back to article That time a techie accidentally improved an airline's productivity

Welcome back to On Call wherein a Register reader accidentally improved an airline's productivity by the simple virtue of knowing their stuff. "Eric" (for that is not his name) spent much of his career working on systems in the airline industry. "Since airlines were the first commercial organisations to use large-scale …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the time I walked past one of the training rooms to see one of my co-workers swearing at a workstation. I asked him what the problems was - he said the machine was broken and he couldn't get the damned thing to accept a CDROM.

    I was puzzled - the workstation didn't have a CDROM drive in it. I asked him what he meant, and watched as he tried to jam a disk in the gap between the blanking plates on the front....

    1. Empty1

      I was also impressed by the number of CDs that could be fed in before they realised something was wrong.

    2. HandleAlreadyTaken

      Had something similar happen long ago, when our biggest customer complained one of the computers at a remote branch had a defective 5 inch floppy unit (yes, it was *that* long ago). The customer didn't give us any other details, but they were adamant this needs to fixed ASAP, so I flew 400 kms with a shoulder bag full of spares. When I got there and asked the local worker to show me the issue, she stuck a floppy in a narrow gap between the case and the actual reader. I opened the computer's case and found something like ten disks piled on the bottom. At least I got a chance to visit the city on the customer's dime :)

      1. jake Silver badge

        "one of the computers at a remote branch had a defective 5 inch floppy unit (yes, it was *that* long ago)."

        It didn't necessarily have to be that long ago. I replaced a defective 5¼-inch floppy drive on May 25th. Of this year. (Yes, on a Saturday.)

        1. The Axe

          You must be working for the NHS. They are so disorganised, they still use WinXP and 5 1/4" disk drives.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            If you find something that old it's very likely driving some extremely expensive diagnostic machine which isn't going to be replaced any time soon and whose manufacturer has disappeared or never got the system re-qualified on a later version. Possibly it relies on an ISA interface card with not more recent alternative available. It's not organisation that matters, it's money.

            1. eionmac

              A certain transport organisation can only now get spares from one third party manufacturer whose machine tools (cost say quarter of a million, ¼M£) have a 40 year life, but control software is 'fixed ' to Windows 98 time and inputs.

              Manufacturer long since dead, so no one knows the software or code or how it works.

              After his episode I always want printed copy of code, and if possible only free software in control systems of expensive machinery.

            2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

              "and whose manufacturer has disappeared or never got the system re-qualified"

              I suspect that it's this. Particularly for medical equipment. There is a similar problem for numerically controlled machine tools originally runnig floppy based CAM files. That has been largely solved by a number of devices that emulate a floppy disk drive interface on the back end but store (hundreds of) disk images on USB drives or SD cards. But that's not something one can just retrofit to a machine that has the potential to kill a patient should something go wrong.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Getting the most for your money.

            You must be working for the NHS. They are so disorganised, they still use WinXP and 5 1/4" disk drives.

            When that 5 1/4" floppy might be part of a machine that costs £1,000,000 to replace it has little to do with being disorganised but more to do with budgets and getting the most out of what money you do have to spend. While the NHS may have hundreds of thousands of discrete PCs running word and Excel, some computers are embedded into imaging systems and replacing a old PC that has specialised software that won't run on newer hardware and the developer 'went bust' or was 'taken over' or just isn't interested if it's older than five years, then spending £1,000,000 to update just one system isn't good use of tax payers money. However if there is a definite clinical advantage to that update then that's a different story.

            And to be fair to Microsoft, which I rarely am, they did provide 20-30 security updates to XP and later versions of Windows when the NHS suffered from that Malware attack. My point being it wasn't just XP that had the vulnerability but later versions of Windows too so do you keep replacing that £1,000,000 machine every 5 years? Even if it works perfectly well otherwise.

            Still want to spend billions updating expensive hardware to fix vulnerable Microsoft software?

            Yea, the NHS still run XP because they are disorganised. NOT!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Getting the most for your money.

              You’re just defending the NHS’s tactical competence and ignoring their strategic incompetence, which has been comprehensively demonstrated over four decades. And it’s really NOT about money - my introduction to NHS IT budget discipline came about a week after I joined, when I was asked to find a way, any way, any way at all, to spend £40k (lot of money 30 years ago) on PC hardware, as long as the kit was physically delivered to an NHS property by year-end, ie within the next 8 hours. None of the organisations involved appeared, on enquiry, to have any sort of IT acquisition budgets to slot this into, nor any forward planning for the imminent new accounting year, so there was no sensible option to explore. I bought some PCs from the only registered supplier who could deliver. Great planning. My job was not, btw, in any sense connected to IT. Great organisation management.

              1. MadDrFrank

                Re: Getting the most for your money.

                "Must spend this before fiscal year end or next year's budget will be cut" used to be a familiar story at universities.

                May still be, but I was surprised to encounter the phenomenon a few times in industry when I moved for more money and shorter working hours.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Getting the most for your money.

                  an episode of 'The Men From The Ministry' has the duo with a budget surplus of 75p... they just have to find a way of getting rid of it to balance the books

              2. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Getting the most for your money.

                " I was asked to find a way, any way, any way at all, to spend £40k (lot of money 30 years ago) on PC hardware, as long as the kit was physically delivered to an NHS property by year-end,"

                Every public organisation, and not a few private ones, I gather, have this. It's caused by how beancounters allocate budgets. And if you haven't enough experience of other organisations then you shouldn't judge this one. It's even been commented here on El Reg plenty of times.

                I've ben though it myself - from both directions. Having a carefully planned budget clawed back before the end of the financial year, because I hadn't spent it all yet. And subsequently in other years making sure that any unspent budget was used. Because if not they not only claw it back, but reduce the following year's budge too. Cross year planning is impossible. You may know that certain big chunks of major spending needs to come just after the start of the next financial year. But the beancounters don't care. They'll claw back all the money you have reserved for that, then reduce your budget by the same amount. So next financial year you are doubly short of money to pay for that equipment.

                It's not the organisation's fault. It's the rules as set up by beancounters on behalf of politicians and the treasury.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Getting the most for your money.

                  The civil service end of year spend.

                  An outcrop I worked for bought millions of pounds of computer kit 1 year while I was on holiday, the next few years was spent trying to roll out these new desktops and monitors, some of which had to be stored in shipping containers at sites, some sites closed before kit could be rolled out.

                  An absolute complete waste of tax payers money.

                  It happens every year across the civil service and vendors know.

                  Would be better to allow budgets to go 2 or 3 years, far better outcomes and less waste.

                  1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                    Re: Getting the most for your money.

                    This is particularly true of small units, who need to find cash for the occasional large purchase. It may take the whole IT allocation of two financial years to, say, replace a server. But we'd not be allowed to hold the money over. So we all (probably every small department in every local authority and the Civil Service) have to resort to various dodges just to function.* Sale or return buys are the best. Even if there's a small loss due to "restocking" charges. Buy something we don't need at the end of the financial year and return it for a credit note (not a refund!).

                    At other times we'd just buy anything we might need next year, to use up our budget. Because even if our average need would be £x000 p/a this might vary year on year +/- a couple of thousand. Otherwise next year we'd find ourselves short of essential materials because our unused bits of money would be clawed back and our budget reduced. This has been going on for at least the whole of my working career ( and I'm 10 years retired). When I first became a service leader I inherited a cupboard full of envelopes. Because we always need envelopes, they keep for a long time* and predecessors needed to use up budget allocations.

                    *Or equipment long past it's life span is kept running because there's never enough cash to replace it. Beancounters don't seem to allocate a value to data loss, or efficient use of staff time.

                    **Not forever.The gum dries out,and the paper curls up eventually. And then we spent a few years sending out important documents and reports in envelopes with bits of tape on the flap.

                    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                      Re: Getting the most for your money.

                      "Beancounters don't seem to allocate a value to data loss, or efficient use of staff time."

                      _COMPETENT_ beancounters do

                      Such people tend to be headhunted away from government jobs very quickly

                2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: Getting the most for your money.

                  "Because if not they not only claw it back, but reduce the following year's budge too."

                  This can be solved by finding out who the responsible beaqncounter is and introducing their face to their desk. Repeatedly

                  Failing that, ensuring said beancounter's department gets shafted in the IT stakes has an eye openeing effect on their outlook

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I'm a contract PM managing a project across a number of NHS trusts, the IT services for the smaller trusts are outsourced but the largest trust has an IT team who are as good as any I have worked with across private industry, local and central government. I've been particularly impressed by the approach to cyber security. Whilst its a small team they are on the ball but as well as responding to NHSI alerts and published zero day functionalities, the basics are all in place with regular patching taking place and staff education about risk management being frequent and visible. They are moving forwards rapidly with replacing legacy systems which have been around for decades and trying to close the technical debt which does exist. The Internal commitment of the team members from the service desk, engineering teams, Project Management Group and Senior Management Team is absolute. These are the people who during the Covid Pandemic put less critical project work on hold to support clinical staff on the wards. The focus is on how we can best support clinical operations whether that be by large implementation such as electronic patient records or by simplifying and improving the workflows for procurement to reduce the time required by ward colleagues which takes the away from clinical activities. I'm proud to be working with them and hope my efforts are supporting the organisational transformation they are driving through.

            1. Outski Silver badge
              Pint

              Well said, good to see someone standing up for the many dedicated professionals working their arses off to improve systems in the NHS and wider public sector, despite the widespread opprobrium from the Heil and its ilk.

              One on me ---->

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              "...the largest trust has an IT team who are as good as any I have worked with across private industry"

              All at the mercy of the competence and IT know-how of the financial department....

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            And for the non-Daily Mail, Daily Express and Murdoch trash rag readers... a correction:

            "You must be working for the NHS - chronically underfunded for actual costs needed to run the service for the past 12 years of Tory misrule, so your IT budgets can barely fund an elastic band, but don't let that realty stop you peddling right wing narratives to create the myth that all things NHS are inherently useless or grossly inefficient, thereby further opening the gates for privatisation and the nice little/huge earnings that will bring to the chumocracy ."

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              You know, it's possible to criticise the many things wrong with the NHS without criticising the concept, bigging up bloody Boris, or whatever other factional nonsense you like.

              The simple reality is that the NHS both needs more funding overall, and is also extremely inefficient at spending what it has, measured against other national health systems.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "At least I got a chance to visit the city on the customer's dime"

        Chargeable to the customer and not part of an overall support contract charge? I'll bet their accounts were pleased!

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          write up exactly what's discovered and what actions were taken

          The fastest way for lessons to be learned is for it to hit the customer financially. Everything else is "water off a duck's back"

          I'm quite serious about this. The moment we started charging hourly fees for callout issues which turned out to be "not our fault" was the moment a number of repeat offenders suddenly had their "come to jesus" revelations (They got one warning first, most ignored it)

          One case which springs to mind is a customer who insisted on a callout (2 hour drive) for our staff to un-minimise the icon for the program she was using, claiming that we must be causing it to shrink remotely. Her husband eventually admitted he was doing it to play solitaire whilst she was out.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Don't laugh.

      Things like that can happen to people with clues ... even you. Or me.

      I once read the invoice, glanced at the unit, and concluded that the tape drive was indeed installed in the new Sun 2/160 that I was deploying. (That's about 1984, if anyone cares.)

      Turned out that it was just a very decorative cover plate, with a void behind it ... Full story here.

    4. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Experienced the problem of users jamming CDs and DVDs in the slot between the blanking plate and the drive. Ironically on a machine that had a DVD rom, just the user was used to slot loading DVDs, and this one had a tray, so the user didn't recognise it.

      The same user also lost a MIni SD card one of our iMacs. iMacs that had SD card slots just below the DVD slot. When the user reported he'd lost his card in the Mac, he alleged he had important work on to, but I looked at the slot. The slot in the iMac was small enough that any mini SD would stick out the side, but I saw nothing. So, out of desperation, I turned the mac to look at the side, hoping to see some evidence of a card. I saw nothing. I heard it rattle though, inside the DVD drive..

      As the user had alleged he had lost important work, we called in an engineer (these machines were under warranty, and we didn't want to violate that), at the cost of hundreds of pounds. The engineer retrieved the users SD card. I've no idea what was on it, but the user seemed happy, and so were we.

      Until the user did the same thing again a few weeks later. The the boss politely told the user to f*ck off.

      1. Snapper Bronze badge

        Back in the early days of Macs around '87, the desktop Macintosh II had two floppy drive slots (Super Drives) on the front. The drives were behind the front casing of the computer and just showed as a floppy-sized slot (I can't believe I just typed that).

        Any road, there was a single drive supplied with the computer, and the second slot was blanked off unless or until the client required a second floppy drive. Trouble ensued when the blanking 'plate' (a thin strip of plastic) was pushed into the computer, which happened a lot.

        The result was inevitable, as floppy disk after floppy disk was inserted into the computer and 'lost', requiring the top of the case to be lifted off and the disk, or more usually, disks, to be retrieved.

        Most of my clients were graphic designers and, as such, barely knew which end of a hammer to use. Got a lot of chargeable call-outs and nearly always didn't have a tube of glue on me. Happy days!

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        > The the boss politely told the user to f*ck off.

        My response would be along "If you cannot use the equipment properly you can order the engineer at your private expense." - and show how much it cost last time.

        Maybe the boss did :D

  2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Unintended consequence: the user now actively hates "Eric" with a passion, for removing her excuse to not do any work at all that day.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      The stupid lazy make life worse for themselves. The day really drags when you avoid work. Knuckle down to something and you're home in no time!

      1. cantankerous swineherd

        people that aren't afraid of hard work, unlike me, will really put their backs into incredibly inefficient processes.

        people who aren't team players, like me, look on slack jawed.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Truer word were never spoken.

          The amount of effort put into finding the hardest way to accomplish a task is mind wobbling.

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          I didnt say do the work you were set. Just do something. My motto is laziness is the mother of invention so if I cant bring myself to do something I've been told to do cos my bolshie switch is jammed on hard I'd write some code to make my life easier - often the code I'd been told 'we dont have time to write so do that the inefficient way without it'. Or just some code that intrigued me. Just something to keep you active and the day passes far more quickly than swinging the lead. I'm not a team player but if making things easier for the team will make my life easier then so be it.

          1. The Axe

            Tom7, you think the same way as I do.

          2. Outski Silver badge

            Heinlein had a tale of The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail - essentially working out shortcuts and processes to save himself from doing any "meaningful" work, or work that might actually involve physical effort.

          3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            I see a difference between "lazy", and "efficient". Efficiency is to do the same work with less hassle and quicker. Laziness is just to avoid work - and quite often the type who screams "X is not a team player" when seeing someone who might expose it due X being efficient.

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    From the headline

    I thought someone had a response-time or service-level-agreement scam going, and Eric caught hell for ruining it.

    Or that some high-up said "that's as fast as the system goes" and Eric caught hell for accidentally contradicting him by fixing something.

    Not that I've ever had those scenarios happen to me, no sir.

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: From the headline

      Please enjoy a pint on me in comisseration. No good deed ever goes unpunished. =-/

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: From the headline

        Error P1NT - drink not attached.

        Fixed.

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Devil

    Was that same user also involved in the recent BA IT systems meltdown at Heathrow?

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      did it happen when someone tried to open the 27th session on the terminal, and it crashed due to a lack of available letter?

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        That's how the band ZZ Top got their name.

        1. chivo243 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          One would think from an IT angle, but it had to do with ZigZag rolling papers and I think there are Top rolling papers too! Listen to their early stuff.

          1. Outski Silver badge

            I always thought it was due to zizi being french argot for the male member

  5. Solviva

    To be fair, if the message really was "A is in use" then to any lay-person you could reasonably expect that to mean it's in use hence I can't use it. Would you try and bash the door down of a toilet that's in use so you could use it?

    One would however hope they were given some training to understand what it actually means, seems like they might have missed that particular training session though

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Training- exactly. This wasn't a lay person. This was an employee who had been provided with a tool to use for her work. This was the tool behaving exacrtly as its user should have expected. She should have been trained to use it. Maybe a test after a week or so to see if the training had stuck.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Where was management?

      Wouldn't they have someone in charge of her who might walk by once in a while and talk to his (for back then it would almost certainly be a "he" in charge) employees to find out if there was anything that impairing their ability to do their jobs?

      Either that wasn't being done, or the person in charge was just as much in the dark about what "busy" meant.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      It's worth remembering that this story involves systems going back to the late '50s. At that time memory was hideously expensive and mainframes had very little of it. The programmer (or analyst - the programmer might not have had to provide the text) would have had an overall budget for memory and none of it to spare to substitute for user training. Wasting 8 bytes to say "Session A in use" might have resulted in a bawling out.

      The past is another country.

      1. yoganmahew

        Even in the 1980s, a TPF system (2.4 or 3.1, most likely 2.4) had at most 32 mb and on that supported thousands of terminals round the world. a 2.4 system was 31 bit, but only used 24 of them, meaning there was a byte available in every word that stored a core address that could be misused... the conversion from 24 bit to 31 bit was excruciatingly boring (check every core address use).

        In addition transmission costs were hideous and you got very few bods. I remember a user coming to me, then a very junior programmer, wondering who UNA PROC was, or UNABLE TO PROCESS.

        The glory days of every airline having their own TPF (or ALCS) system are pretty much gone, but I still make a living wrangling Teletype... the past is still the present. What's interesting with K8S is that it exhibits many of the characteristics of a mainframe cluster...

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Francis Boyle

      Training or no training telling the user that the the thing that they have just asked to use is in use is a bloody silly thing to do.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        So if it's in use what do you tell them? That it isn't?

        The system provided information. Using that information requires knowledge. Ensuring that the users have the appropriate knowledge needs wisdom. Until Eric appeared on the scene the last two were absent.

        The correct response to the information might depend on circumstances. In some the sessions in use might all be required by staff not immediately present and logging one out strictly against the rules. In this case the correct response was to log one out. It should be the management's role to ensure the user knew what to do and what not to do. It would certainly not be the developer's to either second guess the situation nor to go over their core budget writing an effusive essay.

        Let me give you the fuller quottion: "The past is another country. They do things differently there."

  6. Barry Rueger

    Everybody knows...

    Lord save us from error messages written by single-minded geeks. The people who never ask "Will Joe Average end-user understand what this says?" "Is this overly jargon-laden?" "Could this be mis-interpreted?"

    Or, I dream, "Can someone else look at this and give an opinion?"

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: Everybody knows...

      In one very widely used software, the user at some point had two options. Neither made sense to me. The help text for each made me say “WTF”. Investigation showed that A was what 99% of users would need, and B would be right in 1% of the cases. I added “use A unless your admin tells you to use B” to the help text.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        You're lucky the help section said anything. Most of the time help files are full of the blindingly obvious ( even to most non-techies) but tell you nothing once you meet a non-intuitive/non-obvious incidence. e.g it'll tell you how to print. But not what to do when the image you've carefully placed in the middle of the page decides to move somewhere else for no apparent reason.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Everybody knows...

          I often have to print labels for little bottles containing things like acids, alkalis etc. The HSE have downloadable standard warning icons. We have the online version of Word. If you make a label with an icon on it it will not show up in the print label dialogue. This caused me quite some angst until I figured out it didn’t matter.

          Still it’s a curious thing that the graphic is not shown.

        2. irrelevant

          Re: Everybody knows...

          Argh! Reminded me of early pc motherboard manuals...

          Take a cryptically named BIOS option, with just Enabled or Disabled as possible values. No idea what it is, or if it'd be appropriate to use, so look it up in the provided manual. Sum total of help: "Set to Enabled to enable <cryptic name>." Er, yeah, I'd worked that much out already.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Everybody knows...

            I HATE bios coders with a passion.

            Every single fucking option has 'default/enabled/disabled' with them all set to default. What the fuck does default MEAN for each option? They should be 'Enabled(default)/Disabled' or 'Enabled/Disabled(default)'

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Everybody knows...

      Or even, "Does this mean the same thing to normal people?"

      This is not just about computer geeks. Some years ago we were asked to use a an information sharing system for multiple professionals to aid with joined up working. (After one of the many inquiries after a child death). It had been commissioned by social workers. And was full of terminology that meant something different to them than to the rest of the users, teachers, GPs etc. who were meant to be feeding in to it. Some bits were particularly stupid. One asked for details of "assessments", but was formatted so that all it could do was list who had been asked about the child.(Apparently that was the limit of how they assessed- which IMHO explains a lot). We, teachers, speech therapists, school nurses, GPs etc. all needed to give our assessments based on educational and clinical information and benchmarks, such as changes in educational achievement, behaviour, language development, weight and so on and so on. But there was no room for any of it. These social workers were blissfully unaware of any factual information that would be an "assessment "and contribute to providing a picture of the child's life. i.e. all the information shown to be missing in all the previous failures to protect a child!

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        Social worker always strikes me as one of those 'doth protest too much' phrases, a bit like places called Democratic People's Republic. But if they called them antisocial layabouts there'd be too much competition for the job.

    3. Solviva

      Re: Everybody knows...

      In my housing association's online booking system for the laundry room (welcome to Sweden!) it has a curious dialog for when you want to cancel your booking.

      "Are you sure you want to cancel?"

      Buttons available -

      "OK" "Cancel"

      Does cancel cancel the booking, or cancel the request to cancel....

      1. dak

        Re: Everybody knows...

        I see this a lot.

        As a Test Manager it makes me angry about other Test Managers.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Everybody knows...

          What Test Managers? :)

        2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

          Re: Everybody knows...

          Just call them Test Manglers.

          There *is* a difference.

      2. Timbo Bronze badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        ""Are you sure you want to cancel?"

        Buttons available -

        "OK" "Cancel"

        Does cancel cancel the booking, or cancel the request to cancel...."

        So, the error here is that the correct answer to the question should be:

        "Yes" "No"

        So, blame the person who mis-labelled the buttons. !!

        1. Dizzy Dwarf

          Re: Everybody knows...

          Yes, and ...

          "Fatal Error Message"

          Button: "Okay"

          ... Well, it isn't bloody okay.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Everybody knows...

          No, the options must always be *VERBS*. /ALL/ the options.

          Do you want to cancel?

          ((CANCEL)) ((RESUME))

        3. WanderingHaggis

          Re: Everybody knows...

          But javascript gives you OK or Cancel as the two available options on the confirm method. Changing to Yes or No requires some work (which I haven't been bothered to do rather rephrase the question.)

      3. tatatata
        Facepalm

        Re: Everybody knows...

        On my brand new Android phone, when I move an icon upwards, I can put it in a trashcan marked "Verwijderen" (remove in Dutch) or put it on an X marked "Verwijderen" (remove in Dutch).

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Everybody knows...

          Have you ever...

          ...inadvertently changed the language on your phone? (or had a child do it for you)

          Plus: gives you an opportunity to learn the basics of a new language.

          Minus: I seem to have misplaced my Arabic to English dictionary (and all the words look alike)

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: Everybody knows...

            Bear in mind the Semitic languages do not have vowels. They are indicated by the little marks above the letters. If you paid attention to that level you might find differences.

          2. Andy Landy

            Re: Everybody knows...

            Have you ever...

            ...inadvertently changed the language on your phone? (or had a child do it for you)

            indavertently? no, but we once deliberately did it to a friends phone...

            it was the late 1990s, and the phone would have been a nokia 6110 or similar

            Suomi was, it transpired, an inspired choice

            he ended up having to call vodafone support to talk through changing it back :)

            1. Scene it all

              Re: Everybody knows...

              I bought a movie DVD once, from Japan. The DVD menus were available in a variety of Northern European languages for some reason, and Suomi was one of them. English was NOT one of them. I think I picked Swedish as being closest to German so I could figure out which one meant "play movie".

              1. G.Y.

                kitchenRe: Everybody knows...

                We bought some German kitchen equipment in Israel. Not having Hebrew documentation , they gave us the "sundry languages" docs -- in Finnish, Portuguese, Turkish, ...

            2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

              Re: Everybody knows...

              The menu system on those old Nokias was good. Each item was numbered, so you could find options just by going down the tree (I wouldn't be surprised if someone was inspired by SNMP Object Identifiers (OIDs)).

              Remembering the path to walk through the menus to get to the language choice wasn't difficult, but if in doubt, the phone were so popular, you could be pretty sure someone in the vicinity would have one, so you could walk through the English menus on their phone while doing the same on your phone set to Finnish or Turkish and sort it out that way.

              The simple, clear, and predictable menu system was also a boon for people with sight impediments: a good example of how things should be done.

              1. stiine Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Everybody knows...

                That has save my ass several times. A drink for the QA engineer that made the dev team maintain the same order regardless of the language.

              2. Lance-Corporal Obvious

                Re: Old Nokia menus

                So I bought a Nokia handset from years ago, it came set to Chinese language, not unreasonably as I got it from China. It literally wasn't difficult, with another Nokia handset from around the same vintage, to step through the menu-sub-menu system and set it to English. It surprises me that some people have found this a difficult thing to do

              3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
                Mushroom

                Re: simple, clear, and predictable menu system

                Except that that is no longer possible today, because today's developers have only one job : change the UI to make it look as if they've worked on it.

                1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                  Re: simple, clear, and predictable menu system

                  This is so true it hurts. Whether is is Windows, one of those many Linuxes, Office programs (all of them), browsers, smartphones...

            3. Def Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Everybody knows...

              he ended up having to call vodafone support...

              It might have been faster to just learn Finnish.

            4. ortunk

              Re: Everybody knows...

              FYI code *06# resets phone to SIM Default Language

          3. stiine Silver badge

            Re: Everybody knows...

            Or worse, add several extra languages that 1) you don't speak and 2) you can't read and, the biggie, 4) change your default language to one of the new languages.

            My S.O. did that and it took quite some time to figure out 1) how to get it back to English and much longer to 2) find out that the reason it kept reverting to Catalan was that it had been set as the default. Once I found that, I was able to delete the non-english languages leaving English as the default. My S.O. still loves having an IT bod in the house.

          4. Paul Cooper

            Re: Everybody knows...

            Chinese is even worse - a non-alphabetic language...

            If I use my sisters-in-law's computers I have to get them to change the language for me!

            1. herman Silver badge

              Re: Everybody knows...

              There are lots of non alphabetic languages in Europe. Try Georgian.

              1. ortunk

                Re: Everybody knows...

                7 years and I can just manage to read yes and no only

            2. Hazmoid

              Re: Everybody knows...

              I once had to setup a stock trading system on a computer for a client (back in the days when windows XP was good enough for businesses) and walked in thinking, "this will be simple" only to find the client was Chinese and his computer was using chinese language. I had to guess where most of the settings were based on the pictures for the different apps, and my knowledge of the various control panel apps.

          5. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Everybody knows...

            The last car's satnav/entertainment screen had that problem. There's an onscreen button you have to press to get rid of the warning about using it while driving. And just below that the language button.....

            It also had the car's ON button just above the hazard light's button. That was changed in recent versions. Because I'm not the only driver to press the hazard button to thank someone and switched the car engine off mid-drive instead.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Everybody knows...

              "The last car's satnav/entertainment screen had that problem. "

              The pool car had a old sat nav system that came on CD's, but they only had the German language version.

              Strangely I found it quite cathartic to be told what to do by a Teutonic priestess

      4. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        “Are you sure” questions are daft. It doesn’t matter whether I’m sure or not, and if it mattered the buttons should be “yes” or “no”. Instead it should say “Press “keep” to keep the booking. Press “remove” to remove the booking” with a “keep” and a “remove” button.

        (I’ve done a lot of MacOS development, and there “Cancel” means without exception “Remove the dialog or alert, and continue as if the user had never taken the action causing the dialog to be shown”. Since this conflicts with “cancel” meaning “cancel the booking”, “cancel” cannot be used at all. )

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Everybody knows...

          “Are you sure” questions are daft.

          Not if it saves you from the "Oh shit!" moment when you realise you've clicked the wrong button and what you've done is irreversible. They should, of course, be saved for such situations and accompanied by a clear statement of what it is you're about to confirm.

      5. Bill 21

        Re: Everybody knows...

        Godot 3D Thingy

        Press the X to close button, then ...

        Please Confirm....

        Exit the editor?

        Cancel Quit

    4. Martin Gregorie

      Re: Everybody knows...

      This reminds me of an editing screen designed and implemented by a colleague in the mid/late '70s, that had one single, all-purpose error message:

      STUPID!

      I recall being less than impressed with his design talents and understanding of user psychology.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Everybody knows...

      "Could this be mis-interpreted?"

      Of course it can be misinterpreted. There's always somebody to misinterpret anything.

      I think there's a difference between some software being released to the public and something provided by a company for its employees to use as part of their job. One hopes the user had been trained in other aspects of booking a flight. She should have been trained to understand any routine aspect of it and this appears to have been routine.

    6. apolodoro

      Re: Everybody knows...

      One place I worked we had a development manager who thought the error messages were too confusing to the customers. He replaced the majority of the error messages with, "Error, call <company name> support." We knew what all of the old error messages meant and could help the customers and train them to help themselves. When they called with this message, we didn't have anything to go on. Every time we got this message we would head over to a developer and monopolize their time for an hour figuring out what the error really was. The change was reverted a couple of weeks later.

      Moral of the story - bad, jargon filled messages are still better than none at all.

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Everybody knows...

        Microsoft decided error numbers were scary and got rid of them.

        Great.

        Unfortunately I found myself working in France and getting French error messages. My French was pretty good, but the error messages didn't mean much to me.

        Then of course when you Googled it, you got less information because there was less people posting troubleshooting guides to the French version than the English version...

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Everybody knows...

          Error numbers would have been helpful- if there was any clue to what they meant. Which sometimes there were. Often though, there'd be nothing. Or worse about 15 different numbers that had the same vague explanation but no resolution or alternatively just that number but 7 different explanations of what it might mean

      2. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        Your company must have been so happy to pay more for support. Most places try to design things so they get fewer support calls. And if you don’t want to confuse users, add an error code that they can tell support.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        "error messages were too confusing to the customers". Would it have killed said manager to have made the new message "Error, call <company name> support and quote error xxxxx".

        No user wants to be told an error number, and probably the message will be meaningless too. But an instruction to quote an error code or message - that we can do. And it reduces the much quoted incidence of customers calling to say the computer isn't working, but after they've cleared the message. from the screen

        1. irrelevant

          Re: Everybody knows...

          One memorable support call I got.. "I got an error message when I did <task>." me: "What's the error code?" them: "I don't know, it was yesterday, and it's not happened again." Not much I could do in those circumstances..

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Everybody knows...

          Maybe that was there, just not mentioned in the story.

          Did any programmer try to do: "Phone (Support) on number NNNNNN", but NNNNNN is a different phone number for each error? So the number that you're called on is the error code.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Everybody knows...

            I've seen phone support on <phone number> Extension NNNNNN where <phone number> gets you to the correct office, and the extension number is the error code and (in theory) automatically gets you to the person equipped to handle your issue, with the error/extension showing on their screen.

            Good idea in theory. In practice? ::blargh::

    7. stiine Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Everybody knows...

      A la Microsft with 'network error,' when 9 times out of 10, it wasn't the network that was the problem..

    8. TrickyRicky

      Re: Everybody knows...

      "Error handler entered. Exiting now. OK"

      <OK>

      No, it's not fsking OK

    9. veti Silver badge

      Re: Everybody knows...

      The "single-minded geek" thinks, and small blame to them, that someone else will look and rewrite their awkwardly worded, provisional message.

      After all, this is customer-facing stuff. Surely it can't really be left to a junior programmer with zero relevant training or guidance?

      It takes years of steadily increasing cynicism to realise that yes, it can and is being left to exactly those people.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        That-sounds-worryingly-probable.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Everybody knows...

        Context is everything: in this case, an old mainframe system, the wording might well have been specified by an analyst or designer and not left to a junior programmer. It would have been specified that way because it wasn't customer facing, it was staff facing.

        In general we need to realise that there's a hierarchy of ways to convey information. The UI is, whatever the era and technology, limited in bandwidth.

        Long labels mean either crowded or oversized screens.

        Long prompts aren't always going to be read or will sometimes be misread.

        "Discoverable" functionality isn't going to be. Have you ever been shown, read or seen in a video some function of an application you thought you knew and thought "I forgot/never knew it could do that?".

        Adding tool tips, extra documentation and training all have their places over and above the first line UI.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember a more innocent time in my life where I was dealing with a problem with a floppy disk drive on a laptop for a female consultant. It was in an office with a few more of the fairer sex, and the complaint was she couldn't insert a disk. Of course I asked if she'd managed to insert anything into her slot and they all burst out laughing. I was confused for a few minutes, and made the mistake of trying to elaborate on what I meant and asked if she'd managed to insert a floppy. Then I twigged what I'd said and I went a funny shade of red. The ladies were laughing so loud I just had to shrug and wander off until things calmed down.

    I miss those days sometimes.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Alert

      A very attractive (and married) new engineer once confided to me that she could never remember which connector was the male and which was the female.

      It took me some time to come up with a safe explanation. I believe that I said that the male was the pin and the female was the socket. Then, heaved a huge [internal] sigh of relief that HR was not going to be involved.

      She went on to other things when her husband was transferred, but she was a very good engineer, and we were sad to lose her.

      1. Potty Professor Bronze badge
        Angel

        Male vs Female

        When I was an Engineering Apprentice at a well known motor manufacturer, we had a young chap on the course who was, shall we say, still wet behind the ears. In the Basic Fitting class, where we were taught how to use a file, saw, drill, etc., this fellow asked the lecturer "Why are male and female threads so called?" The lecturer ("Knocker" White) draped an avuncular arm around the lad's shoulders and said "I think you had better go and have a chat with Sister Amos". (Sister Amos was the company's nurse, responsible for the wellbeing of us apprentices.)

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Male vs Female

          "But sir, mine isn't threaded."

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Male vs Female

            "No, no! Not without a washer!"

          2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Male vs Female

            Does that mean that you don't screw it in?!?

            Too easy! --------------->

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "and made the mistake of trying to elaborate on what I meant and asked if she'd managed to insert a floppy"

      Was it South Africa where a 3.5" floppy disk was known as a stiffie?

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Was it South Africa where a 3.5" floppy disk was known as a stiffie?

        Yes.

        And only now do I realize the sexual innuendo when asking the office ladies for a stiffy in Afrikaans...

        Time to go into the long night? Bah, not yet.

    3. Workshy researcher

      Inappropriate

      That reminds me of when I was teaching IT to school leavers in the mid 1980's. We were storing basic details in a (dBASE2) database and then searching for combinations of data. I was helping a particularly attractive 16 year old young lady. I knelt down next to her computer, so I could see her screen and heard myself asking "What are you looking for in the sex field?".

  8. aerogems Bronze badge

    Two types of workers

    In my life I've found there are (very, very broadly speaking) two types of workers. The first group makes up probably 95% of the total population, if not more. These are people who will always do things exactly the same way they were first taught and never think to question it. Some of them will be very hard workers to be sure, but they lack imagination. The second group is what I call the lazy group. Lazy in that they are very motivated to do as little work as possible and will find as many shortcuts as possible. They are the sort of person who will question whether Step 4 out of 10 is really necessary, and then experiment to see if they could skip a step and not affect the results.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Two types of workers

      In the old days, there were 10 types of programmer...

      Those who understand binary, and those who didn't.

      Sorry, couldn't resist it :)

      1. Alligator

        Re: Two types of workers

        You forgot the mathematicians, who were appalled that you didn't spot that the joke was in terary...

      2. Outski Silver badge

        Re: Two types of workers

        And those who were expecting a base 3 gag

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two types of workers

      I am most definitely in the second category, and will expend a fair amount of effort to be "lazy". (Thank you Larry Wall for the Three Virtues!) In the long run, it saves VAST amounts of time and effort, and often leads to a better result.

      In rebuilding a machine at $work, I missed a crucial step at the very beginning ("connect x hardware before booting" - I did... but forgot to turn it on). Didn't realize the mistake or its magnitude until a day later, when I couldn't get that hardware to work as part of the rebuild. Coworkers said I had to start over, but I poked around in the menus a bit, found how to get the system to scan for the hardware, told it to make the changes needed to talk to the hardware, rebooted, and voila! Working system in about 20 minutes, versus restarting the rebuild from scratch which would take another day.

      That particular step is now underlined and in bold in the procedure, but now I know how to recover if it gets missed anyway.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Two types of workers

        Definitely in the Work Smarter - Not Harder group here.

        The time spent leaning how to automate or even simplify a process by simply running a batch file that calls the folders\icons\programs to be clicked in turn where the process MUST be done manually & putting the instruction as a echo command (With a pause) brought a 3 hour typical post image install down from 3+ hours to 27 minutes on one departments software requirements.

        At one place I figured out a shortcut, an alert was flagged at a future point over SMS reporting not installed\configured as per the procedures & the boss mentioned it saying mentioning no names, but tickets would be assigned to those responsible to correct the issue.

        I received three such tickets, knowing the number of machines i'd done far exceeded that & all across the site, I had a quiet word with the boss. She later sent out a email stating that several of the team had approached her about not omitting the step\doing the same as I & to disregard the comments made at the meeting about our "non-adherence".

      2. cmdrklarg

        Re: Two types of workers

        "Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things." - Robert A. Heinlein

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Two types of workers

          and hindered by lazy ones seeking to avoid doing them at all

          1. The man with a spanner

            Re: Two types of workers

            Two types of lazyness

            1) Constructivly lazy

            2) Indolently lazy

            It is important to distinguish between the two.

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Two types of workers

        The procedure checklist thingies* I write for building new devices almost always start with "remove from box". Although it sounds daft, it forces you to check you've got the right damn bit of equipment!

        *I don't like calling them scripts, because to me that's a textual list of commands the the computer executes.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Two types of workers

          The checklist will inevitably be packed first with the equipment on top of it. Try as you might, you can't beat the warehouse staff.

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Two types of workers

      When doing an in situ hybridisation (labelling gene expression in tissue) there is a step where you are just doing saline washes. You are instructed to remove your gloves (it now being safe). This is so the rnases which drip from our fingers* can get into your samples and reduce the background.

      The method used to have an ‘add RNAse H’ step. Then someone realised you could skip that and save on it.

      *A first line defence against RNA viruses, like Covid. Things would be much worse without this.

    4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Two types of workers

      Being extremely lazy is what keeps me in a job ... strange as it sounds

      No 12 hr days with 8 hrs overtime, no pretending to rush about when the boss is on the lurk

      Just the same old drudge, with moments of "why dont we alter things to do X,Y and Z instead of A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I and J (with K,L, and M as backups)"

      One simple idea I had to improve things cost the company $700 in tooling. saves the company about $1 for each tool in the place. and you can be looking at 100+ tools per week.....

      Why did I do it? because I'm lazy and wanted to spend more time in my chair rather than out on the shopfloor somewhere fekking about setting tools.

  9. Christoph

    Easy to miss something trivial

    In the mid 80s the building manager of the big office building had gone on holiday, and had left detailed notes on how to work the terminal that controlled the heating, air conditioning, etc. of all the building.

    I got called in because they could not get the instructions to work. The instructions said to connect by pressing Ctrl and C. So they pressed Ctrl. And then they pressed C.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Easy to miss something trivial

      They weren't looking for the AND key?

      1. Yes Me Silver badge

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        Too easy to confuse with the ANY key

    2. Dizzy Dwarf

      Re: Easy to miss something trivial

      But shift+c would have been no problem. I never understood peoples difficulty with ctrl

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        But, but, but… Shift+c requires three fingers and is really awkward to do.

    3. innominatus

      Re: Easy to miss something trivial

      Yes. It is surprisingly difficult to explain over the phone how to use multi-key combinations to inexperienced users. Curse you last millennium Windows with your Ctrl/Alt/Del

      1. Curtis

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        I do this on a daily basis. "Press and hold the <modifier key>. While holding that key, press and release <whatever>. Then release the <modifier> key."

        The hardest part is when the modifier is the Windows key, because some people still don't realize there is such a key on the keyboard.

    4. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Re: Easy to miss something trivial

      Perhaps the instructions could have said "Ctrl with C", or even "Ctrl and C simultaneously". Many people interpret the instructions "Do A and B" as do A followed by B, for example "Shampoo and set", "Cut and cover", "Out and Return", "Pay and Display", "Dinner and Dance", or even the three S's "Shower, Shit and a Shave", which would be messy if done simultaneously.

      1. Christoph

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        The second edition probably did. But the building manager presumably just never thought of that - to him it was so obvious.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        I've seen "Ctrl + C" or "Ctrl - C" interpreted as thre keys

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        Err. "Control and C together" is a better formulation for inexperienced users- and I assume these days it's not such an issue. There's an implied meaning in the phrase "control and C" that we just take for granted.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Easy to miss something trivial

          As it's hard to press them simultaneously there's a 50% chance that C will be pressed fractionally first so that Ctrl has no effect. Tricky stuff, getting instructions right.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Easy to miss something trivial

            I've seen people, when given these sort of instructions, hover over the keyboard with a finger over CTRL and a finger over C and carefully send both fingers simultaneously towards the keyboard. I've even seen them do it with SHIFT. How on earth do they have no cencept of the way SHIFT/CTRL works as a modifier, that you would press SHIFT *then* WHILE SHIFT IS BEING PRESSED go hunting for the other key and press it.

            HTF do they manage to type !"£$%^&*() ???

            HTF have the actions that result when pressing various things on a keyboard not managed to filter in through their senses into their brain? This is at the level of never managing to notice what happens when you relax your bladder muscles.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Easy to miss something trivial

              Have you never seen that movement where the user hits ctrl and C as if they were red hot needles? Ctrl is a very strange key to the inexperienced user. Though I've not seen that sort of behaviour for about 15 years. The pre-computer generation is getting smaller.

              (Shift is another matter- I've never seen that. And even early typewriters had a shift key- that's why keyboards have it, alongside QWERTY keys or equivalent so it's a pretty commonplace piece of knowledge).

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Easy to miss something trivial

                The difference between Shift and Ctrl is that with Shift the action, or the result of it, is visible. This is especially true when using a typewriter so Shoft and Lock will require no thought whatsoever to someone who started out on typewriters. Ctrl characters are not necessarily so and operate on a different level in the user's perception. Ctrl-V, Ctrl-Z etc. might result is a visible change, Ctrl-C has no immediately obvious result (assuming the context means copy).

              2. C R Mudgeon

                Re: Easy to miss something trivial

                With a typewriter, it's obvious what SHIFT means -- it literally and quite visibly shifts the whole guts of the machine, with an audible "clunk". It's obvious that pressing SHIFT puts the machine into a different state and releasing returns it to its original state -- and so, if you want a capital letter, it's clear what the order of key presses and releases has to be.

                If you're too young to remember typewriters, I presume that the essential "shift"ness of the operation isn't nearly as viscerally obvious -- to the point that the key's name has become detached from any obvious referent.

                In other words, a typewriter provides feedback, but a computer doesn't. Haptic too, in the case of a mechanical typewriter -- without a power assist, you have to press that SHIFT key *hard*.

                And what's CTRL, anyway? It's another shift, but to a different chunk of the ASCII (or Latin-n or Unicode) character set than SHIFT shifts to. But non-geek users don't -- and shouldn't be expected to -- know that. To them, CTRL (like ALT) means: "do something magic[1], with rarely any direct mapping to what the other key has on its keycap, so you just have to memorize it".

                [1] in the Clarkeian sense

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: Easy to miss something trivial

                  "Haptic too, in the case of a mechanical typewriter -- without a power assist, you have to press that SHIFT key *hard*."

                  Perhaps we should make archy and mehitabel mandatory reading for graduation from High School, with special classroom attention being paid to the chapter titled CAPITALS AT LAST ...

            2. herman Silver badge

              Re: Easy to miss something trivial

              Most younger people have never used a manual typewriter.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: Easy to miss something trivial

                No, but they've grown up with computers and should pretty much all be familiar with a keyboard. They use them in school, even if not at home.

                1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

                  That doesn't mean that they're properly trained on using the keyboard.

                  It astounds me how today's civilization just skips training on how to use computers. It's as if we all expect kids to learn by osmosis.

                  Of course, the real issue us that teachers are not trained on how to train kids on using computers - because most of them haven't been trained themselves.

                2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                  Re: Easy to miss something trivial

                  You forgot "Generation Smartphone", which has no CTRL (on their touch-keyboards).

            3. irrelevant

              Re: Easy to miss something trivial

              Given the lack of punctuation in most online posts I see from the younger generation, I don't gibbous they do manage..

              And the number of people I've seen generate capitals by pressing Caps Lock either side is significant..

              1. Outski Silver badge

                Re: Easy to miss something trivial

                That would be 90% of the under 30 year-olds in my office, almost all of whom are university educated, so presumably used PCs for their essays & dissertations. It beggars belief. Some are thankful when shown what the shift key does, others just sniff & say "I'll keep doing it my way, thank you very much"

              2. irrelevant

                Re: Easy to miss something trivial

                And predictive text is a right pain in the bum, especially when using a phone with a dodgy screen, so I miss the occasional incorrect word. Sigh.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Easy to miss something trivial

            I tend to instruct "two keys need to be pressed at the same time. so press and hold down "Ctrl" key with one hand and then press "C, with the other hand." This seems to be acceptable to elderly ladies.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        That's shit, shower and shave. Your way has you walking around with a clean body and a dirty asshole. Shit first, then wash your ass.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: Easy to miss something trivial

          Depends on how good one is at serving an ace (thank you Viz Profanosaurus).

      5. Francis Boyle

        Shower, Shit and a Shave"

        That bit was cut out of Mr Bean for obvious reasons.

      6. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        ' "Shower, Shit and a Shave", which would be messy if done simultaneously. '

        NOW they tell me ....

    5. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Easy to miss something trivial

      Anybody who's ever been given route instructions will have stood a good chance of experiencing this. The informant will give the instructions as they remember them- perhaps having used that route a thousand times. But they will have elided at least one significant detail because they seldom register it. e.g. they will say to take the first turning, but have forgotten there is a small road just before that one, which you will see and turn into. Or, my favourite, they'll say first exit off the roundabout, but forget that there's that little roundabout just before the proper one

      1. irrelevant

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        One set of directions I remember to this day. "turn right half way along <very long road>"

        Not very helpful if you've never been there before..

        1. Anonymous IV
          Facepalm

          Re: Easy to miss something trivial

          I arrived at the start of a narrow one-way street in Beverley during what passes for its rush hour, looking for my B&B. [The one-way system in Beverley can easily mean a ten-minute drive back to where you began, should you make a mistake.]

          Half-way down the street there were two signs proclaiming <Guest House>, but with no obvious entrance.

          Having squeezed the car onto the pavement, I got out and phoned the owner of the B&B, only to find that it was located another 50 metres down the one-way street, and was identically labelled <Guest House>.

          Clearly neither of the two house owners wished to give up the prestigious name, and presumably all the delivery-persons knew of this duplication.

          And also those who had been once before...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Easy to miss something trivial

          I asked for directions in Wales once: "Turn left where the cinema used to be...".

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Easy to miss something trivial

            Come to Sheffield. Get off the bus at Coles Corner, where Cole's used to be, then go down past where C&A used to be, past where the Hole In The Road used to be, you need to turn right where Marples used to be, opposite where the Yorkshire Bank used to be, pass where the Post Office used to be, we'll meet where Sheaf Baths used to be....

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        I've been navigating where my instruction "take the next left" has resulted in the driver turning into somebody's driveway.

      3. C R Mudgeon

        Re: Easy to miss something trivial

        There was a route my dad was explaining to me a long time ago, one segment of which was a twisty country road. [1] The instruction for the turn off of that road: "take the first left after the second wiggle-waggle -- or is it the second left after the first wiggle-waggle?" Fortunately, as it turned out, both versions worked out to them same left turn.

        [1] It being hilly terrain, there were many twisty country roads -- all different.

        But back (sort of) to computers, I was once handed a tape and a list of instructions, and told to install the software, while the author of same watched over my shoulder. The point was to beta-test the instruction list itself.

        Commonly given advice is to get someone else to read over your resume.

        Both of these are examples of a commonplace in the publishing business: "never proofread your own work", because you're prone to see what you expect to see, which might not be what's actually their. (See what I did they're? :-) )

        Of course, the exact phrasing of that commonplace is an example of another commonplace, which is the source of the "CTRL and C" muddle: "know your audience". Because of course you go over your own work, looking for mistakes; you just get someone else to proof it *too*. But people in the biz get that, so don't bother to spell it out.

    6. The man with a spanner

      Re: Easy to miss something trivial

      Hold down [Ctrl] and press [C] ?

    7. The man with a spanner

      Re: Easy to miss something trivial

      Hold down [Ctrl] then press [C] ?

  10. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Ownership

    If you don't own the company, never do more than you are being asked to do.

    Such a small change could have vastly increased the company profit, that you would never see, except maybe when the CEO would show up in his new sports car and brag about the pad he got in Monaco.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Ownership

      So . . . I noticed that you took a big break right around the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Were you busy spreading disinformation in Ukraine at that point, or is it just a happy coincidence that you took time off from shitposting here?

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Ownership

      I am lucky to have (nearly) none of your type in my work environment. And those which at that type, they are usually customer employees and not in our company (branch of company to be exact).

  11. Spanners Silver badge

    Is this how

    A certain national airline got into the sessions belonging to a private airline owned by a bearded bloke?

  12. Daedalus

    ObTrivia

    "Since airlines were the first commercial organisations to use large-scale transaction processing systems, many of their features date back to the late 1950s,"

    Well, a certain British Baking & Cafe chain can claim precedence there. This is a famous example of the transformative effect of technology.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Lyons_and_Co.#Contribution_to_computing_in_business

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ObTrivia

      LEO was a brilliant innovation but it was essentially a batch processing system with I/O taking place at a central site. Sabre and the systems that followed it were proper distributed transaction processors with terminals on the desks of the sales agents. It built on work that IBM had done with the Department of Defense on air defence systems.

      AC because I am "Eric".

  13. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    'A' is in use

    We had something like this happen back when I administrated an engineering data server (HP-UX). People at various sites around the company needed to connect to, edit and save various documents to file space on our server from DOS and Windows 3.x PCs. The existing solution was a product called LAN Manager/X. Which shared a piece of our server via the SMB protocol. Problem: Many engineers had configured their systems to automatically mount all their SMB shares at boot-up. Whether they needed them or not. And management, in their penny-pinching wisdom had decided to only purchase a 10 seat license for LAN Manager. So the eleventh person who needed a document was SOL until we could knock an idle session off for them to use.

    My solution involved the discovery of the Samba sharing package on my Linux system. Which did the same thing as LAN Manager but had no per seat licensing limitations. It compiled and ran on HP-UX. And it offered a few hooks into its system where I was able to write a 'boot the unused sessions off the system' shell script.

    Some engineers were OCD enough to watch their disk shares and manually reconnect when they got bumped. The automated process turned that into an interesting race. Reconnect ... bump ... reconnect ... bump. I no longer actually needed to kick idle sessions off (given the expanded state of share resources). But the devil in me just got a thrill out of watching what must have been obsessed people trying to hog resources they were not actually using.

  14. venkatarangan

    Simple, yet a heartwarming experience. Demonstrates the need for software engineers (and product managers) to keep visiting and observing the users and the usage of their work.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ultimate PEBKAC?

    I worked for some years at a company which ran their business using a bespoke piece of software created by their in-house programming team. Some years later, when the company decided to replace it with a bought-in system, the vendors of the new system were astounded at what it could do, as the software they were selling could not handle some of it at all (my ex-employers decided to change the way they worked to suit the software they bought...). Anyway, I digress...

    The PEBKAC of which I speak came to light about halfway through my employment there. The order processing team of one section of the company (the largest one, as it happened) kept having problems, and we were mystified by why, as nothing could be found amiss with the system or the data therein. Usually not long after the issue had been looked at by us, and nothing found to be wrong, the response from order processing would be along the lines of "It's OK, we've found and sorted the problem" - but we couldn't get any coherent idea from them of what exactly they'd found or how they'd solved it.

    These constant reports of problems with the software which the programmers hadn't been able to fix, but which had been "solved" by much work by the users themselves, naturally caused criticism of the system from the management. Which exasperated my boss (manager of the software development team) so eventually she spoke to the manager of the affected order processing team and asked to be shown exactly how they were using the system.

    It transpired that at some point (I have no idea when) it had become entrenched in that departments collective mind that because "the system was so unreliable" (translation: they felt that they understood spreadsheets, and so decided to use them to check that the bespoke system was giving correct figures) , that they would enter all data twice - once into the bespoke system, and once into spreadsheets, so they could tally the value of the orders processed each day themselves in their spreadsheets, and later compare that to the figures that the bespoke system gave. This, of course, meant there was at least twice as much work to be done as there should have been at the best of times, when no problems arose. But when they found discrepancies, that, of course, took up more of their time and ours trying to find where this mysterious (to us) problem was.

    Now I don't know exactly what my boss said to their boss, but I suspect it was along the lines of pointing out that entering data twice into two systems doubles the chances of errors in data input, thus creating false claims of problems with the bespoke system which were actually data input errors. Data input errors which we couldn't find, because, of course, we had been kept in the dark about their use of spreadsheets to check the results coming from the bespoke system.

    Suffice to say, not long after that, the numbers employed in that order processing team rapidly dwindled to about half of what it had been before, the same volume of orders still got processed, and there were far fewer problems reported by that team!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UI to avoid problems

    I witnessed this weekend a pair from different NHS professions, and from different parts of the country.

    They were taking two sets of measurements - lets call them high and low, from both right and left.

    The computer system accepted only one set of measurements.

    Person A's SOP was to use the lower set of left hand or right hand details.

    Person B's SOP was to use the highest high and lowest low regardless of handedness.

    Que an argument!

    It would have been much simpler to take all 4 readings and perform the 'calculation' in the software rather than make people 'guess' which combination of values to use.

    Having different SOP - well that's another story! :-(

    1. Outski Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: UI to avoid problems

      Cue

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