back to article CompSci academic thought tech support was useless – until he needed it

Welcome once again to On Call, The Register's chronicle of computing crises that your fellow readers corrected and recalled in sufficient detail to share with us all. This week meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Declan" who, in the 1990s and 2000s, provided IT support services to a university's Computer Science department. "My …

  1. Contrex

    Rigor or rigour?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Depends.

      Do you speak French or English?

      1. saxicola

        Re: Depends.

        It's rigour in English too. It's rigor in American. Americans do not speak English and I don't know why they insist that they do.

        1. Dave Schofield

          Re: Depends.

          >It's rigour in English too. It's rigor in American. Americans do not speak English and I don't know why they insist that they do.

          Rigor is also a British English word. One with a completely different meaning.

          (A sudden feeling of cold with shivering at the onset of a fever, or short for rigor mortis)

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Depends.

            Rigor mortis is Latin.

          2. Spanners Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Depends.

            British English

            Calling a correct spelling "British English" is quite common in the USA.

            Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders do not speak "British English", just English.

            Yes, we all have our variations. Written English, however, is fairly standard, except in North America and I don't blame the Canadians.

            1. Dagg Silver badge

              Re: Depends.

              Variations!

              Hell, one end of the country (just England!) speaks a totally different language compare a Geordie to Cornwall. Even in the Midlands two villages 15km (about 10miles) use a different language.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Depends.

                Dialects, not languages.

                1. Ignazio

                  Re: Depends.

                  Languages. Often entirely different from the official language(s) of the country in question, and at times called dialects by the local colonizer.

                2. Mark #255

                  Re: Depends.

                  As the old saw has it, a language is merely a dialect with the backing of a navy.

                  1. Ken G Silver badge
                    Trollface

                    Re: Depends.

                    That explains why Austrian isn't a language but not why Uzbek, Kazakh and Luxembougish are.

                  2. matthewdjb

                    Re: Depends.

                    Which is why (Northern) Switzerland only speak dialect. No navy.

                    1. garwhale Bronze badge

                      Re: Depends.

                      Switzerland does have a navy even though it has no sea access as 4 lakes have international borders. The navy consists of about 10 patrol boats.

                3. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Depends.

                  "Dialects, not languages."

                  That depends on the region and is very academic when the 'dialect' is so local that the basis for the language being spoken isn't apparent.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Depends.

                technically speaking the person in Cornwall could be speaking Cornish.........

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Depends.

            And yet the whole world wants to rap like Americans. Go figure.

            1. herman Silver badge

              Re: Depends.

              I don’t know anyone that likes rap.

              1. Hazmoid

                Re: Depends.

                I thought it was spelled (C)rap with a silent C

            2. garwhale Bronze badge

              Re: Depends.

              Rap exists in many other languages than English.

        2. rcxb Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Depends.

          Americans do not speak English and I don't know why they insist that they do.

          Quite right. Thither tis but one c'rrect f'rm to writeth.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Depends.

          If it was possible to see a language as a font, then American would look like Comic Sans.

          Quite a lot of US linguistic choices arose out of their mental decision making. Like their usage of the word cider. Due to prohibition, they call cloudy apple juice "cider" and actual cider "hard cider". Usually if you describe something as "hard" on this side of the pond you are either referring to amount of give a given material has or what you're asking for comes with furry handcuffs and a 14 inch rubber cock.

          The only "Americanism" that makes sense, because it proves that Americans are crap at geography and history, is "French Fries".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Languages as fonts

            "If it was possible to see a language as a font, then American would look like Comic Sans."

            Thats unfair on Comic Sans, the shittiest font in the universe.

            1. lybad

              Re: Languages as fonts

              While comic sans might look awful iirc it's designed to be easy to read by dyslexics.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Languages as fonts

                Not designed to be, just turns out that way. The random spacing and width of the letters causes you to read by looking at each letter rather than the whole word. This helps dyslexics and hinders everyone else.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Languages as fonts

                Not exactly. It is easier for dyslexics to read, but it wasn't the intention.

            2. herman Silver badge

              Re: Languages as fonts

              Comic Sans is good for people with dyslexia.

        4. jgarbo
          Headmaster

          Re: Depends.

          Americans speak a 17th C southern English dialect modified by Noah Webster. Simple.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Depends.

            Does that explain why most of them don't know what a "kettle" is and haven't got a word for toilet so they need to call it a bathroom even when it doesn't have a bath in it?

            (In California I saw an "apartment" for sale with "2 and a half bathrooms". I think the half bath would be pretty difficult to use.).

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Depends.

              "I think the half bath would be pretty difficult to use."

              I expect it wouldn't be very hygienic.

              For real estate, it's more of an abbreviation. A full bath is a toilet, sink, tub and shower. A 3/4 bath would be toilet, sink (basin) and shower. A 1/2 bath is just a toilet and sink, but it's also called a "powder room" to designate that it doesn't have bathing fixtures. The same as a "cloakroom" or something only described as a 'loo'. It's not on to use the word "toilet" in an advertisement.

              1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
                Mushroom

                Re: Depends.

                Interesting use of "powder room" I wasn't aware of. For me, being a bit of a navy history buff, a powder room is a place where one would NOT want to light any matches (hence the icon). It would be a rather bad idea to confuse the two forms

                1. collinsl Bronze badge

                  Re: Depends.

                  It's where Ladies retired to to powder their noses

                2. Cynical Pie
                  Pint

                  Re: Depends.

                  To be fair after a night on the ale with a curry/kebab chaser you might not want to light a match in a domestic 'powder room' either :)

              2. Blade9983

                Re: Depends.

                For some reason they get all flushed when one used the work toilet.

            2. martinusher Silver badge

              Re: Depends.

              The 'half bathroom' would be called a 'cloakroom' or some such in English oldspeak. Its invariably a downstairs toilet adjacent to the living spaces. Two and a half is pretty standard -- you've got one bathroom that's ensuite with the master bedroom, another bathroom for everyone else and the living area facilities.

              American has roots in other languages -- often the contorted bits are just literal translations from other languages like Spanish and German. So its really like English English -- its a language that evolves rapidly by readily absorbing elements from any and every other language that has something useful to offer. I,being bilingual, actually prefer English English because its more nuanced.

              (Then there's Australian English.......)

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Depends.

                "American has roots in other languages"

                Decidedly so. Lots of immigrants have come to the US from places that spoke languages other than English and lots of words got "Americanized". Since the mix of people's backgrounds and ratios are different for the US vs England/UK, word use and grammar is different. I've also noticed that those educated in the UK have and use a much larger vocabulary than people in the US.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Depends.

        In French, it is spelled rigueur, so no, he doesn't speak French.

        (or at least, he wasn't referring to French)

      3. cosmodrome

        Re: Depends.

        Both. And I got the feeling that "rigour" is not French. That should either be "rigeur" or "ragout".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Depends.

          Ragout? Never been a fan of Dolmio. It wouldn't even sell out during the pandemic when pasta sold out...anyone got any idea who actually buys Dolmio and how the business stays afloat? My best guess is that they make their money off people buying to put in food bank donation bins...which begs the question, is donating Dolmio magnanimous or just pure evil...because to my mind, it seems like a great way to stop people queuing at local food banks. If there is a risk of getting Dolmio in your box, would you queue up for it? I'd rather eat the fucking box.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: Depends.

            Look at the ingrediants.

            Very odd.

            Make your own, much better.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge
      Headmaster

      No matter the vehement attempts by the Reg staff to turn it into an American rag, going so far as to adopt the American style-guide, there is only ONE correct spelling of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Headmaster

        > there is only ONE correct spelling of course.

        C O U R S E ✓

        water course, race course, course of bricks, ...

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          and, of course, coarse hair

          1. LionelB Silver badge

            Corsair?

            (with apologies to the 2 Ronnies)

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              FAIL

              Working In A Electronics Factory...

              Making a Course adjustment of a radio modems VCO's as displayed on a screen used to annoy the fuck out of me, then one day they sent one of the designers down to sit with me to establish the root cause of field failures.

              So he sits with me, I make a few suggestions about doing some simple tests first not last ie checking the power LED comes & on the physical switch tested (Sensor & solenoid - No human intervention), rather than failing at the final test & he agrees & so we get to the point of coarsely then finely adjusting the VCO's & I set them as I usually do.

              That's when he has his EUREKA moment as to why they are failing in actual use (Looking at me as his scapegoat).

              Aha......you are setting the VCO's at the very top end of the range, thats why they are failing!

              Would you care to bet on that I reply as I drop a screening can lid that will be fitted in the next assembly stage over the VCO's thin metal screening can, that brings the VCO Voltage to slap bang dead centre.

              Ohhh I han't taken account of that when I wrote the software, I'll have to make changes!

              While you're at it, can you please change Course to Coarse at the same time.

              Ohhhh!

              & while you're at it, if you really want the root cause of in field failures, hes sitting on the other side of you, only unlike me he insists on setting the VCO's to the lower end of the test limit, we usually catch most of his ones at final test.

              Ahhhhhhh!

              I think we got a updated software revision, but Captain Fuckface still set them low (See Icon).

            2. Sudosu Bronze badge

              My favorite 2 Ronnies joke was about the brand new wood burning car that got 200 miles to the galleon.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Indeed...they would also incorporate "six sticks".

              Six dicks of RAM please.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge
        Flame

        See also Wordle

        Wordle..!!!

      3. Sudosu Bronze badge

        Colour me surprised.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Or, in the right places in England, you might use the singular "us"and just say "colour us surprised".

          1. herman Silver badge

            A muse

            We are not amused.

    3. Necrohamster Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Depends which side of the pond you hail from, old bean. Both are correct in describing a condition of strictness or stiffness.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
        Trollface

        Both are correct...

        ...and one of them is English.

    4. midgepad

      The spelling

      is not de rigeur

  2. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

    My experience in similar environments is that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

    The easiest to support were the totally clueless (about computers, IT etc) and usually used a (classic) mac so macwrite and eudora were about the limit. The really clever you either never encountered, or when you did, the trick was to extract what the problem actually was, rather what they thought was causing the problem (signs and symptoms not diagnoses.)

    Those with just enough knowledge were forged in IT hell - inveterate fiddlers every one. Where the two former classes of user would leave things well enough alone the fiddlers would change things like BIOS settings (and forget to mention this or just plain forgot), edit boot configuration files, remove large files (/vmunix), change network configuration - setting their workstation address to the default router or local (recursive) DNS server were favourites - the diabolical ingenuity of these self inflicted breakages were breathtaking. [Unfortunately there were never any unsealed exterior windows :( ]

    1. SVD_NL Silver badge

      Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

      That reminds me of a "web developer" i came across one day...

      Complained she had no internet on her laptop. checked the wifi (we recently deployed new access points), ip settings, the whole shebang, eventually found the proxy set to 127.0.0.1...

      My guess is she was running a local web server for development, but she had absolutely no clue about it (and i strangely couldn't find any web server software on the PC!)

      Also i've never seen someone do that before, why not use a custom port like everyone else?

      eventually "just to be safe" i re-imaged the PC (okay maybe it was a little bit out of spite as she was being a real dick about it!)

      1. Necrohamster Silver badge

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        I'd like to think the helpdesk told her to change the proxy to 127.0.0.1 the last time she contacted them :D

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        > a little bit out of spite

        You can always throw the "unknown which other settings were broken by the user" argument - especially if the user self does not know.

        1. SVD_NL Silver badge

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          The exact argument i used!

          Another one, i call it the nuclear option, is "Well, if you didn't change anything, it must've been malware!" followed by an "investigation" and re-image.

          Especially if it's stuff like weird DNS or proxy settings, which can be an indicator of MITM attacks.

          Gotta be careful though, if your company has good cybersecurity protocols this might cause more trouble than it's worth...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            > followed by an "investigation" and re-image.

            At $dayjob I have local admin permissions on my laptop. To get local admin, I need to fill out a form and provide a reasonable explanation for why the permission is necessary.

            The final item on the form is to acknowledge that if I use my admin power to bork my machine, the IT department is under zero obligation to do anything aside from re-imaging. Being a habitual re-image customer is also grounds for denying admin access.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            Oh yeah, love this one.

            If you can't get the user to be honest, blame it on malware..."I'll need to check your email for the last thirty days and under the security agreement, I'll need to provide a report to management".

            "Oh, actually, I think I might have been changing X in Y".

        2. adam 40 Silver badge

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          It works both ways - I have user settings that are "fixed" by IT doing software updates.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            Ugh. Yes. They set OneDrive upload and download caps to 750 kB/s, turn on the warning for saving comments in Word files (we use comments on a daily basis), and add Outlook back to the Quick Launch bar.

            Tip for that particular one - set the Outlook shortcut to hidden. It won't get recreated, and won't show up either.

      3. sten2012

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        Local proxies have loads of uses on web development adjacent work. And I can see why you wouldn't find it if you were looking for web server software instead.

        Burp and zap for example - I'm from security world so they're the big two I can name off hand but they're handy tools for debugging too (though I suspect Devs can name better examples for that space)

        Also in this example both Java based so don't have to be "installed" per se.

        I can definitely see how that could have occurred. Particularly if they didn't really understand exactly what they were doing

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          It's less common for devs etc to use proxies these days as their language of choice usually has a built in webserver for debugging etc.

          Proxies used to be widely used to get around "max host" restrictions on shitty web server technology like IIS.

          I used to look after a shared hosting provider that built their entire service around a shitty ISAPI proxy to get around the max hosts limit, if I recall, you could have as many sites as you wanted, but there was a hard limit on the number of hostnames you could use, something like that...with the ISAPI filter, every "website" ran through exactly the same IIS website, so there was only one site setup on IIS itself...the ISAPI filter would catch the "host header" and call the appropriate directory on the IIS site then return the result. So from the browser perspective, you were getting a distinct website, but on the server side it was just one of maybe 100,000 sub directories...nobody actually knew how many sites were active on there at any given time, because nothing was ever deleted and the subscriptions varied from 1 month up to 5 years...it didn't actually matter what you paid for, your site would be there forever.

          The FTP setup was equally as insane and relied on a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge user database that was always a few days away from complete corruption, so we had to constantly recover it from backup.

          The whole thing, bizarrely, was far shittier than it sounds and regularly fell over.

          The hosting service was running off a single SBS 2000 server in what was essentially an understairs cupboard at the residence of a famous 1970's Disco star (quite a big, well known one, and still going strong by all accounts), originally on ISDN then eventually on a 256k DSL. The one and only in house sysadmin for it was a skinny chain smoking indian dude who always seemed massively on edge who sat in the same "cupboard" for up to 12 hours a day...he possibly lived there and was also the butler...who knows? I just remember going there for a meeting, being about an hour in, then he came in with a tray of refreshments with his hair all over the place, wearing a tight pair of jogging shorts (with his balls drooping out of them), a white vest, flip flops and an harry hanging out of his mouth...and thinking "who the fuck is this guy?"...then he sat down and introduced himself as the systems administrator...he looked like a pound shop indian knock off of Jimmy Savile.

          The whole thing was surreal. Absolutely bat shit. Hacky and jank as fuck.

          The business made a killing though and they were, as far as I could tell, a pretty good customer. I've just checked at they are no longer in action and seem to have been bought out by another large shared hosting business.

          Still though, one of (if not) the most insane profit making setups I've ever seen...and I've seen some weird shit in my time that somehow makes money...especially during the Windows Server 2000 days. The stuff people were doing to get around arbitrary limits on cheap licenses was crazy back then.

          1. sten2012

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            Proxies are still pretty widely used. I'm not talking about web server configuration here but the original posters "dev having their system proxy set to localhost"

            I'm not a dev (maybe I fall into the etc category though) and I use the previously listed all day, most days.

            Maybe a better example devs would be more familiar with is Telerik Fiddler. A local intercepting proxy.

            But - that's truly a brilliant story nonetheless. I thank you for it.

    2. My-Handle

      Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

      I dunno, I've worked with a couple of totally clueless users before. One was so frightened of her PC that she'd call for support for excessively simple message prompts (up to and including "Do you want to save your progress?"). The first of these I "solved" by literally asking her verbally the question that the message asked, and when she replied "yes" I recommended that she click "yes". After the third call for that same message I got a little less sympathetic. I get that some people really don't understand how computers work, but in an office job that heavily relies on use of a computer a certain amount of computer literacy really is a basic requirement for the job.

      Another would run into occasional issues (like claiming her email wasn't working, when the actual problem was that she couldn't find Outlook to open it), but would stand over my shoulder and give advice / make recommendations all the while. The phrase "If you knew how to solve it, you wouldn't have needed me" or something like it might have passed my lips after one half-hour session of this (hardware issue that time round).

      They might not produce the most complex problems, but they can be difficult to support in their own ways.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        > One was so frightened of her PC that she'd call for support for excessively simple message prompts (up to and including "Do you want to save your progress?"). The first of these I "solved" by literally asking her verbally the question that the message asked, and when she replied "yes" I recommended that she click "yes".

        Roughly half of academic support calls for senior staff consist of them complaining the messages on the screen make no sense, followed by tech support reading the message verbatum - at which point they may or may not get it ("out of disk space in c:" being a common one) but of you ask them to think about it a few seconds they usually decide it makes sense after all - but still not understand it on screen

        I was disciplined for suggesting that certain individuals be send on remedial computing courses

        1. bpfh
          Pirate

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          "Behold as I smite thee with the mighty sword Cluebringer !"

        2. John 110
          Coat

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          When they were issued with laptops, I suggested that it might be beneficial for our medical staff to attend basic computer classes set up be the NHS Trust I worked for. I was told "but that's wht we have you, isn't it?"

          (I was ACTUALLY told "why would I keep a dog, but bark myself?" but that comment was rescinded when I mentioned it to my line manager.)

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            I've come across school staff ( back in those self-same Olden Days- see previous) who had not had any training and used their PCs like a typewriter, so nothing was ever saved. Just typed once and printed- possibly then taken to the photocpier.

            The worst of these, and several years on btw so she had no excuse because she couild have asked someone for help, kept losing work and had to retype it all, because she was often called away from her office and always turned off the computer because the stuff was confidential.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            having dealt with NHS staff in an old job you have my sympathies! My wife currently deals with the NHS LOTS, running clinics although she isn't employed by the NHS. One of the big issues is they employ admin staff who are THICK AS MINCE. At one large hospital in the SW of England two admin staff had to have a A4 print out of the alphabet stuck to the shelves with patient records on, as they couldn't grasp the alphabet sufficiently to file the notes correctly!

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

              " two admin staff had to have a A4 print out of the alphabet stuck to the shelves with patient records on"

              I expect it saves time and asking a colleague. Did it have the big and little letters? ;-)

            2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

              Afterthought: Some foreign staff may have a different alphabet at home. And they may be doctors.

              It also may be worth notating your policy on names that begin with Mc and Mac and antique M', as well as O', and conceivably De. That sort of thing.

              Some Mac names are not Scottish or Irish. Regardless, I think we put them all at the start of M, encoded as M*. So MacDonald comes before Maastricht. My involvement was only with capitalizing correctly. I programmed a list of exceptions, so if your name actually is MacHinery, you are out of luck with me.

        3. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Remedial Computing Courses

          My officemate would sometimes tell me various users "Needs to be sent to the mouse double-clicking school."

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Remedial Computing Courses

            I'm stealing that quote!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Remedial Computing Courses

            I remember learning to use a mouse, and having trouble double-clicking. I invariably moved the mouse slightly while double-clicking, causing the computer to drag the icon instead of double-click.

            Thirty years later, I've worked in a dozen languages and strongly prefer Linux.

            1. garwhale Bronze badge

              Re: Remedial Computing Courses

              My father had difficulty using a mouse - he was in his 70s, and I found that he had turned it upside down, so moving the mouse up moved the cursor down. He also could not get the hang of keeping the button down while moving the mouse, so all folders were littered with new documents created as the top menu action.

          3. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

            Re: Remedial Computing Courses

            My dad, has for over 30 years now been incapable of double clicking on a mouse, he is just too heavy handed moving the mouse between each mash of his finger. The solution I found was to get him a track ball, then when he double clicks, he lifts his had up off the ball, and pokes the button. I also had to set the double click to slowest speed, and give him mouse trails so he doesn't lose it.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Remedial Computing Courses

              Oh, there is a second solution: Windows offers a setting how much the mouse can move between clicks. Older versions of Windows exposed this in the setting dialogue, newer have to edit the registry to achieve that.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        I can think of one reason why people get scared of clicking on anything they don't know. In the Good Old Days the assumption was that no matter where you went you could always unwind your progress with anything that couldn't be undone easily requiring an additional confirmation step. These days I'm always coming across interfaces that break this model, especially on phones and other portable devices. (Modern websites are also significant offenders.)

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          In the olden days (i.e. when computers started to arrive on people's desks) it was quite common to find users who did actually know how to use the machines but were scared that if they did something wrong they'd break the computer. And that can be quite paralysing.

          1. Ken G Silver badge
            Angel

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            I remember in college being encouraged to play with the new CAD system as there was nothing we could do at the UI that would break it.

            30 seconds later...

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

              Don't consider that a challenge, unless it is, then "challenge accepted".

      3. fromxyzzy

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        I've done various remote support gigs over the years, mostly tech but some totally non-tech-related, and one thing that I will never get over is the people who call in for assistance and then steadfastly refuse to follow directions or receive the help they called in to request. A five minute fix becomes a twenty minute fix because people won't follow directions.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        Only a couple of clueless users? You are blessed.

    3. abetancort

      Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

      A real computer wiz will never raise a support ticket even if the machine is totally bricked. They will find a way to fix it or die trying before surrendering and asking for help from anyone. The nightmare are those that think they are wiz kids but actually aren’t.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        Sadly, our IT department forbids us to replace Windoze with Linux. :-(

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          or even have admin access to the windoze we've got ....

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          Yep, "Security Team" took a dim view on running Linux desktop and won't allow any "unsupported" OSs on the network. Had to get the machine reimaged. Oh, BTW all the other 100s of linux VMs don't count for *REASONS*

          1. Sudosu Bronze badge

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            Just install Kali from the Microsoft Store.

          2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Unsupported OSes

            Just dig up a disused "old and slow" computer and place your unsupported OS of choice onto it. It's old, so no VPro nonsense. OS/2 Warp. MkLinux (on old Mac hardware). NeXTSTEP (on a NeXTcube). Etc. Does your DHCP system deny IP addresses to any machine not joined to your Microsoft domain?

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Unsupported OSes

              > Does your DHCP system deny IP addresses to any machine not joined to your Microsoft domain?

              Can be done if needed. Use your preferred search engine on "DHCP 802.1x Auth" and "Switch 802.1x Auth". I'd recommend manually including devices which can do 802.1x but cannot join the domain, and a separate VLAN with at least MAC auth for some ports since not all devices can do 802.1x.

              802.1x auth requires on the server side Windows 2000 Server SP3+hotfix (SP4 with updates recommended for obvious reasons), and on the client at least XP SP1. As for other OS-es: Dunno, may vary, most current ones should on client and server side.

      2. Pierre 1970

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        A real computer wizzard should also know that your computer at work is a part of a bigger structure that need to be maintained, supported and upgraded. So, even if he always knew the solution it must report it because:

        1) Is part of the rules

        2) Can retrofeed or spot a more general problem

        3) Somebody else is being paid for that

        4) etc

        Of course, being empathetic implies that if you have the required knowledge, you should help isolating the issue, gather extra information to help the diagnose, even change something and test the porpose solution, and so on.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

      Like Declan, I used to do IT support in a University computing department. Many of the lecturers and post grads were a pain to work with. There was one lecturer who kept apologising for bothering us, but in almost all cases, here queries were sensible or something was genuinely broken, so never had an issue with her and we got on fine. Likewise, the secretaries in the office were always reasonable to deal with and we got on well; partly because I'd figured out fairly early that the 3 groups who kept that place running were the secretaries, caretakers and IT staff...

      1. call-me-mark

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        The three groups who keep any place running are the secretaries, caretakers and IT staff.

        1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          Those all sound like cost centers to me. Where is the money being made?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            In places which would grind to a halt if it weren't for the secretaries, caretakers and IT staff.

        2. Anonymous Custard
          Headmaster

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          Add in security to the holy quartet, especially if you end up working out of hours...

          1. Giles C Silver badge

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            Golden rules for out of hours working

            Make friends with security and cleaners - because if you need to get into locked areas or lock yourself out then the pay are the best people to know.

            I used to be on first name terms at a previous job with all the security guards across the sites, made things a lot easier, as I was often working late in the evenings when everyone sensible had gone home. This was planned maintenance not being stupid and working 20 hour days.

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

            The local IT bod at my place of work always gets a small "something" at Christmas.

            He always thanks me, tells me it's not necessary, and I always thank him, reminding him of the calls throughout the year which were "not necessary" (due to my cluelessness). I also tell him it's my policy to keep on the "right side" of IT, lest something unfortunate, involving a roll of carpet, duct tape and quicklime, occur

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          And the catering staff

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          Add "the folks who keep the coffee machines working". Ever seen an entire floor full of uncaffeinated engineers? Expect anything to be successfully fixed?

      2. rjmx

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        Been there. Done that. Can confirm.

    5. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

      <pedant_mode>A little learning is a dangerous thing</pedant_mode>

      1. MiguelC Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

        Hmm. "A little learning is a dang’rous thing"

        (and I dislike poetry because I read Pope, not the other way one might dislike poetry)

        1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

          Which Pope? Francis?

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: "supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

      "macwrite and eudora were about the limit"

      Invariably referred to as Endora in my experience

      I'm sure Agnes Moorhead would be flattered

  3. jake Silver badge

    Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

    "Have you worked with a supposed expert who turned out to be anything but?"

    I can probably tell by any given answer if the party answering has ever actually worked for a professional organization.

    But to answer the question for myself, yes. Daily, for almost all of my professional life. One in three or better of so-called "professionals" in the corporate world has clearly been promoted well above their level of incompetence.

    1. Julian 8 Silver badge

      Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

      look at our policians.,

      Or, even better, the Covid enquiry where it was pointed out that a lot of those who were dealing with covid had degrees in History - and they were involved in making decisions.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

        Well they do say, that if you don't know history, you are bound to repeat it...

        1. SnailFerrous

          Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

          A shame that so many people became history as a result.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

        You'd think they of all people would know about 1918-22, its effects and why the USA established a pandemic monitoring agency to try and head off round 2

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

      Whenever I see the word incompetent it always reminds me of Tony the hotdog vendor from Highlander...cracks me up every time, the delivery is perfect.

      Tony: [as he reads a newspaper headlined: Headhunter-3, Cops-Zero] Hey Moran! Have you read what it says in here?

      Moran: You kiddin' Tony? You know cops can't read.

      Tony: [Teasingly to Moran] What does "incompetent" mean?

      Moran: [Speaking to Detective Bedsoe] That mayor, he calls me at 2 o'clock in the morning! I mean I don't even answer the phone anymore!

      Tony: Hey! What does "baffled" mean? Hee hee hee hee! Ha ha ha ha!

      [Moran and Bledsoe give Tony an irritated look]

    3. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

      In my (more) cynical old age I am comforted by Sturgeon's Revelation: "Ninety percent of everything is crud" Wikipedea.

      Whilst that appears generally true, one of the good things about retirement is the ability to choose more of the other 10%...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

        Tim99,

        "the ability to choose more of the other 10%..."

        The operative word being 'choose' .... pre-retirement most of the 90% is not chosen but imposed by 'work, life in general and a God that has a huge but 'strange' sense of humour' !!!

        P.S. If you believe .... it is God, if you don't it is fate ...... both work the same way !!!

        :)

    4. psychopomp

      Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

      Sorry, but shouldn't that be 'level of competence'? Because incompetence creates chaos, and a chaotic system will not reach a 'level' ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Professional incompetence. Or was that incompetents?

        it's called the Peter Principle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

  4. SVD_NL Silver badge

    CS students are interesting

    I study information sciences but do a lot of CS courses as well. Every description is spot-on!

    They sure do know a lot about computers, but the OS user level is often a different story...

    For information sciences i can provide tech support to my windows-using friends when they struggle a bit (git seems to be particularly recalcitrant).

    Some CS students would rather use some custom linux distro where they created their own kernel-level email client and expectedly spend most of the time working on group projects struggling with their own computer!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CS students are interesting

      They sure do know a lot about computers, but the OS user level is often a different story...

      Computing Science isn't IT. In my own university they were, until recently, two entirely separate departments: computer science in the maths faculty and IT in the engineering faculty. Expecting a computer scientist to know about the workings of a particular OS is like expecting a statistician to know about horse breeding or a polymer chemist to know about clothes design.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: CS students are interesting

        Also, computer science isn't what I and my peers in our teens and all the adults around us called what we were doing "computing" - designing and building computer hardware and software, actually *creating* stuff. I spent several years on a "Computing Science" course at university wondering bemusedly when we'd actually get to do some actual "computing" as I'd been doing for six years before, not realising that we actually *were* doing "computing", but that was the wrong term for what I thought I was doing.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          Re: CS students are interesting

          Yes I thought it quite amusing how much our local college thought Computer Science was in fact learning how to use Micro$haft products, and doing powerpoint presentations with queasy fades.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: CS students are interesting

            upvoted twice for on point observation of the inaneness of early lower level "IT" courses.

            downvoted for childish Microsoft insult pun.

            result: +1

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: CS students are interesting

      When I did a CS degree, I had to:

      - Fit a (stupendously expensive) IDE DVD-ROM drive in a home PC for a guy studying for his Masters in CS. He literally paid me to do it because he didn't understand how to. Two days later, he complained that he "couldn't switch region" any more - and we'd already had a VERY extensive chat about how those drives would stop you changing region after 5 goes, and he shouldn't mess with it.

      - Explain "minimax" algorithms to Masters programming students.

      - Literally debugged a guy's program from across the room. Saw he was struggling, knew exactly what the problem was, walked up and offered the solution. It was that simple and obvious.

      - Explain how an emulator worked to many, many people after they saw me using one to run old programs.

      - Show several people how to login to their university FTP accounts (which was a requirement of submitting any programming project!). I'm pretty sure I was the only one in that year's intake of the department to submit coursework from home (by modem) because nobody else understood FTP (and www was still in its Netscape days back then).

      - Explain to people how I managed to download hundreds of megs (huge for the time) and spread it across several disks using PKZIP on the command-line to take it home. Hell, I was doing parts of that onto floppies still (and all the machines had ZIP drives).

      And I was literally the only person I ever saw, in a CS department with a huge suite of dual-boot Linux/NT machines only for use by CS students, to ever boot into Linux. It was specifically set up to allow both OS, all the same software, all the same access and logins. It must have been a work of art for its day, because it was seamless. And I think I'm the only one who ever used it, at least in the Bachelor's programmes. I watched many people submit code that worked on Windows but failed on Linux because they'd written it exclusively with Windows components / assumptions etc. and it would be rejected and they couldn't understand why.

      I came to the conclusion - as a Maths "major" with CS being only the "minor" in my degree - that almost all of the CS people I'd met there would never work in IT, never write a program once their course was finished, and would struggle to run a home laptop, let alone anything more complex.

      From my alumni updates, I was pretty much right.

      1. Androgynous Cow Herd

        Re: CS students are interesting

        SO, you're saying they all are earning a better salary while working shorter hours?

    3. James Anderson

      Re: CS students are interesting

      From long years of working in the field I would rate how Thier degree subject correlated to there ability to work on systems in the real world ( well standard business IT setups ).

      So .. top came biology graduates, always looking for practical solutions and never phased by wierd requirements.

      Next history graduates. They just got on with it so they could get work out of the way and get to the pub quiz team on time.

      Next ... No degree. Came to IT through other departments. Usually super clever and innovatine but with an annoying tendancy to reinvent wheels.

      Next English graduates. Varying degrees of competence but at least the documentation was readable.

      Finally comp sci graduates. They always thought working on normal IT systems were beneath them and spent endless hours trying to push the latest bleeding edge fad as a solution to mundane problems. And for all there theoretical grounding in stacks heaps and queues they never seemed to know when it was thier round.

  5. b0llchit Silver badge
    Happy

    The average intelligence of a person is constant. The smartest are also the dumbest to even things out.

    1. jake Silver badge

      It just seems that way.

      Over the years I've discovered that the more educated a person is in any one field, the more likely they are to think they know more than anybody else in all other fields.

      I'm sure you can guess why I no longer do work for Doctors, Lawyers or Politicians.

      1. SVD_NL Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: It just seems that way.

        It always bothers me when people with university degrees are ignorant like that...

        You're one of the lucky people who knows how to search for, read, and critically judge them too. even if the article isn't in your own research field, you should generally be able to interpret them quite well.

        Instead, they seemingly forget what critical thinking is and work based on assumptions...

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Ah but that is because the entire school system is there to stuff your head full of data and details, not to teach you critical thought.

          1. SVD_NL Silver badge

            I do agree, but in theory academics should be different. the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking, and then have you apply that in your specific field with the tools they teach you (models, frameworks, etc.).

            Having been through a few different Bachelors, and talking with some other friends, it does vary wildly. Even some masters will act like you're in high school and give you a bunch of stuff to remember by heart...

            1. rafff
              Unhappy

              " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

              When I taught at a (not terribly good UK) university, the impression I got was that the students were only interested in getting a bit of paper at the end; they were not actually interested in the subject, or in being educated.

              I left after one year and went back to doing real work.

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                the students were only interested in getting a bit of paper at the end; they were not actually interested in the subject, or in being educated.

                The inevitable result of Tony Blair's insistence that 50% of people should go to university, whether they would benefit or not.

                1. SVD_NL Silver badge

                  Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                  In the Netherlands they are kind of backpedalling on that already. There is a pretty big shortage of people in technical/manual professions, think mechanics, welders, machinists, hairdressers.

                  He has now sent every student that is doing an exam on a higher level of middle school education (17-18 years old) asking them to consider doing an MBO education (we have 3 levels, MBO is usually very practical, HBO is an associate degree, and WO is university).

                  There is a load of pressure on kids to do well in school and get the highest level of education, but a lot of parents (and children by proxy) don't stop and think about what would make them happy.

                  I think it's a good call, especially because the kinds of jobs you get after completing an MBO or a lot less likely to be automated or made redundant due to AI. Now it's just a matter of shifting an entire culture based around academic performance...

                  1. H in The Hague
                    Pint

                    Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                    "I think it's a good call, especially because the kinds of jobs you get after completing an MBO or a lot less likely to be automated or made redundant due to AI. Now it's just a matter of shifting an entire culture based around academic performance.."

                    Yup. Just visited a customer here in NL this morning which has very hand-on people doing metalbashing and wiring to build high quality products which they then export worldwide, even to low wage countries. Probably helped by the smart software they also incorporate in their products, and write in-house, don't do offshoring. But they, and several other of my customers, do find it difficult to find technical operatives.

                    Almost the weekend -->

                  2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                    Yup. The professions in most danger of replacement now are the White Collar jobs.

                    Computers are cheap to make do processes. Robots are expensive

                    It's been quietly going on for 50 years whilst everyone handwrings about "robots taking jobs" - when was the last time you saw a room full of accounting clerks working on ledgers? Or a dedicated filing clerk in every medium size office?

                    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                      Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                      > a dedicated filing clerk in every medium size office?

                      Actually, that one should come back and take care of the file server organization. Quite a part of IT is reorganizing a fileserver structure to make sense. Tedious, time consuming. A human of the type Hermes Conrad is better and faster at it. That would be a good AI job, maybe?

                  3. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                    Yup. I'm in pharma, and a good welder, someone who can do smooth joints in stainless steel, can make almost as much as an engineer with a 4-year degree. And the welder is harder to replace, with a computer or another person!

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                  not only the numbers going to Uni but the grade inflation is frightening! I graduated with a 2:1 B.Sc in 1993 then a M.Sc in 1994. Back then about 7% came away with a 1st (and it was so for years and years), they were either very clever or worked their bolloxs off. Now over 30% of graduates get a 1st!!!!!!!!!!!!

                  1. legless82

                    Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                    Even as late as 2003, I was one of only 3 people of my 65-strong degree cohort to get a first. On reflection, at any objective level, the additional work needed to get that over the 2:1 just wasn't worth it. It was just as a consequence of studying a subject that I really enjoyed.

                    Now, it's got to the stage where graduate employers are specifically asking for a first.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: " the entire point of university degrees is to teach you critical thinking"

                I saw this both in Britain and New Zealand when large charges were introduced along with crippling student loans

                The vast majority of students switched from showing up to learn and expand their minds to being fixated on getting in and out as quickly and cheaply as possible with a piece of paper at the end of it

                Business Studies became especially popular (instead of arts) because it was so cheap, leading one NZ billionaire to comment that he wouldn't touch the average BBS grad as they didn't have an original thought in their heads - he preferred Arts grads because they'd demonstrated they could learn anything if presented with a challenge

                Hard sciences and medical degrees (human & animal) popularity dropped like a rock because students would tend to graduate with student loan debts ten times higher than the BBS graduates and career prospects which swould never pay it off (even for what was regarded as well-paid in the industries - older staff would not tolerate new grads wanting what was regarded as "senior management" high salaries simply so they could keep up with the interest payments)

            2. werdsmith Silver badge

              Even some masters will act like you're in high school and give you a bunch of stuff to remember by heart...

              How can this be when a Masters is mostly about the dissertation and it is judged on critical thought and the ability to research? .

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            And to condition you to factory hours/shifts and not to question those in authority

            (I'm not being sarcastic, The primary driver of mass education in Britain was a desire by industrial barons to have a workforce educated enough to read the fucking manuals and not keep killing/maiming themselves, along with not questioning what they were told and capable of keeping factory hours - the downtime was costing revenue even if the workers were uncompensated for injuries)

          3. Tim99 Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Some truth there, but since we use metrics like "pass" rates, the system ensures that pupils pass exams. "Education" and critical thought are "unnecessary".

        2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

          Re: It just seems that way.

          My experience is that the further you go up the educational tree, the more you realise how little you know.

          It's those who know it all that know very little. There are exceptions to this...... some experts really are experts. Generally, they don't mention it in conversation.

          1. mikecoppicegreen

            Re: It just seems that way.

            There's an old saying - if other people describe someone as an expert, there's a fair chance that that person is an expert, and if someone describes themself as an expert, there's a strong probability that they are not!

            1. Anonymous IV

              Re: It just seems that way.

              I always liked to describe my job title as Trainee Expert.

          2. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

            Re: It just seems that way.

            'the further you go up the educational tree, the more you should realise how little you know'.

            FIFY ;-)

          3. Fonant

            Re: It just seems that way.

            "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." The fundamental problem with science.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: It just seems that way.

        I'm sure you can guess why I no longer do work for Doctors, Lawyers or Politicians.

        Doctors and Lawyers I can understand, but when have Politicians ever been educated?

        1. SVD_NL Silver badge

          Re: It just seems that way.

          They are a special case. They are not educated or knowledgeable in anything but ass-kissing and lying, but they still think they know everything!

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: It just seems that way.

            But also in the UK they are often ( indeed mainly in the case of the present government) from expensive "public" (i.e. very expensive private - for the Americans amongst us) schools where they are taught that in effect they've learnt all that they need to know.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It just seems that way.

          "Doctors and Lawyers I can understand, but when have Politicians ever been educated?"

          These days, most of the politicians are ex-lawyers. Whiach raises some questions. The best lawyers can be very, very highly paid. So are these ex-lawyers realising that even politicians make more than lawyers or were they not good enough to be successful in law?

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: It just seems that way.

            A good number even keep both jobs. Having an MP in the company and particularly the chambers does wonders for the business. And after their 5 or 10 years they go back full time and command even higher fees alongside an MP's pension Being elected as an MP is just an investment.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: It just seems that way.

              What does "MP" stand for in this context? I am from Europe, Germany, so MP is always Military Police since they are the only MP stationed here.

              1. Bent Metal

                Re: It just seems that way.

                @Jou - MP in this conversation is "Member of Parliament", i.e. an elected member of the body that gets to write the laws.

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: It just seems that way.

        Over the years I've discovered that the more educated a person is in any one field, the more likely they are to think they know more than anybody else in all other fields.

        In my experience the worst groups for his are physicists and computer programmers.

      4. NXM Silver badge

        Re: It just seems that way.

        Politicians are educated??????

        PPE is not an education in anything IMHO. Just twatting about for a bit before you get to be a spad, then a backbencher, and then are finally given the opportunity to some serious damage as a minister.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: It just seems that way.

          Don't underestimate the damage potential of SPADs.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: It just seems that way.

            Especially if you happen to be the Red Baron

    2. PB90210 Bronze badge

      And remember that half of the people are dumber than average

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Where did the other half go?

  6. Kildare

    Not all Doctors . . .

    I was the network manager in a large hospital and was asked to look at a problem in the heart unit. Not really my job, but I was nearest. It was a simple problem and in only a few minutes the PC was doing its thing again.

    The surgeon who used the PC was obviously impressed and said things like how clever I was to understand computers. I replied that ! was was pretty shaky on heart surgery though!

    1. KarMann Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Not all Doctors . . .

      If only it'd been in the neurology department. Then you'd have the absolutely perfect punchline.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Not all Doctors . . .

        I am a mathematician currently working in statistical analysis of neuroimaging data, which means I get to deal with proper neuroscientists (including the odd brain surgeon) on a regular basis. In general we have surprisingly good working relationships, based on mutual intellectual insecurity.

    2. abend0c4 Silver badge

      Re: Not all Doctors . . .

      a problem in the heart unit

      Connecting a CCFL inverter between the nipples usually resolves that one way or another.

    3. Jay 2

      Re: Not all Doctors . . .

      My firend's wife is (now) an anaesthetist consultant and in the past she's commented that I must be intelligent to do computery stuff and know loads of other useless stuff. My reply was she's the one with years' worth of medical training, exams and qualifications which are not exactly a breeze to get!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having worked in a lot of aspects of computing and dealing with users, it really does depend on the attitude of the person experiencing the problem.

    Some I never minded dealing with because they took the opportunity to learn what the problem was. They took the time to understand that it wasn't always IT's fault. I would rarely hear from that sort of person about the same problem again.

    Other times, as soon as you knew who was calling, you'd sigh and prepare for another round of patiently listening for the umpteenth time about a problem you'd already tried to explain (and provided explicit written instructions for).

    Then you'd always get that odd call where you think to yourself "Why did anyone let you near a computer".

    We were all there at one time or another - I remember when I was just starting in IT and we had a problem, I asked the support guy at the time to tell me what the problem was and how to solve it. The next time it happened, I asked if I could fix the problem under his supervision. All times after that, I'd just call him, tell him I was fixing it, and just cracked on. He'd get his callout, and I'd get my work done quicker.

  8. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    No email rejection?

    Usually any email sent to a non existing address comes back with "return to sender, address unknown", so he should have noticed it. UNLESS it was the time where catchall mailboxes were still used.

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: No email rejection?

      OR he received the bounce message but assumed it was someone else's problem and deleted it.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: No email rejection?

        I woud put money on it ( and I don't gamble).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No email rejection?

        My favourite is when the bounce message is coming from someone elses server. Particularly if they are using the same software!

      3. ChoHag Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: No email rejection?

        Maybe he was writing to the helldesk to ask them why the MAILER-DAEMON was sending him all the messages with the computer gobbledygook in them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No email rejection?

          Nah, he clearly used to work tier 1 tech support, a.k.a. helldesk, and just missed a letter.

        2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: No email rejection?

          Oh, that reminds me on the IT call "Who the F is Mayor Error and what is he doing on my harddrive?"

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: No email rejection?

      Or the bounce gets filtered somewhere. I was configuring a mailing list recently and sending messages to it from an external address. The first one didn't get through. I assumed this was because I had just configured the address thirty seconds back and maybe it hadn't propagated yet. I waited a few minutes and tried again, no message. I started wondering whether I had misconfigured the spam protection piece because I was sending from GMail, and that can sometimes be a problem. I went to check that config. After doing that, I sent a third message. It didn't go through.

      A while later, I was using the keyboard to navigate between mail folders, which was fortunate for me, because as I moved past the spam mailbox, it checked with the server and showed me the three bounce messages the list had sent me, all of them telling me in clear terms that I had not switched the list to accept incoming mail from external servers. I had expected that any bounce message would have been sent through since other mail from that server was being accepted, and it caused me to waste plenty of time.

  9. Grunchy Silver badge

    Emacs and Lisp scripts? Fantastic!

    The part I liked was that the only thing actually wrong was a simple typo.

    The part I didn’t like was that the only thing actually wrong was that the email script wasn’t able to handle undeliverable messages (that’s really poor). Tsk.

    1. Fading
      Windows

      Assuming it was undeliverable...

      Or were a lot of dummy email accounts for various miss-spellings of "Helpdesk" set up so the BOFH could happily ignore all but the most exact of complainants?

    2. KarMann Silver badge
      WTF?

      I read it as though the Emacs user and the heldesk typo were completely separate & unrelated incidents, and probably different individuals involved as well (bar Declan). So nothing to do with that email script, then.

    3. l8gravely

      emacs for mail reading is wonderful!

      I'm still, 30 years on, using a package called 'vm' or 'viewmail' in emacs to read and write most of my emails. It's quicker and simpler and my fingers know all the shortcuts. And more importantly, I can edit text in emacs much much much quicker and less painfully than in almost any other tool. I know enough to be productive.

      But I hate lisp, in all it's forms. elisp (what emacs is written in) is a mystery to me. I've just never wrapped my brain around it even after all these years. I just find all the fingernail clippings in my source code to be obnoxious. But I still love my email tool, even when I have to goto another client for html only or graphical emails (phone mail client handles those if need be) which I can't deal with otherwise. And I miss a ton of spam crap and can whip through hundreds of emails efficiently.

      Most email reader tools today are just point and click (or poke and prod on the phone/ipad) and just suck for any serious or largescale work. They're easy to use at first, but then you hit the limits and your productivity just drops into the toilet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: emacs for mail reading is wonderful!

        For phone or iPad, aren't they for use when ON the toilet? (Don't drop it in.)

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: emacs for mail reading is wonderful!

        "a package called 'vm'...in emacs"

        vm in emacs? Sounds a bit too close to vim for many emacs users :-)

        1. PerlyKing

          Re: emacs for mail reading is wonderful!

          No, you'd use viper for that :-)

  10. David Newall

    I administered an academic email system. The head of one department was notorious for terrible spelling, punctuation and all manner of other sins. Everybody knew that was just how he was.

    In those days it was expected that postmaster would redirect email that had the wrong delivery address, and I chortled to myself when, one day, I received a bounce from email that he sent. Other than the address, it was perfect.

  11. TheOtherNeo

    But, I informed him...

    Almost as bad as sending helpdesk emails to the wrong address. Had an irate site manager complaining that their IT issues are not being attended to and that the staff have been raising issues to no avail. So, I ask around to whom these issues were raised. One of the staff points across the store to someone. I retort: Him? The cleaner?

    Yes, he reported the IT issues to the cleaner belonging to a 3rd party contractor.

  12. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

    At one place I worked, I was a support specialist in my field (HPC and UNIX support), but a mere user of the desktop services, although this place was enlightened enough to have Linux workstations for those who wanted them. Because it was Linux (Scientific Linux IIRC), and I used Linux on my own personal systems as well, I was pretty well versed, and probably knew as much as most of the resident Linux desktop support specialists.

    When I first got it, it bugged me that the resolution on my workstation did not match the provided screen, and the required resolution was not listed as available. Having done this before, I worked out the correct mode lines for the X11 config file, but could not put them in (no permissions - merely a user, not even able to change the startup to allow me to use a local config file).

    I logged a ticket, and the support person who came around to look said to me after checking and editing my change into the file that it was nice to actually talk to a 'user' who knew what they were doing, and proceeded to make the same change for other users with the same setup (quite why it had not been fixed before, I don't know).

    But often, I have had to beat it through the head of L1 support people when they looked at tickets that I raised to actually get them to listen and take note of the diagnosis that I had done. In most circumstances I turned out to be correct (I used to be an L2 support specialist at a major UNIX supplier so know how to diagnose problems, and also knew how to present the problems further into a support organisation), but they had to be correct because they were 'support' and I was a 'user' so what did I know! It's always been a personal bugbear of mine when I have had to 'escalate' a problem to someone who knew less than me.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

      I was very glad that I always had good relationships with our support guys. So it there was a problem with one of our devices that I hadn't been able to resolve by myself I could just call them directly and they'd either talk me though how to resolve it or come along to the site and I'd log the call while they were fixing it. So when the front line support tried the old "have you turned it on and off again" I could just say "X is alrady working on the problem".

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

      The problem is that the L1 support people really don't know what they're talking about. They have to follow the script. If you explain to them what is actually wrong, it won't make any sense to them and you might as well tell them that the seasonal polarity reversal of the doohickey smeared nanofluid over the flanges (and you really don't want nanofluid on those flanges).

      This is where the code word "shibboleet" is useful. https://xkcd.com/806/

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

        I usually explain to them which support team will understand the polarity of the nanofluid and they are going to have to assign it to , rather than have then guess and the ticket sits in various queues getting ignored and bounced around.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

          I've found that doesn't usually work and with many L1s will result in them _deliberately_ misfiling things

          Unsurprisingly the university in question has a _very_ high turnover of L1 staff and they're almost all 1st year students

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right! @the prostetnic

          I had this once in the support centre. I escalated a problem (it was for some obscure geographical 3-D mapping software that I was not even aware that my team supported), and saw it being directed to completely the wrong team by my escalation point (I had done some preliminary analysis of the customer supplied core dump, so had some idea what the problem was). As I had the authority in this case, I grabbed the call back from the inappropriate queue, leaving a linked secondary copy with comments about what I had done and why, and re-queued it myself to where I felt the call should have gone.

          This was a complete breach of protocol, but fortunately the receiving queue specialist agreed with my analysis and what I had done, and it resulted in a much quicker resolution.

          I got hauled over the coals, however, and even though it got a more rapid resolution for the customer, I was warned to never do it again, at least not without talking to the management team first (my manager said that if he was going to be chastised for something his team was doing, he wanted to know before he got the call!)

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

        Going back to when I was an L2 support specialist for IBM RS/6000 AIX in the UK support centre, at the same time I was also an L1 specialist for AIX PS/2 (different architecture, different code base, both called 'AIX'!)

        I really didn't like escalating to L2 AIX PS/2 in the US for precisely the problems that I talked about above.

        One particular AIX PS/2 problem I had where I could see how something was failing, but not why (it turned out to be a stack corruption due to address wraparound within a memory segment because of Intel's segmented architecture, something I was not aware of at the time), where I ended up taking it through L2, who asked me to speak directly to L3 because they could not understand the diagnostic information I was presenting. L3 asked me to join calls with the development team, who could understand my info, and eventually worked out the cause.

        So as a mere L1 for this product, I actually ended up acting as L2 and L3 support as well. The only thing I could not do was raise the APAR, because I did not have the authority.

    3. John Sager

      Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

      I get that as a customer with a problem too. In the early days of ISPs I had to change ISP because the previous one went bust, and then my Sure Signal femtocell device from Vodafone stopped working. Now, knowing something about network security I guessed that my new IP address wasn't whitelisted on their firewall. However trying to get Voda to sort it out was 'difficult'. The young lady on support did pass me on to her supervisor eventually but his reaction was 'Oh, that's a different department'. So we went round the houses about responsibility and I eventually persuaded him to own the problem in Voda for me. About a fortnight later it started working, and they did actually tell me the problem. That IP address range was originally used in Belgium so it hit their geofencing blocks in the firewall.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

        I had an external DSL modem that wouldn't connect. Both the DSL and internet lights were off. I had restarted it several times, but to no avail. Tier 1 support INSISTED on me rebooting the modem again, rebooting the router, rebooting my computer, connecting the computer directly to the modem rather than through the router, etc. (Note: If the external modem's DSL and Internet lights are out, absolutely nothing you can do with router and computer will fix it.) They FINALLY exhausted their script and transferred me to Tier 2, who promptly (and correctly) diagnosed that the modem was faulty.

        If only I could call Tier 2 directly. I so wish "shibboleet" was a thing!

    4. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

      You had to remind me about X11 mode lines!

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

      if you think that's bad - try being departmental IT support and having to put up with this from central IT L1 techs

      Yes, we tried (and failed) to get direct access to the L2s and were told in no uncertain terms that we were not to just direct the users in question to central L1

      End result: things not getting fixed, users yelling at us and people going off sick with stress

      1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: On the flip side of that coin, sometime users are right!

        > departmental IT

        This is where I come into play. I don't give a s about departmental IT, I need to get things done and got enough experiences for all departments to make heads and tails of what is needed and how we get there. With good instructions what is actually needed I get the firewall guys going. They know how all those configurations surfaces of all those manufacturers and are faster than I am at configuring them, and I've been on the internet since 1993 (Germany here, not US), knowing resolv.conf / ipfwadm / ipchians / iptables / manual bind config / dialin and dialup and so on.

        A nice example from this year: What was needed was simply the branch firewall to forward all internal.domain requests to the internal DNS-Server, and for the rest the normal internet connection. Simple requirement, especially for Active Directory. But for the firewall freshmen it was a new idea, I insisted it must be possible since it is a basic requirement every better firewall can do, even that one I've never seen until then. So the freshman knows his way around the firewall, me knowing what the target is, and together we solved this fast. Result: Now I know more about that specific firewall, and he knows more of what is possible and what it is good for.

  13. Gomez Adams

    Raising a support ticket that depends on you manually typing in an email address seems a bit flaky to me. Or have I forgotten how user unfriendly things were back then?

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Headmaster

      I think maybe you missed the part about the complainer using their own, hand-knitted, LISP-based email client?

      1. KarMann Silver badge
        Holmes

        I said it before, and I'll say it again: The Emacs/LISP user is not (necessarily) the same person as the complainer in the main body of this story.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Unless your ticket says that email is broken, sending it to a specific address isn't any more complicated than any other alternative. If it involves going to an internal website, then you still have to get the URL correct. Either way, if you don't, you'll get an error message.

      In fact, I think the email address is generally better. It is usually pretty easy to remember that tickets go to helpdesk@companyname.website, but in my experience, a lot of companies' internal systems have the IT ticket page at an address like support.its.corp.companyname.website/d/login.aspx?a=49&id=1, and if you just go to the root page, it's not the right one.

      1. SVD_NL Silver badge

        It's more of a hassle for helpdesk than it is for users. In a ticket system you can have a template or guided questions, ask the users to read the FAQ (they won't, but you can always ask), and you get better tracking and automatic assignment (the last part can ofc be done if the email is fed into a ticket system right away).

        For the user it's probably easier, because they can chuck their problem over the fence with minimal effort!

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Having an email to which you send a free-form description is a lot more useful than a modern form-based system with pulldown menus for every option, none of which offers a valid selection for your particular problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ugh. Like voicemail systems with no "other" options, but tell you at each level that you can do most things yourself by going on their website/downloading their app. Nope, if it was that easy I wouldn't have called!

  14. Lee D Silver badge

    By various well-paid supposed IT experts (usually instructed to "show me how to do my job properly", and often under "I must co-operate with them" clauses) I have been told, in earnest:

    - Having an odd number of cores in a virtual machine will slow it down compared to having an even number, but less, cores.

    - That a version of Linux back in about 2004 "could run everything Windows can" (and not via virtualisation). It was a cheap, shite remote-desktop service targeting schools. They wanted to replace the entire school with thin-clients and have all of them log into a remote Linux server. I would normally be RIGHT BEHIND that idea, except: They claimed that Wine could run *everything*, including Ranger ... which was an RM-made network management product aimed at Windows that operated by interfacing into the Windows GINA logins etc. and enforced settings in Windows, deployed security policies for the underlying OS, and basically "secured" the machine from people tampering with Windows settings etc. Apparently that would "just work" running under Wine to control those SAME settings in their Linux remote desktop. (P.S. the remote OS had a full suite of Microsoft Office icons that opened OpenOffice applications, which I reported as attempted fraud and breach of copyright/trademark).

    - That it was "impossible" to have a Chromebook working with a major-brand web filter designed for schools. So when that was declared, I pressed "Enable" on a configuration that I had set up in ten minutes.

    - Enabling spanning-tree will bring down the entire network, and "it never works".

    - An at-length lecture about how NTP operates... when they were constantly referring to NTP Pool Project... which I run servers for. All kinds of nonsense was claimed there, complete disregard for strata, no idea how Windows actually syncs time, etc. etc.

    - That a legitimate way to mass-deploy iPads with apps was to use a tool to suck out whatever the Apple equivalent of an APK file is from an existing iPad with licenced apps, then put them into an Apple Configurator profile and deploy every app to hundreds of iPads. Even legal use aside, when one day the apps all turned off (except on the original iPad) and everyone in the building started getting thousands of login prompts for accounts they did not own (the accounts those apps had originally been purchased for, once) making the iPads unusable. They doubled-down by charging by the hour to "fix them all" which consisted of them manually logging into a dozen different accounts on every iPad whenever prompted until the warnings went away... for about a week before they all re-appeared. That one, I actually laid down a "I will rebuild them all again, but this guy absolutely cannot be allowed anywhere near them" because of previous tampering when we re-imaged them without any such apps, and he put them back on. Strangely, without the illegal apps on them, they all worked and never provided spurious login prompts for things like "administrator@" our domain.

    - Same guy thought that a legitimate way to image PCs was to take whatever the nearest computer was, make an image with Clonezilla onto a USB hard disk, then image it across to another machine, take it off the domain, rejoin the domain. We ended up with thousands of illegal copies of software, stupendous domain problems (because of the SID, naming etc. issues), and the image - after a year of him having been doing this before anyone else was hired to run the IT - was a humungous mess of confidential files, user profiles, software, taskbar icons and junk everywhere, gathered from every machine imaged and built up every time another machine was "imaged" and imaged and imaged in the same way after use by users. No sysprep, nothing.

    - A server support engineer at a large MSP that was recommending, purchasing and servicing all the IT for a small one-server shop. They were asked to upgrade their storage as they were running low on space. Storage was all on one server, on a RAID5 set (at their previous recommendation!). The method by which they upgraded the storage was thus: Turn up. Pull hard drive #1 out while the machine is running live on production during the working day. Throw in a blank drive. Wait 8 hours for it to resync. Charge for 8 hours of sitting there watching a percentage bar with a cup of tea. Go home. Come in the next day. Pull hard drive #2 out. Throw in a blank drive. Wait 8 hours on a chargeable rate. etc. etc. etc. On drive #3, the resync failed, the RAID collapsed and it was unrecoverable. He was asked to restore the data to how it had been. "Oh, backups are your responsibility, not mine. Bye!" and literally walked away. He hadn't even checked before starting. (At which point I was dragged into the situation to try to salvage things back to some sanity and the MSP was dismissed from their contracts).

    - A "network specialist" at an MSP (one we had to wait weeks to get their engagement because everyone else in the MSP had to defer to them because they knew nothing about networking themselves, and he was "the guy" for networking for the entire MSP) who couldn't - after months - work out why a VPN device that they insisted on (which was installed between two routers that had had an IPSEC VPN between them for years, no external device required) couldn't pass UDP broadcast traffic. They were even pre-warned, many times. They had the existing IPSEC, routing and firewall configuration to refer to. They put a VPN device behind the original devices that had been doing IPSEC happily for years and passing that traffic, sold it to the company for ridiculous money, and then couldn't get the single most vital - and warned about - application running across the link that had always worked before. It took literal months of tinkering, rebooting, rewiring, and then they declared it "impossible". At which point, I finally convinced my boss of the MSP's uselessness, removed the VPN boxes, and clicked the "enable" button on my existing configs at both ends again and... viola... perfect traffic passing.

    - An "IBM" (I use the word dubiously as he worked on IBM systems but I think was actually unaffiliated with IBM) cyber-forensics engineer who was supposed to assist in recovering data (and verifying the extent of a compromise) from a corrupted / infected blade storage system. It took several days and basically consisted of him plugging his personal laptop into the blade server and copy-pasting what he could from an virus-ridden Windows server to his laptop, retrying whenever that failed, leaving it running overnight, etc. to then later try to present those files to us unsanitised on a USB created from that same machine. It took him most of the first day to work out how to actually get it working because we had isolated the machine entirely and refused to let him plug anything into the rest of the network - so even connecting a network cable direct to a laptop and configuring a static IP in a known range was completely beyond him.

    - A former BT engineer trying to override my putting fibre into an existing building on the basis that "fibre is conductive" (and, no, the fibre in question didn't even have foil shielding, etc.)

    And I have been asked, by those same kinds of people:

    - "What's spanning-tree?" - in the mid 2010's.

    - "What's virtualisation?" - in the mid 2010's.

    - "What's a VLAN?" - in the mid 2010's.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Enabling spanning-tree will bring down the entire network, and "it never works".

      Er no doing the opposite will do that, spanning tree works wonderfully. Although just before I left a company I was on a remote site doing a network upgrade, and got a call from a colleague.

      the call went something like this

      We have a problem

      Really what is wrong

      I turned spanning tree off on a port and now nothing in the building is working (the port linked two switches together)

      (They did what?) Oh well in that case you need to go and tell the management that we need to shut down the building and restart the network

      What?

      Yes turn off one of the core switches and if you are lucky the network might stabilise in 10-15 minutes but I would probably reboot them both to make sure (the switches were nexus 7000 series and need 10-15 minutes to restart from cold - and console to the switch you disabled spanning tree on and turn the port off.

      Oh how long before you are back in the office

      At least 3 hours so get it fixed….

  15. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
    Joke

    EMACS

    A passable operating system, which only lacks a good text editor.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: EMACS

      Also

      Emacs Makes Any Computer Slow

    2. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: EMACS

      However, I think it can emulate Vi.

    3. Adrian 4

      Re: EMACS

      A mere Eight Megs and Constantly Swapping shows VSCode up for the bloated dog it is

  16. John H Woods Silver badge

    "a supposed expert who turned out to be anything but"

    I'm a little worried that this might be me!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if the academic is...

    'Swinger' Batesson, whose injured right arm in the 1980's was supported by what looked like a length of seatbelt.

    Always got 93% or over in Pure Maths, but his Applied Maths saw 17% as my highest score. Only exam I failed. One of the first books I bought when I started work was on Applied Mathematics. That book was easy to read and made perfect sense. I still have it now.

  18. Dippywood

    The correct response...

    ... would be to proclaim loudly "You need a pee!"

  19. old_n_grey

    Many moons ago I was part of the team that implemented an ERP system in a leading UK university. I was warned that one particular professor could be very difficult to deal with. It seems that when the existing system was implemented, the in-house IT department trained all of the departmental heads in the system. This particular professor, who was taking his turn as dept head, phoned IT support at 9am on day 1 after go-live. When asked what was the problem, he responded that he couldn't use the system as the menu on his PC was different from the one on which he was trained. The support person explained that the menu on the training course was the standard menu and included many options that he wouldn't need, so the menu on his PC was specific to his department. Alas, that wasn't a good enough excuse and the professor just repeated "I cannot use this system as it is different from the system on which I was trained" and put the phone down. It took a few days for other senior academics and admin staff to convince him to use the personalised menu.

    All those brain cells ...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      This is a depressingly common user problem and becomes worse the higher you go in an organisation

      (Mainly because if a prole pulls this kind of attitude they'll be looking at a P45)

  20. aerogems Silver badge

    Sort of reminds me

    There was a situation at my last employer. My manager was your classic petty tyrant who did not like people questioning them. Even if they just thought you were questioning them, they'd do whatever they could to make life miserable for you.

    Anyway, there were a couple people in another department who wanted unusual access to SAP. Being a petty tyrant my manager said no, and so these people went over his head and got the approval. You can imagine about how well this went over, and my manager's manager would come to staff meetings and join in on the "make fun of other departments" routine of my manager claiming that there were claims of how my manager was sitting around all day scheming petty schemes of how to thwart them. Turns out, it wasn't exactly wrong. He may not have been sitting around dreaming up new ways, but any time an opportunity came along, he'd take it. Hours, days, weeks later, didn't matter. And the access these two people wanted was something that fell under my responsibilities. I had so much other shit to do, if they wanted to take a little bit off my plate I was like, "Sure! No problem! Can I giftwrap that for you? Would you like it tied with a bow? Will being handed to you on a silver platter suffice?"

    And as for being injured... while working at that place, I started suffering some very serious nerve issues in one of my arms. It'd go completely numb within a couple hours of starting the day and then the nerve that runs along the outside of the arm would start to hurt if I tried powering through. I was popping pain killers (OTC) like candy just to get through a single day. A big part of why I left is that like 2 months after I reported these issues to them with absolutely zero follow up, I mentioned it again and still nothing. So, I can kind of empathize with the guy in the story. Up to a point at least. They were still a dick about it.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Sort of reminds me

      "while working at that place, I started suffering some very serious nerve issues in one of my arms. It'd go completely numb within a couple hours of starting the day "

      This is a classic symptom of using cheap and nasty keyboards with inadequate key cushioning

  21. MJI Silver badge

    Support

    I am happy to leave PC support to the support people, they gave me local admin, that is fine for me, so if anything goes wrong, I can't be blamed.

    Last problem was something called edge opening up my email links despite using firefox, even if I deleted edge.

    So let them sort it while I had some tea.

    Their job to fight windows, mine to write code.

  22. trevorde Silver badge

    Literally (computer) illiterate

    Many years and many jobs ago, had the misfortune to support someone in a different time zone during the dawn of laptops. This person had the computer skills of my dead grandmother ie less than nothing. It was a wonder he even managed to get the laptop started. Inevitably, there were problems which had to be resolved via fax (remember those?). I gave him precise instructions about opening a terminal and typing in a command:

    start_demo <ENTER>

    He responded that nothing happened, even when he managed to type in both angled brackets and used the caps lock button. AAAGGGHHH!!!

    1. Anonymous Custard
      Trollface

      Re: Literally (computer) illiterate

      Did you ever have to tell him where the any key was?

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Literally (computer) illiterate

      I worked near a group that had just such a guy working for them. Apparently, they gave him a task to plot some data using Fortran and the appropriate plot utility. One of his co-workers had even given him some hints as scribbled notes. One line consisted of "PLOT(....)".

      So being the closest computer guru and (evidently) his embarrassment had he gone back to his own people, he came over to ask me. His source code included the line "PLOT(....)". With the correct number of periods. Not understood to be a hint along the lines of "Stuff goes here. Go look it up in the manual page."

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had an angry manager...

    I had an angry manager complaining that emails be sent to him were bouncing, and because he was very, very important this was a disaster and we had to fix our crappy malfunction email system asap.

    The root of the problem was that the sender couldn't spell the manager's surname, and said manager apparently didn't know how his surname was spelled either. We carefully showed the manager how to spell his own name to avoid future issues.

    1. Hazmoid

      Re: I had an angry manager...

      For managers like that I have regularly added aliases to their mailbox with all the misspellings of their name. At least that way, they receive the emails even if they can't spell their own name :)

  24. TRT Silver badge

    The academic does have a point though

    As part of the reasonable adjustments made for people with somatic problems, someone from IT will be reading ALL your emails, browser activity etc. in future.

  25. ShortLegs

    Have I ever worked with supposed experts?

    Every. Single. Day.

  26. chivo243 Silver badge
    Happy

    Log files to the rescue

    I love log files, hate trawling through them!

  27. Jay 2

    Back in the 1990s I was a compsci student and our facaulty was called something along the lines of Computer Science And Applied Mathematics. I can only assume that once upon a time it was the Maths dept who when acquired a few computers and eventually morphed into being more computers than maths. This had an interesting side effect of some members of stuff being computer bods and some, older and long serving staff, being maths types with a passing knowledge of computers.

    I can't recall if it was the 2nd or final year, but we had a lecture, modelling and simulation I believe, taken by one of the older maths-focused staff. He would spend ages going through OHP slides of how you select menu items in Matlab on a Mac (as it was mainly a Mac and Sun Sparc shop at the time, very few PCs) and then bang through loads of equations on the board at speed usually missing out a few steps. This didn't help my understanding of all the numbery stuff...

    The saving grace was that every other year his exam papers would ask the questions on the same subjects. So it was possible to pretty much learn a concept parrot fashion and pass. Annoyingly for my finals the first question wasn't the one about random numbers as I'd expected. But I managed to blag my way though the rest and passed. I always womndered what mark I would have got if it had been the question I expected. Mind you my friends were amazed as I was useless as maths (which is pretty much what modelling and simulatuion turned out to be). It helped that the course was one of the few compsci ones at the time which didn't require A-level maths as a pre-requisite.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "and then bang through loads of equations on the board at speed usually missing out a few steps"

      This was my experience of (an admittedly small number of) maths teachers. I think, at least in my day, it was characteristic of many teachers and probably is of many of us - including IT support.

      Different disciplines require different modes of thinking. It is very difficult to put oneself in the position of someone who doesn't think in that mode. For non-mathematicians following a batch of equations takes time, especially if it involves wrapping the mind around a newly introduced notation, To the mathematician what's quite clear looks like sleight of hand to the rest of us. Not realising this the maths teacher might spend more time than necessary on initial assumptions and still leave the non-mathematician none the wiser when the dust has settled.

      Much the same thing applies to parsing a highly inflected language such as Latin, at least for those brought up to speak English.

      1. Potty Professor
        Facepalm

        Statistics

        When I was at Uni, one of our lecturers tried to teach us Statistics, and failed dismally. Oh! he knew his stuff OK, but couldn't explain what he was doing on the board. He would write a complicated equation at the top of the board, then a slightly different version, where he had solved part of the first equation. This was then repeated in several more lines down the board, each time simplifying the previous line, until he got to the bottom of the board and wrote the solution. We would all then be left wondering how he had made that enormous leap of logic to finish, but when asked for an explanation, he would say "but that's obvious". Not to us it wasn't. We renamed the class on our timetables as "Applied Guesswork".

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Statistics

          Our statistics class was more or less similar. We handled it be turning up a bit later each week so he also turned up a bit later. Then we turned up on time and he wasn't there so we left for good.

          Doing research the best way to use statistics was to call on a statistician for advice. Rather like encryption, if you're not a specialist don't try to roll your own.

  28. flayman Bronze badge

    Donald Knuth, on the other hand...

    Donald Knuth, author of the multi-volume The Art of Programming and recipient of the Turing Award, doesn't use email (ever since 1990). He has a secretary who prints out all his emails for him to read and to type replies when necessary. Maybe not all the emails.

    Why? Because he is a very diligent guy who cares about being helpful and correct, and it was eating hours of his day.

  29. Orv Silver badge

    My experience is that computer science researchers and programmers rarely make good sysadmins, for the same reason that aircraft designers aren't necessarily good pilots. They're just different skill sets. I worked at a job where the developers initially maintained their own systems, and it was something of a disaster until most of those responsibilities were handed over to me. They were smart guys and good at setting up their development environments, but were completely uninterested in the "boring" work of running backups and installing security patches.

  30. Turkey_Bender
    Facepalm

    Typical

    I had a HellDesk job where we were required to support laptops provided to Real Estate agents (not our main job- inherited with a misguided acquisition)

    Got a call from a guy on behalf of his mom. First thing he tells me: I'm a Computer Scientist, so I know what I'm doing here.

    Oh goody.

    Next he tells me "she was having issues, so I formatted the hard drive"- he installed Windows, but now none of the devices work.

    I spent the next 2 hours walking him through downloading and installing drivers, which he was completely clueless about. No idea what was wrong to start with, but I'm pretty sure we could have fixed it without a rebuild.

  31. DS999 Silver badge

    Support Computer Science professors

    In a job I had long ago I was in charge of computing support for a division of a university, among the departments included was Computer Science. "Declan" is right, the competence level of them greatly varies. There are some that were essentially self supporting, only needing help when something that required root access was needed (and a few would loudly complain "I could have solved this myself if you gave me root access") but there were others who needed a lot of hand holding for even the most basic tasks.

    I found the ones in that latter category tended to be ones who were either very much on the theoretical side (i.e. they might be in the math department in other universities that drew their boundaries between departments differently) or were very narrowly focused. There was one guy who was early pioneer in parallel computing who was well published and widely cited, but if anything changed so that his rote memorization of stuff like "how to read my email" changed, he would call for help and have to be taught the new way step by step. To his credit though if you showed him something once, no matter how complex the steps were, so long as it could be repeated exactly that same way and get the same result you never heard from him again. I usually took the calls from him because I knew we needed to be very precise in what we told him since he would expect it to work that way every time, so if there were any if/then type steps you'd have to include them in the explanation.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Support Computer Science professors

      I suppose from his PoV it must have been very annoying to teach students at advanced level and then find they were incapable of writing software that behaved consistently from one version to the next.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Support Computer Science professors

        I.e. Microsoft software? Like Win8 start menu, or the Office ribbon? Or incompatibility between any given two versions of PowerPoint?

    2. fromxyzzy

      Re: Support Computer Science professors

      Over the last decade, each time Apple has released updates for MacOS and iOS, some wag or dept of wags has made a point of making minor and wildly unnecessary changes to the location or appearance of some portion of the system or built-in applications that mean that users are often unable to perform the basic tasks they've memorized. This often happens with unexpected, automatic updates weeks or months after most other users have updated and re-learned the new tweaked interface. The only reason I can fathom for doing this is to justify their job, since the changes never improve functionality or ease of use. Windows has begun doing this since Win 8 as well, although in a more confusing way because all of the old things are still there for legacy use and just hidden, pointlessly, behind a much worse new interface, but I've found Apple users (and particularly iOS users) to have more trouble coping with the changes, especially when they don't fix a problem.

      1. Fred Daggy Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Support queues - get around them.

        This is Operating System agnostic. If you can't fix a problem, move it in the UI. Closes the previous ticket and buys you some time until a new ticket appears.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget your MSCEs etc. One of the most valuable skills in IT is being able to explain to some brain-dead widget that they're a complete waste of oxygen without...

    a) Them realising you're doing it; and

    b) Not getting fired.

  33. Dagg Silver badge
    Happy

    Standard Comment

    Those who can Do

    Those who can't Teach

    And those with no idea project manage.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Standard Comment

      No.

      There are an awful lot of people who "do" but are bloody awful at it. Whether it's coding or architecture, or anything else.

      Good project managers, who enable and manage all the threads of a development, (I've met some) are invaluable, few and far between, but the job is often taken by dimwits who like giving orders (I've met several).

      Good teachers "can do" teaching, know their subject and enjoy at; and are effective at taking the kids along with their enthusiasm and and understanding. And that quote is bloody patronising. You got where you are because someone taught you to read and write and do computery stuff. But I'll admit that the job is sometimes taken by people who don't know what to do with their degree and aren't interested in or don't have the skills for the other degree subject related options.

      Those who can teach well (and a good number of those who can't tbh) usually get Peter Principled out of the classroom into headships. Or God help us, LA advisors, Education Officers and OFSTED inspectors.

  34. bemusedHorseman

    Dear Strong Bad,

    How do you type with Double Deuces? Inquiring vultures want to know!

    Crapfully yours,

    Bobby Tables

  35. Slipoch

    Crashed a super-computer with Lode Runner clone

    Well it was a super-computer run system of windows (running under Nix) for maths/compsci lab, not the entire super-computer. But this thing was not underpowered, every semester break banks would hire it out for number crunching.

    We were doing Java, which at the time was still shiny and everyone claimed you couldn't get memory leaks in.

    So I'm trying to run my lode runner game I built for an assignment and everything freezes up and the system crashes, complaints from around the room indicate it wasn't only my machine, the entire lab of 60 systems has gone down. All the systems came back up within a minute, because the sysadmin knew what he was doing and everyone continues on with their work.

    I make a couple small changes and re-run the game, again everything crashes, again complaints from around the room.

    Now I'm getting suspicious, it was about the same amount of time into my game and I'm sure the positions of some of the enemies and my character were almost in the same spot...So I wince and run it again... now I'm certain it's something in my code. I leave the lab with the excuse of "I'll get more done on my own system"and get the hell out of there before the BOFH decides to check the logs for which terminal keeps taking out 60 systems and punitively punish them.

    In my own system the same behaviour, but now I'm getting logs, on looking into it I'm getting segmentation faults, something our lecturer, mr potato-head (he looked like a potato and was permanently stoned in class), had claimed was impossible in Java (turns out he also stole the course from Stanford and just put his name in the code). I look into where it is failing and....well my lazy programming and recursive loops in ai logic had struck. Every time an ai would get near 3 walls (roof, right, & floor) it would go into recursive looping between 2 decision functions and chew up all the RAM. A quick change to make sure descisions are being processed non-recursively and no crashes.

    Still it's my one claim to fame, I crashed a supercomputer with Java.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Crashed a super-computer with Lode Runner clone

      "Still it's my one claim to fame, I crashed a supercomputer with Java."

      The alternative view is that Java crashed the supercomputer, you just helped it along.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years back, I did student support at a large University. We were going through a restructure, and the school we were in had called all staff to a day of conferences discussing this restructure. As part of my remit (at the time) was studio tech support, I'd been asked to stay in the room all day, and provide any support needed for the room's AV system.

    After a particularly long conference, I was concerned that the radio mic being used by the speaker probably had a low battery (these things used to eat batteries like nobodies business), so I went up to the stage, and waited patiently for her to finish so I could check the batteries.

    She handed the mic to the next speaker, and when I asked for it, before I could explain why, he told me to Fuck Off. At which point I thought "Fuck you" and returned to my seat. Thankfully, my boss was in the audience and heard everything, as did the entire school.

    1. TSM

      > Thankfully, my boss was in the audience and heard everything, as did the entire school.

      I guess the batteries were fine then!

  37. Paul Johnston
    Flame

    Don't get me started!!

    Like the senior professor of Human Computer Interaction who produced a CD with a website on it showing off all his great work and skills.

    Right down to customising the links, changing them to a colour, the one for which the term grey-ed out was invented.

  38. FeRDNYC

    Heh. "Heldesk" is quite the Freudian slip, there.

    Along similar (but less antagonistic) lines, the mailing lists @ school when I was there in the early-mid 1990s were managed by Brent Chapman's venerable Majordomo listserv, which of course processed administrative requests mailed to majordomo@[list].

    That mostly worked fine, except for the mailing list for our LGBT student group, which found users regularly misaddressing their subscribe/unsubscribe requests to the innocently-misread majorhomo@. I think they ended up having to set up a forwarding mailbox.

    1. jake Silver badge

      "Heh. "Heldesk" is quite the Freudian slip, there."

      Intentional mispleling. Dates back to before DARPNet started fiddling about with TCP/IP. Possibly back to the early 1960s (Source: Me dear old Dad says he thinks he remembers calling phone support for mainframe stuff by that name back then. I cannot find a proper cite ... The first time I heard it was back when I first came into contact with DECUS in the mid 1970s.)

      If you need to know why, try answering the phones at one for a few days.

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