back to article What's brown and sticky and broke this PC?

As another week ebbs away, The Register hopes that readers have a nice warm cup of whatever they fancy beside them as we present another instalment of On Call, our weekly reader-contributed tale of the trials and tribulations of tech support. This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Giuseppe" who told us about a quiet …

  1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

    House's Law

    Everybody lies!

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: House's Law

      It's recursive too: Everybody lies about the lies they made.

      Except me of course (that might be a lie).

    2. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: House's Law

      Everybody lies! But those with Manglement potential also manage to make it your fault.

    3. Aladdin Sane

      Re: House's Law

      I don't lie, I just bullshit.

      1. Anonymous Custard
        Headmaster

        Re: House's Law

        Everything I ever say or write is a lie.

        Most especially the above statement...

      2. Yes Me Silver badge

        Re: House's Law

        I elaborate, you bullshit, and they lie.

        1. Bebu Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: House's Law

          《I elaborate, you bullshit, and they lie.》

          All out of the same stable just some more "fragrant" than others and varying in organic content.

          Curious even in english the number of adjective that can be applied to lies or adverbs to lying.

          Naked, flagrant, outright, white, deliberate, inadvertent, convenient, (un)neccessary.....just to name a few.

          The means of lying vary. Elaboration is mostly lying by camouflage, obfuscation, conflation and confusion and may well not involve a single untruth or perhaps only an unstated fallacy the audience is induced to unconsciously assume.

          Lying isn't the mere statement of an untruth. The liar must knowingly state the untruth(s) with the motive of having the audience accept those untruths as facts normally for some benefit for the liar. ie Exploitative deceit. Pathlogical liars are probably not technically liars by this definition not that this would excuse Trump. :)

          If the ability to lie defines part of being human the AI/LLM is very nearly there. ;)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: House's Law

      > Everybody lies!

      Yes - every time I try to get out of the bed nurses tut at me.

    5. Bebu Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: House's Law

      "Rule 1: [Even] The Doctor Lies." (River Song "Big Bang" S05E13 +28')

      And he had poured a bit more than a sticky mocha on the Universe.

      ----

      Really in this game its a mistake to treat your clients as a medico might by eliciting a history and symptoms - it really is more akin to veterinary practice - jump to the physical examination and observing the signs - then use that elicit (extract) information from the owner.

      You can also try bluff. After cracking open a dead PC etc you might look the owner in the eye and state: " Ah! I can see what caused the problem. [Accusingly] Why didn't you say at the outset?"

      You usually get a result. ;)

      If you have a PFY you can try the good cop, bad cop thing for a change.

  2. diver_dave

    Ahhh the joys

    Call one morning from a know err... Challenging user.

    Phone not working. Apparently it just stopped and the LCD display went black.

    I head down and visual inspection confirms blackness of display.

    "Anything happen before it died?" Says I.

    "No," says user.

    I pick up phone and get half a cup of cold coffee down my arm...

    "Oh yeah, I did spill that earlier."

    Cue much head Vs wall action..

    1. RockBurner

      Re: Ahhh the joys

      Whose head?

      1. UCAP Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Ahhh the joys

        The user's I hope. This way they may remember not to make the same mistake again.

        (icon because it is appropriate)

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Ahhh the joys

      At least, coffee only.

      A former acquaintance ran an electronics repair shop. One nice customer once brought her no longer functioning mobile phone "it stopped working, don't know why". Upon opening it, my acquaintance found a considerable amount of moisture inside. I don't recall whether he was able to revive the device but do recall the subsequent conversation with the customer. "It was all wet inside, what has happened?!" To which she replied: "oh, it fell in the toilet." Ugh.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Ahhh the joys

        More Slaughterhouse Blues.

        Coffee spillage on phone, phone not working please replace.

        Arrive at phone & desk, both covered in water.

        "EXPLAIN!"

        "Oh I spilled coffee on it & then I washed the coffee off with water & then it stopped working!"

        1. diver_dave

          Re: Ahhh the joys

          You win

        2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Ahhh the joys

          I had that with a television, only it was milk that the kid had spilt down the back of a valve TV... that was switched on at the time. The mum took the back off and washed the board - one of the earlier single vertical panel jobbies (she did at least switch off at the wall first). She was most dischuffed when I stuck a fan heater on it, with instructions to leave it on till I returned the following day.

      2. Walt Dismal

        Re: Ahhh the joys

        Never, NEVER lick the object you are repairing,

        By the way, those blue urinal cakes taste just awful.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Ahhh the joys

          You can repair those?

          1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

            Re: Ahhh the joys

            Blue toilet blocks repaired by Blu glue?

        2. Herby

          Re: Ahhh the joys

          Lick? How do you know. Details, please!

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Ahhh the joys

        To which she replied: "oh, it fell in the toilet." Ugh.

        Before or after flushing? It matters. I'd still want to wash my hands[*], but not quite as "ugh" inducing :-)

        * Always do anyway, before and after working on a "device". Also worth noting when a laptop comes in for repair that's not brand new and is suspiciously clean is a huge clue you'll find evidence of a spillage inside where users fear to tread. They'll often try to hide the evidence by cleaning the outside and rarely think further ahead to the time where someone will open it up and find the evidence.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Ahhh the joys

          Confession is good for the relationship with IT support but... you don't want them to NOT wipe the pasta sauce off the exterior before they send you the laptop, surely?

  3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Happy

    Off topic

    I've just come off call at 09:00 whilst reading this story. Happy Days . No one rang -even better . Thats it for another 6 weeks

    Oddly a sticky brownian motion producer in the works is the one thing I never came across in my unusually long tenure in the trenches

    1. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Off topic

      The thick "sticky brown" coating of nicotine on the keyboard of the management accountant at a previous place of work was bad enough. That was when smoking in the workplace was still common.

      A full hazmat suit was needed anytime I needed to go and see him.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Off topic

        A friend tells a tale of Asbestos contamination in a building which needed to be decontaminated. Most stuff was just thrown away, but the SGI Workstations under his aegis were deemed too valuable and they made him put the hazmat suit on and clean them out.

        I have no idea what the risc (pun intended) to the staff was!

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Off topic

        The thick "sticky brown" coating of nicotine

        Did anyone not expect that to be the case in TFA when they read the article? Nice piece of redirection there, ed.

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Off topic

          Since the punchline to the joke is 'a stick', I really expected someone to have gone Basil Fawlty on something.

      3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: Off topic

        The gentlemen who liked to go data mining in his brain, via his nose, he then would leave the residue on his fingers & subsequently on his keyboard.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Off topic

        That was probably tar, not nicotine. Nicotine isn't brown.

  4. Julian 8 Silver badge

    Used to have that with keyboards - a lot. The caller was always surprised with the question "did it have sugar in it ?" before telling them to go and rinse it while we got a spare out.

    most spares had been through the rinse and dry many times.

    Wyse terminals were also quite prone as they were small so often buried under crap on the desks and often in the line of fire from liquids. Not quite so well built as keyboards

    1. CT

      Keyboard jammed

      "Help, my keyboard's jammed"

      Only to find literal jam in it, from a jam doughnut.

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Re: Keyboard jammed

        Lone Star!!!

      2. ITMA Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Keyboard jammed

        And they didn't even offer you one.... Greedy sods!

      3. mirachu

        Re: Keyboard jammed

        I bet you were also surrounded by Assholes.

      4. rototype

        Re: Keyboard jammed

        Found 2 dead mice in the back of a farmer's PC once, (expansion blanker missing, amazing they squeezed in there) - only damage was a blown PSU, which by massive coincidence I had an exact replacement for (No, don't arsk, pure co-incidence, especially since it was a Time).

    2. RichardBarrell

      Note to self if I ever deploy thin clients, glue them to the backs of monitors or on top of shelves or something. Thay way they'll be just high enough to be out of spill range.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: glueing thin clients

        I've seen some small PCs that are attached to the VESA mounting holes on monitors. So if you do it right, no glue necessary.

        1. Marcelo Rodrigues
          Happy

          Re: glueing thin clients

          One thing I still didn't see is one of those computer with VESA mounts on both sides - so we could sandwich them between the monitor and the arm support. I think this would be quite handy...

          There are some considerations about weight supported and load on the computer chassis - but nothing a little over engineering don't solve.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: glueing thin clients

            Thats some double sided joined up thinking right there!

            whats the point bolting a mini pc to the monitor vesa holes if that means the monitor can no longer mounted either on an arm(wall) or a stand !

            I guess the real ugly solution would be to get one of those two monitor stands and use one arm for mini pc , one for monitor :D

            1. collinsl Bronze badge

              Re: glueing thin clients

              You mount the monitor to the back of the VESA case for the PC, then mount the VESA case for the PC to the arm.

              My work has them for Dell's MicroPC line, they're quite effective enclosures. Support the usual VESA weights, have a thumbscrew to retain the PC, can be used with the PC's existing locking solution to prevent theft etc.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: glueing thin clients

            You can buy adapters which are double size plates drilled with VESA-pattern holes, intended to solve the problem of one size mount on the monitor and another size on whatever you wish to attach (I have one to mount a Pi on the back of a TV). That's one option. Another is that you can also get an adapter with two parallel VESA plates joined with a bracket to sandwich your computer between them an fit the mounting bracket onto the back.

          3. Caver_Dave Silver badge

            Re: glueing thin clients

            Back in the day when I was still designing hardware, we made our roughly Mini-ITX sized (as it was about the time the standard came in) boards so that the VESA bolts went through the rugged, thin and convection cooled 'PC' and into the monitor. (basically a double-sided heatsink with the board sandwiched in the middle.) We even used to supply suitable bolts!

          4. rcxb Silver badge

            Re: glueing thin clients

            I still didn't see is one of those computer with VESA mounts on both sides - so we could sandwich them between the monitor and the arm support.

            Look for thin-client VESA mounts:

            https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B073523D7N/

          5. rototype

            Re: glueing thin clients

            Some makers (ie Lenovo, suspect HP and Dell also do them) make screens with 'hutches' in the back for these micro PCs, makes upgrading an absolute piece of cake. If you're smart about it the only thing the user sees is their PC is suddently a lot quicker. Makes for a really clean workspace as well, assuming they connect wirelessly and use wireless keyboard/mouse combo the only wire is power and that can be hidden in the monitor arm, keeps the manglement types feeling all superior while making your life easier. (can also be used for 'Kiosk' PCs with the requisite touch screen monitor).

        2. StudeJeff

          Re: glueing thin clients

          I've mounted quite a few that way, it works quite well.

          Then Dell, for reasons known only to them, modified the mount so you couldn't use it that way anymore... and I stopped buying them.

    3. John 110
      Coffee/keyboard

      Didn't think it was chocolate

      I worked in a diagnostic microbiology lab where they processed samples from every area of the body you could imagine (and quite a few you probably shouildn't). When the keyboards on the bench PCs stopped working I threw the dead one in the autoclave and supplied a new cheapy one from my store.

      The story of how I persuaded computer services to allow me to purchase a quantity of keyboards has been told before. Suffice it to say, it involved inviting them round to see the lab and making sure we were processing "special" stuff that day. My purchase requests for keyboards and mice were never turned down again...

      1. rototype

        Re: Didn't think it was chocolate

        I been there before, the one place you made sure you washed your hands ON THE WAY OUT - unless you wanted to be off sick the next week and lose a stone or two (ie no, you WOULD be very sick, no skyving needed). They don't actually enforce the policy of not eating at your desk there, they let the after effects do that for them.

    4. rototype

      Icky Keyboards

      If it's an external keyboaed these days it just goes in the WEEE bin, we use Dells at work and I know how much a) a new keyboard costs, b) my time is worth and c) I really can't be arsed to even go there. Only exception is if it's a Precision laptop in which case we just hose down the motherboard and order a new keyboard (I KNOW it won't kill a Precision, come the nuclear armegeddon those cockroaches will be using them). Other laptops we also have spare keyboards but unless it's still got 2 or 3 years of warranty left it gets WEEEed (after removing the SSD that is).

  5. Scott 53

    The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

    Cruel and unusual punishment, surely.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

      We had an old Solaris box at my previous work that was the mail server and it just kept working, but eventually its 10 year on-board battery failed and was not user replaceable (soldered in FFS!) so on the rare occasion it had to be rebooted, it was not the time that was the big problem (got that from NTP shortly after booting anyway, so other than bizarre uptime figures from 1990s BIOS date not a big deal) but that it forgot the SCSI boot disks, so a paper note was left with it telling you what needed to be entered at the boot prompt for it to proceed. Eventually it was retired, but I think it was almost 20 years of use.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

        If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

        Oh wait...

      2. cosmodrome

        Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

        SUN and SGI boxes and even HPs had a PROM, not a shabby BIOS. Some real sublevel OS that you could enter by BRK-Stop and recover or reboot when the main OS got stuck and where you could boot or install from network, drive or SCSI-tape.

        1. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

          Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

          You interacted with the PROM by essentially programming in Forth, Straightforward for most things, but I had an RDI Sparc based laptop that needed an arcane program entered at the PROM to fix a problem with the disk controller.

          1. 45RPM Silver badge

            Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

            Open Firmware for the win! Most PowerPC Macs used this as well.

      3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

        Every battery is replaceable if you're brave enough.

        Why they don't invest another few dollars in a socket has always been a mystery.

        Also, whenever I replace a battery, I write the replacement date on the battery itself, and make a little sticky label with the same information for the outside of the case.

        1. Not Yb Bronze badge

          Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

          Many newer CMOS batteries do have sockets. It's only on the really cheap boards that they get soldered in these days.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

      This might bios the user's feelings towards IT...

    3. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

      My first PC didn't have a battery backed RTC. Upon every boot I was prompted for time and date. Mostly it was just 00:00, Jan 1 1980 (IIRC) becase I didn't care.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

        "Mostly it was just 00:00, Jan 1 1980 (IIRC) becase I didn't care"

        Until the logs are checked to see who gets the big promotion: "okay, you were really productive once, but seem to have been coasting in all the years after"

      2. PRR Silver badge

        Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

        > Mostly it was just 00:00, Jan 1 1980

        But your files would stamp minutes to hours later.

        Directory of C:\DOSUtil

        01/01/1980 01:07 AM 3,438 KEY-FAKE.DOC

        01/01/1980 02:35 AM 5,120 CORELOOK.COM

        01/01/1980 02:35 AM 33,462 FASTOFF.EXE

        01/01/1980 02:52 AM 1,536 COLOR.DOC

        01/01/1980 03:15 AM 999 SCRNDUMP.DOC

        01/01/1980 04:39 AM 64,646 I'M-HERE.EXE

    4. breakfast Silver badge

      Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

      I used to suffer this as punishment for my crime of using Linux in the evenings and Windows for work during the day on the same laptop. For some reason Linux set the clock an hour earlier and then Windows would fail to update it most mornings. I learnt the hard way that a bunch of Active Directory stuff can fail in really confusing ways if your clock is out by an hour.

      1. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

        Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

        Linux using a sensible timezone such as UTC, and Windows using a local timezone and applying any daylight saving difference. That's the kind of amateur hour crap I'd expect from Microsoft.

        1. PRR Silver badge

          Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

          > Linux using a sensible timezone such as UTC, and Windows using a local timezone and applying any daylight saving difference. That's the kind of amateur hour crap I'd expect from Microsoft.

          {I can't believe I am defending MS....}

          ARPANET was working in 1972, when unix was young and malleable (and NOT dominant; DEC System 10s may have been a majority). ARPANET crossed four time zones.

          DEC/ARPANET ad from 1972: https://postimg.cc/kR8gmHNb

          MS DOS did not have built-in networking (hooks, but not the drivers) for about another 20 years (Win311). The most common "networking" was sneakernet. (Yes, I dealt with CompuServe and was always asking what time it was).

          1. rototype

            Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

            .... AND we still use that in my company today (and for some reason it has priority on support - no idea)

        2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

          As for DOS up to WinME: You are right. Since Windows NT 3: UTC, including NT 4.0 Windows 2000 etc you are wrong and do nonsense unbased and easy to disprove bashing. There are tons of better things to bash on Microsoft, currently mostly their rudeness in GUI with the constant popups and notifications.

          You can check in powershell on all NT based windows version (which have powershell) easily: Compare Get-Date with (Get-Date).ToUniversalTime() and check with (Get-Date).IsDaylightSavingTime(). Which is currently false in Germany. Oh boy how I hate that DST nonsense.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

            Last I checked Windows (10) wants hardware time to be local time. Sure, you can *get* UTC based on it, but that wasn't the point.

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

              > Last I checked Windows (10) wants hardware time to be local time.

              Oh THAT was you point. You should have said so! Reading minds over the internet is not there yet. And that discussion is aeons old. Why should the BIOS not be local time, it is irritating that you enter the BIOS setup, and the time shown there is wrong. You correct the date, and expect that, when correcting it, you have to enter UTC? That is not a sensible expectation. On top it would have other issues: Take DST into consideration, and that many countries have different DSTs, and timezones. And it is constantly changing, the Windows insider blog lists those corrections often, way more often than you'd expect. Why I mention this? The BIOS would need to have it for all countries if you enter the date, and for all those constant changes too. The the UTC-BIOS expectation is simply the wrong approach in the real world.

            2. breakfast Silver badge

              Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

              The truth is, I don't really mind which time is used, but I do want everything to be able to run off the same bios time. Fighting over it every time I boot up my computer doesn't make anyone look smart.

            3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

              It is even worse than I said - Since Windows XP, tested:

              HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\TimeZoneInformation

              "RealTimeIsUniversal"=dword:00000001

              So, AC, what IS your problem? Okay, I needed two days to enter "Windows BIOS time UTC" into a search engine 'cause I didn't care. Linux can use BIOS-local time too.

              > Last I checked

              must have been around BEFORE Windows XP, and not "Windows 10", as you claim. How I know? That key does not seem to work with Windows 2000, just tried in a VM though, not real Hardware.

    5. rototype

      Re: The user was left to set the time on her PC every day

      Justified - like it

  6. Conrad Longmore

    It could be worse

    Knowing what some users do with their laptops when they think people aren't looking, the spillage could have been worse...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It could be worse

      I worked in a Lab for 20 years, some of the boffins laptops were GRIM!!!! Lucky being a lab we had had gloves on tap!

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: It could be worse

        Wasn't there a wear gloves / bare hands policy? Or were the boffins just strangers to soap?

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: It could be worse

        Burned, melted, weird colors from weird chemicals, cables without isolation 'cause melted away, rust on "stainless steel" 'cause with chemicals "stainless" means nothing...

        The food and drinks on top maybe, depending on how much they value their life or how dangerous the chemicals in that lab were.

      3. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: It could be worse

        I can't even begin to imagine how that woulde have worked- most places just keep them in boxes in a cupboard.

        1. rototype

          Re: It could be worse

          We have labs at work, some of the PCs come back with white stains IN the plastic (yes, something they uses bleaches the cases), they go to decontamination before we touch them.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spiky horror

    I was once asked to fix a home computer that "stopped working occasionally", it looked suspiciously hastily cleaned with traces of a wet wipe on the exterior. Inside was an unthinkable horror, the terrifying kind of spiky, hairy black mould which took to the air as I opened the case.

    It turned out that it had taken a full cup of very sweet, milky tea a year ago and then lived in a damp room. The thermal mass must have caused condensation that fuelled the mould. I ended up flooding my workshop with ozone and going over every surface with the strongest disinfectant each respective surface could handle. I shudder to think about people in the same room as that thing when it was actually turned on.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Spiky horror

      Replacing a PC, lifting up the ancient Compaq to discover, ancient spilled coffee, that had developed into mould, developed into sapient life had a ideology dispute with its neighbours which developed into a nuclear showdown & the inevitable mutually assured destruction. No amount of scraping would shift it so the new PC was carefully placed over it for another four years.

      Malachi : We will solve our own problems, as you commanded. The time has come to convert the unbelievers.

      Bender : Convert them?

      Malachi : To radioactive vapor!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spiky horror

      Pre conditions: this happenned in a hospital in the consultant's/secretary's office.

      Issue - we had to replace the PC - standard upgrade program.

      Problem - PC glued to desk

      .

      .

      .

      Old PC was working fine (don't think the 'water level' had got high enough - yet), we just needed to get a crowbar off Facilities to remove it from the desk there was that much spilled beverage holding it down. We left the secretary to clean the desk before we fitted the new one. Assume the consultant was suitably chastised (No, you DON'T want to piss off a medical secretary).

      This was not solely restricted to health board - also found the same situation in a major international insurance company.

      <anon to protect the guilty and save me from any lawsuits>

  8. m4r35n357 Bronze badge

    When I saw the title . . .

    . . . I was expecting something vaguely Fawlty-esque, geddit ;)

  9. GlenP Silver badge

    I think the most unbelievable one I've had was soup in a laptop, and not just thin watery Cup-a-Soup type but full on chunky home made vegetable. It turned out the user had put their laptop and pot of soup in their laptop bag together (!) and the container lid had fallen off.

    It was quite interesting, the laptop actually still worked but the bottom half of the screen was obscured by bits of vegetable floating around! He was fortunate, it cost us for a replacement screen panel but that's all, the remainder was easily cleaned.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      I hope you changed all the desktop icons on his laptop to images of vegetables as a reminder.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      You really wonder how some of these people manage to breathe.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: You really wonder how some of these people manage to breathe.

        I think they have instructions tattooed onto the inside of their eyelids.

  10. Mr Dogshit
    Headmaster

    "help desk"

    It's Service Desk actually, if you want to be ITIL® compliant.

    1. Aladdin Sane

      Re: "help desk"

      Helldesk

    2. Rikki Tikki

      Re: "help desk"

      After experiencing an ITIL compliant "service desk" from both sides (as a support person and a user), I believe I can confidently assert that it stands for "Intelligent Thought Is Lacking" or possibly "I'll Tackle It Later", or something ...

      1. Andy Taylor

        Re: "help desk"

        For me, ITIL is short for It'll be a cold day in hell before I implement.

        I still think "I'm a JFDI Master" would make a good BOFH T-shirt slogan.

  11. aregross

    Power saving

    "....had to set the date/time every morning."

    Wait, he turned it off every day? Oh the Horrors!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Power saving

      Early 90's? No CPU or fan throttling, the PC almost certainly used just as much power sitting there idle as it did working the CPU at 100%. If the user had an especially new screen, it *might* have had some early EnergyStar functions, but not likely. So yeah, turning off both the screen and the PC was pretty much mandatory at any responsible company who didn't have money they wanted to burn :-)

  12. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Chocolate?

    If you want to kill something properly you need orange juice.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Chocolate?

      I had someone spill orange juice all over my laptop shortly before I was going to give a presentation. I quickly emailed someone my slides and then shut the laptop down. Luckily it was the days before discs were soldered on so it was a quick swap to have a functioning laptop the next day. The original laptop was ruined though...

    2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: Chocolate?

      I agree that Orange Juice would beat Hot Chocolate, as Errol Brown died a few years ago, whereas Edwyn Collins is still with us despite the attempt of a brain haemorrhage to make it otherwise.

      1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

        Re: Chocolate?

        I believe in miracles.

      2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C
        Happy

        Re: Chocolate?

        You are Mr Logic off of Viz and I claim my five pounds.

    3. rototype

      Re: Chocolate?

      Forget Orange juice, try Cola instead. I was once tasked with recovering a Video Recorder*** that had failed. Cola spill had eaten half the tracks on the board before I got there - it went in the bin.

  13. TchmilFan

    London, 2003-ish

    Minor commotion in the office, my desk’s around a corner so I can’t see what’s going on.

    By the time I stand up, I can see one of our Senior Designers running back to the desk with paper towels.

    I think, “Ho ho, we know what’s happened here”

    Walked over.

    Designer, sheepishly, “I spilt some water, but managed to mop it all up. Didn’t get any in the keyboard” And she was right, this was the time when Apple thought it was a good idea to encase their keyboards in a nice transparent acrylic matter collection device, so there was always some evidence of lunch or liquids left in the bottom.

    The back of their desk faced me. Experience told me to wipe the bottom rear edge - damp.

    Me: “Did you wipe the whole desk?”

    I touched the top of her Mac Pro (Dual CPU, maxed out RAM, fancy display card). Wet.

    Before I could reach for the power switch… Bzzzzzt, pop. Black screen.

    Replacement mainboard.

  14. Dave559
    Coat

    "What's brown and sticky and broke this PC?"

    I believe the canonical answer is:

    A stick.

    (Potentially also useful for breaking re-educating the user afterwards, as well…)

  15. BenDwire Silver badge
    Pint

    Yet more racial stereotyping

    The Register hopes that readers have a nice warm cup of whatever they fancy beside them

    It's lunchtime in the UK, OK? Yes, we drink beer at room temperature, but there's no need to keep on about our lack of refrigeration.

    /s

    1. Dave559

      Re: Yet more racial stereotyping

      Well, at 08:31 UTC (when the article was posted), it would have been lunchtime in some parts of Russia, and some parts of south Asia - much of which seems to have a penchant for non-hourly-offset timezones (and many people there wouldn't have been having lunch, because Ramadan)… ;-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yet more racial stereotyping

        Hang on, it looks as though someone has been editing the Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons timezone map to show the invaded and illegally occupied parts of Ukraine (including Crimea) as being on Moscow time, rather than in the same time zone as the rest of Ukraine.

        That's a bit shifty, isn't it, as it could certainly be interpreted as endorsing the invasion (or the person(s) who made such changes could potentially even be an agent for the Russian "Ministry of Truth"?)? Are the occupying invaders actually trying to enforce such a time zone shift on civil life, and, if so, with any success? (I suppose there could just about be an argument for maps reflecting de facto situations (but only with suitable 'temporary' delineation) rather than de jure ones, no matter how unpleasant?)

        Slava Ukraini!

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Yet more racial stereotyping

          I expect the occupied clocks strike thirteen as Big Brother wills it - having your wristwatch set different marks you... out, I suppose. *Having* a wristwatch is probably conspicuous, and temporary.

        2. Heitordp

          Re: Yet more racial stereotyping

          I'm the one who made that edit to the map. This issue has already been discussed several times on Wikipedia, and each time the result of the discussion was to show the occupied regions in UTC+3, because the map has always been de facto:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Time_zone/Archive_2#The_map_is_wrong_2

          https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Village_pump/Archive/2023/05#Controversial_edits_to_time_zone_map

          https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Deletion_requests/File:World_Time_Zones_Map.png

          https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File_talk:World_Time_Zones_Map.png#Ukraine,_occupied_regions

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Time_zone#Impostor_among_Wiki_redactors

          Yes, Russia does enforce UTC+3 in these regions, and the people there actually observe it, as reported by many sources:

          https://www.euronews.com/2022/12/22/in-occupied-mariupol-russias-rebuild-is-erasing-ukrainian-identity-and-any-evidence-of-war

          https://tass.com/society/1568025

          https://tass.com/society/1605439

          https://edition.cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-04-15-23/h_00609580d75a9b63187cedb954119ae9

          Your accusation is ridiculous. I have absolutely nothing to do with the Russian government, I'm not Russian, I've never been to Russia, I don't even speak Russian, and I don't endorse the invasion of Ukraine. And neither does the map, because it still shows the occupied regions as part of Ukraine, with the border between Russia and Ukraine (white line on the map) as internationally recognized. The map simply shows that these regions observe UTC+3, because that's the reality.

      2. rototype

        Re: Yet more racial stereotyping

        It's 5 O'Clock somewhere

  16. 8bitHero

    Have to know how to ask

    For many years I was the on-call support for manufacturing control systems and related hardware. It wasn't uncommon to get calls at 2:00 am along the lines of:

    Them: It's broke and won't run.

    Me: Hardware and software haven't changed in 5 years, what happened?

    Them: Nothing, it just doesn't work.

    Me: This can go one of two ways. You can tell me the dumb thing you did, I can quietly fix it and go back to bed and you can get on with your shift, or you can make me spend 2 hours figuring out the dumb thing you did at which point I am going to have to have a conversation with your plant manager, and their boss. What dumb thing did you do?

    Them: Well, I might have...

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Have to know how to ask

      And that dear readers is the story of my life.

      Trying to get the operators to tell me what they did wrong ... although reputation comes into it with the stories that have been spread......

      "I cant tell him...... I heard he nailed someone's head to a table for breaking a guage......" "Thats nothing I heard he set fire to the boss's car after the boss parked in his spot..." "Oh hes done that before.... although he does tend to let the boss get out first now"

      1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

        Re: Have to know how to ask

        > I heard he nailed someone's head to a table for breaking a guage

        Was he also paranoid that he was being watched by a giant hedgehog?

        1. Giles C Silver badge

          Re: Have to know how to ask

          Well hedgehogs can each cockroaches…..

          Has he also been accused of screwing someone’s pelvis to a cake stand?

      2. Richard Pennington 1

        Re: Have to know how to ask

        Some of those sound like training exercises for the PFY on the way to promotion to BOFH.

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: Have to know how to ask

          Ahhh so you have met my PFY ?

          But the worst part was when he sent the operators to see his brother Doug, even he was scared of Doug......

  17. 45RPM Silver badge

    I had a friend who worked at a school and one of the Macs there (a Mac Classic) stopped working because of something brown and sticky. Or perhaps I should say some things brown and sticky.

    The Mac had been set up so that students could load software (Claris Works mainly), but not save anything to the hard drive - if they wanted to save work then they needed to use their own floppy disks. So a broken floppy drive on a machine meant that the machine was, in effect, broken.

    The floppy drive on this particular machine had been jammed full of twigs. Why? Who can say. But it definitely put the machine out of commission until the floppy drive was replaced.

    1. DS999 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Nevermore

      That's a very odd thing for someone to try to jam into a floppy drive, and also something people don't tend to have at hand in a computer lab.

      Is there any chance this happened during a spell of nice weather when the windows were left open when the students had gone home? I don't know exactly why a bird would think that's a good place to try to start a nest, but it seems more believable to me than a person bringing a handful of sticks from outside with that goal.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Nevermore

        Depends on the age of the kids, I guess. Potentially not just physical age, but mental age and/or maturity age. Some kids will often do stupid stuff "just because".

        On the other hand, one of my first jobs as a field tech was to visit a university site where one of the library PC floppy drives had failed. I found a couple of coins in it. Turns out that over the summer, there are Open University students there and many are mature students and sometimes have very young children in tow :-)

        Another site visit was to nursery/infant school where a CD had been inserted that didn't show up and wouldn't eject. Tray-less CD and the little darling had missed the CD slot and slid it into the gap between the drive and the case. Along with the three others I found in there when opening it up :-) (Didn't charge for a non-warranty call-out since it was our badly designed case that allowed it happen in the first place! At least the school had the forethought (or past experience) to pay for tray-less CD drives))

    2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      That must have been an aftermarket modification then- Wikipedia says Apple never shipped the Macintosh with a Twiggy drive.

    3. samzeman

      I was in school in the 2010s and kids still do this even at all ages. All the CD drives (obsolete by the time I left school) were either glued shut or full of folded bits of paper, because during an ICT lesson apparently the best thing people could think to do was fold up paper and jam it in any hole they can find on the computer.

    4. rototype

      Had that before, although PC floppies are significantly cheaper than MAC ones. Those shutters on 3.5 floppies did have a habit of leaving themselves behind when the little ladies wanted their flopppies back at the end of lesson (Note: who used which machine was always traceable, at worst by the login times, and it was mandatory for them to keep flopppies in a case - a lot didn't bother, hence bills to mummy and daddy for a new floppy drive) - 2 x expansion blanking plates can get the sleeve out quite easily for those skilled at it. Quite a nice budget earner for us, covered the damage we couldn't attribute to anyone (like missing mouse balls). The joys of working in a school....

  18. trevorde Silver badge

    Spousal support

    Was at work when I got a call from my wife:

    [wife] My laptop is making a strange beeping sound and there's water coming out of the corner of it!

    [me] Umm, OK, what did you do?

    [wife] I spilt a glass of water on it

    Told her to shut it down and leave it to dry. Laptop was fine the next day and soldiered on for a few more years.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Spousal support

      Well played, both!

  19. CatBoy
    Pint

    Lucozade - the killer of all known keyboards.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Or Tizer, or Irn Bru.

      One of those three even killed an IBM Model M of mine!

      Never got to the bottom of which of these it was (although it was definitely orange), nor did I find out which of the kids it was.

      (I didn't know the washing machine trick back then!).

  20. cman52

    Work harder to get out of work.

    Had a "coworker" who was notorious for avoiding doing anything- call in sick, etc.

    One day he complained his PC just quit working. Techs pick it up to take away and about a quart of water pours out. "I don't know where that came from". Yeah

  21. Giles C Silver badge

    Coffee as glue

    Years ago (well it is 6 years since I left that company and it was a long time before that) we used to run Compaq Prolinea machines (big beige machines), these had a solid metal cover on top so no liquids could get in that way. However they sat on very thin rubber feet (only about 2mm in height).

    Along came user with coffee or tea - usually with sugar in it. It would get spilled on the desk and mostly mopped up - the machine wouldn't show any ill effects and keep on working as it was fine.

    But along comes someone who needs to move the pc for another reason - after 5 minutes of crud clearance you would reach the chassis only to find it is very effectively glued to the desk, and requires prying to break the bond. Most of the time we could get it free without damaging the desk surface but a few times.

  22. DS999 Silver badge

    Kind of surprised

    She owned up to the spill with so little prompting. I think most people would deny knowing anything about the sticky stuff inside to their dying breath!

  23. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    The worst ever!

    Before smoking was banned in most buildings, I had the opportunity to service a Toshiba Tecra used by a heavy smoker... who also spilled some coffee with milk/cream on the keyboard some days previous to the call and continued to use it! The complaint was the keys were not responsive!! I leave it to your imagination to identify the smells that came out of that when I first opened it up. I didn't have to finish the job, my boss declared it a bio-hazard and called it a day. Thank you Sir!!

    1. rototype

      Re: The worst ever!

      Upvoted because of Boss support - this kind of Boss needs to be kept

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: The worst ever!

        I've been lucky enough to have two IT Managers of that calibre.

  24. Wexford

    I was the problem luser

    One day my hand held Brother scanner, that lived on the window shelf behind my desk, stopped being detected when I plugged its USB cable in. Quick call with Brother who asked me to RMA it.

    It arrived back a couple of weeks later, in working order, with a note that there was sign of liquid damage but they'd repaired it under warranty at no cost (kudos, Brother!). "Water damage??" I thought, "it's above and behind my PC, nothing fluid ever goes there!".

    Some months later and we get a torrential downpour, from an unusual wind direction, while I was home. There's water coming in via a previously unnoticed leak above the window and begins pooling on the shelf...

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: I was the problem luser

      Also failed school PC in Somerset, due to water ingress by situating PC right under a leaking glass roof where water worked its way

      onto the motherboard.

      Ex Mrs Oncoming Scorn (During the Monsoon summer of 2007 IIRC) on seeing a tiny leak in the conservatory roof, where dripping water from the guttering was being blown under the flashing at the point where the flashing of corrugated plastic roofing sheets met brickwork just in the corner of the tenement decided to clear the drainpipe & prop it up via the sons bedroom by poking the guttering with a broom handle. The result was the guttering seperating from it had happily been situated for years.

      The result of this was a massive Niagara outpouring straight on to the previously minuet leak flooding the conservatory.

      1. IJD

        Re: I was the problem luser

        My father-in-law (W W Chandler) was trying to debug a persistent fault in the first Colossus II (which he built most of) in early June 1944 at Bletchley Park, and stayed overnight to try and fix it after everyone else had gone home. The rain started and then got heavier, the roof leaked, and a pool of water started spreading across the floor to where he was working on live 500V valve circuits.

        Not being easily discouraged, he put his wellies on and carried on working standing in the water. Found the problem (a parasitic oscillation IIRC) about 3am and fixed it, went home.

        Next morning (June 4th?) it successfully ran for the first time and cracked the German High Command codes which confirmed that they'd fallen for the Calais feint, and D-Day was authorised as a direct result.

        If is wasnae for his wellies... ;-)

        1. DropBear
          Megaphone

          Re: I was the problem luser

          Aaaah, "wellies". Right up there with "Tannoy", a word EVERYONE knows (as long as you're Bri'ish - or at least five-eyes, presumably) and absolutely nobody else has ever heard otherwise.

  25. MarthaFarqhar

    Cat urine does just a good a job as coffee at killing a keyboard. Kills more if that keyboard is the supplied one with a laptop/

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