* Posts by TSM

80 posts • joined 8 Aug 2007


Don't cross the team tasked with policing the surfing habits of California's teens


Re: Unions...

I'd have been tempted to retitle the positions as software typists. But that might have ruffled a few other feathers.

Yep, you're totally unique: That one very special user and their very special problem


Did the same on my work laptop, after one too many times of accidentally turning the volume down instead (the brightness controls are apparently Fn-up arrow and Fn-down arrow on this one).

Now my main irritation is that when I'm using the laptop keyboard, the trackpad picks up lots of unintended movement / touches and I often wind up inserting text at some randome point because it thinks I clicked the mouse there. I used to have the option set to disable the touchpad when an external mouse is connected (which it nearly always is), but had to untick it when it started refusing to enable the touchpad even when there wasn't an external mouse. (Lots of fun trying to find and navigate that dialog when you don't have any functional pointing device!)

What can the 1944 OSS manual teach us before we all return to sabotage the office?


Re: 404 error

Now on the Department of Homeland Security's site instead, at https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=750070

Diary of a report writer and his big break into bad business


The trick with that one is to make your Normal.dotm (or whichever template file you're using for that project) read-only.

Yes, there's nothing quite like braving the M4 into London on the eve of a bank holiday just to eject a non-bootable floppy


Makes me feel old

... that it's now considered necessary to carefully explain the circumstances and consequences of leaving a non-bootable floppy in the drive.

Not that I disagree. There are adults now who have never even seen a computer with a floppy drive.

Like Alan Brown, I too used to set the boot order to C: first as soon as I got a new system (though more usually C: D: A: rather than C: A:, as most of my computers had optical drives by then). The 0.05% of boots that you specifically want to boot from a floppy or CD, you can adjust the settings for that boot, otherwise just boot from your primary system disk - if nothing else, it saves you some boot time.


Similar when my ADSL modem/router died. They insisted that I had to swap cables, etc., and even went as far as sending a tech out to check the line, despite my objections that no sort of problem with the line would explain why the power light wasn't coming on, or why it wasn't routing traffic across the LAN.

They did eventually replace it, though initially they were going to charge me full price for it, until I pointed out that they were offering the kit free with new contracts, and as a customer of 10+ years standing I was more than happy to sign up for a further two years...


Re: the one on the telly thing?

In all fairness, I have myself turned up to work with my laptop, sat down at my desk, and pressed buttons on the keyboard to wake the system up so I can log in - before remembering that I need to actually take the laptop out of the bag and connect it to the dock first.

Don't be a fool, cover your tool: How IBM's mighty XT keyboard was felled by toxic atmosphere of the '80s


Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

For what it's worth, here in Australia I've never been able to get petrol out of an ATM, only money.


Re: Dolores?

Given that it was capitalised, I assumed it was indeed an intentional reference to her.

I haven't bought new pants for years, why do I have to keep buying new PCs?


Re: Mother and Mother in Law

My mother's not too bad. I occasionally get asked to look at her system if there's something wrong, but not very often; and she has pretty basic needs - but firmly committed to Windows because she definitely does not want to learn new interfaces (she mostly uses Word and Publisher on it).

My in-laws have an ancient computer running XP. They manage OK with it, although we did discuss recently that it might be reasonable to think about upgrading a bit. They don't have or want any form of internet (even blocked it on their mobile phone), so it's safe enough as it is. Of course this means that every time they do want to look something up on the internet (parcel tracking, funeral notices, etc), they call us and ask us to look it up for them. But it's not very often, so we're happy to oblige. It's a lot less work for us than training them up on using the internet safely would be!


Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

Here's an experiment for you. Go to your favourite Office app, customise your Quick Access toolbar, and set the filter to "Commands not in the Ribbon". See how many there are? How are they discoverable to the average user?

Of course, most of these are things the average user won't need, or specialisations of general commands that are in the ribbon.

Nevertheless, you're right that the ribbon is a benefit to new or inexperienced users. It usually does a reasonable job of presenting the most useful options for what the user appears to be doing.

However, for experienced users who knew how to find all the features they used in the menu structure, the ribbon slows them down very time they have to change to a new group to get to the command they want. Before the ribbon all the commands were accessible all the time.

I find for example that in Excel (which is the Office app I use the most) I frequently want certain commands from the Data group when I'm on other groups. The solution, of course, is to put all the commands you frequently have to swap ribbon groups for onto the Quick Access Toolbar. If you get the Quick Access toolbar set up properly for your usage pattern, the Ribbon isn't really a problem.

Related is the issue of trying to find a command that you know is in the program, but don't know which ribbon group (if any) it is in. (Though trying to find an obscure option in the menus wasn't necessarily any better.) This is compounded by the fact that a bunch of stuff is shoved off into the weird File menu structure - there's nothing more fun than hunting through the ribbon for an option which turns out to be buried somewhere in the File menu.

It took me quite a while to work out how to open another user's mailbox in Outlook. (It's *not* File > Open and Export > Other User's Folder). And in fact "work out" is overstating it, I eventually managed to find it in the help files. And because it's something I do very rarely, every time I need to add another mailbox I spend time hunting for it (and usually having to resort to the help to find it, though at least now I know the keywords to use in my query).

(File > Info > Account settings > Account settings > Change > More Settings > Advanced. At least for now.)

Takes from the taxpayer, gives to the old – by squishing a bug in Thatcherite benefits system


Re: Language!

I mean, that is the entire point of HLLs.


If you happen to be cooking something in your microwave when the rollover hits, it might decide that it's never time to turn off.

I built a shed once. How hard can a data centre be?


Re: "Right," said Fred.

The line immediately before it links to the video on YouTube that it is referencing.

Cruise, Kidman and an unfortunate misunderstanding at the local chemist


Re: Is no one going to mention...

That would be redundant.

When even a power-cycle fandango cannot save your Windows desktop



Because, of course, there was a lot of software that relied on PROGMAN.EXE rather than bothering to check what the user's shell actually was (which even in the 3.x days didn't *have* to be progman, but usually was)

Worn-out NAND flash blamed for Tesla vehicle gremlins, such as rearview cam failures and silenced audio alerts


Re: Uh-huh

This bit certainly implies it:

> These all use an infotainment system powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3 system-on-chips that include 8GB of eMMC NAND storage, which is typically found in phones and cheap laptops.

The revolution will not be televised because my television has been radicalised


Re: Why not get a dumb TV?

Fortunately the last two TV replacements I've done have been because friends or family were upgrading their TVs and offered us their old ones. So I've managed to stay on the dumb TV wagon.

I do expect that the next time I have to replace one it will be very difficult to find one that isn't supposed to be connected to the Internet. But since it definitely isn't going to be connected anyway, I'll just have to try to find one that won't whine about it.

Actually I'm more worried about replacing the DVR, whenever that dies. Already years ago when I bought it it was not easy to find one that would actually burn to DVD. I can't quite work out what you're expected to do with shows or movies you want to keep permanently if you can't do that.

Plus of course the replacement will definitely want to be connected to the Internet. Ugh.

Not on your Zoom, not on Teams, not Google Meet, not BlueJeans. WebEx, Skype and Houseparty make us itch. No, not FaceTime, not even Twitch


Re: La la, no one can hear you

Yep, Teams does this. We've been having a fortnightly address from our CEO (during which the rest of us are muted, naturally) and it's amusing to see Teams helpfully remind me that my microphone is muted whenever I happen to cough or blow my nose while that's going on.

BOFH: You might want to sit down for this. Oh, right, you can't. Listen carefully: THIS IS NOT AN IT PROBLEM!


Re: Office Chairs!

In the first few days of our WFH period, I was just using one of our dining table chairs. But my back pretty quickly told me that wasn't good enough for 8 hours a day. I did start using my home office chair, but that meant my wife couldn't use it for anything she had to do on our computer.

Fortunately we were allowed to come in and pick up our office chairs (as well as monitors and monitor stands) so that I could set up a space with the same gear that I had in the office. My office gear is generally rather better than what I have at home, so that was necessary for a prolonged WFH stint.

And no, not everyone can afford to go and buy a bunch of equipment on essentially no notice - and if we had tried to, we might not have been able to; my boss was unable to get a monitor at half a dozen different places in the early days of the restrictions. You mention second hand furniture, but such stores would likely (I didn't actually check) not have been considered essential businesses, and would therefore have been closed. The nearest furniture store to me certainly was closed while the heavy restrictions were on.

The day I took down the data centre- I mean, the day I saved the day. Right, boss?


Exactly what I was thinking!


Re: That's interesting

From the documentation page that was linked in the article:

> Some people love -T5 though it is too aggressive for my taste.

Granted, that's not very specific, but apparently it is useful for some.

Let's... drawer a veil over why this laser printer would decide to stop working randomly


Re: Low IQ or low volition?

> changing "Default Printer" in Windows 3 times a week and then telling me they didn't do that, a phenomenon that I do not understand to this day, (Does anybody know why users do that so much?)

Are you aware that current Windows, by default, manages the default printer setting for you? It does this by setting it to "whatever you last printed to at this location", so that every time you print to a non-default printer, your default changes.

I'm not sure who came up with this idea, but it seems like a bad solution for most users; I suspect most people follow the pattern "print to this one printer 95+% of the time, but once in a while somewhere else", rather than "print exclusively to this printer until the next office reorg, then print exclusively to the printer nearest my new location" which is the only scenario I can come up with where this makes sense.

Did I or did I not ask you to double-check that the socket was on? Now I've driven 15 miles, what have we found?


Re: Do I have to put my hand through the flames

But I left all my request forms on top of the monitor!

The engineer lurking behind the curtain: Musical monitors on a meagre IT budget


Re: All Hail.....

For games.

Depending on how the game was programmed, it might run properly in Turbo mode (if it used timer interrupts) or it might run in "everything happens blazingly fast and you have no time to react before you get killed" mode (if it used CPU timing loops). The Turbo button allowed you to play the latter sort of games by reducing the clock to the speed the game was designed for.

Obviously, using CPU timing loops fell out of favour as higher speed CPUs proliferated, but for a while there the Turbo button really did have a useful purpose.

There ain't no problem that can't be solved with the help of American horsepower – even yanking on a coax cable


Re: soo...

> an additional bit of PPE was a long willow wand. Procedure was to sweep that around the tunnel ahead, and if it suddenly got shorter, there was a high-pressure steam leak. Dowsing for steam I guess.

Shades of CMOT Dibbler's patented dragon detectors.

Help! My printer won't print no matter how much I shout at it!


"Something like a Panasonic KX-P6100?"

I had one of those! Well, actually two, after someone relieved us of the first one and some other computer kit after entering our house via a window they'd jimmied open. Lovely little machine with a very simple paper path so the occasional jam was very easy to correct. Did have a limited lifespan though. The one that got nicked was approaching its end, so getting it replaced on insurance wasn't the worst thing that could have happened.

These days I use a Canon MX870. Yes, it's an inkjet, and quite chunky, but apart from the cost of feeding it I have never had any issues of any kind. It just sits there and does its thing day in, day out.

Now if I could just stop SWMBO from making pointless copies of any form we send to anyone [if you REALLY need to keep a copy, just scan it on the very same device and we can always print a copy out if we ever need to], plus printing out random web pages which she almost never refers to again, we could cut the fodder bill quite a bit...

Funny, that: Handy script for wiping directories is capable of wreaking havoc beyond a miscreant's wildest dreams


Re: My contribution...

> I would point out that evisceration = disembowelling cannot commonly be done with vitriol = sulphuric acid...

I dont really see why not. I mean, yes, you'd have to be careful, and it would take a while. But you could get there in the end. Much sooner if you weren't worried about a bit of collateral damage, which if you're disembowelling someone is quite possibly the case.

A tale of mainframes and students being too clever by far


Re: Memory protection

Oh God so much this. I run with data off a lot of the time (because many of the games I have on my phone are only playable in this state; turn data on and they spend so much time retrieving and displaying ads that they forget about the game part) and this frustrates me every time I turn it back on.

A moment's thought would lead one to the conclusion that if the user has just turned data services back on, it's probably because they want to DO something that requires data, and therefore care should be taken to prioritise the thing the USER wants to do and not the fifty background apps the user isn't trying to use that all see the connection go back on and decide now would be a really good time to use it.

> Google Play Services I'm looking at you

And GMail. Those seem to be the top tier, then after that all the other background apps get a go, and at some indefinite point in the future it might deign to consider the app you're actually opening.

> It's only a brief hiccup on 4G.

Oh how I wish. Even on 4G, turning data on pretty much locks up my phone for a few minutes. You can try to do other things but there's no guarantee anything will work, and I struggle to access any data until after GMail at the least has had its fill. Most of the time, after GMail I also have to wait for Slack et al. to finish looking for stuff before I can do anything.

Oh sure, we'll just make a tiny little change in every source file without letting anyone know. What could go wrong?


Re: Early 2000's

I once reported to our helpdesk that I wasn't receiving new emails. They worked out what the problem was -- and emailed me the instructions to fix it.

Oh what a cute little animation... OH MY GOD. (Not acceptable, even in the '80s)


What kind of floppy was 40 MB?

Cool IT support drones never look at explosions: Time to resolution for misbehaving mouse? Three seconds


Re: Christmas tinsel and cats

> Cat evaporated.

Wow, that must have been a pretty decent charge....

PC printer problems and enraged execs: When the answer to 'Hand over that floppy disk' is 'No'


Re: What used to be a joke has become fact

I used to believe that he wasn't as stupid as he seemed, but it's become increasingly difficult to justify that opinion. When he came out with "testing makes our numbers go up so I asked our people to slow down the testing", I lost the last few remaining shreds of any desire to do so.

Behold: The ghastly, preening, lesser-spotted Incredible Bullsh*tting Customer


Re: Yes the users are bad

My ISP's technical support used to be really good, but then they got bought out by a larger firm and now it's back to script monkey level. Fortunately I hardly ever need them so it's not too big a problem.

It was difficult when my 10-year-old ADSL modem died though. It was impossible to get them to understand that a problem with the line would not cause the modem's power light not to come on, nor would it stop the various computers on the LAN from being able to talk to each other. They insisted that I had to try moving it to a different phone socket, replacing the phone cable, etc. before we could do anything else. We even had to have a tech visit to test the line, which unsurprisingly was fine.

When we finally did manage to convince them that the modem was dead, they wanted to charge me $150 or so for a new one - I had to explicitly ask why I couldn't get the "free modem with a 2-year contract" deal that any new customer could get to get them to concede that yes, I could do that and not have to pay for a new modem.

OK brainiacs, we've got an IT cold case for you: Fatal disk errors on an Amiga 4000 with 600MB external SCSI unless the clock app is... just so


Re: The real mystery is how Paula discovered the clock work around ...

We had a (recent) song called Agnus Dei on our church roster for a while. Except for some reason when our pastor at the time downloaded the PDF from SongSelect, it didn't put the title on like it normally does. So he helpfully wrote it in as Angus Dei for us, which annoyed me every time I saw it. Fortunately it's not in our current rotation any more :)

That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2


Re: Labour/Labor

I remember when the (Australian) Labor Party was indeed the Labour Party, and like you I could never understand why they changed it to the less common spelling.

First impressions count when the world is taken by surprise by an exciting new (macro) virus


Re: I Love You

One of the first times - but far from the last - in which my life was made a lot easier by being in Western Australia rather than the eastern part. By the time we rocked up to work that day, our IT people in the eastern states had already slammed the gates and sent out emails explaining the issue, and giving us clear directions on what emails to delete unopened.

These days I work for a company that has its headquarters (and IT staff) here in the west, so we don't have that exact protection, but then the automated filters are a lot better these days, as well as all the anti-macro protections that have been put into place since those days of course.

The main threat for us now is phishing instead, but I've had far more fake phishing emails from our cybersecurity partner organisation than real ones. It's easy to detect the fake ones: I do a DNS query for the domain name in the link, then do a lookup on that IP and see if it belongs to our cybersecurity partner.

The ones I thought might have been real have so far turned out to be genuine emails from partner organisations. For some reason some organisations think it's acceptable to send you a "Welcome to our portal" link without any warning. That one turned out to be from the firm that was doing our audit - we'd changed auditors since the previous year so I didn't recognise the domain. I never wound up using the portal anyway; I just emailed stuff to the individual auditors.

I heard somebody say: Burn baby, burn – server inferno!


Re: I've been there

If the general air temp of the whole room is 60°C, the temperatures in the parts of the equipment that are genrating all that heat are going to be a lot higher.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to save data from a computer that should have died aeons ago


Re: Hybrid children watch the sea

If you really want to get in on the trend of the moment, call it Coronavirus.

The self-disconnecting switch: Ghost in the machine or just a desire to save some cash?


Re: Single point of failure

"Painstakingly drawn before a live audience". As seen at #14 on


C'mon SPARCky, it's just an admin utility update. What could possibly go wrong?

Paris Hilton

So you can use a tape cartridge for your backup, as long as you don't actually put it in the drive? I'm not certain that this is helpful.

Beware the Friday afternoon 'Could you just..?' from the muppet who wants to come between you and your beer


Re: Could be worse

I once had a work machine - can't remember if it was NT4 or 2000 - which completely failed to boot, due to a faulty mouse. The precise details are mercifully lost to time, this being around 19-20 years ago, but I was surprised at the time that such a small issue could have such severe consequences.

The time that Sales braved the white hot heat of the data centre to save the day


Re: Not me either.

I always go to my work's Christmas do. It's a free meal, at the very least.

Nothing says I can't take my Kindle and just sit in a corner reading, when I'm not eating and drinking. And when I've had enough I can head back to the office or home, depending on the time and whether I have anything pressing I want to get done.

It's always DNS, especially when you're on holiday with nothing but a phone on GPRS


In 2013 I had long service leave due and we organised a 3-week trip to go and visit relatives in the north of the state -- basically 1 week driving up, 1 week there, and 1 week driving back. Particularly on the way up, we'd be out of mobile range most of the time. (We went up through the interior, and came down along the more populated coastline; still mostly no signal, but more frequent spots where signal could be obtained.)

Shortly after we set off, I got a text message from one of my colleagues asking for help with something that had broken.

By the time we lost reception, we'd gotten to the point where I'd made a tentative diagnosis and sent him the appropriate procedure. But I didn't get confirmation that it had worked until a couple of days later, when we got to a major town.

No, it wasn't DNS - that would have been a different team and not my problem at all.


Re: No Service

No need for any hijinks here - I do normally spend a week or so down at my dad's place over the holidays, and as they're in a semi-rural area there is indeed no mobile signal either there or on most of the trip down. (If you really desperately need signal, there are a couple of places on the property where you might be able to get a trace of it, if you wave the phone around enough and the wind is in the right direction. Had to call Microsoft for an activation code while I was there once, that was fun.)

It's always interesting heading into one of the nearby towns from their place - and suddenly receiving a whole set of increasingly frantic text messages and missed call notifications, because something broke and my colleagues couldn't figure out how to fix it.


Re: It was a quiet Friday night and I wasn't on call,

Unfortunately there's no way I can forward my alerts (nearly all of which are caused by random Oracle webservice failures, usually returning a 502 Bad Gateway, the fix being to send the exact same request a minute or two later) to the people at Oracle who wrote the webservice code. So I have to deal with the fallout.

A user's magnetic charm makes for a special call-out for our hapless hero


Re: My only memorable incident

Like Alan Brown said in his post: ("It might be important")

About as important as the SMS I got the other day telling me that my online banking access (for a bank I'm not with) has been restricted and offering me a link to click on to restore it.

From Soviet to science fiction icon, the weird life of Isaac Asimov 100 years on


I think you're mistaken here. In "Prelude to Foundation", we find that R. Daneel Olivaw is the one (acting in the persona of Demerzel, the Emperor's right hand man) who sets Hari Seldon on the path to developing psychohistory. And of course he also turns out to be the one who set up Gaia.

I haven't actually read the Foundation books that were written by other authors, so it may be that what you say is true, but if so it would be a massive contradiction with the canon books.

Remember the Dutch kid who stuck his finger in a dam to save the village? Here's the IT equivalent


Re: From Experience (and In Hindsight)...

For me it's belt loops that seem to be the target. Always rather jarring when you're walking past a door at speed, and then suddenly you're not.

Remember the 1980s? Oversized shoulder pads, Metal Mickey and... sticky keyboards?


Re: my first Y3K bug.

Eh, you're not alone. I have to feed date criteria into a system that is only designed for numbers and strings, so they go into strings in YYYY-MM-DD form. There's always a start date, but open-ended rules get defaulted to 2999-12-31 for the max value.

I started with this company working on replacing a precursor to this system, in 2002. We replaced it again in 2006 and then we replaced that again in 2014. So I'm not too worried about what happens if we get to Y3K and this is still in use. (But if we did, it's fairly easy to change.) There are other end date type things in this system that will cause us much more rework much more often.



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