back to article No, working in IT does not mean you can fix anything with a soldering iron

As another working week ebbs away, dispel any thoughts that your efforts have made no mark in history by wallowing in other readers’ misery in another instalment of On-Call, The Register’s weekly tale of being asked to fix the ridiculous and absurd. This week, meet a reader we’ll Regomize as “Sebastian” who told us that from …

  1. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Customer pushback

    Commercial customers get it immediately, it's only the "non-commercial customers" (my Mum, my brother, the guy next door) who don't get it when you say, "It's cheaper and easier to buy a new one".

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: Customer pushback

      The only situation where you would attempt this is if you are on Mars, the CO2 scrubbers have stopped working and this is the only cable available to watch the video which has the repair instructions. It's not "impossible" but hardly something you'd attempt under normal circumstances.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: Customer pushback

        Well, if you're daft enough to go to Mars without an Amazon Prime subscription anyway...

        1. O RLY
          Mushroom

          Re: Customer pushback

          Will SpaceX ship Amazon packages or will the "missile gap" between Bezos and Musk cause conflicts?

        2. cb7

          Re: Customer pushback

          "Well, if you're daft enough to go to Mars without an Amazon Prime subscription"...

          I doubt your oxygen supply will last you the 7 months it'll take to get there. Prime or no Prime.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Customer pushback

            Something for the amateur Orbital Mechanics to chew on. Launch a Falcon 9/Crew Dragon to orbit where it meets the SpaceX fuel station (A group of 3 or 4 Starship tankers docked to a 6-way hub along with the "Mars Transit" Starship and then set off for Mars on a fully fuelled maximum burn orbit, ie half the fuel burned, coast/flip/coast burn to slow down. For extra credit, we may need to land/ascend in the ship we flew in, or there may be another fuelling station at the Mars end with a ready fuelled lander/ascent vehicle or maybe our Mars Transit Starship just re-fuels for that part. We assume His Muskiness sends Starship "tankers" to Mars orbit by slow, fuel efficient orbit to fill the refuelling station or is making fuel on Mars by then or whatever other futuristic hand-wavy stuff we need such as assuming perfect alignment of Earth/Mars :-)))

            Any takers on a best possible Earth to Mars time?

            1. midgepad Bronze badge

              Re: Customer pushback

              Even if you don't rely on aerobraking for any of the slowing down, you are climbing up the solar gravity well, so you won't need half the fuel at the far end.

              You also have a much lighter ship to slow down than you started boosting from the vicinity of Earth.

              One reason why Venus is so hard.

            2. phuzz Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Customer pushback

              The plan is to make fuel on Mars, which is why Starship uses methane/oxygen engines.

              That's the plan anyway...

              1. Raphael

                Re: Customer pushback

                using my extensive knowledge from way too many hours playing Surviving Mars.

                Making the fuel is the easy part.

      2. G.Y.

        purchasing Re: Customer pushback

        At one university, we repaired a cable for a year+-, while the purchasing bureaucracy did its thing

    2. cowbutt

      Re: Customer pushback

      I often repaired cables, headphones etc. when I was a broke teenager, but the repair was rarely as robust as before. So now I have the money to do so, I usually just "buy a new one".

    3. FrankeeD

      Re: Customer pushback

      But if you can fix it for free, then that's cheaper and easier for them.

    4. JohnTill123

      Re: Customer pushback

      Tell them you'll give them the special "family rate" of 30 euros per hour, and it looks like about a 4 hour job.

      That usually wakes them up.

      1. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: Customer pushback

        I just started calling my family in the middle of the night with problem regarding their line of work. Older brother got calls at 1am telling him my car sounded a bit funny when driving at 140kmh.

        Literal and metaphorical wake up call.

        1. Not Yb

          Re: Customer pushback

          Didn't work on one of my uncles. He REALLY loves talking about cars.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Customer pushback

      "Commercial customers get it immediately"

      If only that were true. Though to be fair, it is a good litmus test for telling the clients you should keep from the ones you should run from. Then again they may have gotten suckered by Best Buy for a 450$ Monster cable.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Customer pushback

        Commercial customers do not always get it immediately, and they go cheap-ass in other ways, too. My mother worked in the late 1980s as a secretary for a firm of attorneys, using WordPerfect on standalone IBM PS/2 Model 25 PCs. One day her boss said to her, "Mary, take half a day and check out 'networking', then tell me what you think. We need something like that."

        This attorney, one of the partners, expected a secretary to learn about computer networking from scratch and make a company-wide recommendation in half a day. After all, she "works with computers", so it would be no problem, right?

    6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Customer pushback

      "It's cheaper and easier to buy a new one"

      No, it isn't. You don't cost money. Mums have a way of making you feel guilty even when you are right!

    7. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Customer pushback

      No, when it's Mum, "Here's an extra out of my stash. No, never mind that it's in new packaging, it's left over from another project and it's just taking up space."

      If you can't buy a cable for Dear 'Ol Mum, what good are you really?

      1. damiandixon

        Re: Customer pushback

        Yes Mum's are a special case. I'd buy a new cable and do the 100 mile round trip to make sure it was all working.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Customer pushback

        "If you can't buy a cable for Dear 'Ol Mum, what good are you really?"

        The power supply for my mom's laptop just suffered a connector malfunction. No idea how it got mashed. I took it home thinking I'd order a new connector (non-standard) and fix it. A whole new power supply was $1 more. The old one is sitting right next to me right now. No charge to mom.

    8. G7mzh

      Re: Customer pushback

      "Commercial customers get it immediately"

      Not necessarily. I used to work for a large international equipment company. Once when moving a machine one of our peopole ran it over the mains lead and damaged it (standard 13A to IEC flex).

      While the logical course of action would have been to go down the shop for a new one and taken the money out of petty cash (or the errant shifter's pocket), or just absorbed the cost and sent out a new one, the Company instead spent several weeks deciding who was responsible, which bit of the budget should pay for it, and so on, all the while the poor customer was waiting for a new lead.

      They were funny like that is several areas.

      1. quartzie

        Re: Customer pushback

        Even at our big Corp where the on-site tech guy is actually from the service provider, these are considered sundry expenses and available immediately upon request.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Customer pushback

        That's when you magically produce a spare one from the back of the car, then deny all knowledge! Come on, we all know those things breed.

        1. Snapper

          Re: Customer pushback

          Yes, we all know they breed, but has anyone witnessed it in the wild?

        2. BenDwire Silver badge

          Re: Customer pushback

          I retired after a long career that involved many mains-powered purchases, and had to empty my office of 20 years into a collection of boxes that ended up at my home. Years later I keep finding brand new IEC mains cables (often in bags) every time I look inside one of them to disperse or dispose of the contents.

          My latest quandry is that there appears to be no way to recycle old (or new) cables. Any ideas?

          1. Not Yb

            Re: Customer pushback

            Do your part (?) for the environment by using a blowtorch to melt off the insulation. Then you can sell the copper, possibly having to sign something saying where you got it depending on number of local copper thieves.

            "Sell" a non-melted one on ebay at $0+buyer pays shipping and hope they eventually get bought.

            Give to local school, possibly by leaving at the entrance with a note: "Free to good home!"

            Leave on side of road with a sign reading "$5 per cable, please knock"

            Find nearest electrician's truck, leave under wiper blade.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Customer pushback

      Some of us did start with building PCs.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Live Printer

    Had a call from my mother once. She said that my father had got a shock off the printer (an old Epson line printer - this was some time ago).

    There was me thinking it was just maybe static. So I trot on over and proceed to take a look - only to get one hell of a belt from the metal chassis! It threw my arm away from it (but luckily didn't throw me across the room).

    Turned out the extension lead it was plugged into was wired incorrectly and it made the chassis live (back in the day before moulded plugs). No idea how that happened as it was the first time that lead had been used.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Live Printer

      That must have been a shock for you...

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Live Printer

        It really amps up the excitement though.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Live Printer

        It least he got to live.

      3. teebie

        Re: Live Printer

        It was a gas

        Wait, what are we doing here?

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Live Printer

      Having seen some shocking (pun intended) wiring recently on supposedly good quality products I'm not surprised at all. Fortunately in my case it was only 12v but given the current draw it could easily have resulted in a fire in my campervan.

      1. Flightmode
        WTF?

        Re: Live Printer

        A couple of years ago in Amsterdam, I leaned against a plasterboard wall in my basement while holding a microphone in my other hand and felt a solid tingle - not a shock but definitely current going through me. There must have been a metal strut behind the plasterboard, somehow connected to ground (possibly unintentionally through damp - this was, after all, next to a canal) and the phantom power from my baby Behringer must have crept through the mic handle. Unpleasant to say the least.

        1. JT_3K

          Re: Live Printer

          20yrs ago at a rental house, I made the mistake of touching the hob whilst my other hand was in a sink full of water and got a belt off it. Turns out the sink was badly sealed and a socket on some cheap hardboard in the cupboard underneath was somehow making the sink live. As the hob was metal and earthed, there was 240v between the sink and hob. The landlord didn't fix it for a week, citing it was fine as long as you didn't touch both at once...

          1. My-Handle Silver badge

            Re: Live Printer

            About 10 years ago, also in a rental property. The owner had previously installed an after-market jet or bubble system in the bath, which had long since ceased to work. It was a nightmare to use, because all the little jets stood maybe 3mm proud of the surface of the tub. My other half and I just bought one of those rubber mats that older people put in their bath to stop slipping and put it over the obnoxious little things. Didn't think any more of it.

            Until a guest of ours took a bath, went to touch the tap with her toe to get a top-up and got a very sharp recharge instead.

            Turns out that the system hadn't been made safe before we moved in, nor was there any fuse or place to turn off the feed to the system's electrics. Those little jets, with the weight of a human on them, had pushed back though slightly and had let just enough water drip on to the electrics to live the entire tub. The electrician was horrified - he himself only avoided a shock by virtue of a voltage-detecting screwdriver.

            These same owners later tried to bill us several hundred pounds in damages (a wall hook had fallen off, which was reported at the time) and extra cleaning fees when we left. They were not so gently reminded about the death-trap they'd left, which would undoubtedly be brought up should they decide to ignore my reasonable counter-offer and take things to a small claims court.

            1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Live Printer

              When we moved into our current house there was a jacuzzi bath installed. Knowing the previous occupant was a bodge artist I took the side panel off the bath to see the jacuzzi plugged into a trailing socket underneath! (Empty sockets pointing skywards!)

              Same bodge artist had used "bell wire" for part of the upstairs lighting circuit.

              Competent electrician had agreed that a rewire was required, even before he got a couple of belts in the attic space while trying to trace some of the existing (and supposedly isolated at the fuse box) wiring.

              Fire icon, as I don't know why we never had one before the rewire.

              1. Stevie

                Re: bell wire

                Ha! When I tore out the wall of an upstairs bathroom I found that the previous owner had approached the laying of Romex cable over a wall stud in an inventive way.

                One *should* run the wire *up* the stud, and cross it in a rebate cut deep enough to house the cable, then cover it with a metal plate so johnny next owner doesn’t drive a screw through it.

                What Mr Bodge had done was lay the cable on the nailing face of the stud. He had used half-thickness wallboard, cut a slot in it to situate the cable, then laid another piece of half-thickness wallboard over the whole thing.

                That was it.

                Add in that this was 1950s, silver lizard-hide insulated wiring, so two conductors only with grounds arranged “locally” to a water pipe if the “electrician” remembered (never did).

                I have a big reel of green wire so I can run grounds when IO discover yet another one isn’t there.

                1. J. Cook Silver badge

                  Re: bell wire

                  While my house was built in 1961; it's using a mix of cloth sheathing copper, aluminum, and copper covered aluminum from the various remodels and other work done to it over the decades.

                  The prior owners who did some of the work on this place did what I refer to as "not even half-ass" work- things like not using wire conductors on connections, only twisting the ends together and wrapping them up in electrical tape. (along with other annoyances that I'm having to either partially or totally rebuild.)

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: bell wire

                    Electrical tape? That sounds professional. I always use sellotape.

                2. JohnnyFahtsmellah

                  Re: bell wire

                  "silver lizard-hide insulated wiring"

                  That made me laugh out loud! My house was built in 1970 and I have a lot of "silver lizard-hide insulated wiring" and also grey plastic coated (crumbling with age) with cloth mesh underneath!

                  I guess that the builder used whatever he had laying around. Bastard!

                  Currently replacing all of that crap with High temp Romex (yellow) in the walls, and BX in the attic with ground wire included. All of the outlets have three prongs but had no ground wires! Also no cable clamps going into the circuit breaker panel.

              2. TwistedPsycho

                Re:

                In the house we bought a decade ago, the previous owners estranged husband was a bodger too.

                Run a standard extension cable from the oven hard wire, with an oven plugged in, and then an extension plugged into it around the kitchen to plug in the washing machine.

                Still works a decade later from the fuse wire box. Never been brave enough to get an electrician in.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Live Printer

          I've told this before, but anyway, back several decades ago, an uncle and his family were moving house, and my dad, his brother and I were helping getting some preparations done before the actual move. One of mine was mounting a couple of lights.

          In one of the bedrooms I happened to brush the back of a hand against the wall, and felt an ominous 50Hz buzz. Not very strong, but definitely present. Checking this out some more I found that you could get a voltage probe screwdriver to light up if you also touched the bare metal valve body on one of the radiators, and the indication was strongest along a line straight up from a particular wall socket. Showing this to my uncle he declared it Not Good, and suggested I take a look at whatever was hiding under the plaster.

          This turned out to be the standard (for the time the house was built) metal tubing for the wiring to the socket. It had been hammered nearly flat, with dents and jagged-edged rips, by the workmen who had redone the plaster in that room. Unfortunately it had not caused a hard short, but only sufficient leakage to get to feel it the way I did while the plaster was still slightly damp.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Live Printer

        Having seen some shocking (pun intended) wiring recently on supposedly good quality products

        Couple of months ago I bought a rackmount powerbar; nothing special, just 10 or so C14 sockets. As it came with a standard Schuko plug and I needed to plug it in to a PDU also sporting C14 sockets I got out the security bits set and opened it up to perform an input cable transplant.

        The powerbar innards were by and large just as I expected, the row of sockets spot-welded to three bus bars, and the input cable crimped on to those. However, there was also a yellow/green striped wire coming from an eyelet screwed to the metal case and crimped to one of the outer bus bars, i.e. not the ground one.

        I have a grave suspicion the UPS would not have liked that.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "just" static

      Used to work in the test dept of a company making high speed line printers. These hammered text a line at a time onto fanfold paper, anything from single part to 6 part self-carbon.

      The usual routine to take a stack of test print off the machine was to lift the stack with one hand and give the fold a flick with the forefinger of the other.

      The little bar of tinsel that stripped static off the paper hadn't been installed properly on this machine. I lifted the stack, went in for the flick and received a God almighty belt that knocked my arm a good way back. It was just as if I'd been hit hard in the crook of my arm.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: "just" static

        I used to like the sound of drum and band printers. We used to have a couple for training purposes only so never experienced static problems.

        However by combining a Van de Graaf Generator (totally safe for most people), a bottle of tap water and a piece of blu-tak I nearly killed myself with a 'static' shock so hard I didn't even utter any foul language ...

        1. Red Sceptic

          Re: "just" static

          You made a Leyden jar, a precursor of the capacitor. These can store a significant quantity of electrical charge at high voltages - corona discharge can be seen from these in some cases.

          Consider yourself lucky that you were able to write and tell us about this.

          1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: "just" static

            I remember Leyden Jars in the cupboards in the school Physics Department. They were rarely used/demonstrated but held their charges for ages.

            Never, ever, ever touch such a device if it is assembled. There was a special device to discharge them, a sort of horseshoe on an insulated stick. The resultant spark was frightening.

            I'm one of those who regularly gets attacked by static (despite wearing cottons). I always carry a piece of metal to take the shock (a coin in the fingers spreads the load). However, our dog distrusted me for a long time after getting a shock from my finger to her nose.....

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Alert

              Re: "just" static

              CRT tubes will do the same thing. They are Leyden jars with phosphor and electron beam generating stuff inside.

              My first job out of uni was working on a new data terminal. We did our own power supply and video circuitry, including the flyback HV supply. We all learned how to sicharge the tube before working on a terminal (all electronics on a single PCB).

              Long screwdriver, clip lead to ground connection, carefully wiggle the screwdriver under the silicone cap...SNAP! Tube discharged and safe to work on.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "just" static

                As I was told always keep one hand in your pocket while doing this.

                It avoids any discharge going across the body - and the heart - from one hand to other which is invariably earthed.

            2. disgruntled yank

              Re: "just" static

              In Denver, which has very low humidity, during the winter it was often best to touch a light switch first with a key, which would disperse the charge across its surface and prevent the sting. I recall once using a metal can instead, which somehow gave me a shock I felt up to my elbow.

          2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

            Re: "just" static

            I know that now! The bottle was full and I'd carefully discharged the surface of the bottle that was connected to the eht. I failed to discharge the inside directly to the outside ... until I connected the outside to the inside via two hands, a spill of electrolyte and the medium of my chest cavity ... THUMP! ... :-(

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: "just" static

              Slightly different one from my usual oft repeated ones.

              Inshore survey of the Garelochead (Faslane) with the future intent of installing de-gausing coils in the loch itself for the subs to pass through.

              The transducers were towed behind a fishing boat, come the day of de-commissioning, the chief surveyor tackles the issue of turning off the BFPSU by stabbing at the small switch with a 5 foot wooden pole, to the amusement of the boats captain at the sassenach's action.

              "Och! Is he scared of that thing or what!"

              "With good reason, there's enough stored charge in that thing to kill him instantly!"

              "Oh!"

              Icon - I was on the shoreline most of the day, watching them from a bar.

              1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: "just" static

                I was working at a power station when one of the engineers needed to check a line was 'dead', presumably before earthing it. He withdrew a long suitcase from their backroom and removed a 1500 mm pole, then another and another. Connected together it was the most awesome 'test-prod'.

                I saw him again later in the day, so I know he survived.

                1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: "just" static

                  m and removed a 1500 mm pole, then another and another.

                  Each of those is already a six foot pole, so together it was a ten foot pole with 80% safety margin.

                  Yes, that copper chain mail overall. Thanks.

                  1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                    Re: "just" static

                    Small correction: 1500 mm is about five foot, not six (that is about 1800 mm).

                  2. Cheshire Cat

                    Re: "just" static

                    As every D&D player knows, you need an 11' pole (not a 10' one) if you're going to avoid getting caught by traps.

                    1. Not Yb

                      Re: "just" static

                      This is why most smart dungeon designers include sections of 5 foot wide extra curvy passages towards the beginning, to catch those adventurers who buy the cheap non-collapsible versions.

        2. Snapper

          Re: "just" static

          'Van de Graaf Generator (totally safe for most people)'

          I dunno about that, they were pretty fucking loud when I heard them at the front row of a concert in 1971 IIRC!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Live Printer

      probably done by the colour-blind electrician mate of my brother. Both were in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers... trust army recruitment to think of giving a colour-blind man electrician as a trade rather than the more obvious bomb disposal

      1. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Live Printer

        As a colour blind person I know my limits and how to wire a plug

        Green to brown

        Brown to blue

        Blue to bits

        Seriously though I can’t wire cat 5 leads the orange and green look the same and if anyone asks me to they get told it isn’t safe, although when warnings go from green to amber I can’t tell which can be a problem

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Live Printer

          >I can’t wire cat 5 leads the orange and green look the same

          Doesn't matter for Gigabit Ethernet, it can handle this by design. Same for all follow-up standards over copper. But there is one exception though: PoE is a bit picky on that. 48V on the wrong wire is no good. LUCKLY today's PoE switches all have PoE auto-detect, so it wouldn't kill your equipment. But it would not power them when wired wrong :D.

        2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Some Colors May Appear the Same

          I had a co-worker like that. Me: "Look behind the server at the NIC status LED. What's it showing?"

          Him: "It's on and steady."

          Me: "But what color is it?"

          Him: "It's 'on'."

          Me: "Oh, right, sorry."

        3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Live Printer

          If you can identify the blue pair, the green pair will be opposite it (568B; with 568A it'll be the orange pair)

          Equally brown is opposite orange (568B) or green (568A)

          For the uninitiated, 568B is the standard in the UK and 568A in the US. The cable layout is such that you can pretty much just flatten it to make the layout in the plug:

          __AA__

          CC__DD

          __BB__

          =>

          CCBAABDD

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Live Printer

        But how would he know which wire was the red one?

        Everyone knows you have to cut the red wire in the bomb!

    5. Outski Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Live Printer

      Back in Malaysia, we were quite shocked to find out that, somehow, our shower-head had become live. Cue a week of me, MrsO and the Outskits washing in the sink.

      Icon for Albert Steptoe

      1. FBee

        Re: Live Printer

        Search "Suicide Shower Head" to see how some parts of the world create heated water without any sort of hot water system. I take that back, it literally IS a HOT water system!!

        1. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Live Printer

          BigClive took one apart on his YouTube channel.....

          1. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

            Re: Live Printer

            I was horrified when I saw that YouTube video, as I realised I had used the same device every morning when I was in South America.

        2. Not Yb
          Trollface

          Re: Live Printer

          What do you mean... Up until the heating element breaks, it's perfectly safe.

      2. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: Live Printer

        It could have been a faulty electric shower head, the shower is fed only cold water and there is a heating element in the shower head that heats it up as it flows though. Quite common in developing nations. The issues is that when the insulation starts to degrade it makes everything live.

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          Re: Live Printer

          "when the insulation starts to degrade"

          You'd better take a look at bigclive's video about these. There is no insulation. Many of these use immersed bare wire heating elements that depend on the resistivity of the water. Not something I'd rely on in a third world country.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Live Printer

            I've used one of these at 240VAC

            It tingles if you put your hand too close to the shower head.

            A bit later on the wire powering it melted. They draw quite a lot of current.

          2. Potty Professor Bronze badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Live Printer

            I had one of these, bought it from B&Q back in the 70s. When first switched on, it melted the perspex block and started leaking, so I removed it and took it back under warranty with a very strongly worded complaint.

    6. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Live Printer

      Some of these stories are why we now have GFCI protected circuits.

    7. 080
      Happy

      Re: Live Printer

      Live line working is really only for well trained experts.

    8. 080

      Impossible repair

      f you want to see some almost impossible electronic repairs see NorthridgeFix on YouTube

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it was the first time that lead had been used

      I hope it was also the last time it was used.

      Was helping the Pastor at church hook up some Christmas lights right before the service. We were short on extension cords as usual and there was one with about a foot of bare copper showing. He asked if we could just tape it up?

      No. I tossed it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it was the first time that lead had been used

        hopefully after chopping it up into 6 inch lengths to discourage reuse!

    10. Anne Hunny Mouse

      Re: Live Printer

      Some contractors at work put some new sockets in an office but got the earth mixed up with another wire.

      Cue live PC cases and dead PCs

      1. Anne Hunny Mouse

        Re: Live Printer

        Just remembered - as it meant 240V was going down the network ports, it killed the switch stack.

        We presented Estates with a large bill to replace.

      2. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Live Printer

        Working under the floor of a comms room I needed to move a freshly installed 32A commando socket.

        Picked it up and the electricians hadn’t screwed the cables into the terminals, one cable fell out dead shorted against another and tripped the power for the whole building including the server room next door.

        The electricians had some explaining to do….

    11. dr.k

      Re: Live Printer

      I am old enough to remember this -- the *really* old printers, radios, etc., used an auto-transformer that had to be plugged in one way. Lucky I survived the 220V jolt from the knob on our Murphy radio!

  3. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    Well, it looks like he was solder dud cable...

    1. SimonSais

      yes look like same.

    2. Negative Charlie

      Please note that this pun violates Register house standards as it doesn't work with US pronunciation ("sodder"). Shame on you!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Not just American, but proper English, too.

        I believe it was Henry Watson Fowler (the great English lexicographical genius) who wrote "solder without the "L" was the only pronunciation I have ever heard, except from the half-educated to whom spelling is a final court of appeal ... " and was baffled by the OED's statement that it was the American usage.

        As the OED puts it (paraphrasing to avoid copyright hissy-fits): The modern form in English is a re-Latinization from the early 15c. The loss of the Latin L in that position in Old French is regular, as poudre from pulverem, cou from collum, chaud from calidus.

    3. timrowledge

      What the flux lead you to that conclusion?

  4. GlenP Silver badge

    Phone Cabling

    I was asked to look into a friend's landline phone and ADSL issues as, "You know about these things!"

    Fortunately he was sensible enough to accept me saying that the whole of the internal wiring from his phone line needed replacing, and I wasn't going to do it so he hired someone in.

    Even better was the annual retainer from him for my services - a bottle of decent Scotch!

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Phone Cabling

      That is quite good, I mean, usually the family expects you to do this for free....

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Phone Cabling

        That does seem to be the general expectation. Not that I fight it too hard, but I don't expect other people to do whatever they're good at for free. Somehow technical help (which since I'm a programmer my acquaintances think covers everything from hardware failures to data recovery to web design) is the exception to this. I'm usually happy to do it for close friends and family, but there is a fine line between my willing to be generous because I like them and people expecting that I'll do anything they want at any time.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Phone Cabling

          Many moons ago, I dated a gal who had been married to a gynecologist. At some point the obvious subject came up. She seemingly changed the subject, and asked if I would look at her new computer, she couldn't get Procomm to cooperate with BIX. I asked something brilliant, like "What, now? I thought we were going out!" ... then the ball dropped.

          There is a reason that jokes about the mechanic's car not running, the plumber's pipes leaking and the electrician's fuses blowing exist ...

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: Phone Cabling

            Did you ask "where can I plug this in?"

          2. Stork Silver badge

            Re: Phone Cabling

            There are proverbs describing it. The Danes say that the cobbler’s children run barefoot, in Portugal the blacksmiths house has tools of wood (or similar)

            1. Abbas

              Re: Phone Cabling

              Same in Spain.

  5. trevorde Silver badge

    Mandatory tech support

    My wife once called me at work:

    [wife] There is water running out of the corner of laptop and it's making strange, beeping sound!

    [me] What happened?

    [wife] I spilt a cup of water on it!

    Told her to turn it off and let it dry out naturally. The laptop survived.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Mandatory tech support

      the missing implied statement here is "... but how could the two events be in any way related?"

    2. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: Mandatory tech support

      I've mentioned this before but many years ago when I was in charge of a small repair workshop I got a call from a very irate customer.

      "I spilled coffee on my keyboard and one of your idiot engineers told my secretary to rinse it under a cold tap* and dry it in a warm place!"

      "Yeah that sounds about right...?"

      "It's a fucking thinkpad!"

      After they'd calmed down we agreed, whilst unfortunate, that had this been fully explained, the advice would have been different, and after all, sir, YOU started off by saying nothing about it being a laptop...

      *Back when such a thing had about an evens chance of fixing such things (at best).

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Mandatory tech support

        *Back when such a thing had about an evens chance of fixing such things (at best).

        I'd say that for a mechanical keyboard, running under a cold (or a warm) tap and thoroughly drying had a way better than evens chance of fixing things. Membrane keyboards, less so, unless dismantled and cleaned properly.

        M.

        1. Loyal Commenter

          Re: Mandatory tech support

          I have a mechanical keyboard that is sold with the claim that it is designed to withstand such abuse (it has a plastic membrane protecting the electronics from spillages). I think the worst that might happen, if it got seriously submerged in something nasty, like fizzy cola, is that I may have to solder in a new key switch or two. I'm not going to do that, of course, because I'd have to source the Cherry switches with the little RGB LEDs in them to match (I know, I'm a sucker for flashing lights), and they cost about £2 a pop. Also, fizzy cola, yuck!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mandatory tech support

            Was it Cherry Cola? ;-)

            1. Tim99 Silver badge

              Re: Mandatory tech support

              Name is a misspelling of Lola?

          2. Stork Silver badge

            Re: Mandatory tech support

            You prefer flat cola?

      2. Slow Joe Crow

        Re: Mandatory tech support

        In the mid oughts, ThinkPads starting having keyboards with sealed switches and a drain channel to direct spills away from the main board. Before that I semi seriously suggested issuing managers with Panasonic Toughbooks because they actually could be rinsed under a cold tap.

      3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Mandatory tech support

        And your point is?

        https://youtu.be/h5aEVGkkgVo

      4. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

        Re: Mandatory tech support

        Donkeys years back when I were a lad, we had a series of school visits to local industry to see how the real world worked. One visit was to a UK manufacturer if test gear - a Big Name at the time but I'm buggered if I remember who as I've been asleep since then.

        One of the things that I do remember was their service shop. All instruments that arrived were de-cased, chucked in a sink and thoroughly washed, before spending a day or two in a drying cabinet. Someone expressed surprise and was prompt told the kit had been designed to be properly cleaned and serviced.

        Chew on that Apple.

      5. Jesthar

        Re: Mandatory tech support

        Many moons ago I caught one of our (third rate outsourcing company) IT hardware support techs washing a work laptop under the tap in the teapoint sink to try and get rid of a dead pixel...

        I duly warned the owner of said laptop, who quite rightly refused to try and turn the thing on when it was returned (still damp in places), and the IT company ended up having to pay for an expensive brand new laptop rather charge us for a replacement screen for the old machine.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Mandatory tech support

          I'm surprised he bothered to even try "fixing" it anyway. No one classes a single dead pixel as a reason to change a screen. Even the OEM warranties normally allow for at least one dead pixel, often up to 3 or 4 before they will consider a warranty replacement.

          Of course, if he was dumb enough to think it was dirt on the screen and running it under the tap might be a fix, then it's unlikely he understood the T&Cs of the warranty or service agreement anyway.

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Mandatory tech support

            Or maybe he was trying to be more devious? Dead pixel(s) found to be result of liquid ingress, therefore customer's fault and not liable under warranty?

            And if it was just one pixel which wouldn't have been covered anyway, job goes from "wasted callout" to "revenue generating"... just so long as you aren't caught.

            M.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Mandatory tech support

      I've mentioned this before, but when I was on the tech support lines, I took a call on an extended warranty that went roughly:

      [Customer] My laptop has water damage - what can be done about it?

      [Me] How much water has it got on it?

      [Customer] Well, quite a lot.

      Bear in mind we had to assess every call to determine the way forward. I was working on the premise we might be able to let it dry out and it would be OK. Liquid damage from spills was relatively common.

      [Me] What? A cup full? And just water?

      [Customer] No, it's more that.

      [Me] Where is the computer right now?

      [Customer] It's in the garden pond.

      I get a sinking feeling at this point. But maybe if it was just a shallow pond...

      [Me] How deep is the pond?

      [Customer] About three feet.

      As I was booking it in for the inevitable write-off, I asked how it had got there.

      [Customer] I think it had something to do with my 17-year-old daughter.

      I decided not to push it any further and just continue to silently wonder at the lives some people lead.

  6. wolfetone Silver badge

    A friend of my wife's started seeing a guy who worked in IT. I'm not really sure what he does myself, as I don't really care.

    One day the friend is talking to her other friends in their WhatsApp group, and one of the friends has a problem with their phone. The friend then volunteers her new boyfriend to help by saying "don't forget X works in IT so he's more than happy to help".

    My wife told me about this and was properly pissed off by it. "How dare she, she knows you work in IT too!". Her anger placed in the fact that I hadn't been considered or I was somehow "less" than the new boyfriend when it comes to IT.

    I told her that I was secretly delighted with the friend's response as I have absolutely no desire or inclination to fix anyones personal tech.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Something similar happened to me. Only it was my father who would tell his mates.

      But on the plus side, I used to get money for doing it as opposed to doing it for free. It was a nice little earner while it lasted.

    2. Stork Silver badge

      Sounds like a “who’s got the best romantic partner “ competition. Said partners are to shut up and perform.

    3. Hazmoid

      My wife constantly volunteers me to fix other people's IT issues. When I get home after a day of dealing with IT problems that I get paid to fix, the last thing I want to do is help someone sort out why their Iutlook is not connecting to their email. "Have you changed your password recently? Did you clear the old password from the credential manager?"

  7. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    In the late 90s, I was repairing a PC. It was probably a 486 because we were just starting to replace them with Pentiums where I worked.. The PC wouldn't fire up, as it appeared to have no power. It also had a big click to make button for power. As it turns out, power was certainly getting to this. How do I know? I accidentally brushed my hand against the metal plate on the back of the button, and got 240 volts straight up my arm. Something which cause my arm to jolt and hit the case so hard I *thought* I'd broken one of the smaller bones in my hand. Thankfully, I hadn't. My hand was just badly bruised.

    I replaced that button sharpish.

    1. Loyal Commenter

      I'm guessing that button was on the PSU, and not the power switch connected to the MOBO which very definitely should only ever carry a control voltage.

      I'd have replaced the entire PSU, not just the button.

      1. Zarno

        There was a point in time where mains power went in the PSU, then up a cable to either a DPST or SPST latching push button on the front of the case, then back down to the PSU.

        Usually confirmed by the "It is now safe to turn off your computer" or similar screen on shutdown.

        Old 486/pentium pre/wiithout ACPI fits the timeframe.

        They did tend to bite you if prodded.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Also common design for things like old style hi-fi boxes, tape recorders etc: anything large, heavy and/or stackable where the mains came in the rear but the on/off was more conveniently placed on the front. Made life more exciting as the front switches were often just the same as the other function switches, so they all looked neat to the user, but when opened one set of tabs out the back of a line of switches had mains, the rest were quite safe.

          Oh, and the generic switch design was double throw, so when the amp was off the unconnected tags were live.

          Some designs were too cheap to run the wire rear to front to rear again so the front push was just a dummy stuck to a wooden (later plastic) dowel. Cheap 'cos they rattled but nice as they were safer!

          1. Andy A

            ISTR that several IBM machines (early PS/2 boxes?) used such a rod to connect the "fancy" power switch to Ye Olde Fashioned PSU stuffed in the back.

            Seemed to work OK at the time.

  8. Bogbody

    Years ago I was plagued by "can you fix" calls

    I'm (now retired) an electrionics tech, I started charging for calls/repairs.... funny how the calls slowed right down. :-)

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      A doctor acquaintance claimed he used to get pestered by people seeking his medical opinion. His solution - one word: "Strip".

      1. Montreal Sean

        I may need to do the same...

        I'll just need to find a way it relates to fixing computers and printers.

        1. Not Yb

          "I'm sure you understand I may have to report to the authorities any suspicious data I might find while fixing this device"

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      When people ask me to fix stuff, I get out in front by telling them it wouldn't make sense for me to do it, they can find someone much cheaper who is adequately qualified for this job. The phrasing assumes they were intending to pay, so it's hard for them to suggest otherwise.

      1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

        Nice! I'll be adopting that...

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          My College Lecturer (City & Guilds 224 Part II)

          Never told anyone what he lectured in, as he didn't want to be bothered in the pub to be asked to fix TV's in the small village he lived in.

        2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
          Devil

          and if it doesn't work, ask them to strip

  9. PM from Hell
    Flame

    family support

    The most irritating thing about family support is that whilst they will call you when they are completely in the sh1t, they'll take advice from any 'expert' to get themselves there in the first place.

    My mother finally got around to getting broadband many years ago and was with AOL and needed a router. I had a spare identical to the one I was already using, it just needed a config tweak to change the MBTU size as AOL used a whacky one. The 'expert' she had paid to set up her new (old and refurbished but still expensive) laptop told her that it would be impossible to use that router as 'its not compatible). When I was called because 'nothing works' a couple of weeks later I found that not onlyhad he charged her over £100 for a router that retailed and £80, it was exactly the same model that I had offered for free. The first issue was that 'her guy' didnt know about the MTBU fix and so the connection was very flaky, the second was that there was no virus protection on the laptop which was infested with viruses, he had installed evaluation copies of products which had then expired, the disk was fragmented to hell and it was missing a service pack (he couldn't download it because the internet connection was so flaky). Needless to say I had given up Saturday morning for this and had plans with my children that afternoon but I didn't get home until 8PM.

    I got a call a couple of weeks later complaining that 'the expert' had come back and told her I had 'undone' all his good work and had de-stablised the laptop, he she paid him again to 'fix it'. I never offered to help again.

    The second irritating part of supporting family is their belief that all the spares you provide are free. If you turn up with a sound card and memory so you can make your nephews game work there is never an offer of payment, yes I had those spares but they were also earmarked for my sons new computer so I was then stuck paying again for them. My sisters PC always ran like a dog because it didn't have enough memory. I didn't have anything compatible so I refused to go out and buy it, I even gave them a copy of the advert showing where to buy it, at the best price but visit after visit I would be asked to 'tune' the PC, this again usually required the removal of half a dozen viruses as their son kept turning the virus protection off as it made it run faster. In the end I just refused to even look at it and they bought a new PC rather than spending £40 on some additional memory

    1. Loyal Commenter

      Re: family support

      I'd have drawn the conclusion that the "expert" was the one responsible for all the viruses, etc. on there, and was probably in the process of trying to scam her / commit identity theft of some sort.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: family support

      My solution to my brother's constant calls for assistance on his Windows machine, was to convert him to Linux.

      Yes, yes, I know. You've heard it all before.

      But I no longer get calls asking me to come and fix something that has "stopped working". Make of that what you will. All I know is that I now get one or two calls a year instead of one or two a month.

      1. juice

        Re: family support

        > My solution to my brother's constant calls for assistance on his Windows machine, was to convert him to Linux.

        Linux can have it's own challenges.

        I've got a friend who decided to go for the whole "open source" stack on his personal PC. Which is commendable, but is somewhat complicated by the fact that he doesn't have any technical skills.

        In addition, said PC is some ancient low-end AMD thing with a whopping 4GB of ram, which (judging by the file timestamps and kernel versions) he installed Ubuntu somewhere around 8 years ago.

        And to further compound things, he doesn't have a fixed internet connection, but instead tethers his PC to his phone.

        Sadly, the inevitable happened, and his mobile phone dropped the connection while Ubuntu was updating itself.

        The result was a b0rked machine.

        I ended up having to drive over, pick the PC up and bring it back to mine, whereupon I was able to get the updates to complete. Unfortunately, celebrations were shortlived, since it then refused to boot up, thanks to some issue with unpacking initramfs.

        And I couldn't find any way to fix this, since all the online advice I could find about this issue referred to config files which weren't physically present on this ancient install...

        In some ways, Ubuntu was a victim of it's own success; it's pretty impressive that such an ancient install had been patched all the way up to current levels.

        But after a full day of faffing and head scratching, I ended up slapping in a new hard drive, doing a clean install and copying all of his /home data over to the new drive.

        And I made sure that all the latest updates were installed before I trotted back over to his house...

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: family support

          Sadly, the inevitable happened, and his mobile phone dropped the connection while Ubuntu was updating itself.

          Slightly surprised at that, apt will download all the debs it needs for installation first, then verify them, and then finally start updating things. In the updating things part, it shouldn't need an internet connection.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: family support

          "But after a full day of faffing and head scratching, I ended up slapping in a new hard drive, doing a clean install and copying all of his /home data over to the new drive."

          And, of course, made sure /home was a separate partition this time so if you need to re-install again you don't need to use a new drive and copy /home over again :-)

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: family support

            Because backing up data that a nontechnical user probably didn't is totally unnecessary. Sure, if you gave me a drive with separate partitions, I might do the reinstall on it, but I'm first copying the /home data off just in case the installer messes with the partitions. In fact, while I was writing that sentence, I realized that I'd still use a clean drive just in case the person concerned concluded I broke something, so they had a copy of the broken OS files too. So in no case would I fix this problem by installing directly onto the original drive unless I had no replacements available, no matter what partitions were on it.

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: family support

        Yes, because he doesn't want to admit he's switched back to Windows...

      3. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: family support

        I did similar for many of my supported community. Cinnamon Mint has been a great friend to me.

        For Ma I migrated her to a Mac. From 2 hours/visit of support I'm down to > 2 hours/year.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: family support

          I've got mint in my gge pc.

          none of the 3 browsers on it will update , presumably because the OS itself has stopped bothetrin to update.

          I wont be looking into it ,

          i'll just bung some other Linux on it , or possibly back to windows.

          Mint had its chance

          1. eldel

            Re: family support

            Which is, on the face of it, total bollocks. I have Brave, Firefox and Chromium on this here Mint box and they're all up to date (I just checked to make sure) and it all happens automatically.

            I rather think you've not configured the update manager correctly - which, in itself is quite a trick. File | Software sources | Restore default settings.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: family support

          > is "greater than". Are you sure you mean that?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: family support

        You have to be careful, my parents used to ask me constantly about things on their Windows machines.

        My response became I don't know as I switched to a Mac and can't remember how that works in Windows. It worked well for a while until I got the question I can't workout how to do this on my new Mac!

        So now I get to help with fixing their Macs - I've noticed it is generally issues on my Dad's one as he likes fiddling. My mum's has very few issues (my dad was banned from touching it by my mum).

        Now back to my wife asking me how her work PC works :-(

        Still I suppose I can have some fun putting a # in passwords for UK Mac users.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: family support

          Macs are the best way - I have converted most of the family.

          Now they just say ‘shiny shiny’ all the time - much easier than Windoze

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: family support

          "My response became I don't know as I switched to a Mac and can't remember how that works in Windows."

          I've been on a Mac for a few decades. I have PC's since I need software such as Solidworks that isn't written for MacOS. I have no problem troubleshooting a Mac over the phone, but for Windoze I need to be sat in front of it groping my way to a solution if I have any chance of finding one that doesn't involve backing up all of the data and doing a multi-day reinstall of Windoze and each application. It would go so much faster if I didn't constantly need to "hit any key to continue" so frequently or need to go fetch some .NET BS or other framework that isn't already in the installation files for the OS or applications.

          I got out of having to support mom when a sister set her up with a windows laptop. I fixed the power supply with the borked connector, but my sister can be tech support for everything else after doing what she did. Mom doesn't need anything that only Windoze can do.

          1. Not Yb

            Re: family support

            So much fun being able to support operating systems you've never used, isn't it? Just visualize what you think is happening, and do what skeptics call "cold reading".

            "You're using Windows, right?"

            "Have you tried rebooting/reinstalling?"

            "Do you have a virus scanner installed?"

            "Who told you to run 'syslock'?"

      5. AlbertH

        Re: family support

        Exactly the same with my Father: Wiped his virus-ridden HP laptop completely, and installed Mint. Ten minute tutorial, and a quick trip to the Mint Support Forum, and he then handled it all himself, without any need for further intervention from me.

        He found out how to make install discs, and installed Mint on dozens of his friend's machines. That was about seven years ago, and all his "converts" still run Mint!

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: family support

          "Exactly the same with my Father: Wiped his virus-ridden HP laptop completely, and installed Mint. Ten minute tutorial, and a quick trip to the Mint Support Forum, and he then handled it all himself, without any need for further intervention from me."

          That can be the simplest way to go. Most older family members of mine only need a browser, an email client and one of the free office packages and that's about it. As long as they don't try to install updates, toolbars or some dodgy app from the bank (which won't work on Linux) they need next to no support. They've never been able to figure out a photo editing app so they just send me the photo (a low res jpg) and ask me to fix it. What I need to be able to do is set their point and shoot camera to not be able to be reset to the lowest resolution ever again. It needs to be full strength or nothing.

    3. Stevie

      Re: family support

      http://theoccasionalstevie.blogspot.com/search/label/The%20Mac%20G4%20Debacle

      1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        Re: family support

        Are you drumming up an extra reader for your blog, Stevie?

        (Hope you have a easy, rapid, and full recovery from the hospital shenanigans.)

    4. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: family support

      I foolishly offered to spruce up my sister's laptop during covid - she's a corporate event planner, so covid really fucked her business over. She really needed a new laptop, but that was out of the question, but it was a semi-recent Dell, so I knew I could get the parts I needed reasonably cheap. All the RAM it could take (16GB), an SSD, a new battery and a new keyboard. All in about £120. No bother, I said, come round one day, it'll take about an hour.

      Keyboard, RAM, battery and SSD all went in without a hitch, so I fired up gparted to clone the drive over. And that's when the decrepitude of the original spinning rust came in to play. So many bad sectors, gparted couldn't cope. I switched to Acronis, which came with the new drive, and tried its full disaster recovery mode. Damn thing was telling me 36 hours ETA to work its way through this piffling 300gb hard drive.I had to put the old drive back in, tell her to backup anything truly important, and come back with it when she can leave it for the weekend.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: family support

      It's similar with friends (the annoyingly dumb part).

      I set up as a home PC fixer-upper back in the 90s to make a bit of money on the side, so admittedly I was not doing it for free. But I got a lot of work from the County Cricket Club I was a member of, and which I had originally got online for the first time.

      One of the members asked me to fix his kids' PC, which was running slow. When I got to his house one evening, I quickly (well, eventually) discovered why.

      The PC took about 10-15 minutes to become usable on boot up, and every click and action thereafter took up to 30 seconds to execute. Much of this was down to the fact there was a bloody Gorilla 'leaping all over the screen' (or in this case, moving at about 1 fps and leaving the previous dozen or so sprites un-erased. They'd installed Bonza Buddy. I also discovered literally dozens of other adware and malware, and they had no antivirus of any kind. The desktop theme was customised to Hell and beyond. And it was only a P50 (if I remember) - those things the pop-up PC builder shops used to sell for a few months before going out of business.

      I agreed with the dad the best thing was for me to wipe the whole thing, so they'd have a brand-new computer to play with again. They had nothing they wanted to keep.

      I formatted it, reinstalled Windows, AVG Free, all the drivers, and it was purring nicely as I left - with a boot up time of under 1-2 minutes (again, if I remember, but whatever it was was good for the time).

      I knew the kids anyway and warned them not to install any crap on it this time.

      A few weeks later I got a call that it was running slow again. I went round and - after the youngest finished 'printing off his homework' (aka the entire Wikipedia entry for Shakespeare) some 30 minutes later - was confronted by a customised desktop and Bonza Bloody Buddy lurching in slow-motion all over the screen like a skid mark.

      I put my head in my hands and said to him: WHY is this of any use to you whatsoever when it screws up the machine? What, exactly, does it do to help you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: family support

        Reminds me of the PC I fixed for the neighbour's kid. made a Ghost of the C: partition and put it in a separate partition. Next time it went wrong the obvious thing was to use the Ghost image. Where was it? "I wanted more space so I erased all the files I didn't need".

        Like the office administrator who found she was getting warnings of low disk space. So she erased the files (but not the folders) in C: root - then complained the PC wouldn't boot.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: family support

          Or the other way around. Corporate IT comes moaning to us because "our" shared drive is full and won't backup properly - that is, in a reasonable time to the backup system which is the wrong side of the WAN. We need to delete duplicate files, large PDFs, anything really. No easy targets as the thing had a policy whereby video and images could not be saved to it anyway.

          IT got quite shirty about it, and local users were very upset because they were being expected to delete files important to their day-to-day work, until I had a very quick look and realised - even without admin privileges - that the sum total of files stored by local users was maybe 15% or 20% (can't remember now) of the capacity of the storage.

          So I called IT and pointed this out to them whereupon they suddenly "remembered" that they'd used that drive to take backups of another system (because it was the only thing on the same side of the WAN) and the thing was full, not with the work-related files they were shouting at people to delete, but with several generations of clandestine backup, most of which were no longer required.

          Sort of backfired on us in the end because they moved everything (including the DCs) to "the cloud" - or at least drives "somewhere over the WANbow", some of which are probably at HQ and some in a datacentre somewhere, which means that access to network files now makes its way over a 300Mb/s link which is shared with public access WiFi and various other stuff, rather than on the local 1Gb/s network.

  10. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I have actually been handed a few electronic devices that needed physical repairs because they say "You're good at computers, you should know this stuff". Yes, I am good at computers, but soldering isn't computing, it's electronic engineering. Yes, I can usually find my way around very simple circuits, usually with a lot of work. Yes, I can even solder them, but even that's a slow process. I learned electronics at school, but while I've soldered the odd thing since then, I've not done any serious soldering since then.

    I think people assume I'm happy with Electronic stuff because I can and do build my own PCs. That's a different discipline. Sure, if I was designing my own motherboards, or building my own peripherals, that would be Electronics, but I'm not. Building your own PC is more like putting flat pack furniture together. You just need to read up a bit on what parts work with what, because when you've got a motherboard, CPU, GFX card and whatever other cards you want to put in your PC, you won't get a nice, big instruction manual that tells you how to put it together. You get whatever the makers of those devices provide, which is variable, quality wise, and only covers the device itself, not any of the others.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Fortunately I have an electrical/electronics engineer in the family so whilst I'm capable of bodging up simple circuits, mainly I2C interface chips to a RasPi, I can pass anything else on.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Fortunately I have an electrical/electronics engineer in the family so whilst I'm capable of bodging up simple circuits, mainly I2C interface chips to a RasPi, I can pass anything else on.

        Post incoming from some guy whinging about a family member who keeps coming to him for free electronics repairs/builds and even designs in 3...2...1...

    2. My-Handle Silver badge

      I've occasionally had someone trot out the old "You're good at computers, you should know this stuff" statement.

      My somewhat sniffy reply is usually something like "You aren't good at computers, so how can you make that judgement?"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you aren’t programming with a soldering iron it’s not real engineering.

      As my Prof of CPU architecture used to say …. MU5 anybody ?

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

        If you aren't programming with a hammer it's not real engineering. TFTFY

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "You get whatever the makers of those devices provide, which is variable, quality wise, and only covers the device itself, not any of the others."

      I've not bought a new motherboard for a good few years now, but they used to come with quite decent manuals detailing all of the jumpers (back when they had them!), IDC header details and what to plug into them, info on what type of RAM to use, how to installed, if it needed to be paired, which around to fit the CPU and how to install expansion cards and in at least one case, how to fit the MB into a case with spacers. I'd think anyone with a decent level of general technical/mechanical knowledge and the ability to learn would have a good chance of building a working PC from those manuals :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There was a time about the noughties when compatibility was not apparently guaranteed for Windows PCs' HW or SW - whether home-built or shop bought.

        I remember Abit boards that were very difficult to set up for USB - and most of them eventually died with swollen capacitors. Another - possibly an Asus - didn't like a particular new graphics card. There were problems all the time in finding compatible combinations. Even cases and cpu heatsink positioning could prove incompatible.

        Once you had built a successful combination - then you rolled out the same for everyone having their tech refresh.

    5. PRR Bronze badge

      > soldering isn't computing, it's electronic engineering.

      Uhhh, most EEs can't be trusted with a soldering iron. Many would not know which end to hold.

      I've known EEs who could not be trusted with a solderless breadboard.

      They have Technicians for that.

      I do know two Technicians who went on to get EE degrees. The pay is better and you don't have to actually make anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My sculpture evening class tutor said that the students being turned out by the academic courses were being encouraged to do "concept" sculptures - rather than learn the physical skills. Basically to do a quick sketch on a fag packet - then hand it over to low paid craftspeople to work it up into a real thing.

        Mind you artist/sculpture studios way back in time did much the same thing. Then the famous owner would put their signature on it - and sold it for the premium price. Hence why there are so many debates about authenticity - particularly for paintings. Artist, studio worker, forgery?

    6. gnasher729 Silver badge

      I’m told new Macs have a feature where they calll the fire department if they detect a soldering iron turned on within ten meters :-)

  11. Robin

    Party Smalltalk

    When getting to the "so what do you do?" part of smalltalk at a gathering, I'm sure we've all been on the receiving end of "oh, you'll be able to help with my [WiFi | Printer | Old laptop | ... ]

    I just say I do pure programming and "other guys" do the hardware stuff.

    1. david bates

      Re: Party Smalltalk

      "i can try, but Im a tester. I'm LITERALLY paid to break things.."

      1. ITS Retired
        Joke

        Re: Party Smalltalk

        So you do not work for Microsoft then?

  12. cosymart
    FAIL

    Other way round

    I have this the other way around as I am am electronic technician or was.

    We were on holiday in Sweden staying at a swedish friends house when I had the request to look at a laptop with the dreaded BSD. As we were being hosted I found it difficult to refuse so I rebooted the laptop and was met by a string of screen messages all in swedish! I asked the lady of the house to translate but as most of you are aware error messages are not that helpful at the best of times so translating from swedish to english by a non-techical person was a recipe for disaster coupled to which any input needed was also to be in swedish. After a short while and even more BSDs I had to admit defeat.

    1. AdamT

      Re: Other way round

      Reminds me of the time when my company recruited a Japanese technical translator to help us understand various Japanese patents and technical documents. She needed the Japanese version of Win 95 and, as the unofficial team BOFH, I got volunteered to try and get it onto one of our laptops.

      What I hadn't realised is that the "language versions" of windows really are "all in" on the language, even in the the setup phase.

      It took me several attempts to get it done so she helpfully wrote/drew out all the correct answers to the set up questions for me!

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Other way round

        I used to work for a company whose test setup had little automation (although I tried to improve this). One thing we had to do was install Oracle into quite a few different languages - I managed to learn the Oracle database installer so well that I could do it in any language...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Other way round

          My experience with that installer is that it can degenerate into language that Oracle does not localize into...

          1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Re: Other way round

            But profanity is the truly universal language!

      2. Andy A
        Pint

        Re: Other way round

        It's bad enough working with a machine in a language of which you have SOME knowledge,

        Luckily, when called upon to transfer the files from a failing drive belonging to a native Japanese speaker, I found it set up as English. No idea what the filenames meant though!

        I once had the task of sorting out a machine in German. The language I learned at school didn't include ANY computing terms, even from mainframes.

        Quite a few menu options were decoded by having the same position in the menu as the English ones I knew.

        I needed a couple of these afterwards =====>

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Other way round

          "I once had the task of sorting out a machine in German. The language I learned at school didn't include ANY computing terms, even from mainframes."

          On a slightly similar note, I was tasked with replacing a system board in an IBM PC for an international hotel chain. Their IT support was based in Paris. The part came from their German supplier. I had to set the BIOS config properly. It did NOT support different languages, only German. Of course, I knew my way around the BIOS settings, just not the IBM version. Luckily, enough of the words and terms were the same and the ones that weren't, being technical German words had just enough similarity to get me through it and guess what the remaining ones must be by a process of elimination. Like you, I never learned German at school, only French. Technical French is harder because they refuse to use "American" computer terms and use the nearest French equivalent. (Not so much these days due to common usage, but in the early days, the Académie Française made all the decisions!!

          1. Andy A
            Happy

            Re: Other way round

            In the early days of home computing, I would pick up computer mags while in France on hols.

            That way I learned the "official" French jargon, because it was being explained to the locals.

            Surprisingly, physical sizes of screens and disks were NOT in centimetres, because there is a French word for an inch.

            Which leads the common floppy of the time being a "disque souple de trois pouces at demi".

            The joke's on them. 3.5" is the rough Imperial equivalent of EXACTLY 9cm.

            1. gnasher729 Silver badge

              Re: Other way round

              A three and a half inch disk isn’t three and a half inch. For starters, it’s not square. It is just the correct size to fit into a three and a half inch disk drive.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Other way round

        Chinese version of NT 4 - managed to install it from muscle memory gained by installing the english version!

        1. Outski Silver badge

          Re: Other way round

          Been there done that, but in Malay rather than Chinese, so at least I could recognise the letters (and I'd been living there for a few years, so I'd picked up a few words)

        2. IanRS

          Re: Other way round

          Ditto. I was on the project that built the system feeding flight information to the hundreds of monitors around the new Hong Kong airport (CLK), so of course all our dev and test machines also had to run the Chinese version of NT4. (It was in 1998, so it is possible it was still NT3.51 instead of using the modern stuff.) Once it was installed it could be reconfigured to an English locale for ease of use, but it had to be running the same underlying OS as would be used in production. The installation routine was in Chinese of course, but each multi-choice answer prompt still had a single English letter for the ALT+something shortcut. This was enough to provide a reminder of what it was asking about.

        3. Not Yb

          Re: Other way round

          Not surprisingly, It's not that hard to click the thing least likely to mean "Cancel this install"

      4. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Other way round

        Yes, I had that when I installed a copy of Chinese Windows for a friend. She thought she could just leave the PC with me. I had to force her to sit through the whole process translating for me.

        Y O Y O Y O Y doesn't Windows use the RISC OS Internationalisation method, where the entire system is a single system, and you select on a per-use selection what language to use. Install full system. *Configure Language ZH, Reboot, walk away.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Other way round

          They do now (you still choose a language to start with, but you can download new languages and switch over to them). I think they didn't before because localization could end up using a lot more disk space, especially with international alphabets requiring a new set of fonts, dictionaries, etc. I have an old version of Office with some optional language packs on the disks. It indicates that one additional language uses about 50 MB, which is tiny for us now but a bit bigger when there was still a chance floppies were used to install it. When disk sizes were so restricted, I could see people who were very annoyed that they had extra language files they weren't using, which is much less a problem now.

      5. Not Yb

        Re: Other way round

        I learned that only a few words in Windows are not translated in documentation for it. There is no such thing as a "Microsoft Fensterndrucker" no matter how much I would have liked to use that fun bit of language in a printer device driver.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Other way round

      > We were on holiday in Sweden staying at a swedish friends house when I had the request to look at a laptop with the dreaded BSD

      FreeBSD or OpenBSD?

  13. Ed_B

    Never mind the cable

    Judging by the picture I'd be far more concerned about the device the HDMI cable had been plugged into. I once had a camera fall off a tripod whilst plugged into a mini-HDMI cable. Yes, the cable was knackered but more importantly the sudden pull on the cable totally messed up the innards of the camera, resulting in a £250 repair bill. The £5 to replace the cable was not really the issue.

  14. AVee

    Personal warranty

    Whenever people call me with issues like this I'll start by explaining to them how they are entitled to my unique no cure, no pay plan. If they are unsatisfied for any reason I'll return the full amount they paid, Yes, up to the full zero $CURRENCY.

    And then I tell them there will be absolutely no liability beyond that...

    In this specific case, I'd suggest just roughly soldering the wires to somewhere on the plug and then see what happens. Could be fun.

  15. diver_dave

    Slightly larger scale

    Remember I'm now an electrician. Definitely not white goods repair.

    I was recently asked if I could have a look at a built in freezer that "appeared" damaged.

    Cause of damage you ask.....

    Kitchen fitters had dropped a granite worktop and smashed all the back away.

    Joy.....

    Dave

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Slightly larger scale

      Used to support access control units (door control stuff) - end users will get electricians to look at the faulty system. The sparkie will be on the phone to me, and I will have to explain where the tab key is located on the keyboard....

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Slightly larger scale

        I had somebody guide me over the 'phone through some setup process who had never used full command names, or realised they existed, and had a really odd accent. He said something like: estab peetab 22. yerrwott???? Eventually I got him to enunciate what he was saying: press S, press the key next to Q, press P... GOD!!!! ARGH!!!!! stty port 22 !!!!!!!!! WHY NOT JUST SAY THAT IN THE FIRST P[LACE?!?!??!?!?

        He truely did not realise that was what the command sequence was. It was just a magic sequence of key presses.

    2. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Slightly larger scale

      "Sure, I'll have a look at your damaged fridge. Yep, that's a fridge. Yep it's damaged. Better call someone to fix it. Now about that call out fee..."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Slightly larger scale

        Ah, you're getting into the realms of consultancy there.

    3. David Hicklin Bronze badge

      Re: Slightly larger scale

      freezer that "appeared" damaged

      That should have been a liability claim on the kitchen fitters.

  16. Jaspa

    Water wings?

    I was once called to a large chain eatery that had been vandalised.

    Driving into the carpark there were members of every trade imaginable hoping to get the place ready for opening night.

    I politely asked where the dmaged credit card machines were, only to be directed to the duck pond outside.

    Yip, I was expected to wade in and rescue two rather soggy terminals that incredibly bobbed on the water better than I could. My exclamation that they were BER and two replacements would be there 9am the next day went down like a jobbly in a jaccuzi.

  17. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge
    Boffin

    Call me FIRST!

    My rule is: call me before you do the stupid, probably no charge...

    Call me after and it's £100 call out fee and £100 per hour or part thereof....

    Tends to weed out the frivalous "you work in {whatever} so you can fix {?????}"

    Had a call from Uncle in Canada one boxing day afternoon; "just installed a driver for sports watch and windows is borked", my answer "Format C and reinstall windows"......

  18. AlanSh
    Trollface

    Been there - done that

    I manage the IT for our local scout area (1000 ish users and Office 365).

    I got a call from a scout leader - his BUSINESS (nothing to do with scouts) had a user who couldn't log in and could I look ai it.

    I mentioned my "commercial" charges (I am retired, but I used to be a consultant with HPE at around £1500 per day) and suddenly he had it all fixed and working.

    I don't mind helping a friend for free (occasionally) but not this.

  19. TheProf
    Facepalm

    printer has started speaking French

    Not my printer but my cheap Bluetooth headphones* have started speaking a Far Eastern dialect.

    So far no luck with various button combinations bringing it back to heavily accented English.

    Maybe attacking with a soldering iron might help.

    *Blitzwolf AA-ER1. And the only words it says are 'power on' and 'power off'.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: printer has started speaking French

      I was able to get my Jaybird Vista headphones to stop using this ghastly American voice and use the Queen's English[0] instead - it was great[1]

      [0] Should this now be the King's English

      [1] Not that you're allowed to be British on El Reg any more of course...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: printer has started speaking French

        "[0] Should this now be the King's English"

        Yes. The BBC said so. :-)

        Likewise, Kings Counsel, On His Majesty's Service, Detained At His Majesty's Pleasure etc :-)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone left a bit of test equipment in the corner of the garage... someone else backed a van over it... so we boxed it up and sent it off to our repair people as 'out of calibration'... strangely it came back as 'beyond economical repair'!

    1. vogon00

      @AC re "back as 'beyond economical repair'!"

      A long time ago, in an employment far away, I was repairing the electronic 'Line Cards' for the telephone exchanges we made*, which is where the two wires of your analogue connected to. There were two overvoltage devices, one connected behind the other, which was usually enough to see off any spike induced somehow.

      These 'Line Cards' were dotted around the world, including on the Windward island of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean - where the lightening is frequent a potent. The local telephone exchanges used to store up their failed cards, and every so often ship them back to us (on the Geest 'Banana boat', IIRC!). These circuit cards were a bit larger then a sheet of A4 and full of all sorts of electronic goodies.

      We opened up one shipment, and in amongst the perfectly normal failures, someone had shipped back several units with a fault report of 'Exchange struck by lightening, please repair' - one of which now looked like a printed circuit board/fibreglass 'Frame' around a slice of really carbonised toast, with whatever components were left rattling around due to a lack of solder on their 'little leg-gies'.

      It was our considered opinion that they were taking the piss so we replied in kind, returning the unit as is with a diagnosis/repair report of 'No fault found, please re-test in service'.

      [* Buzzwords : ED0618, 1HAK1150 and 1HAK30027, which took up the early part of my career, as did repairing the SEP2 PUS at component level. Good times (Despite the SLIC and SLAC debacle on the '27s). If you worked there - Hi!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        First day of a live switch-over to a new comms front end. One line wasn't working. The engineer pulled the relevant board out - and on it there was a neat label "NFF".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          One of our clients insists on sending routers to be reused to a company the does a wipe to government security standards then they send the kit back to us.

          Apart from a habit of leaving them in a 'bypass configuration' state (they don't get the passwords so have to break in to get access to wipe), they also have sent back one or two with stickers on the side saying they were faulty (and no clue as to why), so we then have to get the client to book another job for them to collect from us and send for destruction (although I have fixed at least one)

      2. Anne Hunny Mouse

        SLIC SLAC

        We still had mainly channel and codec cards rather than the modern SLIC SLACs when our DXs finally went the distance a few years ago. (Past EoL)

        We were completely in the dark ages as we had HPT cards and a couple of SIP trunk cards

  21. Sequin

    At a previous job I was asked to investigate why the lights in the ladies' toilets blew the circuit breaker when switched on - they had seen me using a soldering iron and a multimeter during my lunch break, and were too cheap to call in an electrician.

    I reset the breaker and flicked the switch - sure enough, the breaker popped and the lights went out, but I heard a crack coming from the suspended ceiling. I reset the breaker then got a ladder, removed a tile and asked somebody to hit the switch while I had my head inside the ceiling space. I saw a flash coming from where the cable passed over some of the metal ceiling hangers - investigation showed that the insulation on the cable had been worn away and it was arcing on to the hanger, which presumably was earthed.

    A trip to a local hardware store got me a junction box - I cut out the damaged section of cable, joined the ends in the junction box, which I screwed to a wooden batten, well away from the metalwork and all was hunky-dory.

    1. Loyal Commenter

      Presumably, they then got it certified by an electrician, right? Right?

      Right?

      Hello?

      Anybody?

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I saw a flash coming from where the cable passed over some of the metal ceiling hangers...

      Which is exactly why metallic sheathed (mains) cable is required over suspended ceilings! I can see that happening in a homeowner job, but not in a commercial building. So, call the electrician who did that wiring and get him to come back and do it right.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Electrician option = unchecked

        "So, call the electrician who did that wiring" ...

        "too cheap to call in an electrician" - no doubt applies to the original installation as well.

  22. Loyal Commenter

    I can *break* anything with a soldering iron

    Does that help?

  23. Outski Silver badge
    Pint

    Family support

    Oh joy, I have a family support call booked for tomorrow - my mother always has problems with her energy supplier's website, not helped by the fact she has macular degeneration, and trying to walk her through using TeamViewer just doesn't cut it.

    -----> what will be needed post-visit

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Family support

      energy supplier's website

      Or find her an energy supplier* which has a call centre so she doesn't have to use the website?

      M.

      *yes, fully aware that switching at the present time is rather difficult, but it's the principle. I sympathise - my parents are in a similar situation but they would refuse to deal with (mostly couldn't deal with) a company which didn't have real people on the end of a phone and the ability to post paperwork instead of emails. I have to say that I tend to agree.

      1. Outski Silver badge

        Re: Family support

        Actually, she did manage to get through to the call-centre with just a ten minute wait, so all good. I'm switching shortly, probably to her supplier, as mine recently ingested an acquisition's data (ie, mine) and in the process, arrogated themselves permission to switch on smart-meters, which I'd explicitly denied the original company. They've subsequently refused to switch it off, and have about two days to comply with a DSAR before I go to the ICO.

        The company in question is OVO, who do not have a great reputation: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/oct/11/ovo-energy-owes-me-more-than-2000-for-my-solar-power

  24. MattPDev

    enum { it_professional, engineer };

    In my experience, always mutually exclusive.

    Regards,

    Engineer.

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Boffin

      I break your rule

      Chartered IT Professional (CITP) circa 20 years

      IEEE 30+ years

      Software Engineer - currently certifiable OS

      Previously first in-car telemetry for F1 (circuit boards, radio coms, etc.), first DECT based control system (circuit boards, radio coms, etc.), even a DSP based ECU for an F1 team (circuit board and writing the macro assembler to program it.) Add in complete logging system for a heritage jet aircraft (mech eng, circuit boards and software) and you can see that there are some of us who can do both, and a lot more.

      Icon as some 'friends' refer to me as the "high tech spanner", which I hope is meant to be a compliment referring to mechanical, electrical, electronic and software skills.

      I also use the "too expensive for you to afford" reason for not helping family, friends, etc.

  25. Trollslayer
    Devil

    Step one

    Tell them to go out and buy a new cable.

  26. disgruntled yank

    Obligatory XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/627/

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      There are a few of these strips that I'm now starting to recognise just by their numbers.

      327 is another one popular amongst software developers.

      1. FBee

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        Ah, but our company adds an additional phrase at the end of chart after "Ask someone for help or give up" namely "...and close help desk ticket without comment!!"

    2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Obligatory XKCD

      The xkcd Tech Support Cheat Sheet is missing the key first step after [Start] : Get a coherent description of the actual problem that needs solving.

      1. cmdrklarg

        Re: Obligatory XKCD

        What, "It's not working" isn't good enough?

  27. The other JJ

    Touch tag

    The worst thing about f+f support is that the last person to touch it takes on an unlimited warranty to fix any problem however unrelated. Real life case in point "Hey John, you remember a few weeks ago you fixed the squeaking noise our computer was making? [the fan was very dirty] Well since then my wife's been having problems downloading her email".

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Touch tag

      "Hey John, remember when we drove around last week and you were in the back-seat of my car? The engine is making funny noises since then."

  28. The answer is 42

    What about CRTs?

    Once upon a time, my college lecturer gave me an old Cossor 1032 scope. A panel on the side gave access to all the plates and the top scale went up to 500 volts per divison. Lets build an engine analyser first, perhaps I could get an ignition display of some sort on the screen. I wasn't going to be caught out by an electric shock- line a wooden peg with a bit of aluminium foil then clip it over the plug lead then connect that to the scope , that should give enough insulation. it didn't... The scope survived.

  29. Slow Joe Crow

    Regarding shocks, back in art school we had equipment to make neon signs, which operate at very high voltage but fortunately very low amperage. During set up for a band, the student made neon tubes we screwed to the ceiling managed to shock 4 people standing in a group near the transformer, in a a piece of comedy fo those note getting zapped. By the time I got into IT I knew enough about capacitors and flyback transformers to avoid any shocking experiences.

    I've personally done in an HDMI cable like that, when I first started streaming TV instead of cable I used a laptop connected to a very long HDMI cable and one day I tripped on the cable and broke the connector, then I discovered a Roku box was cheaper than a new cable. Ironically our cable TV now uses a streaming box made by Tivo.

  30. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Ugh small cables are small...

    I do repair, resolder and otherwise tinker with bits of vintage kit. More modern stuff with fine cables, board mounted components and parts that require microscopes to see, never mind fix are way beyond my tinkering.

    Cables I will make but only audio or mains. Video or data cables are right out.

    1. Old Used Programmer

      Re: Ugh small cables are small...

      Modern ones, I agree. Older stuff... I used to make my own RS232 cables. DB-25 (or even DE-9) connectors aren't hard to solder.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ugh small cables are small...

      My SDcard reader was possibly intermittent - until it finally stopped working. Sod's Law - just when I needed to edit a file.

      The case was a very neat set of interlocking pieces of plastic that took a little brute force and guesswork to open without damage.

      The micro-USB socket had been surface mounted - and was now floating free. The soldering on the screen can corners were minimal dry joints. Ditto the signal leads. It was either throw it in the recycle bin - or try to fix it. The socket appeared totally intact.

      My 25w soldering iron has an optional fine tip bit - which still looked much too big. First job was to heavily solder the screen can corners onto the board. Made the mistake of using my fingers to hold it tightly in place - but the scorched skin eventually healed ok.

      The USB then worked - so I gingerly used the fine tip to hopefully re-melt the solder on the contacts and the pads. Didn't risk trying to add new solder as that was likely to bridge the short distance between the pins.

      Was pretty chuffed to have done that - especially with my age related infirmities.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Ugh small cables are small...

        "Made the mistake of using my fingers to hold it tightly in place - but the scorched skin eventually healed ok."

        Anyone who has never made that mistake has never held a soldering iron :-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ugh small cables are small...

          I worked with someone that burnt his ear with a soldering iron!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ugh small cables are small...

            That takes some pers-ear-verence...

  31. Chris Roberts

    Hey, you can drive a car?

    There is some weird thing happening with my car and I know you have done an advanced driving course so can you fix it?

  32. The Northerner Up North

    Family and Friends...

    I've done a lot of work for family and friends and friends of family and friends of friends in the past - its calmed down now to be fair but over the years I've driven miles to somebody's house and getting home at midnight or there abouts wasn't unusual.

    I've upgraded a Windows 7 machine to W10 remotely - absolutley hammered on a friday night - all worked out - for a 'friend' 300 miles away who was in the same facebook group at the time - turned out he was an electrician and saved me a packed and is now a good friend.

    I've also been in a position where I could walk round my estate and pick up various routers (when data was tight in the day) with no issues. Saved my data :-)

    But here's the thing. To me this was giving back to the community, family and friends and freinds of friends - if I got paid in beer it was nice but it was and still is my way of giving back to those who don't have a clue and need a little help.

    Its tanginble and it has its own feel good factor

  33. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Told this one before too...

    ...but a friend of a family member wanted some help working out why they could no longer get online. Based on the PC still working normally, I said ok, £20 and I'll come around. He agreed. After a few diagnositics it was clear the PC was seeing and talking to the router, a VM cable modem/router box which I was familer with, including it's web interface. Not locking on to the cable signal. I spot he also has a Virgin media cable TV box. Is that working? I say. yes, no problems with that, gets all of the channels. So I then check the cable from the router to the wall where there's a short lead and two way splitter. Looks ok. Remove the splitter and plug the router cable direct tot the wall point. Splitter faulty? Put splitter back in circuit, router can't connect again, TV OK. Swap them over, TV still OK, router can't connect. Ok, last chance, take the cable from the TV box and plug into router. Can't connect. Weird. TV always works, router only works if TV box disconnected. Must be the TV box or some weird loading issue on the router, tell him to get VM to come out, check both devices and replace the faulty one. Can't do that, he says. Why not? I says. I bought the cable box from a bloke down the pub for £200 quid to get all channels for "free". Sorry I says, not my problem, that'll be £30 thanks. He paid up.

  34. trindflo Bronze badge

    Teach

    Had a new rabbit go through the house and modify things. My son's special left-handed mouse among them. It was worth repairing mostly because I taught my son to do it and made him do all the parts that required young eyes and hands.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Works the other way too.

    Always used to be asked, as a microelectronics engineer, to "fix" people's Windows laptop.

    Responses ranged from, "Sorry, I only know SunOS." to "Sure, so long as you come and scrub my toilet. You're just a glorified janitor, aren't you?" To one hotel manager.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My neighbours think I can fix anything mechanical or electric. When a kid's favourite toy, laptop, or MP3 player is broken I do my best to fix it. Occasionally if I can't fix it then I buy them a replacement. The same applies for adults when I consider they really can't afford to replace something essential.

    Before I donate things to the charity shop I make sure they are clean and working. Several are things I bought from the charity shops that had been carelessly donated.

    Being retired I have the time and resources to do this - but my 40 year career often involved fighting management to be able to do a root cause diagnosis and proper fix. It's been an obvious personality trait since repairing dropped transistor radios in my teenage years.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BBC "Repairer" programme never gives viewers any idea of just how expensive a repair or renovation would cost in labour alone in the real economic world.

    When people ask me how much they owe for a repair - my answer usually is "you can't afford me". That stops them referring their friends to someone they know "who can fix things cheaply".

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proper response to the support request was: yes, I can solder, but I can't fix stupid.

  39. Martin-73 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Point of order

    "“To most of them anything involving computers is all 'IT',"

    This person is not wrong, hence why i went back to molesting wires

  40. Lost in Cyberspace

    I'm the opposite...

    I deal with domestic, self employed and small business. Removing viruses, setting up the correct settings for 100s of different email providers, tuition, fixing laptop hinges/screens/touchpads/HDDs, dealing with the quirks of Windows/Mac/Chromebook/iOS/Android/Linux is more my thing. I get strange looks when I won't look at AD, SQL, and so on. Not all IT is the same.

    Yet, a busted HDMI cable would still get replaced with a £10 braided cable from the van. Why anyone would prefer the effort and resources of a re-solder is beyond me.

  41. bigtreeman

    solder wick

    A recent job interview, I had to show my proficiency removing a surface mount resistor with solder wick and a crap soldering iron.

    That was pretty much how the whole place operated.

    They were in a basement (dungeon) and got badly flooded in a big storm.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHgTpc57lwo

    Thats whats the deal we're dealin in

    1. vogon00

      Re: solder wick

      @bigtreeman : Frank also had the answer - assuming one had the balls to tell them to do this!

  42. AMCMO

    I dunno - I'm pretty good with a soldering iron

    My almost 40 yr old self designed and built temperature controlled soldering station could be pulled out of storage for the right fix.

    Now if I could only see what the f.ck I'm doing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I dunno - I'm pretty good with a soldering iron

      Problem with the modern stuff is they use lead-free solder and that requires a higher temp.

      Had problem with a new piece of kit that rattled unexpectedly... opened the case and a capacitor dropped out... obvious where it came from, but it was a heck of a job to get my trusty (but very dusty) soldering iron to melt the 'solder' to get it to stick

  43. ChrisBedford

    Not just repairing but repurposing

    I had one granddad proudly pull out his serial joystick and ask me to "put" the USB "plug" from a flash drive on it so it would fit his new computer.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Not just repairing but repurposing

      Well, to be fair USB is a serial port (the first clue is in the name ... ), so yer grandad wasn't really all that far off the mark.

      They make 15-pin analogue joystick to USB adapters. I've seen 'em for under 20 bucks ... but I'll bet that you could make a more flexible variation on the theme with a couple connectors and an AtMega 328 (or Arduino).

  44. Richard Pennington 1

    Some people grow up with soldering ...

    I have a nephew who is seriously "into" electronics. Several years ago, when he was a teenager, I bought him, as a Christmas present, one of those alarm clocks in the form of a mini helicopter (when the alarm went off, the helicopter bit flew across the room and he then had to find it to turn the alarm off. By the time of the Christmas lunch he had managed to put a battery in the wrong way round (resulting in "magic smoke"), and then *opened it up, found the dead component, wielded a soldering iron, replaced the dead component, and fixed the alarm clock*. So ... the electronics were smoked and fixed before Christmas lunch!

    Fast forward several years to last Christmas. His daughter produced an ornament in the shape of a Christmas tree, bordered by flashing LEDs in various colours. Each LED was individually soldered into place, and all the solder joints were beautifully executed. She had done all the soldering, and she was just seven years old. I gather Daddy supervised, but that young lady knows how to wield a soldering iron.

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: Some people grow up with soldering ...

      There's a very good reason most electronic production departments are staffed by women: They are often the best at the job.

      As as design engineer, I've been soldering for hald a century and I still get laughed at the poor quality of my work compared to theirs. Quite right too ...

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