back to article Your software doesn't work when my PC is in 'O' mode

Modes of operation always present a challenge for users. Especially when they invent their own. Welcome to a mysterious On Call with an all-too-obvious solution. Today's contribution comes from a reader Regomized as "Ivor" and concerns a particularly puzzling support call from a customer struggling with Ivor's software. It …

  1. safetysam

    The implication being that he felt the computer was perfectly functional for other tasks in "O" mode - just this PESKY software that wasn't playing ball?

    1. Def Silver badge

      Probably a piece of software that started automatically on system boot.

      Not sure how this particular user dealt with switches on other things like lights, kettles, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if this was an April Fool's prank call though.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        I've known certain users and colleagues where the only safe mode for them to use would be O mode...

        1. b0llchit Silver badge
          Trollface

          I'd think that some of those users deserve to be put in O mode. Then we nominate them for a Darwin award.

        2. NoneSuch Silver badge
          Coat

          PEBCAK

          That is all.

          1. raving angry loony
            Coat

            Re: PICNIC

            PICNIC

            *now* that is all.

            1. FutureBird

              Re: PICNIC

              Layer 8 issue

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "perfectly functional for other tasks in "O" mode"

      It made an excellent door stop.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Alert

        Also great as a heavy object dropped from great height. Unsuspectings targets victims are a bonus.

  2. Kildare

    Saw that coming

    I must have met too many users. I guessed what the O mode was well before the end!

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: Saw that coming

      But try to say "Ohh"-mode and "Aye"-mode.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Saw that coming

        This came too late in my career. I am going to savor saying a bright and sunshine-y "Aye!" when powering things on and a dejected "Ohhhhh" when powering things off for the rest of my life. This little ditty is going to improve my work life a spot in the shitestorm of little things that continue to accumulate and make it crappier on a daily basis. Maybe for once today won't be worse than yesterday.

    2. Ozmosis
      Thumb Up

      Re: Saw that coming

      Me too. I immediately thought IBM PS/2 Model 30. Sadly that does show my age

    3. Mongrel

      Re: Saw that coming

      My time on the help desk made sure I never forgot the "Always start with the basics" rule and that when you started thinking "They can't be that stupid, can they?" you'd get someone along to help you re-calibrate.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Saw that coming

        Always remember natures eternal arms race between idiot and idiot-proof.

        Evolution at it's finest...

        1. mcswell

          Re: Saw that coming

          That's because while the engineers keep making better tools, the parents keep making better idiots.

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Saw that coming

        At least on a help desk you know many of your customers are going to be non-techies. Back when I was an academic one of my tasks was supervising a third year lab for CS undergrads. You'd be surprised(*) how many of them didn't consider the state of the power switch on their terminal before complaining "it doesn't work"(**). Half way through the course it was well known that I'd be scathingly sarcastic to anyone making this mistake so when yet another undergrad complained he immediately added "and I've checked it's switched on". So I reached round the back and waved the loose 3 pin plug at him, asking "and what else did you check?".

        (*) Or maybe not.

        (**) Probably the world's least useful bug report.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: Saw that coming

          "No-one ever went broke by overestimating human stupidity"

        2. DJV Silver badge

          Re: "Probably the world's least useful bug report"

          I see your "it doesn't work" and raise you a "funny on screen" (which was the full extent of a bug report I once received).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Probably the world's least useful bug report"

            I got that once -- somebody had drawn a smiley face in the dust on the CRT

        3. EVP

          Re: Saw that coming

          > (**) Probably the world's least useful bug report.

          Probably the most common one, too.

          My favorite is ”nothing works”

          1. Morrie Wyatt

            Re: Saw that coming

            Salmay, Dalmay, Adonay

      3. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: can't be that stupid

        Some years ago my office was on the opposite side of a corridor from accounts. One afternoon an accounting person popped in and asked if would take a quick look at her PC, since it "wasn't working". No problem. Switching the monitor on effected an instant fix.

        We found that quite amusing, until a couple of weeks later the exact same person came back with the exact same problem with the exact same cause.

        -A.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saw that coming

      *sigh* Maybe my pessimism over user cluefulness is at an all-time high, but when I read the title, I immediately thought, "The user can't be so silly as to be referring to 0=power off, could they?"

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Saw that coming

      "I guessed what the O mode was well before the end!"

      Same here! One of those occasions, and being within the context of "On Call", I guessed that almost as soon as I saw the bit with O mode not working and I mode working. That's quite a rarity for me :-)

      As others have stated, maybe the person calling should have been put in O mode! On the other hand, being the 90's, it may have been the users first use of a computer and it may have been an appliance device with just the one function. And thinking back, maybe not all that many devices had I/O labels on the switches. Domestic devices would more likely have on/off, or one of quite a few different ways of indicating the function.

    6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Saw that coming

      Same here - having dealt with many 'I' mode problems over the decades, and even the occasional 'O' mode that wasn't - sticking contactor comes to mind leaving one phase connected... 'interesting' results.

  3. b0llchit Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Too many damn buttons and switches.

    My mother always asked... do you have anything with one switch, on/off? I guess one was already too many for this particular customer. One has to wonder how the customer managed to use the phone.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge
      Trollface

      The usual way in the 90s? Pick up the receiver, wait for the dial tone then dial (punch) the number?

      Now get off my lawn!

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Joke

        And when he used double "Ohh"-mode punches followed by an "Eye"-mode punch and then some random ramblings, he'd get the US embassy telling him to stop calling them?

      2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
        Trollface

        Okay, boomer!

        /runs

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My father got his mother (in her 80s or 90s at the time) a flip cellphone. She asked "How do I answer the phone?" He said "You pick up the receiver" and opened the flip. She asked "How do I hang up?" He closed the flip. She asked "How do I call?" He opened the flip and started dialing.

        She used it for several years.

      4. Tim99 Silver badge

        Some of us remember a "more civilized" time. My first work phone at MoD was just a handset, base and wire. I picked it up and spoke to a nice lady (who knew my name) and connected me to whomsoever I wanted to speak.

    2. Felonmarmer

      My guess is they used the wall socket to turn on/off, like a toaster.

      This was also the time of the Turbo button, so it's vaguely understandable, but they must have been only using the PC for running one piece of software, autorun from boot for them to think it was a fault in this software, rather than on anything run on the PC, like the OS for example.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
        Facepalm

        so it's vaguely understandable

        no. no its really not . I worked desktop support for far longer than average ,longer than anyone should , in a variety of environments , and I've been reading anecdotes like this since the internet was accessed with Netscape.

        I've seen it all.

        This is by far the stupidest support call I ever heard of. I'm having trouble believing it , as another poster noted.

        Its either a prank, or made up entirely or ... well the alternative doesn't bear thinking about

        1. Stevie

          Trouble Believing It

          https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2018/12/07/on-call/#c_3673529

          1. Kildare
            IT Angle

            Re: Trouble Believing It

            Doo some people have a databsae of past On Call tales?

            1. TimMaher Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Database

              El Reg might?

            2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge
        2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Unhappy

          I find this totally belevable

          As an impressionable teenager, my first proper job was home-visits TV servicing. I was permanently scarred by the 'unbelievable' things I saw. Bare wires stuffed in the old 15A unswitched round pin sockets for starters!

          "Well you see, it saves messing about when you've got lots of things you want on at the same time"

          1. Stork Silver badge

            Re: I find this totally belevable

            Or the earth connection on a radio connected to a potted plant.

      2. David Nash Silver badge

        But what did the user think 'O' the mode was?

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
          Trollface

          Octane boost ?

        2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Overdrive! Like Turbo only better.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      The penny dropped says the author? It's one and a zero.. not I and O. Boleen. I'm surprised it took more than a few minutes to figure this out when a desk visit would have spotted the problem immediately.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Maybe the people being called weren't in the same place and couldn't do a desk visit. As someone who has done that, getting the user to answer questions just by sending emails or even talking on the phone involves a lot of explanations and walking them through steps. That's when you know what they need to do. When you're still trying to work out what the modes they're talking about really are, that requires more debugging work.

        An alternative suggestion is that some users really don't like being told to do something to prove a problem exists. I've had people refuse angrily when I say that I can't reproduce their stated behavior on my system, so could they run it again on theirs with the debug logging on and send me the log.

        1. veti Silver badge

          I would think the question "how do you set the computer into 'O' mode?" would have come up fairly early in the diagnostic, and should have pretty much solved the whole mystery.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            That does seem to be the question that resolved it eventually, but not the way I would have asked it. I would have started with "What is 'O' mode?" and, depending on the answer they came up with, I could have been thrown off course. Alternatively, another initial question I am likely to use when getting a report like this is to ask "What does it do when it doesn't work properly?", which could equally have given me a red herring.

        2. Scene it all

          I was talking to the people who did human-factors testing of documentation. They would get 'subjects' completely unfamiliar with the product and film them interacting with the computer. The idea was to make sure the documentation was not making unwarranted assumptions.

          The user had problems getting the computer to do anything. The instruction step said "Put the mouse pointer on the icon and click." Nothing ever happened. Upon watching the video recording they saw that the subject interpreted the word 'on' to mean 'on top of', as in 'just above'. They would never have caught that without seeing it happen.

          The wording was improved.

          1. G.Y.

            PC

            IBM PC manuals originally said "take the diskette out of the envelope". Some of their test subjects (a.k.a "virgins") took the round thing out of the square thing. The manual got rewritten.

            1. arachnoid2

              Re: PC

              Stories of disks being pinned or stapled to letters or walls comes to mind.

              1. The Axe

                Re: PC

                I've actually seen that. A letter stapled to a 5 1/2" disk. Thankfully at the corner of the disk so no damage. Was in the late 80s.

              2. PM from Hell

                Re: PC

                As well as having the diskette pinned to the Acknowledgement slip (Only the very old will know what that meant) I have received a photocopy of a diskette.

                1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                  Re: PC

                  > I have received a photocopy of a diskette

                  On which you could have spot the problem: The version of the software they use has a known bug, and you'd send in the new version.

            2. Alter Hase

              Re: PC

              Even better is use a magnet to post a diskette on a file cabinet....

            3. captain veg Silver badge

              Re: take the diskette out of the envelope

              Back in that era a colleague successfully walked a customer, over the phone, through inserting a floppy disk into the (5.25") drive. "Now close the door". "Hold on." (STOMP STOMP Stomp Stomp stomp stomp. SLAM. stomp stomp Stomp Stomp STOMP STOMP.) "Hello? Done that. What next?".

              Few years later I advised a colleague to "close Windows" and she stood up, turned round, and shut the open window. That was a deliberate joke, though.

              -A.

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    ID ten T Errors

    One peeve with the Raspberry-π is that is does not have a power switch on the device or the official power supply. Now I know why.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

      Re: ID ten T Errors

      Of course it does: it's a double-pole USB, push-to-enter-I-mode device :)

      1. Vincent Ballard

        Re: ID ten T Errors

        The confusion comes because you can enter O mode from software (shutdown -h now), but to then enter I mode again you have to remove and insert said USB cable.

    3. Contrex

      Re: ID ten T Errors

      Both my Pi 4s have these - USB-C Cable with On/Off Switch £ 3 - from the Pi Hut. Also available in micro-USB for earlier models. Red LED showing power on.

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    There is one secure mode for any PC, in which it cannot be hacked or compromised.

    Yup, the O state.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Or any of the 'lights out' systems in servers (iLo, DRAC etc.). Or Wake On LAN I suppose.

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          This switch is on the power supply -- its the alternative to removing the power cord. Leaving the power supply connected to the mains means that standby power will be active which opens the door to things like Wake on LAN (or receipt of a particular broadcast packet).

          I used to frustrate our IT people by switching off everything before leaving. No 'standby' modes -- anyway, I don't like leaving equipment powered unless its designed to be on 24/7. Things do fail.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            " I don't like leaving equipment powered unless its designed to be on 24/7. Things do fail.

            Our company instigated a "switch off on leaving" policy for video terminals. The idea was to save money on all that wasted electricity. Within a month they had rescinded the policy as there was a large number of terminals that died when power was re-applied next day. Electrical equipment tends to be content to be left running - but power on surges stress it. Often literally seen with incandescent light bulbs that go out in a brilliant flash when you switch them on.

            For a while now my tried-and-tested remote control mains switches have become unreliable - by not always switching off until physically taken out of the socket. The control logic indicator showed it was apparently switching off correctly. The thought was that it must be a residual control current holding in their 10A relay - or a weakening relay spring. However it only happened when controlling certain devices - even though their measured 1A consumption was not unusual.

            This week I finally solved it. The afflicted devices all used switched mode psus. The capacitive start up surge was enough to temporarily weld the relay's contact - which would then be dislodged by the physical shock of unplugging. Apparently even a 30w switched mode psu can surge over 30A for 100ms. The solution was to use the remote control switch to power a hefty mains relay with 30A carrying and 50A surge capacity. A very satisfying loud clunk as it operates.

            1. Stevie

              Lightbulb Fring

              Amazing how many people don't believe that tungsten filament lightbulbs pop on being turned on.

              I had a floodlight bulb in a bathroom that lasted for 30+ years because the switch had a dimmer built in and no rocker on/off like modern dimmer switches do.

              Just like in a theatre, fading up - even really quickly - saves the bulbs.

              Had a car that ate headlights and tried to get my EE Dad to help me design an in-line fader (he was fading fast himself and I hoped to revive his spirits with a nice little project) but he had no interest even when I expleined that I wasn't worried about overvolting in my own car (which he obsessed on) as much as economy in all the cars I'd ever own.

              "Fortunately" a mechanic overfilled the engine oil on that car and killed it.

              1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                Re: Lightbulb Fring

                Yep, soft start circuits are very good for prolonging life, the old fashioned dimmers did indeed operate like that. Modern LED bulbs often die in the same way, the surge when switched on (due to caps charging through the FULL BRIDGE RECTIFIER!*) often kills them, along with underrated components that can barely survive normal use.

                *apologies to Mehdi (ElectroBoom)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Lightbulb Fring

                  My household "filament" LED bulbs are tending to fail partially. One of the four "filaments" becomes intermittent. In general I have found the life of these LED bulbs not much different than incandescent ones.

                  An annoying feature of LED bulbs is the poor descriptions. Wilko sold me some "60w" ones which appeared to be identical apart from the cap - BC22 and ES. The boxes describe one type as A++ efficiency - and the other "E". I understand that the ++ ratings have apparently been deprecated - but the "E" rating seems very unlikely? Possibly the new scale is optimistic about future developments in energy efficiency.

                  A year ago - Wilko online sold me LED "100w" bulbs with a description of "standard GLS 6.0cm wide" . In fact they were not the standard GLS A60 but A70 - which at 7.0cm wide are too big for many enclosed shades/globes eg bathrooms. They apologised and accepted a return.

                  This week the listing was still for A60 standard GLS - and they are still sending out A70 ones. "Oh - just return them to a store" is their reaction.

                  1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                    Re: Lightbulb Fring

                    Indeed the modern energy efficiency ratings are extremely harsh

            2. david 12 Silver badge

              Somewhere around 50 years ago I read with interest a Bulletin Board thread discussing if computers should be turned of (saves thermal hours) or left on (saves start up stress). These threads used to run for weeks because users would only login perhaps once per week.

              The thread was effectively terminated by two guys, who wrote, respectively,

              1) I used to leave my computer on, then one day while I was working, the side of the monitor turned brown, smoked, and flamed. Now I always turn the computer off when I leave the room.

              2) I used to leave my computer on, then one day while I was working, a gout of flame erupted from the power supply at the back and ignited my curtains. Now I always turn the computer off when I leave the room.

              And ten years after that, I worked for a fire-alarm company, who reported that the most common cause of office fires was computers.

              They use non-flammable plastic now, and computers sleep when not in use, but back in the day....

              1. TSM

                Around 20 years ago the organisation I worked for had a strict policy of having all computers turned off at the end of the day. This policy was accompanied by a photo of the mangled remains of a computer in one of the workshops whose monitor, IIRC, had decided to set itself on fire one night.

    2. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Unless you have a screwdriver.

  6. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

    Reminds me of my favourite API call in any OS ever: BeOS'

    isComputerOn

    Returns `1` if the computer is turned on.

    If the computer is _not_ turned on, return value is undefined. But it won't be a one.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      I wonder what response that would give if installed on a quantum computer?

      Random thought experiment for a Friday before beer o'clock...

      1. vtcodger Silver badge

        "I wonder what response that would give if installed on a quantum computer?"

        Possibly whatever sort of response you had in mind when you observed the result?.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Some of my users will definitely manage to get a value greater than 0 but less than 1 ...

    3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      return value

      It will still be a one, but it will be a _long_ time before it arrives. In fact it hasn't even boarded the bus yet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: return value

        "In fact it hasn't even boarded the bus yet."

        They are probably waiting for the delivery of the lemon-scented tissues.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: return value

          Ah, now i know what unabridged audiobook series i am listening to next, many thanks, and may you always know where your towel (and beer) are

        2. Emir Al Weeq

          Re: return value

          Cannot fault a HHGTTG reference (upvote), but in the context of this article I was expecting "mode execute ready" replacing "access standby" to have shown up by now.

          1. Andy A Bronze badge
            Happy

            Re: return value

            This comment was produced with the aid of a Digital Writing System.

            (Only radio listeners will get that one).

        3. TRT Silver badge

          Re: return value

          The mode 0 switch is a small back button labelled in black on a black background that lights up black to let you know you e pressed it.

          1. TimMaher Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: pressed it

            Do not press this button again.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's up there with one of my favorite websites:

      http://www.hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/

    5. captain veg Silver badge

      Regarding some of the posts above, BeOS also had the API isComputerOnFire. Returned the motherboard temperature if the computer was on fire, or some other value if not.

      -A.

  7. Howard Sway Silver badge

    it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

    That's not an 'I' and 'O', that's a 1 and a 0. Presumably thought up by some techie who can only think in binary, and assumes everybody else will understand it too. There can't be any other reason, unless they thought that users wouldn't be confused as to whether 'O' stands for On or Off.

    1. tfewster
      Facepalm

      Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

      Another reason would be to avoid having to label them "On" and "Off" in every language in the world. Or at least have different marking for different markets.

      I must spend too much time with Lusers - as soon as "O" mode was mentioned, I knew where that was going.

    2. Def Silver badge

      Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

      That's not an 'I' and 'O', that's a 1 and a 0.

      IEC 60417 defines them as being a line and a circle, respectively.

      1. nintendoeats Silver badge

        Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

        And THIS has always confused me, because to me it is logical that the O is on (since it symbolizes a complete circuit) and I is off (since it does not).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

          You must be a tester. I remember it being said that a tester was somebody who could look at the system button on the original Windows title bar and see a minus sign.

          1. Simon Harris

            Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

            Or a digital electronics designer as so many devices have an enable signal that is active low.

            1. nintendoeats Silver badge

              Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

              In fact I am a software developer, I just don't think of my kettle (which uses I and O to indicate On and Off respectively) as a computer. Call me crazy, but when I flip the switch I'm thinking "Close the circuit" not "Set the POWER_ON bit to true".

              1. Def Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

                Call me crazy, but when I flip the switch I'm thinking "Close the circuit"...

                Call *me* crazy, but I'm usually thinking "I fancy a cuppa."

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

                  I am never thinking. It is a purely autonomic reaction.

                2. Andy A Bronze badge

                  Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

                  But if you were not careful you ended up with "a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

      2. Anonymous IV

        Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

        [sings]

        I O, I O,

        It's on and off we go...

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

          I hate you. Have an upvote.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

          If you make I for 'In' and O for 'Out' you get a different context...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

            In the 1960s there was a prepared papertape you could feed into a Friden FlexoWriter. It moved the head to the centre of the carriage - then proceeded repeatedly to peck a character at the same position. It started slowly - then gradually built up the tempo - like Ravel's Bolero.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: it was a button with 'I' and 'O' on it

      Please make sure the Oh En / Oh Eff Eff switch is in the Oh En position

  8. pavel.petrman Silver badge

    Oh...

    Reminds me of the 710 cap in my car. I asked about it in the garage the other day and the man kindly explained that it's for the special liquid called 710, which I was told to order from Australia.

    1. Mark #255
      Facepalm

      Re: Oh...

      I was recently looking in bewilderment at a bag labelled "SdIZ", until I opened it up and found a bunch of zips inside...

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Oh...

        Here in the US, I regularly buy my wife Spunow candy bars. Then she spoils the joke by rotating them 180°...

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Oh...

      Many years ago my colleagues and I decided that a 3.5" diskette was not floppy enough to be called a floppy, and started to call them "biscuits", reserving the term "floppy" for proper 5.25" jobbies.

      Of course, "biscuits" came in two versions, too: 720k "biscuits" were blue and the 1.44MB ones (at least in our store cupboard) were black.

      I explained this to one of the secretaries, once, and pointed out that the High Density diskettes were the better sort, and were called "chocolate biscuits" because they tended to be black like very dark chocolate.

      "Oh, yes," she said, "they even say CH on them. That must stand for chocolate".

      [Young persons who have never seen a High Density 3.5" diskette may not know that they were typically marked with a stylized "HD", stamped into the plastic next to the shutter.]

      1. pavel.petrman Silver badge

        Re: Oh...

        Funny, not only do I remember wandering what the CH could possbly mean, I also seem to have the exact same problem with the SD card logo.

  9. The H-J Man

    Unfortualetly not that an uncommon situation on a Broadband helpdesk.

    Once asked a customer what version of Windows they had, there reply was ColdSeal (For those who dont remember, they had annoying adverts on the radio)

    Was once asked will it be us (The ISP) who will be calling the Police as there computer had performed an illegal operation.

    The funniest one was the customer who called us to complain that we had changed there webased email to a soft porn site (They used hotmail - I'll leave that one for you to work out)

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge
      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Completely Off Topic

        That brings back memories.

        I once had my picture taken with Wes by my girlfriend at the time (a long time ago).

        She was my girlfriend largely because when I first asked her out she thought I *was* Wes Borg - we did look somewhat alike.

  10. PerlLaghu
    Holmes

    Academics can be stupid too

    Back in the last century, I was working as user support for a University [lets call it The University of Poppleton], and I got a call about broken email.

    After spending some time determining they didn't know what program they used to read their email (it was a blue bird), and that the icon was missing from their desktop - so the problem was about computer configuration, not actual email... we then tried to find out if the program was actually installed on the computer.

    .... of course, when they said they couldn't see the start menu, or any other icons either, I started to get a bit.... "concerned"

    I then found out that the "big Box" has no lights on it, the keyboard did nothing if you tapped the NumLock key, and it was all a bit silent.... now I was moving from a failing email system to a broken computer problem.

    A chance question lead to the comment "Oh, we have a power-cut just now"

    Bloody academics: they spend so much time thinking about esoteric quantum whotsits, they forget about "normal" stuff - like computers need electricity to effing RUN!

    GGNnnnn!!

    (Why did they take my ClueBat from me!??!!)

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Academics can be stupid too

      I had virtually the same thing , also at a college

      the best way this professor could describe "System boot fail: Error booting from disk in drive A"

      was "I cant get my email"

      This news did reach me via some sort of helpdesk , so i'm blaming them even more than the victim user.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Academics can be stupid too

        This-was-so-bloody-common. I got to the point that even hearing "The email isn't working" caused involuntary exclamations.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Academics can be stupid too

      "Back in the last century, I was working as user support for a University [lets call it The University of Poppleton]"

      I used to visit a university near Poppleton, let's call it the University of Bork. They had a campus-wide power cut. Much hilarity ensued as they discovered just how much of the network and various devices attached to said network, had only ever been soft-configured as the network and associated services had been changed, and/or retired over the years. Switches with unsaved config changes, devices with IP addresses handed out by now non-existent servers and, of course, the old favourite we all love, devices that had not been powered off in years having to be sent to the great junk yard in the sky because they couldn't cope with the first power cycle in possibly a decade!

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: Academics can be stupid too

        > I used to visit a university near Poppleton, let's call it the University of Bork.

        If we're talking about the name-redacted-for-legal-purposes University I think we are, then honestly I'm surprised you were able to get to the computer facilities, given the prodigious amounts of canada goose sh!t that covered every outside walkway when I was there. I hear that the JB Morrell library got closed down and relocated before it could slide down the hill onto the road and crush the CompSci dept building, so there's that I suppose...

        I remember watching A Very Peculiar Practice when I was there and thinking gosh, that campus isn't this one, but could pass for it any day....

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Academics can be stupid too

          "given the prodigious amounts of canada goose sh!t that covered every outside walkway"

          We are, and yes, climbing boots and crampons are probably ideal footwear for that place :-)

  11. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Coat

    Oh power related calls

    Just because someone can call meant their computer would work magically without power.

    Had this earlier this week "My laptop just turned off", plug was slightly out of the wall but of course they checked that and it can't have been that :strangleannoyingusers:

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Oh power related calls

      more than once i've had:

      "Come quick! very important! , the Top Brass are all in the conference room and suddenly its just 'crashed' "

      The Top Brass are not great at checking wether the plughole they are plugging their shiny expensive battery powered toys into is switched on.

    2. TooOldForThisSh*t

      Re: Oh power related calls

      Two Good Power Stories:

      First week on the Help Desk for our division of a large US manufacturer I had a call from an office with a printer that was not working. Tried all the usual troubleshooting steps like paper in printer, tried reprinting job and checking settings in software. Nothing worked. After about 15minutes of trying finally remote user mentions the light on the printer is burned out. Turn ON printer and dozens of the same printout appear. Doh!

      Second was a call from the Corporate Help Desk on a Saturday night that none of the computers at a South American manufacturing site were working. A quick ping or two showed everything off-line so I called the phone number listed in our database for the local IT contact. Woman answers the phone in a foreign language that I did not understand at all. Tried as best I could to ask for the IT guy and explain who I am and she starts what I assume was a long string of curse words in her native tongue. Man picks up the phone in broken English and explains that he had been fired months ago and he didn't give a SH*T about out computer troubles. I apologize and call the second name & number in our database that was a person in another country. In the morning I get a call that everything is fine now as power had been turned off for maintenance at that site.

  12. lglethal Silver badge
    Coat

    Sooo...

    can we safely say that Ivor's problem was a Biggin'?

    Ok, OK I'm leaving... Stop pushing at the back...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the other hand...

    Trust Cisco to use power units in their routers that have a friendly green power light that is lit as long as it is connected to the mains... irrespective of the position of that pesky O/I switch on the back of the router.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: On the other hand...

      Ah! The supply good lamp. Synology use those on the back.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: On the other, other hand...

      I have a radio tuner with an "OFF" indicator light. The bezel surrounding the power button illuminates when plugged in but switched off. Turn the unit on and the light extinguishes.

      It does make sense in that it outlines the one button you must push to make the thing go. It is easier to find in the dark (with black buttons and a black faceplate). And once turned on, lots of other panel indicators illuminate to reassure one of the state of the equipment.

  14. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Knowing

    someone who's worked the helldesk for a large multi-national IT company

    Every story from there about the users is true.. every. last. one.

    The more surprising thing though is the number of calls from higher manglement(you know.. the guys in charge of millions of pounds and 1000's of jobs) and are just as dumb as the rest of the staff

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: "just as dumb as the rest of the staff"

      You're lucky - they are usually dumber!

      1. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

        Re: "just as dumb as the rest of the staff"

        They are dumber because they think they are better than everybody else, whereas the merely dumb at least know they are dumb, which is useful knowledge in itself.

  15. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Mushroom

    How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

    Why do we torture ourselves by re-branding something as simple as an on/off switch? Was this really necessary?

    Every time I look at that damn switch I think is "O" for On, or is it for Off?

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

      Ah, so you want a few pages of print to cover "on" in all languages used in countries the equipment is sold to, and ditto for "off" ?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

        Oh no. It would suffice to have it in just one language. The manufacturer would presumably choose their own, for the benefit of all their testers.

        Now, where's all that crap made again?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

          You'd have to have 8 and 4 for on and off respectively.

          Written in Han.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

        Just out off idle curiosity - how or why it was it decided that on and off were chosen in the first place?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

          I haven't been able to find a reason for that in the English speaking world but the roots go back to Germanic and are antonyms - on is to, towards, into, part of and off is away from, out of, not part of, from.

          One of the earliest uses I can find is related to archery and combat - on target and off target. In an electrical sense I suppose it follows the gas sense or the water sense though there may be some rational thought behind this as for water and gas taps you would refer to them as open or closed, which for electricity is the reverse of the intent - closed contacts conduct and activate but closed taps block flow and deactivate. The flow of electricity is often likened to the flow of water and so it seems that in early demonstrations it may have been confusing to say "I close the contact bar and the electricity flows like water".

          But I wasn't there, so.., guesswork.

        2. Eric Kimminau TREG

          Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

          It is not "I" and "O".

          It is Binary.

          ZERO aka 0 = Off

          One aka 1 = On.

          1. Marty McFly Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

            Yeah, and that makes sense. Except instead of "1" the character used is "I".

            Some people see 'zero' or 'one'. Some people 'Oh' or 'El'. Other people see circle or dash.

            To be completely transparent, I never knew that was supposed to represent a '1' for binary meaning 'On'. Pretty darn good chance I would have figured that out pretty quick. I always saw a dash and a circle, and then thought the circle was the 'Oh' in On or Off, and got frustrated.

            A different font choice for the '1' would have made this much more obvious.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

              You mean the difference between 1, lowercase l, uppercase I, and the pipe symbol |? Depending on the font all four look the same. That happens when form wins over functionality.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

            Almost certainly so. And equally certainly stupid. Most people don't speak binary.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

              But do you speak Bocce?

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

      You have three options:

      1. Print the words in every language your users will need.

      2. Make different cases for each market, each with only a few languages printed on it.

      3. Use a universal symbol.

      Is 3 really so hard? You also have the option of ignoring the symbol and simply understanding that, if the device is not in the on/off state you want, flipping the switch should put it in the other one. If it doesn't, your issue is something other than the switch setting.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

        "You also have the option of ignoring the symbol and simply understanding that, if the device is not in the on/off state you want, flipping the switch should put it in the other one."

        And to be fair, the option of simply not having any indication of which way is on or off isn't that unusual on many devices. Some manufactures seem to rely on people using their kit having a modicum of intelligence and noting that if it's not whirring or no lights are showing, it's either off or not plugged in. Or both. The user is expected to be able to figure that out for themselves. If they can't, they probably should not be touching it, never mind actually using it :-)

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

          "And to be fair, the option of simply not having any indication of which way is on or off isn't that unusual on many devices"

          I can think of several extremely common examples of this. Light switches come to mind. They're not usually marked and, depending what room you're in and how many switches are on the circuit, up / down may not be consistently correlated to on / off. Yet people are somehow able to work out that when it is dark you may need to flip the switch.

          1. rototype

            Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

            Interestingly I have experience that in some countries the light switch is up for on and in other countries it's down for on - I've yet to see a light switch that works left to right but I have a feeling there's probably some out there...

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

              I've seen dimmer switches that rotate left / right to dim / brighten. Some dimmers click off past a certain point, some you push to toggle on / off.

              They weren't labelled either :)

            2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

              Nightstand lamps.

            3. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

              I don't think this is a country thing. If it is, my country's system is to do it at random. Admittedly more often with up being on, but I can find examples of both in a lot of houses, and of course any circuit that has two or more switches will do both. I've seen a few left/right switches, but they're less common and usually control something other than lights. For example, I've worked in a lab where the safety circuits had left/right switches, probably so they'd look different from the lights and hopefully have fewer accidental flips.

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

            Yes. Two way switches can be up/down in and on/off according to who used them last and where. When you need to go upstairs, you press the downstairs switch, light on the floor above goes on. When it's sleepy time you press the upstairs switch. Light goes off. If you don't wake up too early (while it's still dark), the next time you make this journey the opposite opposite side of the switch will be ready to press. People manage with this, all the time. If the caller in this story did phone for help without simply pressing the switch and seeing if stuff works as required, then said user would have to be considerably more stupid than the norm- and not just in matters of tech.

            1. My-Handle Silver badge

              Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

              Thing is, just by being on the helpdesk you are being exposed to a self-selecting section of the user base. The dumber the user, the more issues they are likely to experience. If you're working for a really big company, with tens of thousands of employees, you can expect to be dealing with a handful of people in the bottom 0.1% or 0.01% of computer ability.

              That's a very low bar, and my expectations of the average ability of the human race aren't all that high to begin with.

      2. Man inna barrel Bronze badge

        Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

        I find it mildly amusing that a common "universal symbol" for saving your work is an image of a floppy disk. I have not seen one of those for many years.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

          The floppy disk image for save is quite rare these days, probably for the reason you stated.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

          I was cleaning out an old box today and found one. 5.25”. Good thing my drive is still hooked up…

      3. Ghostman
        Alien

        Re: How friggin' tough could it be to just print the words?

        An actual universal signal would not be hard to come up with. My idea is to make the switch with two different images of a light-bulb. On would be represented by a light-bulb with lines representing rays coming out of it representing that the bulb is "lit". The other representing off would have the bulb with an X through it showing "off".

        If you've ever seen a comic strip, you would associate the images with off and on.

        It's not really alien technology, you know.

  16. adam 40 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I-mode, then O-mode

    Reminds me I worked on I-mode back in the day, on the Tosh ts21i.

    I remember a visit to Germany to do some IOT testing in Dusseldorf, probably E-plus labs.

    As I had a local SIM for demos I went wandering around with a sample handset, and came across (!) a german sex shop, so naturally I had to investigate.

    After perusing the wares on offer I sauntered up to the counter and showed the guy the new ts21i, merrily downloading a few dodgy images, to demonstrate the new way of accessing pr0n in your pocket.... so I suppose I had reinvented O-mode, in a way....

  17. JassMan Silver badge

    Somebody should have told Microsoft not to do that

    Ivor was baffled. "This was the '90s," he said, "and no one could think of such a config option in our software." I think it was a bit disingenuous to show the on/off switch on the back of the computer rather than the one on the front which most people use. I don't know when Windows changed the way the button functioned, but I remember being quite confused for a while when I started noticing that some files on my office computer were no longer the same ones next morning. I attempted to be environmentally friendly by switching off at the wall. I was reprimanded by my manager for interfering with ability of the IT department to maintain the software on our PCs. I can only assume they were using the wake-on-LAN option to do out-of-hours updates. When I investigated I found that "start" button, although it is labelled with the internationally recognised On/Off was actually Hibernate/Wake by default and could be set to a variety of functions. At some stage, they managed to get hardware vendors to make the physical button on the PC follow the start button.

  18. Algernon Postlethwaite
    Black Helicopters

    O.F.F. Mode

    In another life as an RAF technician (Pontius was still a pilot) had a job card presented with the fault logged as "Radar Failed To Operate in O. F. F. Mode." The job was cleared and signed-off with the entry "Operational Full Failure (O. F. F.) mode deselected. Radar confirmed to operate when Operational Normality (O. N.) mode selected".

    When I worked on Black Helicopters (they were actually green but the engines were sooty) a fault was logged as "Stopwatch Stopped". It was signed-off with "Stopwatch confirmed stopped. Stopwatch failed to start. Stopwatch wound. Stopwatch started. Stopwatch watched and stayed started. Stopwatch stopped."

    Oh to be young again and amused by such simple things...

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: O.F.F. Mode

      Some of us still get our jollies this way,

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: O.F.F. Mode

      > Pontius was still a pilot

      Now he's a jackass.

  19. mcswell

    Navy

    If you were in the Navy (at least the US navy), you'll know this one. From an instruction manual (possibly apocryphal) for some piece of equipment: "Operate the O-N-O-F-F control to the O-N detent."

  20. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    It could've been worse.

    I read this story about this software that kept on crashing (or does not work efficiently). The employee kept up the complaint but no one listened. So he got frustrated and called the software company helpline and, after a few hours on the phone, promised to "send a tech".

    Lo and behold, the next day a "tech" showed up with three other people. The tech then proceeded to troubleshoot the issue and after a few minutes this tech nodded to his companions who then reached into their pockets and pulled out their law enforcement IDs.

    The software was a pirated copy and after a sweep, the company was fined several million dollars because it was installed in several work stations.

    If memory serves me correct, it was a TV station in Eastern Europe.

  21. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Joke

    Presumably the call was closed as SONUU?

    Presumably the call was closed under the code SONUU - Software Operating Normally Unlike User?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Presumably the call was closed as SONUU?

      PEBCAK

  22. zeltus

    Why O & I?

    Does anyone know why O (off) and I (On) were chosen as pretty much universal symbols for power switches?

    OK, so O (On) & O (Off) would be pretty confusing but why "I" for On? Indeed, does "O" really mean "Off" - is this an English-speaking vanity?

    Why not a completely pictorial/symbolic pair of, umm, symbols? If so, what should they (have) be(en)?

    Enqui=ring minds demand answers...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why O & I?

      It's not O and I, it's 1 and 0. Binary.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Why O & I?

      'I'n and 'O'ut maybe. And as I mentioned in another post, it changes the context a bit...

  23. Colonel Mad

    Why did I not see that coming?

  24. Lost in Cyberspace

    On more than one occasion...

    My customers have 'been unable to get online'. And it's turned out to be a power supply problem or similar.

  25. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I don't believe a word of this one. Yes, yes, stupid (l)users, ha ha, but it is literally incredible that anyone could fail to notice that their computer was switched off.

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      I myself have made that mistake. My work machine is a quiet one, and the screens turn off after ten minutes of inactivity (not an unusual feature, I'm lead to believe). I've gone up to it, wiggled the mouse, started typing, and wondered why the thing isn't working.

      The difference is that I can problem-solve. I'm slowly gaining more and more experience that this is actually a rare skill.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I recently saw the opposite.

        A Cisco 'server' that had PSU fans that were spinning and fairly noisy even with the switch in the 'O' (standby) position... with the switch in the 'I' position the noise level went up slightly as the motherboard fans joined in the racket making

  26. Richard Pennington 1
    Headmaster

    WAY back in the day ...

    ... I did A-level physics a long time ago (I'm retired now). For the practical exam, one of the tests was to identify an electronic component in "black box" mode (i.e. it had been boxed and wrapped so that the component itself could not be seen, but there were visible connectors). A group of us went round the room from component to component, performed various simple tests, and wrote down our results.

    About the seventh box in, I came across a box with two terminals, which appeared to be completely open-circuit. Several other students got the same result, and one of them mentioned it to the teacher who was invigilating. We were all called back in to repeat the tests on a replacement box.

    It was a light-bulb, and it had blown during testing by one of the earlier students.

    [For those millennials and Gen-Zers who don't know, old-style incandescent bulbs had a resistance which rose as the voltage, and hence the filament temperature, went up. In this case, a student had probably given it a significant excess voltage, causing the resistance to go to infinity and stay there.]

  27. Sam Therapy

    Everyone's heard of this one but that's because it often happened...

    Way, way back, I worked at British Coal (remember them?) at their Pensions and Insurance centre in Sheffield. There was a standalone machine running an overnight process, and after working faultlessly for ages, suddenly started failing. Nobody knew why until they realised the fault began when they moved the machine to a new location. The power socket was one used by the cleaners, so they used to unplug the computer, plug in their cleaning gear, do their work, plug the computer back in and so on.

    The thing got moved back to its old place with an inaccessible socket and ran faultlessly ever after.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Ah. For once you can't blame the cleaners. Just the opposite. Someone decided to take over their socket. Someone who so lacked understanding of the building and the work that goes on there* that they both allowed this to happen and then failed to realise immediately. Someone who would appear to be totally oblivious of anything other than their own job.Which is not a recommendation for anything above the level of apprentice/PFY

      *If someone has put a socket there it's quite likely that some other someone has a use for a socket there.

  28. Eric Kimminau TREG
    Holmes

    My only equivalent to this

    I worked the helpdesk at a computer company in Dallas called "Softwarehouse", which became the business you most know as CompUSA when it went public. I remember the frustrated user who called installing Lotus 1-2-3 v1.0 in 1982. This behemoth was either 14 or 16 x 5.25" floppy disks for the installation. We must remember that beginning PC users are quite literal. This particular user installed the first floppy disk in floppy drive A:\. When the installer asked for the second disk, he put it into floppy drive B:\ which of course failed, prompting the installer to present on the screen "Please install the next floppy disk". Not having any other place to put his next disk, because he was never told to "Remove disk #1 and insert disk #n", he began pushing the floppy disks into the small opening between his 2 drives. On disk 7, there was no remaining space and he could fit no more floppy drives into said space, at which point he called our technical support line.

    Understand, he talked us through this installation process and was quite proud of himself for successfully getting to disk #7 and was quite concerned that there was no more space for any additional disks in his brand new computer.

    When we finally asked him to reboot and boot failed (because it was trying to boot of disk #1) we began to understand. The customer was quite surprised when we asked him what was in floppy drive A: and asked him to remove the floppy and read its label to us. "Lotus 1-2-3 disk #1" he proclaimed proudly. I then asked him to remove the disk from floppy drive B: and read it to me. "Lotus 1-2-3 disk #2" he exclaimed with pride which then begged the question "and where is disk #3?" to which he replied "How do I remove the other disks from the drive slot?"

    Ahhhhh! "Sir, Im sorry but we are going to need you to bring your computer and the Software box with all the remaining disks into our repair center." When he protested, he was given the choice of either bringing it in to us or he could break out the phillips head screwdriver and clean what we expected to be bent and damaged floppies from the empty space between his two floppy drives.

    He grudgingly brought the requested items in and we assisted in the return of the damaged software installation kit and performed the installation for him, with him watching over our shoulder as we explained that you needed to only use drive A: and remove each disk before proceeding with the following disks.

    THe joy of technical support.

  29. Jake Maverick

    OMG. Sounds like a variation of the 'I can't find the 'any' key'.... poor fool is probably still looking for it in this day and age!

  30. geekbrit

    Instrument kept turning on

    I worked in software for a gas detector company - wear one of these gadgets in a confined space and it would tell you whether you were about to be blown up, suffocated, or poisoned.

    In a new model, the hardware team were on a cost cutting binge, and the first thing to go was the on/off switch. After one of the two remaining buttons was held for a couple of seconds, the software took over and tickled a circuit several times a second to keep the instrument alive.

    All went well until it was noticed that occasionally the device would come back to life on its own a few seconds after switch off.

    The full hardware team worked on this for days, until the extremely sleep deprived HW Manager strode up to me with a fierce grin and a manic look in his eye.

    "You're doing it! The power goes off, then there's a kick on the power maintain line!"

    I looked at him, wondering when the penny was going to drop, then prompted him. "So the power goes off?"

    "Yes!"

    "And the CPU clock stops?"

    "Yes!"

    "Then what could I possibly be doing to toggle that line?"

    He didn't say a word, just spun on his heel and went storming back to the workbench.

  31. me212

    experts(sic)jjust as bad

    I once got a report back from a senior systems guy running an integration test that just said literally 'dont work'.

    No details of what part didnt work, no details of what part of the test was run ( this tests were large so could have been any of number of things that failed).

    When I confronted him the same day his response to how it had failed 'I can't remember'. Tosser.

    What really stuck in the throat that this lazy so and so was probably earning twice as much as me as he was a contractor.

  32. Andy3

    As I worked for years in domestic electronics, I twigged this one right away, but you've got to hand it to the punters - they are ingenious when it comes to making massive assumptions and mistakes, and vehement in their defence of their stupidity.

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