back to article Windows screensaver left broadcast techie all at sea

Welcome once again to On-Call, The Register's Friday morning forum for sharing readers' tales of tech support mishaps and near misses. This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Merrill," who wrote to tell us he once worked for Royal Caribbean cruise lines as a broadcast technician! Merrill's job meant he went to sea to make …

  1. El blissett

    Poor Merrill, but it's totally understandable. It's hard to concentrate or think things through when you're surrounded by seamen.

    1. Dave K

      Still, once he'd seen what was on the screens, at least the ship inherited a second poop deck...

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Master Bates would never have allowed such buffoonery to happen on his watch.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        > Master Bates would never have allowed such buffoonery to happen on his watch

        Yeah, he'd have been to busy cleaning up after Seaman Stains...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          No, That job was relegated to Roger the cabin boy.

          1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

            Roger the cabin boy

            Eye, eye, Cap'n, I'll go and do it right now!

            1. adam 40 Silver badge

              Is that Cap'n Birds-Japs Eye?

            2. Bebu Silver badge

              Captain Pugwash?

              《Roger the cabin boy

              Eye, eye, Cap'n, I'll go and do it right now!》

              Even as a kid watching the original cutout animation I suspected it wasn't just Cutthroat Jake that was up for a bit of "dirty pirat'n." I thought the Captain always had a certain sheep shagging leer and Tom the Cabin Boy, from his accent, was clearly the keen public school type...

          2. Ken Shabby

            Lost his job due to modern technology, the Brass Bound Buggery Box™

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              My Grandpa had one of these to keep his woodworking tools in.

            2. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

              Hey Cap'n, I stuck me willie in the buggery box and it didn do nuffin!

              Arrr, that's because it be YARRR day in the box!!

      2. that one in the corner Silver badge

        >such buffoonery to happen on his watch.

        He _is_ a horny-handed son of the sea, but even his wrist is not thick enough to carry a watch of such size to support buffoonery - at least, not without scratching the glass or even twisting the stem. Even the sturdiest pocket timepiece of the day can only be expected to withstand waggery.

        His chronometer can give you the longitude, but if you allowed him the latitude, he would merrily fob you off with TikTok Tales from the South China Sea too confusing to follow: you'll be too time zoned out to clock his intention to tarry in the foc'sle til Three Bells are past and swiftly drunk.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Received an email once from a magazine publishers and one of their titles is a yachting magazine. So I looked at the strap line across the bottom of the email and it said

      “Perfect For The Cruising Sailor”

      Wasn’t sure what to make of that.

    4. chivo243 Silver badge

      Especially if you're Waylon Smithers! After all he did say "Women and Seamen(sp?) don't mix."

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Happily, we never heard a word about it from anyone,"

    I wonder how well that demonstrates the usefulness of those screens.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: "Happily, we never heard a word about it from anyone,"

      Well, at least it displays the optimal exit route and survival procedures when the ship has lost power and is sinking.

      Oh wait...

    2. G.Y.

      Re: "Happily, we never heard a word about it from anyone,"

      Way back, my monthly summary said "X had to stop work on Y (which is on the critical path to Z) and start masturbating Z". Report went up the channel, no echo

      A few months later, I wrote "so the ayatollahs of X have shown us our un-islamic ways". My boss got a messages to get me to control my language. I asked about ayatollahs being non-Ok when the M-word was OK. Management hd someone dig up the monthly reports -- which were supposedly read carefully, all the way up the management chain.

      (this involved 2 sites, separated by 10 time-zones. My immediate boss did not have English as mother tongue -- and they don't teach such words in school)

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: "Happily, we never heard a word about it from anyone,"

        How many month did your "report reading audit" need to be recognized?

  3. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

    A sailor went to sea-sea-sea

    And all the ship could see see see

    The dodginess of CCTVVV

  4. Alan J. Wylie

    When I used to work in cyber security, one of my colleagues was contracted by a cruise company to run a check on the on-board networks: WiFi, compartmentalisation of the public and internal networks, etc. Unfortunately (for the cruise company, not my colleague), delays in the schedule meant that he could only start once the ship had left port. The testing only took a couple of days, but the cheapest way of getting him home was for him to stay on the ship for another three or four days. Nice work if you can get it!

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge

      1996. I was installing computers at a business in the Bahamas. Computers were ordered with extra RAM, which production failed to provision. So the RAM sticks were overnighted to me...but accounting accidentally invoiced them resulting in significant duty fees. It was cheaper to keep me on-site than it was to pay the fees, so they re-shipped again with the proper zero-dollar paperwork (remember, the duty was already paid on the original computer specs - no cheating was happening). I refused the first shipment and told them to return to sender.

      Did I mention how in the 1990's, International "Overnight" shipping actually took two days.... Yeah, that was four extra days in the Bahamas.

      Last day on-site the UPS driver asked if I still wanted the first package, which they were supposed to return to shipper several days before. It never left his truck and he was tired of carrying it around. He handed me the package, duty free, and I hand carried it back to the office.

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      Only nice if you get a balcony room. I can't do a cruise unless it's a balcony room.

  5. Mishak Silver badge

    Not a screen saver, but...

    One place I worked at had some DB app that included error handling (a sensible thing).

    However, one of the developers was bored with the error messages that popped up during testing, so "refactored" the handler - and forgot to revert it before shipping the next release.

    Not long after, a support call came in:

    Customer: "Something strange is going on. I was trying to do XYZ, but wasn't sure how to get it to work so I had to try a few times".

    Support: "Ok, sounds like we should document that a bit better".

    Customer: "That would help. What got me was the error message that popped up".

    Support: "Oh?"

    Customer: "Yes. It said "9 out of 10 intelligent people would have worked this out by now""!

    Luckily, this customer was an understanding type with a sense of humour...

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Not a screen saver, but...

      Does anybody remember the Dynix library catalogue system? If you worked out the exact sequence of queries you could get it to emit loads of weird Star Trek references.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Re: Not a screen saver, but...

        We had Dynix in our library district, with Wyse WY50 green-screen terminals hooked to I-don't-know-what upstream. It was faster and more-useful than the web-based system they replaced it with.

    2. Sequin

      Re: Not a screen saver, but...

      A boss of mine once asked the customer what should happen if somebody tried to access an area of the application they should not. "It should tell them to bugger off!" came the reply.

      He duly programmed this into the application which was MSDOS based. When the situation occurred the screen cleared and the words "BUGGER OFF" scrolled slowly down the screen in huge letters, while the system played the Monty Python theme tune (this was my suggestion - implemented in assembler, driving the speaker directly).

      When it was demonstrated to the customer's boss he was not amused!

      1. Wally Dug

        Re: Not a screen saver, but...

        In the early 90s when I worked in a bank, a colleague was trying to fill up one of two ATMs with cash, the other one literally next to it still being in service. Despite the screen saying "Out of service" or similar, people still tried to put their cards in.

        Eventually, completely fed up at overhearing people saying "It's not working" (as the machine was open, you could easily hear the people outside), he knocked on the wall and said "Bugger off!", only to be met by disbelief from the punters - "It's talking!".

        1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

          Re: Not a screen saver, but...

          Treat an out-of-order automatic teller machine like that, and you should expect to be told!

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Not a screen saver, but...

          Well there's your problem right there. It should have said "Not in service" not "Out of service". The customer approaching it will think "well, I don't want service, I want money" and try and use it.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Not a screen saver, but...

      A project I once worked on had an undocumented test mode. When an unknown command was entered in this mode, the reply was "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.", in HAL's voice, of course.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Not a screen saver, but...

      Customer: "That would help. What got me was the error message that popped up".

      Support: "Oh?"

      Customer: "Yes. It said "9 out of 10 intelligent people would have worked this out by now""!

      Luckily, this customer was an understanding type with a sense of humour...

      We had an in house program that one of the tech developers had written. It was all fine until he left and a few months later there was a user who said her hard drive was on fire. When the startled IT support bloke asked her why she thought this she said an error message. One screenshot later and indeed it did say “Your Hard Drive Is On Fire” which it obviously wasn’t. There were a few others that also cropped up but what was very odd was one of the other devs had rewritten the code after the original bloke left. That was supposed to have eliminated most of the more “interesting” things in the program.

      One thing I did was to change the screensaver on a colleague’s machine many years ago when she hadn’t locked it. She came back from a long meeting to find scrolling across her screen text akin to:

      “Why do you leave me alone for so long, computers have feelings too you know.”

      She seemed to ignore that so I followed it up with something like

      “That’s right swan off to another meeting and don’t put it in your electronic diary!”

      She grabbed me when I got back to my desk and said in a hushed voice I think my computer is talking to me. I let on at that point what I’d done.

    5. LessWileyCoyote

      Re: Not a screen saver, but...

      I worked on developing a government system that went live in the 1980s, and remember the flailing and squawking in management dovecotes when it emitted a message to the effect of "Error 2388 - Some day they're going to specify this message".

      I knew the chap who programmed that bit of the system, and remembered his complaints about the impossibility of getting a workable specification out of the systems analysts. He moved on to another employer shortly before the go-live date, as I recall.

      1. swm

        Re: Not a screen saver, but...

        There was a FORTRAN compiler that would emit a message "error #2 - do loop nesting ..." (I forget the whole message.) We all wondered what error #1 was until one day there was a big laugh: Error #1 was "END is not last."

        1. MacroRodent

          Re: Not a screen saver, but...

          Isn't that a sensible error message in FORTRAN? IIRC every program in the language must terminate with a line that just says END, so you would get #1 if is missing, or followed by something.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Not a screen saver, but...

        That sounds like the fictional "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in which an article about the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation "describes their marketing division as a bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes, with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent" - I'm not sure exactly what happened in the Guide office after the first half of that quote, but it's probably a legendary quitting or a legendary firing.

  6. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge


    On the day the machines docked, Merrill's first mate was on duty making souvenir vids.

    I was with you up to there. Wtf does that mean?

    1. drand

      Re: huh?

      It translates as:

      And yea, on that fateful day, the Almighty didst bestow upon the Ark many virgin Windowes computers; and Merrill was alone, forsaken by his brethren, who had wandered into the hold where he did maketh moving images of the sheep and the goats, and was cast overboard for his sin.

      Or something.

    2. Vincent Ballard

      Re: huh?

      Skip back to the third paragraph.

      He also got to capture footage of passengers so they could buy a video souvenir of their voyage.

      1. Sam not the Viking

        Re: huh?

        Video of passenger activities......... At this point, I thought the exposé was going to take a rather different path......

        Friday --->

        1. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: huh?

          When I read about taking footage for souvenirs, I feared they would have gotten some NSFW wardrobe malfunctions on tape and the hilarity would have ensued.

          1. adam 40 Silver badge

            Re: huh?

            That would have been a right Carry On....... Cruising.

            Ohhh, Matron!

    3. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: huh?

      "Merrill's first mate was on duty making souvenir vids."

      From the hidden CCTV in the passenger cabins.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: huh?

        Wasn’t at a company I worked for but a mate was working there and they were losing quite a lot of stock to shoplifting. He attended a meeting where the problem was outlined and suggestions were taken as to solving the problem. During the meeting it was outlined that fitting rooms were where the thieves were secreting their ill gotten gains about their person or in a bag. Somebody in the meeting seriously suggested putting cameras in the fitting rooms to try and catch them in the act. Unsurprisingly the lawyer and most other people were utterly against this. Can’t think why.

      2. Bitbeisser

        Re: huh?

        A new episode of "Cruise ships gone wild"?

    4. KarMann Silver badge

      Re: huh?

      It's rather amusing to me, I think, that it seems obvious that Prst's issue is with 'the day the machines docked,' which caught me off-guard as well, and for which I have no certain explanation. And yet, pretty much every other reply (possibly barring the first) has focussed on the souvenir vids part, or maybe the 'first mate,' which seems like it was clear enough that there's no way Prst. was misunderstanding that.

  7. Robin

    Who me on call?

    Isn't this article more in line with "Who, me?" rather than "On Call"?

    I've always thought that:

    On Call = This situation happened (or management imposed this stupid edict) and I fixed it in this way

    Who Me = I fucked up in this way and did/did not solve it by doing this

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who me on call?

      True, but still entertaining!

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: Who me on call?

      They've eluded to their post bag of submissions being empty. So maybe they're having to stretch the scope. Quite a few entertaining yarns are put in the comments that would make decent articles. Maybe they should give the option not to be regomized so contributors can take their glory in the comments section.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who me on call?

        eluded => alluded?

        1. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: Who me on call?

          Eluded is equal to and greater than Alluded? Sorry I'm just trying to be pedantic because of my own fragile ego not being able to have my mistakes corrected ;-).

          Yes you are of course correct I did mean alluded, but stories are certainly eluding them.

          1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

            Re: Who me on call?

            Perhaps they are eliding from one type of story into the other?

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Who me on call?

      So, is this now a "Who Call" or an "On Me"? I'd say the latter...

      1. KarMann Silver badge

        Re: Who me on call?

        It's where the drinks are.

  8. trevorde Silver badge

    Possessed screensaver

    They rolled out PCs a while ago at my brother's work. Some of the older typists had never seen a computer before, let alone used Windows. After a few beers on a Friday night, one of the blokes changed a few of the screensavers to scroll text across the screen: "KILL THEM ALL!" Really freaked out some of the women on the Monday!

  9. DJV Silver badge

    Just over 20 years ago when I was working at a large insurance company in the east of England (clue!) there was a Windows executable/'screensaver' going around that would display, in huge letters on a flashing red/yellow background, "I'M WATCHING G*Y PR0N!". This would mysteriously turn up on unsuspecting users' PCs if they happened to leave them logged in when they left their desks! On my last day at the company before moving onto pastures more satisfying, I added that program to the Startup folder of the computer I'd been using as I'd been informed that, after my departure, my PC would most likely be re-imaged so it was nice and fresh ready for the next victim, er, employee coming to work there.

    About a week later I heard from a now ex-colleague still working at the company who told me he'd been asked to demonstrate something IT-related to a client and decided not to use his own PC but to use mine as it had yet to be taken away for its refresh and it was easier to sit two people at my desk than his own. He logged in and sat chatting to the client for a while before they both noticed the bright flashing letters on the screen next to them. To say he was embarrassed was an understatement, and I laughed like a baboon upon hearing his news! Good job both he and the client had a sense of humour!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As I understood it, in that part of the country the porn would likely be starring their 6-fingered siblings...

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        East of England is a lot more than just East Anglia. It includes Beds, Herts, and Essex, and goes all the way to the Thames Estuary - basically everything east of the M1 and outside the M25. Most of those areas have the normal average number of grandparents per person. Not Basildon, obviously. But mostly.

        1. Vincent Ballard

          The hint was pointing at Norwich Union, now known as Aviva. You can probably guess which city the company is based in.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Yes, the Norwich union is a lot like the Basildon bond...

            1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

              Or, for those of a certain age, Brentford Nylons...




              ...and there's a name from the past - Lonrho, which brings forth that 'interesting' character, 'Tiny' Rowland.

              I think Robert Rankin improved the reputation of Brentford.

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Never leave

    your PC on and logged in around here

    Its only inviting trouble.... especially in the form of the PFY whos only too happy to put an embarassing text message on the screen when a customer(who has a sense of humour) is about.

    Although I guess its my fault for exclaiming loudly when she met her other 1/2 the other day that they looked like they were using their tongues to examine each other's vocal cords.....(no pictures of this will be provided)

  11. J. Cook Silver badge

    Lock your computer when you step away.

    That's part of the new hire orientation for everyone issued a network account at [RedactedCo]. It's even written into the regulations we have.

    When I worked for [ISP] back in the 2000's, that was also one of the 'day one' items, because a lot of us were in network space carved out that wasn't part of the corporate network, and didn't have such fun things as content filters for some of the more naughty web sites.

    Leaving your machine unlocked was quickly punished by having your browser's home page changed to visit an adult site, and not the 'tame' ones, either. Along with possibly your wallpaper. Or screen saver.

    (thankfully, no one sent emails out proclaiming how baggy your pants were... usually.

    1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Place I worked for would do this. If you left your box unlocked the wallpaper would be changed to rather large American football players in a state of photogenic undress, by which I mean laying on a bed with a strategically placed... washcloth, if you were lucky and no washcloth if you weren't. I never participated as this was an HR complaint just begging to happen as soon as one of the thin skinned wandered through, nor was I ever caught out - at my previous place of emoloyment, the favored prank was emailing people from your official workplace email account. Nothing like trying to explain to The Boss that no, you didn't send a letter of resignation while calling him a left handed golfer.

  12. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Could have been worse

    Merrill was lucky he didn't get lynched

  13. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

    Lorem #$?@ ipsum

    My colleague, who hated his job [1], used some choice words in test text, including at least one f-bomb, while developing a new application.

    His code ended up in production, and his secret howl of anguish ended up in print. As in hard copy. As in ~100k copies. As in, not consignable to the memory hole via an update.

    Management was not amused. Much dolor ensued.

    [1] I hated my job by that point too, but not as badly as he hated his.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lorem #$?@ ipsum

      "Management was not amused. Much dolor ensued."

      As in: from that day on all test text was "lorem ipsum dolor"?

  14. aerogems Silver badge

    At a previous job one time one of my coworkers accidentally sent a message telling one of the Directors to "take action." This was one of those people who seemed to think being a Director of a now defunct retail chain made him hot shit somehow. So not long after he come bursting in demanding to know who the hell thinks they can tell him to "take action." I think by dumb luck that particular coworker went home early that day for something, so cooler heads were able to intercept Mr. Hot-Shit and divert his attentions elsewhere. But it became kind of a running joke inside our office to tell people to "take action."

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      I don't understand the problem unless this implied that he was an Acting Director and not a Non Executive Director, whatever that is.

  15. an.other_tech

    BSOD and inappropriate screensavers

    Having seen the airport BSOD on both advertising screens, and even once a flight board, it makes me wonder why after the NT days, where it said "don't run mission critical" or something like that.

    Yet here we are 20+ years later, still relying on Windows for advertising and information screens/boards.

    Had the inappropriate screensavers, locked from the user plebs, so we could pretty much put what we liked. The Happy Birthdays, congratulations on your new baby, or the classic, screenshot from the drunken office party with names and departments .....

    Those liberal days are long gone. Due to cost saving, the machines now sleep. Boring

  16. IceC0ld

    seen subject, came straight for the comments :o)

    And I am NOT disappointed LOL

    Captain Pugwash is alive and well, and living on in the heads of us all - rent free :o)

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