back to article Bank boss hated IT, loved the beach, was clueless about ports and politeness

As the clock ticks towards the weekend, The Register once again welcomes readers to On Call, our weekly reader-contributed tale detailing the trials and tribulations of tech support. This week, meet a reader we’ll Regomize as "Hugh" who shared a story of his time working for a long-defunct bank at the dawn of the dialup age. …

  1. Dave K

    Every single time

    Every time you hear someone complaining about the incompetency of IT, you can pretty much guarantee two things:

    1) Said complainer is not a competent/proficient user of IT devices.

    2) Said complainer is utterly unable to admit and accept their own shortcomings.

    End result: "It doesn't work, and I'm going to blame everyone but myself"...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Every single time

      Yup. If you're competent you complain quietly - chances are that next time it will be you who caused it.

      1. Martin
        Unhappy

        Re: Every single time

        And you're also well aware that you might even be the reason for the problem this time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Every single time

        So senior management bloke that some might call a director has his PA call IT support. His PC has stopped working and someone needs to be up to fix it asap. Well that lovely job fell in my lap, not sure why but it did and off Imwent. PA tells me to tread carefully as he’s in a bad mood, so I wait for her to announce me over the phone. She had a voice that sounded like she had grown up on an estate in the countryside with acres of land and friends like Jocasta etc. Think of someone announcing the guests at a posh party and you have the idea of what it sounded like.I’d also met him before a few times and he didn’t understand technology all that well. Sending email was very technical for him and much more than that was beyond him.

        Anyway introductions over, he needs me immediately and in I go to find his office looks totally different to that last time I remember I was in it. Theres a new chrome and glass desk that looks very art deco and totally out of whack with the rest of the company furniture. It’s also in a totally different corner of the room from the last one that was a laminated chipboard affair. He motions to the computer and says that it doesn’t work, please fix it. I stood admiring the desk and aksed if he’d bought the desk? Well yes he replied that he had thanks for asking it was an original from the 30’s although the glass was new. It is also obvious that he doesn’t remember me at all.

        I looked at the PC and there's no network connectivity at all, none. All the needed cables are plugged in both to the PC and the floor. Odd really, so I ask “Has your desk always been there”, expecting a quick reply. He says that he can’t see what the desk position has to do with whether his PC is working or not and he refuses to answer. I tell him there are no right or wrong answers to this question I just need to know the answer please. Oh well yes it had been in the other corner then if I wanted to be picky about it. Clearly getting annoyed he asked if the Feng Shui was wrong with it in that corner and that’s why the computer wasn’t working now? No says I but you’re not using the same floor port anymore and that’s a problem.

        After explaining that not all of the “holes in the floor” are connected to something he seems more interested. He asks how do ‘we’ meaning the IT experts know what's connected and what isn't? So after jotting down a few port numbers we took a trip to the comms room on that floor and he saw a patchbay for the first time. I let him swap the patch cable over himself and then we walked back to his office. His PC is now working again to his utter delight, by which I mean he has received emails and can send them.

        I told him he had fixed his own PC and could tell people that (which he did to other directors, his PA etc.)………….but in future if moving IT equipment please call us first. That was company policy but strangely that didn’t always apply to directors.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: Every single time

          "She had a voice that sounded like she had grown up on an estate in the countryside with acres of land and friends like Jocasta etc. Think of someone announcing the guests at a posh party and you have the idea of what it sounded like"

          A friend once described such as "oh my GOD, she talks in CURSIVE!!"

          1. Dagg Silver badge

            Re: Every single time

            A friend once described such as "oh my GOD, she talks in CURSIVE!!"

            When I was doing my OE I met and married an english lady (had to marry as the NZ govn would not give me an import licence). Anyway moved to NZ and after a couple of years went back for a holiday and to meet her family again.

            Sister immediately commented to SWMBO "Oh you sound so posh!". Me thinking WTF as she came from the Midlands and the base accent was anything but posh. Then I realised she was now pronouncing all of her consonants. Because she had been living in NZ for a couple of years it was the only way for kiwis to understand what she was saying.

        2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: Every single time

          Good job on the politics.

          "I told him he had fixed his own PC and could tell people that (which he did to other directors, his PA etc.)………….but in future if moving IT equipment please call us first. That was company policy but strangely that didn’t always apply to directors."

          But you underestimate the director. In future he will just go to the patchbay and move some wires around. "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing...."

          1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Re: Every single time

            There's a reason why executives don't have keys to comms closets. When they can't get in, they either give up, or call Security and demand to be let in. If Security is up-to-snuff, they won't let the executive in. It's rather how bank presidents demanding one of their security officers to be let into the vaults and left alone will be met with a concerned look, a a quizzically-lifted eyebrow, and eventually, some coded back-and-forth over the officer's radio, followed shortly by the arrival of additional security officers.

            No, not all Security is up-to-snuff. That's when it's the BOFH's task to apply electrically-enhanced "retraining" to the relevant executive.

            1. Christoph

              Re: Every single time

              Reminds me of a post on LiveJournal some years back. The IT staff came back to the computer room after a long weekend (Easter?) to find two things:

              1> An angry note from a non-IT higher up pointing out that they had gone off and left the air-conditioning running when nobody was in, and he had had to harass Security into letting him in to the computer room to switch it off so as not to waste all that power.

              2> Lots of very unhappy servers which were no longer serving anything.

              1. James Osborne-Smith

                Re: Every single time

                Had that happen at Big Insurance Company - a manager found a set of aircon controls that he didn't know about before so did the only rational thing and turned them all off. Turns out they controlled the aircon for a nearby (locked) room that had jump box PCs for the offshore support guys to remote onto so they could establish local sessions with user PCs. I found out about the existence of this room cos' I was tasked to go in and reboot one that was playing up, opened the door and was met with a blast of heat from 100-odd PCs running in a shoebox with no ventilation anymore...

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Every single time

            "But you underestimate the director. In future he will just go to the patchbay and move some wires around."

            That's why, if you're not going to try to teach them to do it properly so they can successfully do that, you always leave out a few steps so that they know that you did something but not how to repeat it. That's if you think they're smart enough to realize that they don't know which cable to move and where to move it. If you don't think they will get that, you must introduce some new step to make it clearer.

            Before we move the cable, we first have to retrieve the switch address from the VLAN database under Juniper Cisco in the general server. I'll do that using this terminal session. Now this is my secret access key, so don't tell it to anyone.

            > cat /dev/urandom | base64 | head -1

    2. simonlb Silver badge

      Re: Every single time

      If the guy didn't have the basic intelligence to check and see if he'd plugged the connector into the correct port then he should have had the laptop taken off him and given an abacus to play with instead. As he'd already had a demo of how to connect it all up it had been proven to work and the guy should have at least made some attempt at checking whatever he could. I know plenty of people who are not IT savvy in the slightest, but would have taken the time to look at the ports that were present and try plugging the cable into any ports that looked likely to be the right shape or colour (if that was a thing at that time).

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Every single time

        I dunno. When you're used to a PC having 3 USB ports that are completely interchangeable then it's not unforgiveable to assume that the modem plug would work in any socket it fitted in. What's unforgiveable is the attitude.

        1. Stu J

          Re: Every single time

          I'm not sure laptops with RJ11 modem ports necessarily even had USB ports - sure there might have been a brief overlap, but I suspect this may have been in the days of PS/2 connectors

          1. Fading

            Re: Every single time

            Defintely a thing in the UK - I had one of these (https://www.theregister.com/2003/12/17/evesham_voyager_64_athlon/) which has both 10/100 ethernet and a modem port right next to each other plus USB 2.0 (and a IR port, firewire - damn thing had pretty much all the connectivity you could want - except wifi).

            1. phuzz Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Every single time

              I used to work for Evesham, and sometimes I was building laptops, so I'd just like to apologise.

              1. Fading

                Re: Every single time

                To be honest it lasted me a good long while (died after about seven years of use) and whilst it had a few quirks by the end I still remember it fondly.

                1. rcxb Silver badge

                  Re: Every single time

                  I still remember it fondly.

                  Well then, it must not have been one of the units phuzz touched.

              2. David 132 Silver badge
                Thumb Up

                Re: Every single time

                I used to work for Evesham

                Did you happen to know a guy named Robin D.?

                Just curious. Worked closely with Evesham in years gone by, and he was my main contact there. Lovely chap, super friendly.

                1. phuzz Silver badge

                  Re: Every single time

                  Name doesn't ring a bell, but it's been a while. I worked on the production line, and they kept us separate from the office workers ;)

            2. Barry Rueger

              Re: Every single time

              Unlike my wife Susan's Apple laptop which TWO count'em TWO USB C ports and nothing else.

              1. Spanners Silver badge
                Pirate

                Re: Every single time

                My Chromebook only has 2 USB C ports as well. I just paid a fraction of the price.

                1. Tim99 Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: Every single time

                  Yeah, nah, but you finished up with a Chromebook...

              2. Juan Inamillion

                Re: Every single time

                Less holes for the champagne to get in.

              3. JohnTill123
                Trollface

                Re: Every single time

                You had TWO ports!?!? The 2017 Macbook only had ONE USB-C port.

                Must be nice to have such luxury. Check your privilege!!

          2. Frank Bitterlich

            Re: Every single time

            As other have stated, at that time USB wasn't a thing yet. And still, many years later, USB ports on Windows were not completely interchangeable. I remember relocating a PC (probably Win 98) completely with all its peripherals, including a label printer. When setting it up at the new place, I made big mistake: I plugged the printer into a different USB port (there were 4, all on the main board). After powering up, the PC congratulated me on the new printer and happily offered to install the drivers for it, with the caveat that it didn't actually have any software for it.

            I powered it down, tried another USB port, same issue, repeat from 1. I bet you can guess how many tries it took me until I got the right port... of course, it was the last one I tried.

            I briefly hesitated before putting a sticker on the back explaining which port to use for the Zebra, because I thought it too absurd. But I did it anyway.

            1. Dave@Home

              Re: Every single time

              I believe this is a Windows issue with how it assigns an identifier to a device on the USB bus, and binds the driver to that identifier.

              Connecting the same device on a different port and it treats it as an entirely new device, and so need to reload the driver.

              1. Suburban Inmate

                Re: Every single time

                Is that why my wired connection to the router, via the onboard Ethernet, is now Network 369?

              2. zb42

                Re: Every single time

                It is more complicated than that.

                It depends if the USB device has a unique serial number.

                If a USB device does not have a unique serial number then the OS can't tell apart two identical devices.

                You could have two identical printers or USB to serial converters or whatever connected to one PC.

                Giving each device a unique serial number slightly increases the manufacturing cost so manufacturers often don't bother.

            2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Every single time

              > I bet you can guess how many tries

              With four ports eight tries. Be lucky you did not need 12 tries, since it is known to be 4-dimensional (When it does not fit try twisting, and if it does not fit try twisting again and it will fit).

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Every single time

              > And still, many years later, USB ports on Windows were not completely interchangeable.

              They're still not completely interchangeable (I have a coworker who still gets befuddled why a Thunderbolt interface to the PXI rack doesn't always work when he sets up a new tester).

            4. Spanners Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Every single time

              We developed a habit of plugging the mouse and smartcard KB in a particular way because of this.

              Now someone else often rolls things out so I assume it no longer matters.

              1. Paul Johnston

                Re: Every single time

                Yes closest to the network port, keyboard in the lowest USB port mouse one up.

            5. David 132 Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Every single time

              > of course, it was the last one I tried.

              Just to be a complete pedantic ass… of course it was the last one you tried. You were hardly likely to keep trying more ports after you’d found the right one :)

              (Yeah, I know what you meant. I’m just being obtuse.)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Every single time

                > You were hardly likely to keep trying more ports after you’d found the right one :)

                Well, sometimes you just get into the rhythm...

          3. Bill Gray

            Re: Every single time

            I'm writing this post on a laptop (Toshiba Satellite) with an RJ11 modem port and three USB ports. (Not that I've had occasion to use the former. I'm not even sure any current Linux would support it. I'm not sure what I'd use it for in 2023; it has an RJ45 port as well, and WiFi.)

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Every single time

              If ever dealing with healthcare, the Japanese, or the US govt, you'd need it for the fax functionality...

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Every single time

                You forgot lawyers.

              2. Dagg Silver badge

                Re: Every single time

                And in Australia. My GP had to send the fax several times before they acknowledged it.

          4. Eecahmap

            Re: Every single time

            I had an iBook G4. As I no longer have it, I had to check Wikipedia to confirm my memory:

            10/100BASE-T Ethernet

            56k v.92 modem

            Integrated AirPort Extreme 802.11b/g

            Optional Bluetooth 1.1

            2x USB 2.0

            1x FireWire 400

            Audio out mini-jack

          5. Yes Me Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: Every single time

            And you can plug an RJ11 into an RJ45. I've used domestic telephone setups where all the sockets were RJ45 and all the plugs were RJ11. (Not in the UK.) It works fine. What doesn't work, of course, is plugging an RJ11 uttering telephony signals into an RJ45 wired for Ethernet. But the exec in question did not actually force a round peg into a square hole.

            1. Tim99 Silver badge

              Re: Every single time

              My house was built 11 years ago in our retirement village. Most rooms have two or more RJ45 sockets all going via Cat 5e cabling to a patch-port comms cabinet in the garage. A couple of the ports were dedicated to an emergency assistance phone. The rest are interchangeable between POTS and ethernet. Newer houses have only half the number of RJ45 sockets, as most of the stuff older people buy (like smart TVs) has WiFi. We have just had the emergency POTS line removed and replaced by 4G cellular devices, as the supplier no longer supports POTS - The line still is used for 100/40Mb VDSL traffic to a central on-site comms room.

        2. Lazlo Woodbine

          Re: Every single time

          In the days of dial-up USB really wasn't a thing, besides, whilst an RJ11 modem plug will fit in an RJ45 socket, it's not a snug fit, so most people with a working brain would try the RJ11 socket that was usually right next to the RJ45

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Every single time

            USB was there, but quite new. Also USB modems tended to suck balls so anyone with any sense tended to either use one connected to a serial port or, at worst, a USB serial port adaptor. Modems later started to be build in to laptops but that often brought a whole new world of pain due to some not being connected to an internal serial port and instead requiring specific, inevitably very poor quality, drivers to barf into action. Things did improve eventually, but it was painful.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Every single time

              Probably WinModems for the smaller PCB real estate required and general lack of free space in a laptop.

        3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
          Flame

          speaking of usb

          In not too distant past , after those (wtf called ? circular mouse & kyb plugs) had gone , windows PCs were still having a hard time with usb.

          I remember moving machines from A to B and if the keyboard (or any other device) did not go back into the same exact socket it came out of windows would have an absolute tantrum .

          a full on kid-rolling-on-supermarket floor tantrum .

          It like it had never seen a keyboard before , it would start searching the web for a clue what this new device might be , scouring some microsoft library of drivers (for F*****ng hours) before *maybe* allowing you to use it

          ...and all the while you're stood next to the user completely red faced explaining that it wont be long and he'll be able to start logging in soon .

          fun times.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: speaking of usb

            "(wtf called ? circular mouse & kyb plugs)"

            The big ones - c 1cm dia - were DIN, the smaller generally called PS2 because they were either introduced by IBM for PS2s or at least they came into use about that time.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: speaking of usb

              And it seems likely that the ones they're talking about are the PS/2 connectors. Possibly they're calling them circular to express a complaint about them. In my experience, the round aspect was quite annoying because, if you were connecting one of them by touch because it was on the back of the computer and you weren't, you had to rotate it a lot to get it to align properly. At least with USB, there are only two ways of positioning the plug that feel remotely correct. It was also quite annoying that the keyboard and mouse connectors felt basically the same but were really not.

              1. Tim99 Silver badge

                Re: speaking of usb

                Some manufacturers used different colours, pink and light blue or light green as I recall (Pink/light green was not useful if you had Daltonism). But, not much use if they were at the back of the PC where you couldn't see them.

                1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                  Re: speaking of usb

                  And not any use if they'd been out of their box for more than a week and had picked up dirt, or the lighting was anything other than perfect, or you were completely flummuxed trying to work out a mnemonic to remember which ****er was which.

                  Exam question: What colour is the mouse socket?

                  Sane answer: Whichever fucker is the same colour as the fucking plug on the fucking mouse. You don't REMEMBER, you just plug the fucker in.

                  1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                    Re: speaking of usb

                    Which was fine until you found some arse of a device manufacturer had either helpfully decided to swap the colours or to not bother with PS/2 colours at all. It didn't help that PS/2 devices are not hot swappable (there was a risk of motherboard damage if doing so, probably small but it was reported to be a risk) but usually if the damn things didn't work it was just a case of power off and swap them around.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: speaking of usb

                      Was reported to be a risk, but did you ever had it actually cause a problem?

                      They're actually hot pluggable. Sometimes it works, sometimes you had to reboot. But the actual risk of damage was so tiny that I've never heard of a single case of it happening.

                      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                        Re: speaking of usb

                        From memory I didn't experience any problems beyond an occasional system reset when live swapping the plugs.

                        I suspect the real risk was the power from VCC winding up where it's not expected but the keyed nature of the plugs made this near impossible. The very occasional system resets that I remember were probably either a power rush failure on the motherboard triggering unstable power somewhere actually important or a device handler failure (or both). Even these happened so rarely and later systems were much more forgiving and just didn't care that when forgetting to plug the keyboard and/or mouse in, we just plugged them in anyway. Caution was still there though, therefore care was taken on production server systems.

                2. mirachu

                  Re: speaking of usb

                  Green and purple, never seen pink.

              2. Dog11
                FAIL

                Re: speaking of usb

                Ah, but if the user tried hard enough, they could get it to go in the wrong way. Then you'd have to come with a little screwdriver or similar instrument and bend the pins back straight again.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: speaking of usb

              "The big ones - c 1cm dia - were DIN, the smaller generally called PS2 because they were either introduced by IBM for PS2s or at least they came into use about that time."

              Yeah, it was IBM that introduced them to the PS/2 range of computers. It seemed odd at the time because they had introduced the 5-pin DIN first and "most" clone makers copied them, but not all. There were many and varied, if less common keyboard connectors, usually on brand-name devices (early Olivetti PCs, early Tandy PCs, at least) where they expected to get enough sales to get away with "proprietary" connectors. But even IBM had form in this already. Original PC and/or XT keyboards didn't usually work in the 286 AT models despite having the same connector. 3rd party keyboards were sold which could either sense something and switch modes, or had a slider switch on the bottom marker XT and AT, leaving the user to switch it.

          2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: speaking of usb

            > In not too distant past

            Windows 95,98 and ME are distant past. They expose the behaviour you describe. Plugging the keyboard into a USB port it was not yet in starts a "found new hardware, click to continue", which works if you are lucky enough to have the mouse in the right port. That's what the "Generic USB keyboard, mouse and mass-storage" is for, which is not from Microsoft and should be installed before you start switching ports around. NUSB is one of those packages, for example.

            Windows 2000 and later never had that problem.

        4. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Every single time

          >” having 3 USB ports that are completely interchangeable”

          But not quite, as only one of them supports the power adapter - convention seems to be the one closest to the hinge, but whether left or right side….

          1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

            Re: Every single time

            It is even worse (Lenovo Thinkpad T15 as example here): On the left, the USB3 port most to the back, is the one designated for the external power supply. But if you want to use the HUB with external monitors and LAN and power, you have to use the second one from the back. It is not that bad once you know, but head scratching if you don't.

        5. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          "Completely Interchangeable" USB Ports

          USB "A" ports are "interchangeable" in that any type A USB plug can safely and usefully connect to them. However, one cannot connect a USB type B plug to them. Or a mains plug. Or an IEEE-1488 ("parallel-port printer") plug.

          It's a case of a user failing to recall basic childhood lessons (Sesame Street ditty: "One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others by -- the time I finish my song? ...") Just because a plug "fits" into a socket does not mean one ought to plug it there, as plugging a paperclip into a mains socket quickly demonstrates*.

          *Provided one chooses the "hot" slot, vs the "neutral" or "ground" slots.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Every single time

          This is pre-USB. Plugging in a 6-pin modem plug in an 8-pin network port did mean that the two outermost connectors bend in too far causing unrealiable connections after.

        7. mirachu

          Re: Every single time

          Speaking of USB, you can fit a USB A connector in an RJ45 socket without any issues. Done it a couple of times when trying to connect things unsighted.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Every single time

        Thing is, everybody is used to all power outlets being power outlets, so there is a natural expectation that all network outlets are network outlets. The TV keeps working if I plug it into a different power outlet, why should the network outlets be any different?

        All this is down to the odd consolidation on radials instead of buses.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Every single time

          > All this is down to the odd consolidation on radials instead of buses.

          This is a technical requirement for faster and reliable networks.

          1. Bus systems are notoriously unreliable. Whether coax, token or whatever. Just one bad contact and the company is down. A bus is fine for static installations, but PCs don't stick to their place and unqualified personnel can access everything. Solution: Hubs, or to use you terminology, "radials". Improved reliability more than 10-fold.

          2. Later hubs went to switching. It was network congestion on a collision domain. Two people copy something between their workstations was enough to make every one else's network crawl or lose connection to the server. Switches are only possible with "radials".

          3. Then higher speeds and frequencies came. Those high frequencies don't like contacts, so they have to be kept at minimum. You could try an RJ45 coupler instead of a long cable, but that often ended up in 10 MBit instead of 100 MBit or 1000 MBit, just due to reflections at contacts. Not possible on a bus system. Hell, even a 100 MBit, if your network cable makes to too sharp turn and the electrical contact is still fine, but you can end up with 10 MBit or no connection at all, just 'cause signals don't like sharp corners. I had such a case when someone forced his too long cable into a table folding it twice.

          The same applies to PC-ISA bus, then PCI bus, and later PCIe bus (I spare you those many others). Even within the relatively small space of a mainboard "radial" is used for PCIe just to have a clean Signal, which would not be possible with a bus system, especially not that a bus system which allows various frequencies and distances variations like PCIe does.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Every single time

          "All this is down to the odd consolidation on radials instead of buses."

          Or cost cutting on the network switches. Someone paid to have loads of RJ45 sockets installed all over the building, wired back to the patch panel(s) in the server room or cupboard. But no one ever seems to pay for enough switched to patch them all in :-) It's all well and good only patching what you need, but then there's many, many desk moves, people leaving or new starter arriving, many of which require IT to slink off and patch more wall points, or move cables around. I suppose it depends on the office and the layout, but I sometimes wonder if the cost of an extra switch or two is more or less than the time spent re-patching cables on a semi-regular basis, over the expected lifetime of the switch, which may be many years. And that's not even taking into account the times when the switches are fully utilised and a couple of new starters arrive that HR forgot to mention to IT, so a new switch has to be ordered and installed before the new people get a connection :-)

          1. JohnTill123
            FAIL

            Re: Every single time

            And then you get the networks where SOME of the RJ45 ports on the walls are connected to 10BaseT ports on switches, but other RJ45 ports are connected back to a Token Ring concentrator.

            Labels? We don't need no stinking labels!!!!!

            Then of course, you discover the wonderful result of plugging a live Ethernet card into a Token Ring port. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth until all the Token Ring systems were rebooted.

            Good times, good times...

      3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Intelligence test

        There are child's toys with different shaped holes and corresponding blocks to push through them. For me, the fun was checking things like would the long thin block fit through the square hole diagonally. Older laptops have different shaped sockets for different connectors... USB-C takes away so much fun while easing the option to plug a video cable into a power socket.

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Intelligence test

          I think I'll get one of those toys and award it the the next numpty thats put a usb plug into an hdmi socket .

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Every single time

      There is also 3rd. Business decided that IT is just people doing nothing all day, just sitting with their laptops and looking at text. Any fool could do that.

      So they allocate peanuts and then hire people straight from a bootcamp for a salary slightly better than they could achieve by begging at their local train station.

    4. ColinPa

      IT always get the blame - and sometimes get the credit

      I used to lunch with someone in the IT team, and heard this story.

      A visitor from the US reported that her laptop had problems, and she was due to give an important presentation imminently, but the laptop had problems - it would not display presentations properly. Two guys were sent to fix it, one took a spare laptop. The IT guys agreed it was not working, and lent her the standby machine while they went away to fix it. They apologised that it might take an hour or two because they had to go to a boring "all hands" meeting, and there was a three line whip.

      She said that was fine.

      They went to the "all hands", and found the special guest speaker was the Senior Vice President who had the laptop problem.

      They got a special mention at the end which gave every one a big boost - and she said "You should always take a copy of your presentation on a USB stick!

      When she came to collect the laptop, she chatted to the guys, and later organised an award (£200) each to say thank you.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Now that is exceptional.

        Not only did she recognize their work, but she organized money to make it official.

        I always appreciate that you say thank you, but if you're putting your money where your mouth is, I give you 5 stars every time.

      2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Words to live by

        "You should always take a copy of your presentation on a USB stick!"

        She sounds a right sort, as well as an old hand at presentations.

  2. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    I know this is an "On Call", but shouldn't it have been categorised as "Hugh Me" instead?

    1. SVD_NL Bronze badge

      Don't Hugh Me I'm Scared

    2. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
      Coat

      That's some serious Hugh More.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Joke

        I Apologise For What Follows

        Don't Hugh Want Me Baby!

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    There are two reasons why you never give someone a public roasting. First, it's just bad management. (It's a sign you're a bully). Two, If there is the slightest hint that your argument might have a flaw, you just look like an idiot.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Coat

      ...you just look like an idiot.

      Isn't that the definition of being employed as management?

    2. cosymart
      Megaphone

      There are two reasons why you never give someone a public roasting. First, it's just bad management. (It's a sign you're a bully). Two, you just look like an idiot. Fixed it for you :-)

    3. Bebu Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Or as the Bard put it

      "you just look like an idiot."

      “Seems,” madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems.”

      (Ham. 1.ii)

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Idiots, of course, don't know it's bad management so the behaviour persists.

  4. lvm

    bullshit detected

    "He moved the cable from the RJ45 socket, where it did not fit, to the RJ11 receptacle, where it did." - not true, it DOES fit - same height, same latch, only narrower. Locks in place perfectly, quite easy to do.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: bullshit detected

      The RJ series was even designed for that.

      In fact, as far as I know, any RJ plug will fit into any higher numbered RJ socket. RJ10 into RJ11. RJ11 into RJ12. etc.

      And that's why pair 1 is on pins 4+5 (the middle pins)

      "Where it wasn't a perfect fit" would've been more accurate.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: bullshit detected

        ...and why 10/100 is NOT on pins 4 & 5 (it's on 1, 2, 3 and 6).

        10/100 was designed to avoid the 2 central pins, assuming that at some point an RJ-11 would be plugged in. Only time this doesn't work is if there's something on the second (RJ-11) pair, 3 & 6.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Hydra Cables: Ethernet and LocalTalk via a Single UTP Cable

          Someone in our IT or Telecom departments -- long before I arrived -- created "hydra cables" which carried Apple LocalTalk on pins 4 and 5, and Ethernet on 1, 2, 3, and 6. These were commonly used to connect our PC (Ethernet) network and our LocalTalk network to our Apple laser printers. The printer end of the cable had things split out into an Ethernet-only RJ-45M and a LocalTalk-only RJ-11M. (Our Ethernet was at that time 10 Mb/s-only.)

    2. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: bullshit detected

      Depends on your definition of "fit".

      I can put on an XXXL Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan t-shirt, but I don't think anyone would say it "fits".

      1. GroovyLama
        Trollface

        Re: bullshit detected

        Why? would it still be tight? :p

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Re: bullshit detected

          Nah, not your typical geek. Slim, svelte and semi muscular. (I could say anything, I'm on the internet) ;-)

          Although I do enjoy both Star Trek and Star Wars (the old ones + Andor), vim and emacs, Windows and Mac on the desktop (depending on who's paying).

          Tabs and Spaces? That's where I draw the line. Spaces obviously. Tabs are an abomination along with flat head screws and skinny jeans, and should go into room 101.

          Men over 30 in skinny jeans... https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/418201515402586296/

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: bullshit detected

            Donna Noble "Word of advice: You can wear a suit that tight up to the age of 35 — and no further.”

          2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Tabs vs Spaces

            Tabs are superior to spaces, as long as the tabs stops are set for every eight characters. Once some fools thought a four-space programming indent was a good idea, and had convinced the programming world in general of that, tabs became less-useful. I use spaces now, but do so via editors which are set up to auto-translate my tab key hits into spaces.

            Eight-character tab stops are the One True Way. Because K&R.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Tabs vs Spaces

              Note that a proper TAB is NOT a set number of spaces, it is the distance to the next TAB stop on a page.

              K&R weren't addicted to TABs for formatting. See original K&R code for init here.

              Back in roughly 1975, one of my Big Iron mentors had a bumper-sticker:

              Tabs are for typewriters!

              A woman from the typing pool who much preferred Fresca to Tab took exception to the comment, so he offered to buy her lunch in compensation for the perceived slight. They are still married.

              A few years later, another mentor opined "Feelthy TABs are the devil's work, unless you are using them on your Smith Corona".

              Personally, I prefer spaces, but I'll use tabs where required. When in Rome & all that.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Tabs vs Spaces

                TABs can be great for indenting when it's just you, working alone, on your own project in your preferred editor or IDE that lets you set the TAB spacing the way you want it. But if that source code is going to be used, looked at, edited or patched by someone else, probably in a different editor or IDE, it can get very messy, very quickly. Especially back in the days when most people had 80 column displays :-)

                Yes, I learned that lesson very early on :-)

              2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: Tabs vs Spaces

                Note that a proper TAB is NOT a set number of spaces, it is the distance to the next TAB stop on the page.

                You are correct. The TAB / 8 spaces thing is a convention, and a default on many older terminals. Since everyone pretty-much was using the default back then, TABS were useful for programming indentation. When some people started is using custom (non-8-characters) tab stops and proportionally-spaced fonts in their terminal windows, the results looked like poo for everyone else.

                As to K&R and indentation, please note that in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, most assemblers were column-sensitive, as were FORTRAN and COBOL.

                (Mine's the one with a VT102 in the left pocket, a 3278 in the right pocket, and a Diablo HyType in the back pocket. It's a very heavy coat.)

            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Tabs vs Spaces

              "I use spaces now, but do so via editors which are set up to auto-translate my tab key hits into spaces."

              I'm not sure that anyone does it differently. The argument is about the characters you use, not what key you have to push to insert them, and I somehow doubt that many people are pressing the space bar 24 times for lines with a lot of indentation.

              I'm not much bothered about which character is used, though I only use spaces unless told to do otherwise, but neither do I care that much about various indentation-based style guides. I do tend to object to 8-space indentation, especially when it also goes along with an 80-character line limit, because it leads to worse code readability. Either you get an expression that's split across eight lines when it could fit onto one or two, or programmers avoid having to do that by contracting all their names so it fits again. There's something very depressing about seeing code that looks like t *x = rcProd(cs[i][j], tb->x, n, &z, cl). You know every other line will look like that and that you'll be spending a lot of time trying to remember what each of those symbols means, even though the compiler is perfectly happy with names that don't look like that.

          3. JulieM Silver badge

            Re: bullshit detected

            Tabs are necessary in Makefiles.

            And I've seen too many CVs claiming proficiency in Microsoft Word, formatted for a paper size (216 by 279) that is used in exactly one country in the world and crucially, despite the best efforts of the Tories, not this one, where we still use 210 by 297 because that ratio is special, and with spaces used for text positioning. (One person deserves a special mention for changing the font size of some of those spaces to get finer alignment than would have been possible otherwise.) This is before I get onto the use of ad-hoc font changes as opposed to styles (meaning if they wanted to change the appearance of, say, all section headings, they would have to change each one separately).

            Oh, yes, and for the absolute lolly stick in the dog turd, some of these even came in response to an advert that said "No MS Word .doc files. We are an Open Source outfit."

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: bullshit detected

              "Tabs are necessary in Makefiles."

              Not in GNU Make (gmake). You can change it using the special variable .RECIPEPREFIX

              https://www.gnu.org/software/make/manual/html_node/Special-Variables.html

              caveat scriptor

              1. JulieM Silver badge

                Re: bullshit detected

                It looks as though you are asking for rope. How many metres would you like? Enter a negative length for unlimited .....

            2. jake Silver badge

              Re: bullshit detected

              "We are an Open Source outfit."

              Me too. I sometimes specify ASCII only. Any deviation gets bit-bucketed.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: bullshit detected

                ASCII is too limiting.

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: bullshit detected

                  "ASCII is too limiting."

                  Thus spake a kid who is too young to have ever needed to UUencode a binary.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bullshit detected

        I've seen a USB B connector plugged into a RJ45 port before now. Printer still didn't work though

      3. Annihilator

        Re: bullshit detected

        Yeah but we in the IT industry have a perverse definition of "fitting". We'll scoff at someone plugging an RJ11 into an RJ45 socket, but at the same time have the PCI-E spec which allows for x1, x4 and x8 cards to happily sit in a x16 slot. From memory you can also make a x16 card run at reduced bandwidth in a x4 slot, but I might be misremembering that bit (plus who would actually do it).

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: bullshit detected

          You can even run it in a PCIe 1x slot, IF it is an "open" slot. Used for number crunching jobs where the PCIe speed is not the limiting factor. There are big mainboards with 24x PCIe 1x slots (or more) out there. There are even USB3-to-PCIe 1x adapters. Usually used by crypto currency fanatics.

          1. mirachu

            Re: bullshit detected

            Those USB thingies just use a USB cable for data, though, it's not a protocol converter.

          2. mirachu

            Re: bullshit detected

            And if it isn't an open slot you can make it one.

    3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: bullshit detected

      Hmmm. The term 'doesn't fit' is somewhat ambiguous.

      From an engineering viewpoint, the two most definitely don't fit. e.g. there is one particular combination of BA and Metric nut/bolt size which will mate, and in an emergency is usable, but it doesn't 'fit' either specification and the threads make poorly.

      In this O/P case, while it is physically possible to plug in, it doesn't actually fit - there's a gap either side, although in some cases it will work - the fact that you are reading this proves the point. The modem I have here requires a lead with with an RL11 on one end and and an RJ45 on the other! I'm currently using a cable an RJ11 on both ends. I've also seen an RJ11 plug without a locating peg put into an RG45 socket offset.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: bullshit detected

        From an engineering viewpoint, the two most definitely don't fit.

        Based on my experience with some engineers, any two items can be made to fit...if they don't, then you just need to use your hammer some more.

        1. Anonymous Custard
          Trollface

          Re: bullshit detected

          Based on my experience with some engineers, any two items can be made to fit...if they don't, then you just need to use your hammer some more.

          I was going to say something similar, except normally it's manglement rather than engineers, and they will be made to fit by use of increasingly excessive force to jam one into t'other.

          And of course, once they are "fitted", normally they will neither be removable ever again without breakage, nor will they work either as they now are or when actually put into their correct orifice.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: bullshit detected

          "you just need to use your hammer some more"

          You may need to use a chisel instead. Chisels make good wedges to take up the slack.

        3. NXM Silver badge

          hammer

          We call that a Sheffield screwdriver

          1. Potty Professor
            Boffin

            Re: hammer

            Dagenham Screwdriver when I was an apprentice.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: hammer

              link

      2. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: bullshit detected

        The phone line has only two leads anyway - so having all of these extra pins is just way overkill. Only the two central pins are actually used.

        (yeah, I know, there's other standards, but this one is most common here - and then for different speeds you need different types of cables, but that's networks, CAT5 and upwards...)

        1. SVD_NL Bronze badge

          Re: bullshit detected

          This is actually quite common, especially in older telephony applications and DSL lines.

          The cable will just have 1 or 2 wire pairs, and the RJ-45 is partially filled. This is simply done to make it fit better into the RJ-45 socket which may actually have the full 4 wire pairs on the other end.

          This is not a requirement, but it fits better and prevents dust ingress.

          Those extra pairs can be used to add more phone lines, or upgrade to digital or even IP telephony if needed without changing the building cabling.

          I used to work with old Panasonic PBXs and we often made cables where we used one RJ-45 port on the PBX and had 4 analog or 2 digital signals spread over the pairs. Sometimes split immediately, sometimes split or daisy chained after bringing it to the room over regular CAT cable.

          One of my pet peeves is when people use CAT cable and then only attach an RJ-11, or even worse, an RJ-45 but only connect one wire pair. Just cable everything with 4 pairs and use what you need!

          Sockets should always have every wire attached, for cables it really doesn't matter.

          1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: bullshit detected

            One of my pet peeves is when people refer to it as "CAT cable"

            The "Cat" in "Cat 5e" is short for category. You're using both unnecessary capitalisation (it's not an acronym) and a nonsensical term (category cable)

        2. ChrisElvidge

          Re: bullshit detected

          "Only the two central pins are actually used."

          Not in the UK. IIRC it was the two outer pins of the RJ11 (phone end) to BS6312 (wall socket end).

          1. Frank Bitterlich

            Re: bullshit detected

            Hm, by definition RJ11 is 6P2C, so only the two central contacts should be used. But many "RJ11" cables are actually RJ14, which is 6P4C, so 4 wires are connected. But still not the outer ones. Not sure what the UK did there, but that's not part of the RJ11 standard, AFAIK.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: bullshit detected

              I can answer why many of them have four wires, especially in Germany but probably throughout Europe (with different plugs though): When the modem is not on the hook a relay closes the wires, which go back to the TAE Plug, back to the port, and then to the phone to ring. A TAE connector on the wall usually has three coded inputs, and two of them are designed to "daisy-chain" the signal through the fax, then the modem, and the last one will be the telephone which really only need two wires. I suspect the United States is not much different, except for a different plug.

              Wow there is even an English wikipedia article about that plug. But the German wikipedia has, obviously, the better pictures and description.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: bullshit detected

                Leave it to the Germans to over-engineer a plug to an absolutely ridiculous extent.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: bullshit detected

                  DIN - Deutsches Institut für Normung :-)

                2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

                  Re: bullshit detected

                  That plug is very simple and FAR from overengineered.

            2. VicMortimer Silver badge

              Re: bullshit detected

              All 6 pins wired was fairly common in the US for 3 POTS lines and for some PBX systems.

          2. PB90210

            Re: bullshit detected

            The UK arrangement all depends on how the modems line port is wired. Most modems will use an RJ11 port with the centre pair wired and the cable converts that to 2+5 on the BT plug

      3. Andy the ex-Brit

        Re: bullshit detected

        An RJ-11 fits into an RJ-45 way better than a DE-9 "fits" into a DE-15, or a DE-15 "fits" into a DE-15, but the wrong way up. Both of which I've seen.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: bullshit detected

          Yeah, but that requires quite a bit of force. I saw many, many more PS/2 keyboards and mice with mangled pins. And the occasional "bus mouse" or "hand scanner" or similar devices that used the same diameter connector with a different pin configuration.

    4. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: bullshit detected

      The article states "did a spot of training to ensure the AD was conversant with the modem". So while it mechanically fits, he got training, and did not listen.

      Does not deserve mercy.

    5. NITS

      Re: bullshit detected

      What does NOT work is using a 4P4C (4 position, 4 conductor) handset cord modular connector instead of a 6P2C RJ11 plug.

      1. The handset connector has pointy contacts designed to penetrate a tinsel or stranded wire, different from the contacts for solid wire that penetrate the insulation and straddle the solid conductor, capturing it in a fork. They may appear to work for a while, but they stub against a solid wire and do not make a gas-tight connection. Time and environmental factors, or mechanical manipulation, will cause them to fail open.

      2. The 4P handset connector, while it may insert and latch into an RJ11 socket, does not have enough support and can rotate about the cable axis, causing an open circuit.

      I've seen this (and replaced the connectors to repair it) in several branches of a department-store chain, where they converted from POTS trunking to VOIP, installing ATAs (Analog(ue) Telephone Adapters) to provide dialtone to their legacy phone system. The ATAs were built to a budget, of course, and their RJ11 sockets had only the 2 required center contacts. So the handset plugs were not as well supported as they would have been if used in a 6P4C or 6P6C socket. Found this condition several times on callouts for "Line 3 is dead" and such.

      I know, they now make (and I have used) mod ends with contacts intended to work with either solid or stranded wire. But these were not that type.

      IT work can be a lot like janitorial work, cleaning up other people's messes.

  5. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Not an addlepated dementor (AD)...

    Once had a very senior if somewhat unpleasant academic cum administrator who, when kicked further upstairs, decamped on the weekend to his new accommodation with his PC and a length of thin coaxial (10Base2) ethernet with the T-BNC connector thereby disabling the network on the whole floor for the rest of weekend.

    The newly constructed building to which he had decamped had the new fangled twisted pair so he wasn't any better off and in any case no one at that point was using DHCP.

    Silver lining - not my problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not an addlepated dementor (AD)...

      I had no idea "cum administrator" was an actual job description.

      Is that what we call "jizz moppers" over here in the states? I mean, they're usually employed by porn stores, not academia, but I suppose there must be a need.

  6. Wobblin' Pete
    Facepalm

    The RJ family...

    I'm guessing there is a whole family of RJxx standards out there, but as just the 11 and the 45 cause enough work on their own never bothered to look that up.

    But I am sure back in the 70's someone must have said to their mate 'you know, if we can get this adopted we'll have work for life just swapping them round and round..'

    Case 1 - A few years back an elderly close relative called me at wits end - this was the 3rd "faulty" router he'd been sent and needed to get the broadband back up. Now this was someone who had been in computing all his life, the first two systems he installed were analogue. Yes, real analogue computers, before moving into mainframes. But I arrived at the house, instantly spotted the RJ11 plug in the RJ45 socket, as kindly as i could pointed out the problem. Then after a few choice words about the connection choices/design he had the internet connection back up and running in minutes. Now that was a black box with black sockets in it and the relatives eyesight was not what it was, and so I did agree about the design.

    Case 2 - About a year after that a sibling called me, his family was about to lose it as he had disconnected the home broadband router so he could decorate. But the next morning when paint was dry and he reconnected it, nothing worked! Again quickly popped up there to see, and no, he had not painted the router, but it was a simple colour problem. The manufacturer of this box had tried to make things easy by colour coding the sockets and plugs - the red plug went in the red socket, the yellow plug in the yellow socket and so on. But said sibling had instead very carefully put them back in what he thought was the order he had pulled them out, not realising the colours were there for a purpose. Again that was fixed in seconds and peace restored - the kids xboxes were no longer ex-boxes...

    Of course it may be my family might just be all idiots, but I doubt that. I have seen similar cabling faux-pas numerous times in all the offices i've ever worked in, offices full of very well paid supposedly clever people (my favourite was the RJ11 'network cable' between two RJ45 ports - well it had come with the laptop, hadn't it?) (for the younger readers laptops once had modem cards and came with a cable to connect them to a wall socket).

    And I'm always surprised/disappointed we still get new kit with the RJ11's and RJ45's in nice little line hidden in the lower dark recesses of the back of a bit of kit in the hope people might notice that the cable that looks very much like it is plugged in ok is not really plugged in ok at all.

    But then maybe, after all, it has kept a good few of us in a job over the years...

    1. UCAP Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: The RJ family...

      ...the kids xboxes were no longer ex-boxes...

      Nice word-play there!

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: The RJ family...

      I like your story for following:

      1. your family members seems to know how to behave.

      2. It is family, they do get support (unless 1. is not fulfilled).

      3. It is always the dumbest or most simple mistake, no matter whether it was mine or someone elses :D. Experience says: Check the dumbest possible oversight first, like "it is plugged in", "plug at right place", "not forgot to plug in power supply" etc...

      1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: The RJ family...

        You spend hours looking for the what-must-be-a-complex solution only to spot the obvious error later. Now the thing to do is not to let on. You must spend more time and surreptitiously correct the 'stupid' fault in order to maintain appearances. Of course, I have never had to do this.

        Richard Feynman was asked to 'crack' a very complex safe; the owner had gone away leaving important documents in there. He asked to be left alone in the room in order to concentrate on the problem but quickly discovered the safe was still secured with the manufacturer's default combination. He waited an hour or two before declaring the problem resolved.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: The RJ family...

          You'll typically find BOFH & PFY retiring to the remote mission control down the road doing just this.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: The RJ family...

          When Parker manages to crack the new, high tech vault in less than a minute, while the original vault took him nearly two and a half hours.

          Lord Silton even decides to have the old vault reinstalled after witnessing Parker cracking the new one, stating it's probably a safer model.

          Bank Manager: We could do worse than going back to the old design; at least that one took him two and a half hours to open.

          Then averted when Parker admits to Lady Penelope he could have cracked the old vault just as quickly if he wanted, but he wanted to give his audience a good show (which of course he couldn't in a real emergency).

    3. rafff
      Facepalm

      Re: The RJ family...

      " Now that was a black box with black sockets in it and the relatives eyesight was not what it was"

      My pet hate: black-on-black design, of anything - computers, cars, kitchen stoves, hifi, you name it.....

      1. Flightmode

        Re: The RJ family...

        Don't forget to include a constantly flickering blue LED with an intensity approaching the Trinity test. Preferrably on the back so that your whole room fills with strobe light bouncing of the wall.

      2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: The RJ family...

        With a black light that lights up in black.....

      3. Marcelo Rodrigues
        Trollface

        Re: The RJ family...

        "My pet hate: black-on-black design, of anything - computers, cars, kitchen stoves, hifi, you name it....."

        Now You are just being difficult: there are clear black leters over black background, with neat little black lights to show the status!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The RJ family...

          In a black stunt ship.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The RJ family...

        "My pet hate: black-on-black design, of anything - computers, cars, kitchen stoves, hifi, you name it."

        Not the only bad combo. I've just encountered a local conservation group with their website footer in light green on slightly less light green. Miniscule sans serif text, of course.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: The RJ family...

          ZAPHOD: It’s the wild colour scheme that freaks me. I mean, when you try an’ operate one of these weird black controls which are labelled in black on a black background, a small black light lights up black to tell you you’ve done it. What is this? Some kind of intergalactic hyper-hearse?

          TRILLIAN: Well perhaps it is.

          ARTHUR: Isn’t there anyway you can control it? You’re making me feel space sick.

          FORD: Time sick. We’re plummeting backwards through time.

          ARTHUR: Oh god! Now I think I really am going to be ill.

          ZAPHOD: Go ahead, we could do with a little colour around the place.

          1. mirachu

            Re: The RJ family...

            TBF, the owner of the ship was dead at the time, so a hearse wasn't the worst guess.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The RJ family...

          Or the serial numbers on the bottom of Lenovo laptops. Until a few years ago, black on white. Now? Grey on grey, with very little contrast! Absolutely n o need for that. It's on the bottom, where hardly anyone ever looks anyway other than adding them into the asset management database which links it to the asset tag stuck on the from where everyone can see it and is easily readable anyway :-)

          Lets not even go near Apple or HP with engraved serial numbers in 2pt text!!

      5. AustinTX
        Facepalm

        Re: The RJ family...

        Tiny black on black lettering... We're looking at YOU, Dell!

        I had to buy an illuminated magnifying glass so i wouldn't have to whip out my phone and use the camera every time.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Black-on-Black

          We're looking at YOU, Dell!

          And also at Lenovo, and at Sony, and at ...

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The RJ family...

      "But then maybe, after all, it has kept a good few of us in a job over the years..."

      And anything that does that can't be all that bad.

    5. Kevin Johnston

      Re: The RJ family...

      Most people are blissfully unaware of how complex most of these standards are having only ever met 2-3 implementations but I made the mistake while an apprentice of stating that a connector could not be RS232 because of the number of pins. I was escorted to the Technical Library and shown the standards manual for RS232 and told to read it and make a list of all the different connector types which are part of the standard...wow there was a lot

      Lesson learned

      1. Paul Cooper

        Re: The RJ family...

        I did computing in the dark ages, working on prototype systems (there only ever was one!) based on Z80s (an S100 bus single card computer), with many interconnections with external equipment. Most external stuff was either RS232 or (rarely) IEEE-488. The latter was easy; it just worked. But I don't think I ever came across two RS232 connections that were the same! The good old break-out box was an essential tool. That and trying to work out whether it was 8 bit, 8 bit + parity , occasionally 7 bit and 7 bit plus parity, hard or soft handshaking, and MANY more combinations!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The RJ family...

        "Lesson learned"

        Not to mention DCE/DTE and whether male or female depending on the whims of the manufactures of the kit who'd also not properly read the standards!

  7. phuzz Silver badge

    A USB A plug will fit quite snugly in an RJ45 socket. It was the Marketing Director who managed that one, I was quite impressed, I'd never seen that particular fuckup before.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      To be fair, it's probably easier than plugging it into a USB A socket.

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

        Agreed. It will always fit first time. A USB-A plug needs three attempts to fit it into the socket, spinning it by 180 each time.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
          Happy

          A USB-A plug needs three attempts to fit it into the socket, spinning it by 180 each time.

          That's where USB-C wins. You only need two attempts to get it to fit.

        2. John 110

          I didn't know you could actually force a printer USB plug into the socket on the printer upside down, but Liz managed...

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      I am an IT admin. And when I blindly try to plug in USB in the back of the PC because I don't want to do the full crawl, I end up in the LAN too. Does not happen often, and I notice it immediately, but it happens.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And a USB C connector will fit into a USB-socket!

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Isn’t this just daily SOP in IT

    I’ve lost track of how many times the alligator mouth overran the parakeet ass…

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Isn’t this just daily SOP in IT

      I’ve lost track of how many times the alligator mouth overran the parakeet ass…"

      I have no idea what you just said, although I may have a slight inkling from the context!

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    There is something about the design

    Having different squarish holes in the side of a computer, placed near/next to each other does seem a bit perverse, though.

    You shouldn't be too surprised for a user to forget which is which.

    Inexcusable for the OP's boss is not to have the basic sense to try the other one if the first one isn't working

    That is not merely a failure of understanding logic and reason, or indeed IT, but also a shameful failure to do some basic human problem solving.

    If this one doesn't work try the other one has to be a rule as old as civilisation itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is something about the design

      I tried that reasoning with the wife but she wasn't persuaded.

  10. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Happy

    Installed my

    software on someone's laptop a few years ago.

    Couple of days pass... and..... the call comes

    "Your software is crap.... buggered up my laptop.. demand you fix it NOW! "

    Wandered around to his engineering shop come office..

    Picked up laptop.... seems he just shut the lid, it went to sleep, and he pressed the space bar to wake it up when he opened it. and then the battery went flat, it went into shutdown.. hence having to press the power button to enliven it again.....

    He went very quiet at that point

    I like to treasure those kind of moments so I can take them out when I'm old and relive them

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Installed my

      Well, to give him his due, "something" went "wrong" and he linked it to the most recent change, which has a sense of logic to it. Something many others will fail to recognise, and may even deny a change happened!

  11. aerogems Silver badge

    I've lost count of the number of times I come across someone who thinks that if they just push hard enough the cable will surely fit. Or the people who are absolutely hell bent on making a computer fit in a specific location and will bend things like thick AC cables to a near 90 degree angle to make it happen.

    Though I do remember two vaguely similar stories from my days doing hardware repairs at a small uni. One involved a customer who was actually far more gracious than my supervisor. They put in a ticket that their new iMac display was too bright even at the lowest setting. There was nothing wrong with the display so I couldn't justify replacing it, especially since any replacement would have the same "problem." The customer understood and we managed to find some third party software that let you set the brightness even lower than what Apple allowed. They were happy with that, but the fact that I didn't replace the non-defective hardware with equally non-defective hardware didn't go down well. Then the second time there was some VIP professor or something who was having issues with their computer booting. I get dispatched at like 30 minutes to the end of the day. Some of the details are lost to the mists of time, but I'm sure I spent probably a good 20-30 minutes working on it, after it taking me maybe 10 minutes to get over there, and can't really find anything wrong. I say I'll be back in the morning. Customer didn't seem to care since I'm guessing they were looking to head home soon anyway, but my supervisor again didn't care for this. Eventually it turned out the guy connected a dodgy USB hub to the computer and that was preventing the BIOS from POSTing. Then again, this supervisor was basically always looking for any excuse to call up my actual boss (contractor) and yell at him. I don't know the details, just that the two hated each other, but had to work together. The supervisor was a real piece of work too, once telling me in absolutely no uncertain terms that I am expected to basically lie to companies like Dell and Apple if the customer wants parts and I can't diagnose a hardware fault. This is at a Jesuit university no less. On my way out, I mentioned that to the new unit president, and how this person was just a series of lawsuits waiting to happen for the university. Not sure exactly when, but wasn't too long after (on the timescale of higher education) that I saw my former supervisor had taken a different job.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      We've had this before

      Please split your epic into readable paragraphs.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: We've had this before

        "once telling me in absolutely no uncertain terms that I am expected to basically lie to companies like Dell and Apple if the customer wants parts and I can't diagnose a hardware fault"

        You don't have to lie, just be creative* & ensure a actual fault exists by hook or by crook.

        * AKA destructive.

  12. BartyFartsLast

    Been there, done that.

    Epson dot matrix printer failed after some weekend install work at a client site had been completed.

    Client raised a complaint, demanded to speak to MD, gave him the hairdrier about the incompetence of his employees.

    MD and I trekked out to client site.

    Flicked the power switch on the side of the printer, printer sprang into life.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: Been there, done that.

      In other words management like i said below are a tax and parasites...

  13. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Said it before and will say it again, leadership is a tax on everyone. These parasites not only demand and receive excessive compensation for their worthless input, but their stupidity actually has a large neative effect which again costs everyone.

    We most got rid of Louis XVIII and his parasitic blue blood mates, its time we got rid of leadership.

    1. Excused Boots Bronze badge

      I suspect you mean Louis XVI not the eighteenth who wasn’t ’got rid off’ but died of natural causes while still king.

      But of course tell me how well did the ‘removal’ of Louis XVI go, cough, ‘the terror’, Napoleon?

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        All the French kings were parasites.

        Napoleon was also a king in all but name, he even had himself named Emperor.

        Hard to believe but both the French kings and Napoleon were parasites in their own ways, blood letting via wars or hunger, they can both be parasites its not an exclusive thing.

    2. jake Silver badge

      People calling for true Anarchy will be the first to bitch about the lack of cops ...

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Who called for anarchy, was me, i never used the word.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Did I say that you did?

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          You did not, but there is a parallel between those who call for anarchy and the request you have made for no management, since both involve the removal and not the replacement of a large part of the existing structure. Follow that parallel and you'll see the prediction made about your reaction to achieving it, at least assuming I've properly understood.

          1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            doublelayer: You did not, but there is a parallel between those who call for anarchy and the request you have made for no management,

            cow: So you think assigning responsibility lets call it management to people who are without a clue is smart ?

            Most managers havent clue about anything in their respective companies. Nine out of 10 times and im being extremely generous here, they couldnt actually do any other job in the company, except maybe cleaning the toilet and sweeping the floor.

            How exactly can a person with that level of skill possibly be in a position to make any constructive judgment calls on any matter ? Are they in any position to tell a brain surgeon how to do their job ? Of course not, replace brain surgeon with countless other jobs like IT technician, how can a person who doent know wht a USB port is possibly guide anybody on that matter ?

            double: Follow that parallel and you'll see the prediction made about your reaction to achieving it, at least assuming I've properly understood.

            cow: THere iis little merit in being a manager except being a bullshitter and brown noser. Feel free to tell me how a manager without any ability to actually do the jobs of others can possibly make any decisions ? THeir decisions are basically random crap, they have no actually basis for what they do.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              "So you think assigning responsibility lets call it management to people who are without a clue is smart ?"

              Did I say that?

              I did not say that any more than you asked for anarchy. I pointed out the parallel. You decided to ascribe beliefs to me that I do not hold, strawman arguments that basically nobody holds, and are now happily attacking them. This makes it useless for me to bother describing my own opinions, because you have made it clear that you already have a set to argue against, even when I didn't provide any, and do not need or want my own.

        3. Aleph0

          Anarchy - definition (from Wikipedia)

          Etymologically, anarchy is derived from the Greek: αναρχία, romanized: anarkhia; where "αν" ("an") means "without" and "αρχία" ("arkhia") means "ruler".Therefore, anarchy is fundamentally defined by the absence of rulers.

          Calling for getting rid of leadership altogether is basically the textbook definition IMO. If you actually meant middle management that's totally another thing from what you wrote...

  14. Grogan Silver badge

    Kind of dumb that he didn't phone somebody. The stereotypical grandma had enough sense to do that if they couldn't dial up.

  15. FlavioStanchina

    One of my colleagues did the opposite -- he managed to plug a RJ45 Ethernet connector into a RJ11 phone line. No, we never understood just how he could cram the larger connector in the smaller socket, but his mantra was something like "when all else fails, use the pickaxe". We had to repair quite a few large and/or deep holes he made with his pickaxe approach. In this particular instance, he fried one extension board of the office switchboard, about €1000 in damages.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Probably pushed the RJ11 socket through the faceplate into the wall :-)

      Seen that done on those sort of faceplate type connectors many times since they are invariably only held in place with slightly bendy plastic clips.

  16. Scott 26

    Had exactly this when on my OE in London - call came into the SD from the EA to #1 and #2 in the company.... problem with #1's new fandangled laptop (this was c 2000/2001 - laptops were a rarity even for the exec).

    My Boss said "for some reason #1 has asked for you by name..... " (giving me a look of "what have you done", and "normally I'd send one of lackeys, cos I know they won't say the wrong thing")

    I trundle over to head office (IT dept was in a separate building a street or two away - a casual 5 minute walk)... walk into #1's suite... "Ahhh Kiwi, I was showing Sir Herbert my new laptop but I can't get it to work"

    I took one look at it and saw that they had plugged the modem cable into the RJ45 socket on the wall.... carefully eased it out with the blade of a letter opener, and then said "this goes into this kind of socket" and plugged into a telephone jack. "For the ticket resolution notes, who did it?" both of them quick as a flash both of them pointed at each other..... and laughed.

    So I took my chance and asked why they asked for me, a casual contractor on his OE from NZ.... "cos you like rugby"

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      OE in London = ???

      call came into the SD = Service Desk

      from the EA = ???

      on his OE from NZ = ??? from New Zealand ???

      Please help me with the lingo...

      1. Sparkypatrick

        The lingo

        OE = Overseas Experience

        EA = Executive Assistant

        NZ = New Zealand

  17. JulieM Silver badge

    Common problem

    In the days of dial-up modems, Ethernet ports were generally 10MB/s, with 100MB on high-end machines. And at those speeds, only pins 1, 2, 3 and 6 are used for data; leaving the middle pins 4 and 5 unconnected.

    So I'm almost surprised no laptop manufacturer ever thought of "helpfully" wiring those pins of the Ethernet port to the modem, just on the slight off-chance of an RJ10 plug not being too loose to make any contact at all with the RJ45 socket. That'll save a few hundred support calls, yeah?

    Obviously it would not be entirely without unintended consequences, like a miswired phone cable (e.g. RJ431 [UK] to RJ11, middle pins swapped with outer pins) potentially shoving ringing voltage up the Ethernet input -- or, for that matter, even a properly-wired one plugged into the right port, doing something similar to an expensive gigabit switch into which the laptop was also plugged at the same time ..... all of which, since it needed an incoming call under the right circumstances, could end up going undetected for a very long time .....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Common problem

      Mb, Shirley. 100 MB/s wasn't a thing in the 90s (or at least it wasn't cheap)

  18. BPontius

    Don't miss it!

    Had a brief time (one and a half years) doing phone support for two companies, one was through a Microsoft contractor for the Windows Me launch and the other sold several brands of PCs is out of business. But as much as I like working with computers, I am glad the IT career I wanted never panned out (lack of degree). Specifically because of having to deal with people who feel it is acceptable to treat you like crap when they have called you for help. Spent nearly an hour with a customer trying to troubleshoot her lack sound, multiple times I asked her if the speakers were plugged in correctly and each time she insisted they were. Only to have her tell me, Oh I have it plugged in wrong. Having people buy the cheapest speakers available for their system, then calling in because they don't get theatre quality sound. A customer who insisted of having many years working with computers but had no idea what I was referring to when I asked her to insert the floppy disk in (1990s).

    Good riddance to that!!

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