back to article BOFH and the case of the Zoom call that never was

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns "Just need a little hand in the meeting room," our Director says, popping his head around the door to Mission Control. "There's something wrong with the screen." "Really?" the PFY lies. "I was just using it half an hour ago." He wasn't, but there's never anything wrong with the screen …

  1. stungebag

    Great start to a Friday! We've all met them. Both of them.

  2. MisterHappy

    Far too close to home

    I think I have had this exact scenario, just without the ambulance at the end (if only!)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Far too close to home

      Likewise, it's almost as if you were a fly on the wall in our workplace…

      The only missing part is when a user with a fancy MacBook [1] comes in, and, with zero forewarning of their intention to use the videoconferencing room (because, of course, the support team never have dozens of other pressures on their time), demands assistance to somehow connect it up to the system, which explicitly isn't set up for this (as noted on that beautifully laminated sign on the wall) [2].

      And all they actually want to do is show their PDF presentation, which would, unsurprisingly, work just as well from the Windoze PC integrated into the setup. Just put your PDF on a network drive or a USB stick, hold your nose, and grin and bear it. It really won't sully yourself so much to have to use the dark side occasionally, contemptible as it may be. Just wash your hands afterwards.

      [1] There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a fancy Mac user, I am one. It's when the sense of entitlement that seems to accompany some Mac users gets out of proportion that the problems start…

      [2] And do they ever have whichever uncommon video port converter dongle their MacBook needs with them? Of course not (mercifully becoming a less common occurrence as USB-C -> HDMI is gradually settling into becoming this decade's "everything has a VGA port").

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Far too close to home

        I have lost count of the number of Apple users who come into meetings to do a presentation and have no charge, not connectors, absolutely sod all and expect it to connect to a projector or screen.

        If people want to use these things and they have absolutely no useful ports on them for operating in the real work, go an buy the bloody adapters and bring then with you.

        Yet the appear surprised when the VGA lead, HDMI lead or standard USB Bharco thingy will not connect or work and state "oh, I had this at the last customer".

        Personally I would just throw them out the door and tell them to come back when they have the appropriate equipment. There is a PC connected, you just had to put your huge PowerPoint presentation on a USB key and run it. They don't have a USB, cannot use anyone else's because their policy says it is not permitted to be plugged into their device, cannot email it because it is "Confidential", and so on.

        It really winds me up. Fortunately I don't have to deal with that any more.

      2. Archivist

        Re: Far too close to home

        Being a "fancy Mac user" myself, I became the go-to every time a visitor needs an adaptor.

        The only problem was getting the adaptor back. At one time I was ordering replacements every couple of months.

        1. Fred Daggy Silver badge

          Re: Far too close to home

          Take ... personal items ... as deposit. Works every time.

          I personally accept beer as a deposit. Wallets, keys, shoes and passports are acceptable. (If beer is left, 10 to 50%% is kept as a service fee, but with ongoing priority support offered).

          No one, i mean no one, gets dongles, connectors or cables for free.

          1. PRR Silver badge

            Re: Far too close to home

            > ... beer as a deposit. Wallets, keys, shoes and passports ... No one, i mean no one, gets dongles, connectors or cables for free.

            Back when hitch-hiking did not always result in a bad end, there was a sticker: (still available)

            "Gas grass or ass-- nobody rides for free!"

          2. Mike007 Bronze badge

            Re: Far too close to home

            > I personally accept beer as a deposit.

            Do you return the beer in the same condition it was deposited with you, or does it undergo biological processing before being returned to the user?

            Of course if it's fosters then it doesn't matter, they won't taste the difference.

            1. Fred Daggy Silver badge

              Re: Far too close to home

              Trick question. No one drinks Fosters.

              A VB, but better still Crownie or Melbourne might do the trick though.

              1. Joe W Silver badge

                Re: Far too close to home

                Trick question. Fosters ain't beer. (nor is Miller's, or Coors, or... especially in the "light" version)

      3. Azamino

        Re: Far too close to home

        Is it still the case that those Mac's have content protection? Back in 2018 someone plugged a MacBook directly into our video wall and the Mac' shut it down faster than my laptop at 4PM on a Friday.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Far too close to home

          If you have the correct dongle, Macs generally aren't a problem, unless you are trying to connect to multiple displays over a single cable with something like a Thunderbolt dock.

          Which is to say that most third-party docks only seem to work reliably with Macs, and docks from the likes of HP/Dell/Lenovo generally don't work reliably with Macs.

      4. Blackjack Silver badge

        Re: Far too close to home

        So you have to use Bluetooth to send the file unless Apple removed Bluetooth too? Do you need to pay extra for that?

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Far too close to home

      It's a trial by fire for all IT peeps... On a weekly basis!!

      right behind you!

    3. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Far too close to home

      The only giveaway that it's fiction is that it's a couple of weeks too late now for that "you've booked it for this time last year". First half of the month, yep, all too familiar.

      As is scheduling a meeting with people you see all the time. Or like my boss, ringing up to arrange a time for a phone call.

    4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Far too close to home

      Absolutely, I have had far too many fruitless discussions along these lines, not just about zoom meetings. A red haze does sometimes descend, but no need for body bags, ...

      so far

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

    I wonder if I can hook up a remote control release...

    We run a very 'clean' solution; big screen, Cisco videoconferencing unit and a ClickShare.

    Most of our users get it right after only a few tries, and reading the directions that have been printed and laminated...

    Then there's the inevitable tickets 'Sound is bad', 'other side can't hear me' and even worse, with the video issues...

    Because the user is trying to run the conference on his laptop, using the built-in speaker and mic...

    And we NEVER get called in to fix it while they're in the room, only afterwards, so we can't show them what they did wrong...

    Yeah, they claim to follow the instructions...


    Anonymous because I'll probably kill or maim someone soon...

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

      Have one of those ---->

      for medical purposes.

      It will be weekend soon!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

        I don't drink beer, but I just picked up a package of Yorkshire tea.

        Brew it strong and sweeten with honey, and aftr a few sips, all your problems are far awy.

        1. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

          Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

          Honey in Yorkshire tea? Next you'll be suggesting the addition of lemon juice you heathen.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

            Not everyone is a builder! :-p

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

            No, no, lemon juice is for Earl Grey old chap! Yorkshire should be strong enough to stand your spoon up in and with a little bit of milk.

    2. Terje

      Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

      The first rule of any kind of support is that they never ever follow instructions... They may read through the instructions that tell them explicitly to do things in order A,B,C and the more critical it is to do things in the correct order for it to work, the less likely they are to actually do it in said order...

      1. FrankeeD

        Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

        And they can't coherently describe what they're doing as they're doing it.

      2. Il Midga di Macaroni

        Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

        At my place of attendance they took down all the instructions, refused to fix any broken cables etc and just allowed the users to sort themselves out - ie they implicitly discouraged hybrid meetings. You either gather everyone in a room, or you put everyone on Teams and allow them all to work from home on their own laptop and headset. It works like a dream.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

          I hate hybrid meetings. They almost always mean "one of these sets of people are audience and probably shouldn't have wasted their time coming"

          And you can't really tell whether it's the remote or local attendees who shouldn't have bothered.

          1. Joe W Silver badge

            Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

            Werrrll... I have a few counterexamples from last year. The meeting was planned as in-person, and one of the other guys and I had tested positive on The Current New Plague. It was a bit hit and miss, sound wise, but a productive meeting. Would have been much better in person, but sort of worked out.

        2. omikl

          Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

          Oh hell yes.

          It is amazing how people have rapidly reverted to assuming that if they have ten people in a meeting room, running the remote access from the built-in microphone of a laptop stuck somewhere on the table is perfectly adequate. With the result that the remote attendees can hear the following:

          Indistinct mumbling from the presenter

          Occasional loud typing and finger tapping

          The side conversation between the two people closest the laptop

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

      Some Anonymous Coward is about to have a Bad Day...

      Re: ClickShare --

    4. Mark 85

      Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

      As for the projectors, they definitely should be hanging from the ceiling and with quick release latches. Consider adding the remote control switch for them. Accidents do happen.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

        Indeed. We tried door magnets, but that got embarassing when we had a power failure :).

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: We have some of the old projectors still hanging there..

          There are door magnets which release when power is applied, designed for fail-secure areas.

          They are very useful

  4. Rich Harding

    One Of The Best BOFHs Ever

    ...and I think I've read them all.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: One Of The Best BOFHs Ever

      I have read them all....and its definitely in the top 25, but the body count was disappointingly low.

      1. Coastal cutie

        Re: One Of The Best BOFHs Ever

        Ah but what a body...

    2. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

      Re: One Of The Best BOFHs Ever

      Could have been improved by bringing the robot up from the storage room in the basement...

      1. Hot Diggity

        Re: One Of The Best BOFHs Ever

        To make the top 5, it just needed the addition of Gina.

    3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: One Of The Best BOFHs Ever

      Certainly a contender. I love the implied threat at the end. Case closed, indeed.

  5. steelpillow Silver badge

    Now I understand

    why our video team pinned up complicated setup instructions nobody could follow, with their support phone line in BIG NUMBERS at the bottom, and insisted we book all conference calls a day in advance. We soon learned not to bother, and just call the line with a reminder a few minutes before it started. Must have saved them a fortune in old projectors. Gave them an excuse to sit not-playing-games-honest while waiting for the call too, no doubt.

    1. parlei

      Re: Now I understand

      Before it started? You call the IT staff 3-5 minutes *into* the meeting, to get that proper sense of urgency.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

        Re: Now I understand

        One mangler's favourite line to get IT to respond quicker was "I can smell smoke, I think there's a fire in here somewhere"...

        If I ever hear that line again, I'm going to instruct Reception to call the fire brigade and have said mangler deal with the aftermath.

        1. theModge

          Re: Now I understand

          These comments are under a BOFH article....may I suggest Halon?

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Now I understand

          A hotel I've stayed in had a sign:

          "This is a no-smoking hotel. If we smell smoke, we will treat you as if you are on fire."

    2. Captain Scarlet

      Re: Now I understand

      Hangon what, who is stupid enough to stick their support details on information sheets like that.

      If they can't read press [Windows] Key and [P] and click "Connect to a wireless Display" or plugin the HDMI cable then they can't work out a telephone.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Now I understand

        This computer doesn't have a windows key.

        It's hardly got any keys, just one labelled (01) and "Source"

        1. Captain Scarlet

          Re: Now I understand

          Let me roll you over to that open window

  6. Ozan

    Every BOFH story, I am thankful I never followed up on IT Jobs. I meet idiots on construction site but they never venture in. They don't know where the bodies buried but my workers do.

    Joking aside, So many things is covered up as work accident.

  7. Tim 11

    Article Incorrectly categorised

    This was filled under BOFH - should have been on-call!

    1. richardcox13

      Re: Article Incorrectly categorised

      This was filled under BOFH - should have been on-call!

      It is about time for a cross-over episode.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Article Incorrectly categorised

        Hmmm....On Call to set it up, Who, Me? to cause the mayhem and finally The BOFH to clean up the mess while making a profit out of it :-)

  8. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    "I have a cupboard full of old projectors," I warn him. "Some of them are much heavier than that one..."

    And so my Friday is now complete.

    Happy weekend everyone.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      I knew there was a reason that I still have the old projectors... in a cupboard...

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    "Have you got a charger?" he asks.

    I think quickly about the cupboard full of chargers in the storeroom.


    I also do the same. If $luser can't be arsed to bring his/her charger with, then I can't be arsed to get a spare one.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Forgotten Chargers

      I went all the way to Australia (from the UK), into a management meeting 10 hours or so after I'd landed there, to be greeted with, "G'day* - you don't have a spare charger do you?"

      They were fortunate that I did have a Dell universal travel charger with the right tip for their laptop as mine would have been too small.

      *OK, they didn't really say G'day!

      1. UCAP Silver badge

        Re: Forgotten Chargers

        OK, they didn't really say G'day!

        Are you sure you weren't in Australia?

    2. WanderingHaggis

      We used to give people (mainly trustees, directors, big boss types etc) from foreign parts a loan of necessary adaptors to use in the office. No-one every returns them but don't have them with them next meetings. In the end we now say we used to have a lot of adaptors but can't do anything as we're waiting for them to be returned. Cue embarrassment, sometimes, but to fair they were decent people just typical in this area.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      1. Got a new laptop from work.

      2. Went to Amazon & ordered a second charger.

      One lives in my travel bag, the other is lodged behind the display on my WFH desk.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We give every user with a laptop a dock with charger to put on the desk(actually, we install it for them, to avoid all the follow-up calls), and the charger that came with the laptop is marked with the same asset code that's on the laptop.

        Not only does it cut down on charger being borrowed and lent during meetings, then never returned, but we once had someone from a hotel call us and ask if we knew who owned a certain charger that had been left behind after a meeting.

        Then there was the HP EliteBook 8x0 G3 series... May the Rot in Pieces...

        They introduced a new, thin plug on that series, but kept the big plug on the dock.

        And the PSU for the dock isn't any larger than the laptop charger... So many people brought the wrong one with them because they had the laptop charger at home, and now suddenly had an all-day meeting.

        Thank F! that those are now OUT of use here. I will NOT miss them and the different power plug... or the dozen screws holding the bottom plate.(Yes, I counted... )

        I'm thinking of painting a set of chargers PINK and have those as loaners...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Manager in my part time job

    Every time she needs to set up the interactive whiteboard* when I'm doing exam preparation with kids in a classroom that has no old type whiteboard she faffs around for 10 minutes to get it working.

    A couple of weeks back it lost connection for some reason. So I looked at the laminated sheet on the desk next to the teacher PC. Followed the instructions- took 30 seconds to get it connected again. Unusually these instructions are clear, simple and precise

    *We occasional staff aren't given a log-in. Which is far enough to be honest- that's the only room we need it.

  11. Captain Scarlet

    Ok time to remove the old projectors

    This gives me lots of ideas and company was to cheap to have the old projectors removed (Many have quick releases on the poles)

  12. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I swear

    that the BoFH has done a week coping with the folks I work with (see on call comments for more)

    But while grinning my way through his tale I never lost it until "I make an mental note to change our meeting rooms so they have external windows." thats when the keyboard died.

    But on the plus side, I'm ahead of el-reg's very own BoFH because our meeting room does have external windows(with a very dodgy catch)... sadly the plunge from 2 floors up is rarely fatal. Unless the PFY parks the woodchipper right below and leaves it running...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I swear

      10 feet is a 50% chance, so reasonable odds.

      1. quxinot

        Re: I swear

        Just ensure that a desk follows them.

        You need to put in the effort to ensure reliable results, after all!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    He should have called the appropriate people, on teams, during a lunch hour for a meeting that's almost... But not entirely irrelevant so you can comment that maybe.... Just maybe someone of the call should look at the data being passed through to our end as that's got the problem before continuing to blame our provable working system that only breaks on some new bits put directly into prod because "it was working on test so we just added it to prod" without any rollout management.

    And somehow it's still all our fault, along with not being allowed to bill my wasted time to their team.

    * proceeds to scream at the wall since it's more receptive to others *

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "during a lunch hour for a meeting"

      My boss and I both have lunchtimes blocked off as such in our calendars. (The boss for medical reasons.)

      Our company salesmen (not the ladies) regularly arrange important customer meetings during this time. I has been raised with upper manglement, who just remind us that the customer is always right and the sales people bring in our wages.

      I missed a meeting one lunchtime (arranged at 10 minutes notice) as I had already left for a Doctors appointment. Returned at the end of the lunch hour I found the meeting request and a email from the bosses, bosses, boss demanding I call him immediately. We had a very frank discussion, and rather than me resign and claim constructive dismissal, I can now defer my lunch if there is a lunchtime call and I can go to personal appointments in work time.

      Salesmen arranging calls in lunch hour has unfortunately not changed.

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: "during a lunch hour for a meeting"

        I'm UK-based but work for a European company, so there is the annoyance of my colleagues (and customers) booking meetings "after lunch", meaning during lunch for me.

        I've gone the same route of routinely blocking out my lunch hour in my calendar as a meeting (a private one, but it still shows as busy) but get the same irritation all too frequently.

        And for certain repeat offenders, I don't deny I occasionally book "late morning" meetings with them to do the same in reverse as there seems to be no other way to get the hint across.

  14. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

    Kali Linux

    "It means you can't use my laptop."


    1. notoriusR2

      Re: Kali Linux

      and Brilliant!


    .... and then the projector fell on his head

    I spat coffee on my keyboard :-)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is my life now...

    We need to update the meeting room AV equipment.

    OK. We can put in a laser light source projector - lower running costs, brighter image etc

    No, no. I want a TV screen.

    OK. Erm... you do know that we would have to get a 100", or more precisely 98".

    No. That's too expensive. Let's go for 65.

    You know that's below the accessibility guide lines? Especially for old codgers like me who can't see so well any more?


    OK, well it will just about be acceptable if we don't use the rear third of the room.

    Oh, and I want you to get rid of the second screen.

    You mean the one the presenter appears on if they're coming in remotely via Zoom?

    Yes. We can put them picture in picture.

    You mean OVER the top of about 15% of their slide content?

    Well, what's that one where they go into a black bar on the side?

    Side-by-side mode.

    Yes. We'll use that.

    Losing another 30% of the screen size and making the presentation appear as if it's on a 49" screen?

    I see the problem. OK, we'll get a 98" screen then.

    OK. I'll just call the fire officer and get them to do an assessment.


    It's a partition wall made of double skim plaster board that lines up with the fire containment doors in the corridor outside. I just want to make sure that when we hang a 70kg TV off it, that it's not going to compromise the integrity of the building's fire containment.

    Eight weeks later we get the fire officer's report. No can do. The weight of a screen would pull the wall into a fire and breach the 30 minute rating, exposing the refuge area wall to higher than design temperatures sooner than expected. Maximum load on wall 20kg, protruding no more than 150mm.

    Sure you don't just want a projector?

    No... I want a TV. They have a TV in the other department. It looks great and it's much easier to use that our conference system.

    You want to change the conferencing system as well?

    Yes. It's too complex.

    The one where you just key in the meeting number and tell it if the speaker is located here or on Zoom?

    Yes. It never works.

    *Under breath* I wonder why?

    *Aloud* OK, we can take out a section of wall and rebuild it in breeze. That way we get a pocket to hide the video kit in and we can get a simple PC to run the Zoom. You won't be able to present from your Mac anymore, but that's a small price to pay for "reducing the complexity".

    Another eight weeks later and the architects report and costings come back. Twenty one thousand pounds.

    The AV installation design and costing comes back at this point too. Another twenty three thousand on top.

    So I get called into the office. Can we just get a new projector? This is dragging on a bit.

    Me: F7U12

  17. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I consider myself fortunate

    I've never had to deal with those kinds of numpties. However, I had to deal with more 'low level' numpties that were sometimes more creative!

  18. Lorribot

    Have two or three of those conversation every week. Oh for handy ceiling mounted projector.

    Other bug bear is the amount of PowerPoint presentations I watch where the presenter (sometimes also known as the Communications director) does not know there is a presentation mode (its the one with out the slide thumbnails listed down the left hand side of screen and does not have a toolbar), shows it in notes mode or only has one slide, which is better than 24 slide, each of which has the text of the presentation on it , which the presenter then reads at half the speed I do.......

    1. Il Midga di Macaroni

      I can't use presentation mode because our company PowerPoint template (that we *must* use for all company presentations) is somehow corrupted and displays the dot points in reverse order. So everyone sees my full deck at the left, but it doesn't help them because they don't know when I'm going to insert a highly unofficial joke into the presentation.

  19. earl grey

    another vote in favour of windows that open

    As long as the meeting rooms are six floors up or better. Have a beer.

    1. Bebu Silver badge

      Re: another vote in favour of windows that open

      Another vote for defenestration!

      The projector can follow to give him something to look forward to after he reaquaints himself the car park.

      Reverse the order if the window wasn't of the opening persuasion.

      Zoom here zoom there - the last few years has been like a (more) demented episode of Roger Ramjet (qv.)

  20. Ozan

    I'm still curious about Verity Stob. Did she finally retire and can finally have a life free of programming?

    I'm reading The Best of Verity Stob lately and I started to wonder.

  21. mr_souter_Working

    actually laughed out loud

    "I have a cupboard full of old projectors," I warn him. "Some of them are much heavier than that one..."

    love it.

  22. Johndoe132

    What happened to Simon? This edition was clearly not written by him...

  23. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Too Stupid!

    "You are too stupid to operate a PC, so here is a pencil, some paper and a desk phone. Now do try not to stab yourself with the pencil or cut yourself on the paper". We all encounter them fairly regularly and we do try VERY HARD not to let it get to us. In fact if it wasn't for the catharsis we get from the BOFH stories, there might well be much more need for carpets, lime, and shovels.

  24. Chris Roberts

    I was once asked to check a projector as it was apparently not working, I switched the attached PC on and amazingly it started working. A few weeks later it wasn't working again, but this time it was because the principal had switched it on by moving the voltage switch from 230 to 120 and thus had turned it off rather permanently.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Seen the first one regularly. The second, however, I've only ever seen students do.

      We filled the switches with no nails in the end.

  25. Marshalltown

    " . . .as the red mist threatens to descend."

    Ah yes, or peripheral vision loses all color, as the target becomes preternaturally sharp. The beard prickles. The target's eyes open wide. Must not throw him over the cliff. He signs the pay checks - his partner signs them - must not - his partner won't mind at all - mmmmuuusssttt not. Oh look he almost backed over all by himself, and I stopped him. Later, his partner, "what's wrong with you?"

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