… but at least the memory goblins were still functioning and I remembered to check it, but still I was a bit embarrassed as it’s not the first time this bit me

  15. Ilgaz

    There is an app for that ;-)

    Tell/use rfkill command for such situations. You can turn off wireless with weird key combos etc too.

    https://linux.die.net/man/1/rfkill

  16. albertfandango
    Facepalm

    Design quirks

    It was a Dell laptop, wasn't it? Possibly the same Dell Latitude as I had many moons ago, with a sliding switch on the side for wireless on/off, which was helpfully in exactly the right place to get caught on the laptop bag when pulling it out to make sure the wireless was guaranteed to be "off" every time you booted up...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....but what if the manual doesn't mention what the device is doing?

    Item #1: User buys Jaguar privately. Discovers that said vehicle continues to phone home AS THE PREVIOUS OWNER.

    Jaguar service centre points out that ownership can only be changed by ACCREDITED JAGUAR DEALERS.

    Private sales are frowned upon by Jaguar.

    Not mentioned in the manual.

    Item #2: Linksys EA7500 router is usually configured by the handy "cloud" routine on the Linksys servers.

    Requires a Linksys "cloud account".

    No mention in the documentation about exactly what is enabled "on the cloud". For example, could

    someone AT LINKSYS manage the router and the customers LAN?

    Other El Reg readers no doubt have thousands of similar examples of missing documentation!

    RTFM!!! HA!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ....but what if the manual doesn't mention what the device is doing?

      said vehicle continues to phone home AS THE PREVIOUS OWNER.

      I recently sold my house in France, cancelled the electricity contract and gave EDF the details of the purchaser. I now get email advising me of forthcoming power cuts for maintenance, addressed to the new owner but sent to my email address. I can't change it because they closed my account...

      1. Martin
        FAIL

        Re: ....but what if the manual doesn't mention what the device is doing?

        Off topic, but...

        We bought our house just over two years ago. Recently, Together Energy sent us, by mail, two years late, the closing bill for our previous owner's Electricity and Gas. We contacted the previous owners and sent it on to them. They told them their new address, and kept us informed of their long fight with Together Energy (basically, Together Energy owed THEM money, not the other way round, and in any case you can't bill for energy over a year late).

        Eventually, Together Energy sent them an apology. To our address.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: ....but what if the manual doesn't mention what the device is doing?

          45ish years ago, my brother bought a house in Ukiah, California. When they connected the telephone, he was surprised to discover that it was the same number as the prior owner ... something about limited numbers at the exchange. He still gets calls for that family occasionally ... and snail-mail. He takes a message on the phone calls and passes them along as a courtesy (they are friends), and uses the junk snailmail as fire starter. Xmas cards, wedding announcements/invites and the like get forwarded. Yes, after 45ish years. It would seem that some people who supposedly know the former owner STILL haven't updated their address book.

          That's from the old, unconnected world.

          Kind of makes me wonder how long the data that metaface, alphagoo, redmond, cupertino, amazon, etc.collect on everybody and everything that they can is going to be valid (and sell-able), especially after a fair percentage of it becomes staler than last month's bread. Methinks a good deal of it is already quite stale ... What's the critical percentage of stale to valid before it's useless? Or do marketing "geniuses" care about that kind of thing?

          1. fajensen

            Re: ....but what if the manual doesn't mention what the device is doing?

            Or do marketing "geniuses" care about that kind of thing?

            Why would they? They are selling Marketing, not Product.

            One buys some thing online, then for weeks after all the adds are for the exact thing one just bought. The add-sellers for sure will use that data to tell their clients that "98% of all people who experienced this add purchased the product". Their clients will suck it all up and buy more "targeted advertising".

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

            Re: ....but what if the manual doesn't mention what the device is doing?

            The previous owner of my cell phone number (which I have had for over 20 years) still gets occasional SMS and calls on the number. Mostly junk, but some appear to be bill collectors (I haven't asked, simply told them that person is no longer at this number)

  18. rafff
    Facepalm

    Not seeing the switch

    I got caught by a video camera that was just showing a black image, even though the indicator light was on. A black switch on a black case does not help.

    Shades of Vetinari's coat of arms on his black coach.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not seeing the switch

      My wife had that problem with our video camera, back in the days when we had such things. I showed her how to remove the lens cap :-)

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Black on black...

      I have a black golf (polo) shirt, with a logo embroidered in black thread. The shirt shows up white in infrared light, and the logo remains black.

      It's the CIA seal :-)

  19. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

    A chum of mine, now sadly no longer in this existence, once had the honesty to admit that he had the lights go out and numerous things stop, due to a power cut. His initial concern was to actually get across his kitchen to the door. "Aha" thought he. "I'll just open the fridge and use the light from that."

    The realised:

    a) the futility of that strategy and

    b) there was noone else around he could blame

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      My dad has a little plug-in torch holder and rechargeable torch, which sits in a power socket and lights up if the power goes off. Which is fine as far as it goes, but doesn't seem terribly helpful unless you have one in every room.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always read from the end

    Yep, on multi-page forums, first page gives you an idea whether the posted issue matches your own, after that skip to the last page and work backwards. You'll either find a load of "has anyone found a fix for this" so you can give up on that thread, or "thanks Bob, that fixed it for me" style comments at which point go backwards looking for Bob's post.

    1. TSM

      Re: Always read from the end

      Sometimes you need to be more thorough. Particularly on the Microsoft forums, I've seen error message threads which have a collection of five to ten separate fixes, each of which fixes the problem for a distinct subset of users.

  21. MacroRodent
    Facepalm

    The stupidity button

    The HP consumer laptop I acquired for family use about 10 years ago had a WIFI on/off button on the keyboard, in an additional row of function keys above the numeric keys. My lady sometimes hit it accidentally (easy because of its proximity to common keys), then loudly complained to me why there was no net connection. I must admit the first time it happened I was quite mystified myself, trying various OS settings and diagnostics before I got it. A truly stupid design choice.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The stupidity button

      Many years ago, I was sent out to a customers to fix a laptop. It was so long ago it had a monochrome LCD display and ran MS-DOS. In the the end, with great embarrassment, I had to ask the user how to switch it on. "Oh, you press the yellow FN key and the SPACE bar." Yes, on close examination, there a was a standard open circle with small vertical line, about 1mm in size, printed in yellow, on the front chamfered edge of the SPACE bar. FFS!!! (Just remembered, the laptop was made (or badged) by Tulip)

  22. Potemkine! Silver badge

    "One of them is to first read the fine forum thread until the end."

    That's exactly the opposite. You have to read the thread from the end.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: "One of them is to first read the fine forum thread until the end."

      Depending on member self discipline - the end of a thread may be answering a different question.

  23. dc_m

    I've seen it before. Machine was an Acer travelmate running Ubuntu (as far as I remember). Everything else worked perfectly. It turned out that the physical slide switch on the side was actually a "soft" switch. Had to install a separate Acer hotkey utility to make it work.

  24. tip pc Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Start help forums from the last page

    >>>"This taught me several things," sighed Erik. "One of them is to first read the fine forum thread until the end."

    start from the last page, hopefully the comments will be full of "thanks that got me working" and work back to the magic post that spills the details on how to get whatever working.

    as a senior bod I have forgotten so much detail but I do remember how to search a forum and search a page of results.

  25. gerryg

    2021 called

    I have a Lenovo Thinkpad with Tumbleweed. It's a bit ancient, got it on e-bay for almost no money, no manual and an astonishingly good battery, I digress...

    ...the wifi stopped working and thanks to NetworkManager it's slightly more tricky to get into the works than it used to be.

    Anyway, did you know there's a little switch on the side that turns wifi on and off?

  26. sammy_mac

    Amazing how times have changed, though I'm shocked that this is set ten years ago. That was when the Linux wifi problem was fading fast. In fact, that was the year that my wife converted to Linux ... over wifi support. She had upgraded her laptop to Windows 7 after using the Microsoft tool to verify that it was Win7-ready. Her wifi would work for about a half an hour and then drop out. She could reboot for another half hour of wifi. We went to the manufacturer, made sure to get the latest drivers, removed any traces of old drivers, and wifi was still crashing. I tried booting from a Kubuntu USB stick, and wifi wasn't a problem. Set up as a dual-boot, and she never lost wifi on that computer after that, unless she booted to Windows.

    Now, with my Framework laptop, Linux needed no help. However, to get wifi, I had to download the driver package.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've been caught out by that. It only ever happens once.

  28. Death Boffin
    Linux

    Sometimes the Problem is Linux

    Decided to install Mint on an older laptop. Everything went fine until it was time to get the wifi working. Downloaded drivers from all over, but nothing worked with the obscure Broadcom wifi chip. After two days of trawling the Linux forums I finally found a series of arcane letters and numbers that had to be manually typed into an init file. After that everything worked fine.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes the Problem is Linux

      Been there, done that. Thank $DEITY for the forums.

      Recently, wifi has not been an issue.

  29. ICam

    Had a similar experience with a parallel port...

    Many moons ago, I could not get a parallel port based device working, but I knew the device itself worked and the parallel port had also worked.

    I spent some time trying to debug this, even resorting to inserting extra printk()s into the Linux parallel port driver.

    The problem? The BIOS was set for a mode (EPP/ECP, I can't remember which exactly) that wasn't supported by the device.

  30. DS999 Silver badge

    I was taught this lesson in grade school

    New teacher handed out an "exercise" on the first day she said was to assess where everyone stood in math so she wouldn't cover stuff we already knew. Lots of groans about having to take what we saw as a test on day one but whatever. It was something like 20 questions long, and the first said to write your name on top and the second said to read all the rest of the questions before proceeding. If that's an example of how hard this is it would be easy for someone as good at math as me! Obviously I skipped the part about reading everything first, I wasn't going to waste my time when I would be reading them as I answered them anyway!

    The first dozen questions were easy and I could do them in my head, but they were getting harder and I knew most people would have trouble after the 8th or 9th question. Then they started getting tough even for me and I was taking more time to solve each. I saw a few girls already handing theirs in when I still had a half dozen left, could it be I wasn't as good at math as I thought I was? How did they answer all these hard questions so fast? Maybe they just gave up?

    A few others handed theirs in but over half the class was plugging away when I finally reached the last question, which told us to only answer the first 10 questions and the teacher grinned this evil grin when I handed it in and she saw I'd answered them all. About half the class was still plugging away when she called time, and told people who hadn't finished to read the last question and hand it in after that was complete. A chorus of groans and everyone else hands theirs in.

    Obviously that was the real point of the test - see which students followed instructions and which ones didn't. Not one of the boys in the class followed that instruction, but over half the girls did. There's a lesson in there somewhere...

    1. Diez66

      Re: I was taught this lesson in grade school

      We used to get this on our, "many" Soft Skills" training at work.

      We used to call them Fluffy Bunny days", I have no idea.

      Of course being grown ups we had to do run up to the front of the room and shout your name.

      Salute the door?

      Shout out our favorite ice cream flavo(u)r and so on; maybe we were not good at maths

      Loved the courses, training days, always a great day with friends, free lunch or more and no real work.

      Afterwards we were oh! so much more productive.

      Apparently, "There's a lesson in there somewhere..." :-)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forums

    When looking at support forums I always jump to the end first. You will usually find the solution, or a lot of people saying "what X said worked for me".

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Forums

      I think you need to be a bit cautious on that one. Far too often when I seek an answer from a forum the initial search will sound like the problem I have. But the actual question will turn out to be entirely different.

      Something along the lines of Thingamajig Widget keeps timing out

      But the actual problem turns out to be Ever since I took all the components out of my PC and polished them I find that......etc

      OK I exaggerate but you get the idea.

  32. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    Linux, Win7 and wireless...

    Many years ago (OK 2000s) at my (NHS) workplace we acquired via IT some HP netbooks ( not a netBook..years after them).

    Beatifully locked into corporate security and Juniper network drivers for logging into our WPA2 "secure network"

    Confession: I ripped the HD and put my Linux HD in; Wifi worked OOB; had all my reference material and logged into network using OWA

    Then updates to Win7 came..and wifi on the HP books never came on - orange LED never went blue and nobody could go 'blue' and connect.

    My (linux powered) netbook was fine...

    I found from 'debugging' a colleagues Win7 model that "orange" wifi LED == working wifi and "blue" was actually "off"

    The wifi LED was a SOFTWARE switch and the Win7 updated driver broke the "switch".

    Our IT refused to accept solution and junked the netbooks. I kept mine which kept working on Linux. Fortunately, IT "lost" mine when it went in fir Win7 "upgrade" but I went to IT lab on another matter and had it handed back to me - ( they forgot to log it back out to me). Worked for years after (linux) on the network until I retired

  33. sebacoustic

    XL-250R

    This is not a computer story but related: my motorcycle was often slow to start, but one day I really tried a long time (kickstarter only) and decided that something was wrong. I walked the machine to the Honda shop which was about 8km away, slightly downhill most of the way thankfully. They flicked the kill switch and off I went, relieved that no repair bill would stretch my student budget.

  34. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    I've done similar - beat on stuff for hours, checking, double checking, making tweaks only an electron microscope could see, only for it to turn out to be something dreadfully simple in the end. When this happens at work, I honestly don't mind - I call it a "shakedown" and it means everything not only works, but every component is highly verified to be working properly. That's not a bad thing in this day of graphical installers, package managers, and make install.

  35. Mr Templedene

    I had a little netbook which had a push-to-make slider switch for the WiFi so you couldn't even tell from the position if it was on or off. That was a very stupid design flaw IMHO.

    Fortunately, the WiFi manager GUI in the version of LINUX I had on it had a nice obvious WiFi hardware status indicator.

  36. Kevin Johnston

    Soooo many examples I could offer here

    When I left school and chose Electrical Engineering as my speciality I got some advice from my Dad which has been priceless (when I remembered it)

    If something has stopped working then put a piece of paper on your desk (a coffee mug would do if no paper available) and explain to it every step you have taken which led you to your current state. At some point in the story you will identify the bit where you turned off or unplugged something or where you caught your foot on a cable and amazingly that is exactly why it all stopped working.

    The trick is to remember to do this before you call for assistance from a PFY who will see your failure as another example of senility

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Soooo many examples I could offer here

      When troubleshooting, I use a similar technique ... except I explain, in great detail, exactly what I am doing and why to whichever cat or dog is nearby. They appreciate the attention, and going into enough detail to teach a canid or feline how networking works usually points out the obvious fairly quickly.

      Somewhat strangely, talking to the damn fool b0rken equipment itself doesn't seem to work ... My wife says it's because the kit is afraid of me (I have tools, and I'm not afraid to use them), whereas the critters are not.

    2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Soooo many examples I could offer here

      Of course what the PFY would say regarding senility when they walk in and find you talking to a piece of paper or a coffee mug is probably not worth recording...

      Talking to cats or dogs is generally acceptable, at least as long as they don't start replying.

  37. Diez66

    Often I am to blame.

    No comment needed.

  38. Displacement Activity

    Similar problem with a monitor

    About 25 years ago I got a shiny new colour mopednitor. Nothing fancy - probably about 16". Anyway, it was flakey, and frequently didn't work. Amazingly, it had an on-site repair warranty. I'd never seen one of these before, so thought I'd give it a go, and called out an engineer.

    He arrived, put his hand behind the monitor, wiggled the power cable a bit, and it sprang to life. I've never been so embarrased. It turned out that the pre-IEC power cable didn't have a particularly good fit; he said it happened a lot.

    Back to crappy forums - when you get as old as me you find there's another problem. You have an incredibly complicated problem, find a years-old thread somewhere, get to the end if it, and discover that the person who posted the solution was... you. Happened a couple of times to me.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Similar problem with a monitor

      That's all right. It's basically this from Harry Potter books. https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Pensieve

      "One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one's mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one's leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form."

      In other words, it's searchable.

  39. martinusher Silver badge

    Yes, but finding the switch....

    The WiFi on/off switch was added as an afterthought to make those laptops safe for use on airplanes. As an afterthought there no connection between the switch and the driver so the driver can't report the issue to the user - as far as the driver's concerned its just a quiet, WiFi less environment.

    If you're lucky you'd find a switch somewhere on the front of the machine and if you're really lucky it may have a functioning indicator light. Often the manufacturer just went for some obscure Alt-Function Key combination that's maybe indicated and definitely not repeated anywhere on the display.

    As for manuals, we stopped getting three ring binder manuals decades ago. A manual for your machine will be like the manual/help system for Windows. Its on line. ('nuff said?)

    (FWIW -- I occasionally use an old HP Pavillion system running Mint. This one's got the switch. Which works. Sometimes. Its often easier to find a patch cable and just plug the thing in.)

    (FWIW(2) -- WiFi drivers are rather more complicated than the typical network card driver since they're also an application that manages the MAC frame exchanges used to control wifeless communication. By the time Wireshark gets hold of the data its a nice, sanitized, pseudo-Ethernet connection. The reality is a bit more gory.)

  40. Ian Bremner

    Forums are rarely helpful

    In my experience when looking for a solution through a forum post the following will happen:

    1. Someone posts looking for help describing the issue you have on the hardware you have running the software you have.

    2. Several pages of people suggesting obvious solutions (try turning it off and on again, reinstall etc)

    3. A dozen or more pages that goes off on a wild derail about something not even remotely connected to the issue.

    4. Several pages of people having a flamewar.

    5. Post ends either abruptly with no solution or the original poster saying "Thanks, I managed to get it working" without mentioning what the bloody solution was.

    The exception to this is a Microsoft Answers where, no matter what the issue is, the flagged solution is ALWAYS "Run SFC"

    Windows not booting? Run SFC (marked as solution)

    Email not being received? Run SFC (marked as solution)

    PC has exploded embedding computer parts in the wall and the user? Run SFC (marked as solution)

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

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022