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Tales From the Support Crypt 855

Posted by timothy
from the plug-in-your-mouse-please dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Talking viruses, infected physical devices, and lights that go out are some of the 'problems' Panda Security's tech support service has had to face. Many of them were not a result of computer viruses, but of confused users. This proves once again, that antivirus manufacturers must make a special effort to increase user knowledge regarding computer security and malware effects." For anyone who's been on the receiving end of such questions, now's a good time to tell your cathartic tale.
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Tales From the Support Crypt

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  • by alain94040 (785132) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:22PM (#26269677) Homepage

    My all-time favorite true story occured when I tried to help my dad (I bet that for everyone here, our parents are our #1 support customers).

    Dad reports following problem: in the last month or so, the mouse started acting strange. Every time he gestures right, the mouse goes left. When he wants to go up, the mouse moves down.

    I look it up online, suspecting some virus having fun. Can't find anything.

    Dad reports that he got used to the problem, he just has to gesture in the opposite way and then he can use the computer again. Not a great workaround, but it's good enough for him.

    At my next visit home, I finally can diagnose the problem live instead of over the phone: Dad was holding the mouse upside down.

    True story - lasted for a month before problem was fixed. My fault for not figuring it out sooner.

    --
    FairSoftware.net [fairsoftware.net]: where geeks create side-businesses together

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:36PM (#26269815)

      But they charged us $600 to chop off dad's hands and reattach them the other way round.

      I would say it is best to avoid geek squad.

    • by Anthony_Cargile (1336739) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:43PM (#26269897) Homepage
      Heh, at least you could get a senior to use a mouse! Back when Windows 98 was the de facto OS (and therefore libraries used Win 95) I took a family friend (~80 years old) to a library because she wanted a book, and I started looking it up on the computer since the textual ERIK system was reserved for employees by that time.

      She says "You know I've always wanted to use one of these things (computers)", and my natural, naive response was "Well, let me show you, its not hard...

      All I got through was "sit down, and grab this - its called a mouse" and she freaked. "I don't want to have anything to do with mice", she said. I tried so hard to explain that it did not crawl the floor stealing her cheese, and it was only a name for an (optional) input pointing device, but her stuborness wore well with her old age and I just took her home.

      I can honestly say that was the only day I've ever almost abandoned an elderly woman somewhere, never to return.
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:51PM (#26270011) Homepage

      My own personal favorite comes from the days of 5.25" floppy drives, as relayed by my own dad (who worked in IT back then).

      A customer called in to complain that the software install that they were doing would always fail when it got to the second disk. The support guy ran through most of the standard procedures, and running out of ideas directed the customer to insert the diagnostics disk that came with the software.

      After a short pause, the customer responded "There's no way to squeeze that in there." The support minion promptly discovered that when the customer saw the instruction "Insert disk 2", she was putting in disk 2 without removing disk 1 first.

      Interestingly, in the early 90's I started seeing installation tools that said "remove disk 1 and insert disk 2". Either this story got out, or it happened more frequently than I would have thought.

  • Kill!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:26PM (#26269707) Journal
    To the people who....

    1) Send me screenshots inside a word document
    2) Ask what FTP is when they're supposed to be a server admin
    3) Can't run a select statement but are supposed to be the DBA.
    4) insist the network is up even though we don't see any packets through an *inline* appliance
    5) say the problem is super urgent, but then refuse to try anything you say.

    ... I will be rich when I invent a device to stab someone in the face over the internet.
    • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Funny)

      by ubrgeek (679399) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:34PM (#26269793)
      > 4) insist the network is up even though we don't see any packets through an *inline* appliance

      I had a user email me to ask if (a) the network was down and/or (b) if email was down.

      My fondness for people diminished each day I was a sysadmin. I changed careers and am now a mortician. These days I get fewer stupid questions from my clients.
      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Funny)

        by geminidomino (614729) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:41PM (#26269883) Journal

        I changed careers and am now a mortician. These days I get fewer stupid questions from my clients.

        Why can't you fix hiiiiiiiiiiiim???

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Funny)

        by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:01PM (#26270111)

        I've had two of those happen this month.

        First case:
        We got an email saying the internet was down and had been for 15 minutes. We monitor this company's connection with a constant ping (every 5 min or so). If it goes down, we'll know. We didn't get one. Plus we were able to VPN in and get on their servers.

        Called the customer up. Turns out www.msn.com was busted and wouldn't load. Google, Yahoo, CNN and BBC worked just fine.

        It was very likely they heard a badly suppressed laugh right before I hung up.

        Second case:
        Another company's internet tanks. We can't ping their public ip, they're down. This happened on a Monday, 10AM.

        After dragging AT&T there on a leash so they could swap out some hardware (inside a locked box...), the net started working again, Tuesday, 2PM.

        We got an email from them shortly after it came back up, dated Monday, 11AM... "Our internet's down."

        I need to print both of those out and frame them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MBCook (132727)

          Users really don't 'get' the internet.

          Every once in a while get panicked calls from people in other departments saying "really important web-based product is DOWN! FIX IT NOW! We're losing money".

          It has taken us quite a bit of time to train the users to first check if another site is reachable (usually Google.com, since it's so reliable). Our internet connection (the actual link, the router, or some other part) goes down at least 6x as often as the system. It's a rare occurrence now. Our system is highly

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:4, Funny)

        by sjames (1099) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:09PM (#26270931) Homepage

        I had someone email me requesting help getting email back up. To be fair, when he called a few minutes later wondering why I hadn't responded, he immediately realized his error when I said "You EMAILED me that the email server was down?".

    • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by BSAtHome (455370) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:35PM (#26269803)

      Cases like this:
      C: I got an error on my screen
      S: What message text was displayed?
      C: I don't know, I clicked it away
      S: --explode--

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:06PM (#26270879)

        That's actually not a rare incident. I don't even wonder how many readers nod their head to this statement because it's been an endless source to their own frustration.

        One wonders why. Why do people just click away all messages sent to them by the system? I actually remember an incident where I was called to fix "something with the server". Turned out to be a raid6 system that lost three drives and thus didn't work anymore. Now, I hear you say, how can a raid6 system fail? Raid6 can lose two drives and still work. Three drives dying, power surge maybe? No.

        One drive failed, but the hotspare took over. The server beeped, so the beeper was cut off. The server reported dutifully that a drive was blown, which was equally dutifully clicked away without reading it.

        Another drive failed, but it still somehow managed to keep going. No beep this time since even the best beepers fail to work when they are not connected. And finally the whole system failed to provide data, or they'd probably have continued 'til a rebuilt would have been impossible.

        But the real kicker was that I was being yelled at how we dare to sell a Raid6+spare as a system that prevents data loss. It does, when you don't do your best to ignore every information it gives you about an impending catastrophe.

        And this is hardly an isolated case of stupidity. People simply close every warning information they get because "I don't understand it anyway". Without reading it, how do you KNOW whether you understand it?

        I dare you to ask that question. It usually results in more yelling, but no really enlightening answers.

        • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:55PM (#26271589)

          Maybe the solution would be something like:

          "Warning! The raid system is failing! Please type in the first six letters of the alphabet to close this window. ______"

          If a message is important enough, you shouldn't be able to just click it away IMO.

        • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by causality (777677) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:56PM (#26271611)

          That's actually not a rare incident. I don't even wonder how many readers nod their head to this statement because it's been an endless source to their own frustration.

          One wonders why. Why do people just click away all messages sent to them by the system? I actually remember an incident where I was called to fix "something with the server". Turned out to be a raid6 system that lost three drives and thus didn't work anymore. Now, I hear you say, how can a raid6 system fail? Raid6 can lose two drives and still work. Three drives dying, power surge maybe? No.

          One drive failed, but the hotspare took over. The server beeped, so the beeper was cut off. The server reported dutifully that a drive was blown, which was equally dutifully clicked away without reading it.

          Another drive failed, but it still somehow managed to keep going. No beep this time since even the best beepers fail to work when they are not connected. And finally the whole system failed to provide data, or they'd probably have continued 'til a rebuilt would have been impossible.

          But the real kicker was that I was being yelled at how we dare to sell a Raid6+spare as a system that prevents data loss. It does, when you don't do your best to ignore every information it gives you about an impending catastrophe.

          And this is hardly an isolated case of stupidity. People simply close every warning information they get because "I don't understand it anyway". Without reading it, how do you KNOW whether you understand it?

          I dare you to ask that question. It usually results in more yelling, but no really enlightening answers.

          I think there is an explanation for this, or at least a partial one.

          Microsoft makes a decent keyboard but other than that, I don't use anything Microsoft on my own machines and this has been the case for about ten or eleven years. I'll often go long periods of time without ever using Windows. If not for my friends who use it and ask me for help with problems from time to time, I might have lost the skillset. Because of that, when I do sit down at a Windows machine, I can easily see the contrast between the way things are done on it and the way things are done on other systems.

          One thing about Windows that I find to be a nuisance is that so many non-critical messages will trigger system-modal dialog boxes. The examples of this are too numerous for me to begin to enumerate them here, not to mention it would be a rather boring list, but if you have experience with multiple operating systems then you have probably noticed this too. The problem with this approach is that users quickly grow accustomed to the idea that these messages are not very important and can be safely ignored. It becomes something like the "boy who cried wolf" fable, in that it sets up a situation where the occasional important error message gets ignored. Using Windows XP makes me feel this way; I can only imagine how much more true this is for Vista's UAC system.

          I'm not saying that this fully explains your example involving RAID 6, only that it is a particularly egregious example of a much more general tendency.

    • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Funny)

      by RedK (112790) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:46PM (#26269937)

      ... I will be rich when I invent a device to stab someone in the face over the internet.

      But then you'll have to give support for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Any chance you could also invent a way to stab people in the face over the telephone while you're at it? And I would add to your list:

      6) Complain the network admin/ISP help desk that they can't get to a website [when they can get to other websites, so obviously the network isn't the problem]
      7) Don't know the difference between turning off the monitor and restarting the computer
      8) Don't know the difference between a modem and a network card
      9) Call for tech support from their cell phone when their landline

    • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by causality (777677) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:06PM (#26270167)

      To the people who.... 1) Send me screenshots inside a word document 2) Ask what FTP is when they're supposed to be a server admin 3) Can't run a select statement but are supposed to be the DBA. 4) insist the network is up even though we don't see any packets through an *inline* appliance 5) say the problem is super urgent, but then refuse to try anything you say. ... I will be rich when I invent a device to stab someone in the face over the internet.

      I'll never understand what it is about computers that brings out so much of what must be latent stupidity. In your list, number five really captures it. I can't tell you how common that one is although it sounds like you know from experience.

      It seems like no other specialists have that problem on such a routine basis. When someone's doctor says "you have X disease" they generally don't look at him and say "no I don't." When an electrician says that something needs to be rewired, they might get a second opinion but they don't usually argue with the guy. Same deal with mechanics. With almost any other specialist it's understood that if you come to them, it's because you recognize that they know a lot more about medicine, electricity, or auto repair than you do.

      What do techies get? They get uncooperative users who come to you for help and when you give it, they argue with you and bicker and drag their feet every step of the way, insisting that such-and-such can't possibly work, until it does work, at which time they complain about how long it took or they give you some bullshit about how they just tried that and it didn't work for them. Of course there are exceptions, but this is the norm and I can't understand why this applies so much more to computing. What I am talking about has nothing to do with the user's technical expertise or anything like that. It's the simple principle that if you know more about computing or networking than I do, there is no point in seeking my help. No technical expertise is required to understand this simple principle.

      Anyway, for the non-technically inclined who think that we're a bunch of arrogant elitists, this is an example of why we say users are stupid. It's not because we expect them to become experts or even technically knowledgable, it's because we constantly see users complicate simple things, drop all basic standards of common sense and mutual respect, and otherwise engage in behavior that is in no one's interests, particularly theirs.

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Informative)

        by liquidpele (663430) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:18PM (#26270297) Journal
        There is a reason for that. With Tech support, you're telling them how to do it themselves - and people hate that for whatever reason. They hate the time it takes, or feel like they're being bossed around, or whatever. With a doctor or an electrician, they do the work and just get paid for it. You'll notice people don't argue with the Geek Squad guys nearly as much, because they come out and do the work for you. I think it's a psychological thing more than a career thing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by yog (19073) *

        One time in the late 80s I was in the Harvard U. computer sales office (back when people bought computers through their university) just inquiring about prices.

        The sales person told me that a very irate professor from Harvard Business School called her up and was yelling about the fact that his new Compaq luggable (suitcase-sized) PC wouldn't turn on.

        She asked him if he had plugged it in and he shouted "You're not supposed to plug it in! It's a portable!" She suggested he try it nonetheless and he hung up

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Funny)

        by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:34PM (#26270461) Journal

        I have to tell you that techies often get the "no I don't" kind of response because of all the wrong diagnoses that have been given in the past. I can count many times when I have instructed a technician on what to do, what I have tried, and then get some half-assed "please reboot", or "check the ethernet cable" or whatever. The thing is, it is impossible to tell the smart, slashdot reading help desk personnel from the just-graduated-from-college-and-trying-to-find-a-real-IT-job person.

        Let's see... last week I actually noticed my mouse wandering around on the screen where it wasn't supposed to go. Then the computer opened up a Windows Explorer on its own. No shit. So I opened up Notepad, in between wrestling control over my mouse, and wrote "This is my computer, what the heck are you doing on it?"

        The response was "Are you employee #XXXXXXXXXX with the email problem?"
        My response: "No, I am working at home and wondering why you took control of my computer."
        Him: "Sorry, I am trying to help another user."
        Me: "Please give me your name, phone number and department so I can check who you are."
        Him: "Sorry, Matt Smith, XXX-XXX-XXXX, Support Desk"
        Me: "No worries, don't let it happen again."

        I let him drop after that. And here I was freaking out that during my "work" from home, at the exact point I happened to be browsing Slashdot on the company laptop, that they were on to me and I was busted. I am probably busted anyway based on the logs...

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gtall (79522) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:39PM (#26270523)

        There's a flip side to that, most admins I've run into presume you are a stupid user and that merely aiming a few steps at your brain, with no explanation about what the steps do or why they are necessary, is sufficient to send you, the miscreant, away so they can get back to playing with the network or sucking on their thumbs or whatever it is admins do to amuse themselves. Whatever problem we have, it is always an imposition on their precious time which never involves teaching us enough so that we won't be in their office in another 6 months when we cannot recall the magic incantations since the problem was never fully explained to us in the first place...leading the sainted admins to crack wise knowing inside jokes about the stupidity they manage to put up with (read: instill) in their users.

        • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:06PM (#26270885)

          >Whatever problem we have, it is always an imposition on their precious time which never involves teaching us enough so that we won't be in their office in another 6 months

          Wow, bitter mcuh?

          My time is precious. I cant baby every single user. If I do something I cant spend 30 minutes explaining to you the nitty gritty details of what happened, our network infrastructure, etc.

          >leading the sainted admins to crack wise knowing inside jokes about the stupidity they manage to put up with (read: instill) in their users.

          So youre saying that if you knew the details youd be able to fix everything yourself. So lets say we are having some problems with one of lines and I need to quickly put in a static route on your desktop. Am I going to sit you down and explain to you what a route is and how the route command works. Heck, if I did that then I could expect a lot of random routes put in by "smart" guys like you.

          Hey, at the end of the day its a job. You took the job and you need to learn to live with how the business is run. If you want full admin rights and want to be able to get into the routers you are more than welcome to bring this up with your boss. We'd love to hear how all the "elitist" IT people are keeping you down and how your accounting degree from State U along with your WoW addiction makes you much better qualified to do everything.

          Perhaps you should just let us do our fucking jobs so we can go home at 5 just like you do. Thanks.

        • by tacokill (531275) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:08PM (#26270901)
          which never involves teaching us enough...

          Please explain why it is our job to teach users? Does the user not share responsibility here? It would be one thing if it was in the job description but it's usually not. Your assertion that this is part of the job reminds me that we have a misunderstanding about what IT admins do and don't do. Hint: teaching isn't usually covered.

          I ask because my biggest pet peeve is the helplessness users display with respect to computers. Not only is it dishonest in many cases, but it is lazy. Everyone just throws up their hands and waits for IT. Then what? IT is supposed to hold their hand through the solution and explain, step by step, what went wrong? Nonsense. We IT admins have been trying that for 10 years now. It doesn't work. Hell, we can't even get users to use Google and it's friggin' 2008.

          God forbid, sometime over the last 20+ years, users take an hour -maybe even 10hrs- to learn something about the subject. Take a course. Buy a book. Hire someone to teach you. Adult outreach. Libraries! I mean, it's only been 20 years for Windows.....surely anyone could find a moment in their somewhere to "better themselves".

          If users spent as much time learning on their own as they do bitching about IT, this problem would have long been solved and over.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Acer500 (846698)

        It seems like no other specialists have that problem on such a routine basis. When someone's doctor says "you have X disease" they generally don't look at him and say "no I don't." When an electrician says that something needs to be rewired, they might get a second opinion but they don't usually argue with the guy. Same deal with mechanics. With almost any other specialist it's understood that if you come to them, it's because you recognize that they know a lot more about medicine, electricity, or auto repair than you do.

        To be fair, after the Internet, I now question other experts MUCH more often than I used to.

        Ok, so I'll probably respect an electricians'/doctors'/mechanics' opinion a lot more, just because they have a lot more practical experience, but I've found bad diagnoses made by good doctors, mechanics usually want to stuff you with used parts, and electricians might make questionable decisions (usually aesthetic or with cabling).

        Of the three, I think doctors might be the more similar because they encounter a wide

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:53PM (#26270725)

        I disagree with your doctor analogy. You bet doctors have to deal with the same sort of issues we deal with. Yes, even outright denial. Afterall, a doctor is just a technician. He just works with a different type of machine.

        The real issue here isnt about IT its that IT is a test. It tests your problem solving skills and your learning skills. It turns out that most people have horrible skills thus all the horror stories.

        In my career Ive found that people who do well with technology or have patience tend to be good people in other parts of their lives. Those who are impatient and bad with technology tend to be mouth-breathing dolts everywhere else in their lives too. Ignoring novices, its rare to meet someone who is just "bad at computers." They're usually pretty bad at everything.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by oneiros27 (46144)

        What do techies get? They get uncooperative users who come to you for help and when you give it, they argue with you and bicker and drag their feet every step of the way, insisting that such-and-such can't possibly work, until it does work, at which time they complain about how long it took or they give you some bullshit about how they just tried that and it didn't work for them.

        I was working as a programmer for a university, and I had someone from the helpdesk put in a trouble ticket to me, complaining tha

      • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:03PM (#26270843) Homepage Journal

        I'll never understand what it is about computers that brings out so much of what must be latent stupidity.

        Well, it's like people believe that computers run on magic and that the normal rules of physics don't apply to them. Example questions:

        • "Why did you just tell my son he had to be online before he could check his mail?" (In the days of dialup ISPs)
        • "You should have told me I needed a computer before I signed up!" (I swear to God, hand on a stack of Bibles, that a woman told me this.)
        • "I'm paying $20 a month and I demand you let me online now!" (From a caller in a small town experiencing a power outage.)

        I can understand ignorant questions, because a lot of the stuff we do is pretty complex and non-obvious. I just can't understand dumb questions, the ones that show a complete lack of critical thinking.

    • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:48PM (#26270651)

      Let me preface this by saying, I agree. People can be dumb. However, I have found a way to look past it and truly love my IT job. Here's a couple tenets I suggest you consider:

      1) If it wasn't for people doing stupid things, IT/helpdesk people wouldn't have jobs. Granted, it can be like babysitting sometimes, but I have come to appreciate the ignorance that some people have simply because they know that they can come to me and I can fix it. That makes me a valuable resource.

      2) Smart people don't know easy things about computers. I work for a company that does very low level computer science stuff, we have many PhD types who know their niche of computers inside and out, but if you stray them 10 feet from the path they know they're completely lost. Those guys need me because even though I don't know how to design a microchip or synthesize FPGA code, I do know how to fix their terminal when they've hit Control-Q. (Not to say I'm not a technical guy, but this is the type of stuff that you gotta fix for them sometimes.)

      3) Everyone says or does stupid things every day of their life. It's unavoidable. By treating customers/users with respect (even if at the moment you don't feel like they deserve it) it endears you to them. You don't know what's going on in their lives that might have them distracted from the technical aspects of their job.

      More than once I've felt 'Aww come on, you should know this!' only to find out that the user has some terrible event going on in their life and they couldn't care less about researching the problem or extending their computer knowledge -- they don't want to be in the office but they have to be, they're up against a deadline, they just want it to work now and they send up a signal flare for the IT guys to come and make everything better.

      Enjoy those moments, if you're a typical shy nerd like me it's one of the brighter moments you'll get in your professional life to be the hero to someone whos at their wits end.

  • thoughts (Score:5, Funny)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:29PM (#26269743)

    Six months of AI programming will make you think there is a God. Six months of tech support and you'll know there isn't.

    • Re:thoughts (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ender_Stonebender (60900) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:35PM (#26269801) Homepage Journal

      Six months of each will make you realize that there is a God, and his sense of humor sucks. (I still have scars from doing about six months of AOL tech support.)

    • Re:thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:16PM (#26270269)

      Doing tech support it is easy to make fun of the User but please keep in mind some things...
      1. Even though you repeat the same advice over and over any particular user will only get it once perhaps twice on average.
      2. Most people are not IT Specialists they have other focuses and concerns in their life. Computers are not a big deal. Lets use a car analogy, and the person didn't know if their car is front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or all wheel drive (I am leaving out 4 wheel drive because there is normally a button that says so). As far as they know it is a car and it gets them to point A and B, the fact that it may be rear wheel drive is irrelevant to them especially if they don't need to drive in snow. However if you are car nut, the fact that someone wouldn't know this fact seems like the person is from a different planet.
      3. Even people who are good with IT have gaps or operate on misconceptions. He may be a professor in computer science and knows everything about AI. However he may have never used a Unix system, or done FTP. Here is a challenge for you. If you have never used VMS no matter how good you are at Unix, I bet if you sit in front of the VMS system you will feel like a newbee as all your commands are different and even the full structure is odd.
      4. When they do call you, they are embarrassed or fed up. So they will not be in the best of moods. Support is one of those cases when you see people at their worst not their best.
      5.

  • Har har har (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SlashDotDotDot (1356809) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:36PM (#26269811) Journal

    Maybe I'm just getting old and losing my sense of humor, but it seems like these "ha ha users are dumb" stories get less and less funny. As the audience for personal computing continues to grow, the number of senile, mentally ill or simply ignorant users will also grow. Mocking them leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Re:Har har har (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Verteiron (224042) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:57PM (#26270071) Homepage

      I have had one or two encounters with genuinely ill people in this profession. It's hard to laugh at them.

      An elderly gentleman came in to the shop where I once worked and said he had some questions about his battery backup. I was called up to answer them.

      I found myself at something of a loss, however, when I heard his questions. It seemed that his UPS was emitting radioactive gas that was making him ill. He knew, he said, that they used fission piles to make them work, and that all this talk of batteries was nonsense. It was clear from the way he spoke of it that both he and I were in on this little secret. What he needed, he said, was some way to check the radioactive output of the UPS. Alternative suggestions as to the cause of his discomfort were dismissed quickly; he clearly knew the source of his illness, but had to find a way to prove it before he could take proper action. I got the distinct impression he had already tried to contact the manufacturer about it.

      I did the only thing I could think of: I checked with my boss to see if he knew where a Geiger counter could be found. He didn't, alas, so I gave the customer some contact information for the US NRC. This seemed to satisfy him, and he left. I never saw him again.

      Not once did that old man smile. His face was deeply lined and I don't think he had led an easy life. I often wonder what happened to him, and if there was anything else I could have done to help him.

      • Re:Har har har (Score:5, Insightful)

        by WTF Chuck (1369665) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:45PM (#26270621) Journal

        I've had a customer like this as well. He was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. He would often times have problems getting his documents to print, claiming the printer drivers were the problem. Every time I saw his machine, he had at least a dozen identical drivers installed for his printer. I typed up the instructions for what I did to his machine each time I saw it for him. That reduced the number of visits to the shop for his printer problems.

        He was great fun to talk with about the old times. He was an engineer that worked on designing some of the first punch card readers. Tragic the way that knowledge can be taken away from someone like that.

        If I recall correctly, we only charged him on his first visit, before realizing what the true nature of his problem was.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FiloEleven (602040)

        It sounds to me like you did the right thing. When dealing with someone living in an alternate reality, especially someone who seems otherwise capable of caring for himself (which is the impression I got from your description), it is often best to work with his delusions instead of trying to push through them. Your contact info certainly satisfied him more than any amount of explaining to him why he is wrong, and the respect you showed by not ridiculing him is highly commendable.

        We are given neither the t

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Bromskloss (750445)

        I did the only thing I could think of: I checked with my boss to see if he knew where a Geiger counter could be found.

        o_O That's what I imagine your boss looked like, hearing that from you as you returned from a supposedly peaceful support mission. For a moment, he probably wondered if you would go on with "We also need gas masks, explosives and guns, lots of guns. The fire exit at the back is safe for now - guide women and children there NOW.". Who knows what can emerge from the more distant facilities in this wicked office building.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:36PM (#26269817)

    I took a call from an end user a couple of months ago, informing me she was having trouble changing her password. She was receiving an error message that said "Passwords cannot begin or end with a space."

    When she asked me what to do, I focused all of my energy on maintaining calm professionalism and replied "If you're typing a space before the new password - don't; if you're typing a space after the new password - don't."

    Her reply?

    "Hey that worked! You guys are so smart, I don't know how you can remember all this stuff!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Matt Perry (793115)

      The real WTF is why the application didn't just trim the spaces off the password once it was entered. And we call users stupid...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Just Some Guy (3352)

        The real WTF is why the application didn't just trim the spaces off the password once it was entered.

        I utterly, wholly disagree. My company has a fairly complex web app that our customers use for data entry, and we chose a long time ago that we wouldn't guess at what a user means. For example, we have a fixed set of supported date formats they can submit, and anything else throws a syntax error. The reason for this is that it's much better for all involved to set standards for acceptable input and then stick by them than try to act on any weird bit of data sent our way.

        Frankly, I would treat a password

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:38PM (#26269841)
    This happened at work, where we do... computer tech support. Only the names are withheld to protect the idiots involved.

    One of our senior techs (yes, feel free to laugh, I know I do!) came to tell me he had a virus on his laptop. His cursor was runnign wild, an dplenty of windows kept popping open and apps being launched. He could not figure why, so his best guess was "a really bad virus."

    From personal experience, 97% of people who guess "It must be a virus!" have no virus whatsoever (the reverse is also true - 97% of viral issues ar edismissed as "something weird is going on and I don't know why") so I assumed it surely wasn't one. I had him unplug his wireless mouse bluetooth dongle, which ended the problem immediately, so it was clear where the problem was coming from. I guessed bad drivers, and suggested he reinstall. Putting them fresh from the driver disk simply returned the issue.

    The following day, while looking for a spare power supply, we stumbled on the answer. The wireless keyboard that came with the mouse he was using had been carelessly thrown in there, with another keyboard on top, mashing down a large part of the wireless keyboard's keys. The laptop was just doing as it was told by the keyboard all along.

  • by BunnyClaws (753889) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:44PM (#26269907) Homepage
    8 years ago I had a guy at our company come up to me and tell me he got an email from a girl that said "I love you." He then said, she attached a vbs file to the email and he spent the last 10 minutes trying to get the attachment to work. He said he double clicked on it, ran it from a command prompt and several other ways but couldn't get her "love" program to work for him. The guy was an IT analyst.
    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:00PM (#26270105)

      8 years ago I had a guy at our company come up to me and tell me he got an email from a girl that said "I love you." He then said, she attached a vbs file to the email and he spent the last 10 minutes trying to get the attachment to work. He said he double clicked on it, ran it from a command prompt and several other ways but couldn't get her "love" program to work for him.

      The guy was an IT analyst.

      In all fairness, most IT analysts don't know what behavior should be expected from an actual, live woman.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        In all fairness, most IT analysts don't know what behavior should be expected from an actual, live woman.

        As evidenced by the fact that you didn't know that this "real live woman" was a guy named Boris.

  • the website is down (Score:4, Informative)

    by Foldarn (1152051) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:53PM (#26270035)
    Yes, it's made up, but it's one of the most funny tech support bits ever made! http://www.thewebsiteisdown.com/ [thewebsiteisdown.com]
  • ID 10 T (Score:3, Funny)

    by Leaky Discharge (256331) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:05PM (#26270155)

    This actually happened to me. I was helping out a customer with some software I had written. I told her to download our latest version from our website and to save it to her desktop. At this time she replied. "Goddamnit, I'm not going to tell you this again! I don't have a desktop computer I have a laptop!". I had to place her on hold while I laughed my ass off.

  • by linkalus (1441641) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:06PM (#26270161)
    Every Christmas it falls on me to fix my grandparents computers. Usually other relatives get there before me and try to fix the problem, usually with little or no success. This past year was my all time favorite for computer problems, the computer would shut down shortly after startup. Other relatives attempted to fix it but no luck. Everyone thought it was a virus. After some looking around, I went into the bios where after digging around a little bit I saw that the temperature for the CPU was really high. Opening up the case showed why, the CPU heatsink and fan was so full of dust that there was no way for any air to move through it. Cleaning that out fixed all of the computer problems.
  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:06PM (#26270165)

    I've done a bit of support for an electronics company that also made TVs. Back in 2007 one of their newest models was a decent 40" LCD tv, HD ready etc. and fairly cheap. We got a LOT of support calls on that one because of the design of the rear of the TV.

    The TV had a physical on/off switch, but the designers had decided to "hide" it between the speaker and display enclosures on the back of it. It was clearly outlined on the diagram on page 5 of the manual, but still we had a ton of calls about this particular model, because people couldn't turn it on. And invariably about half of them would complain that they already hung it on the wall and couldn't reach the bloody switch. Boo fucking hoo - read the manual before assembling your unit.

    But - I had one phone call about this TV that still has me smiling ear to ear

    Me: "[$Company] support, you're talking to Martin"
    Very timid, baby girl voice: "Hiiiiiiii?"
    Me: "Ehh ... hi?"
    Very timid, baby girl voice: "My name is Pia"
    Me: "Hello Pia."
    Pia: "I'm four years old!"
    Me: "Is your mom or dad around?"
    Pia: "My daddy doesn't know how to turn on his TV"

    At this point I simply couldn't help but laugh out loud. Then I hear a grown up female voice in the background

    Mom: "Just go ahead and laugh, that's what we've been doing all day long"
    Me: "Okay, can your dad hear me Pia?"
    Pia: "He says he can"

    And then I proceded to guide him to where this switch was.

    It's one thing to be a stupid user, it's another thing entirely to know that there's something you don't know - at least that's what Socrates [wikipedia.org] believed.

    • by D Ninja (825055) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:51PM (#26271517)

      The TV had a physical on/off switch, but the designers had decided to "hide" it between the speaker and display enclosures on the back of it.

      and

      And invariably about half of them would complain that they already hung it on the wall and couldn't reach the bloody switch. Boo f*ing hoo - read the manual before assembling your unit.

      How is that the customer's fault? Yeah, it would have been good if they had read the instructions, but people miss instructions. And, seriously, a TV shouldn't really *require* instructions. It's a pretty simple device.

      It sounds to me that bad design was at fault here (as the first quote indicates). The fact that many people had to call and ask about it only demonstrate this.

  • by SpaceAdmiral (869318) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:20PM (#26270317) Homepage
    My favorite call from when I used to do tech support involved a bounced email. The caller kept trying to send an email to her minister, but it kept bouncing back as undeliverable.

    She thought it had something to do with the church secretary who apparently hated her and might be interfering. She spent about half-an-hour explaining this to me without giving me a chance to get a word in edgewise.

    When I was finally given a chance to ask her a question, I asked what email address she was trying to send to. She told me and I said "try it without the 'www.' at the beginning."
    • A long time ago, I had just configured qmail on a server and was monitoring the "alias" mailbox where "postmaster@domain" ends up, and noticed that someone had replied to the unknown user error message, which reads something like:

      Hi, this is the qmail-daemon program at domainname. I tried to deliver your message to username, but couldn't find the destination.
      Sorry it didn't work out.

      The lady responded very politely Dear Mr Qmail Daemon,..., asking if it had any idea where she could reach her friend.

  • Hello? McFly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blincoln (592401) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:25PM (#26270365) Homepage Journal

    This article reeks of being written by low-level tech support who think they know more about computers than they actually do.

    Obviously antivirus software isn't going to blow an electrical fuse. Obviously the user who thought he'd found a virus in a specific chip on his motherboard was a bit off. A DVD-ROM drive with infected firmware seems unlikely but is certainly within the realm of possibility. The rest are all perfectly plausible.

    Someone with a rootkit popping open notepad remotely and typing a message? Viruses that change system sounds? How are those symptoms at all a reason to immediately dismiss the reports?

    If there's one thing that grates on my nerves, it's people who work in tech support and therefore think they know everything about computers.

    I'd hate to see how the people who wrote this article would respond to a report of the symptoms of a trojan horse/rootkit that I saw firsthand this last weekend. It intercepted all communication with Google (and Yahoo Search) and replaced the first page of results with spam/malware site links. In any browser used on the system, not just IE. MalwareBytes and Avast detected nothing - I had to boot off of a CD and manually move the files somewhere else before Avast detected some (but not all) of them as part of a rootkit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HTH NE1 (675604)

      A DVD-ROM drive with infected firmware seems unlikely but is certainly within the realm of possibility.

      And more likely if the user was seeking firmware to made the drive region-free. I've wondered about the viability of such an exploit and whether it could do more than just inject virus code into a data stream read from a DVD or onto a DVD being burned. If it were master or slave on the same ATA cable as a second drive, could it not also alter the data written to or read from that hard drive?

      Wasn't there also an old story (GHWB-era?) about the US using trojaned network printers to tap the LAN of a foreign mi

  • by Androclese (627848) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:26PM (#26270377)

    Every time I tell this story, I get looked at like I am lying through my teeth, but I remind them that this happened back in 1998, when Windows 3.11 was still being used, the 56k modem standard was still being written, and outside of a private T1, an ISDN line was your best bet for a fast connection to the Internet.

    I was working Tier 1 Tech Support for a Chicago based ISP and a customer called up saying he was having problems getting onto the Internet. I confirm that he is on Windows 95, and having memorized the steps needed to get his computer configured to connect to us, I start walking him through the process. One of the final steps is to reboot Windows for the settings to take hold.

    The computer shuts down without issue and starts the power-up cycle when I hear the CD Drive, a strange liquid sound, and immediately hear the sound of frying electronics and the customer swearing like a sailor on shore leave. Turns out, they had an in-house conference in the office that day and they were serving coffee in those paper cones. Since he could not find a holder for it, he opened up his CD tray and rested the coffee in the center void. When the computer rebooted, it closed said CD tray... ingesting the paper cone and the coffee, frying it into uselessness.

    Needless to say, he was quite pissed and I was laughing my arse off for days.

  • by Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:29PM (#26270415) Journal

    I.T. Support for local government isn't as bad as doing AOL support, but some days you really couldn't tell the difference. Now, I'm not making fun of these people - a lot of them were born and raised when computers were not mainstream. For the non-geek, it's natural to be afraid to work with something that you have never used. My relatives are always afraid of hitting the wrong button on the computer and "breaking it", and I have to always reassure them that you really cannot break anything. And if they did, so what? They learn something new, and almost anything can be undone or fixed.

    Anyway, my former coworker (I have long since left the position), who had been doing support work as an analyst for years, told me of one story that even I couldn't help laugh at. Some lady from admin called him up frantically panicking because her mouse had reached the end of the mouse pad and she hadn't reached the part of the screen where she wanted the pointer to be. Basically, she thought that once the mouse reached the end of the mouse pad, then game over, and you cannot go any further.

    He carefully explained to her that she was allowed to lift the mouse up and move it back towards the center of the mouse pad and continue in the direction she wanted to go.

    My first action is always to help people and not make them feel stupid, especially since they already feel embarrassed, but every once in a while, I just wish I could let myself mess with them, and be like "YOU DID WHAT!?!? OH NO, IT'S ALL BROKEN. YOU BROKE THE INTERNET!!" if they ask about moving the mouse around, or clicking on an icon on the screen that they know nothing about. I would never do that, but the thoughts are tempting. ;)

  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:39PM (#26270517) Homepage

    I once worked IT for a company in Miami. One day I was sitting in the data center checking tape status. The super-high priced consultant admin walked in. She sat down in front of a Sun E6500 serial console, logged in, then started doing some work. After a few minutes, she got up, turned off the console, then started to leave. For non-Sun folks, turning off the main console shuts down the machine. I immediately asked, "What did you just do!?" She looked at me and told me she was pushing some NIS files. "You turned off the machine," I said. She looked at me like I was an idiot. "No, I just turned off the terminal."

    The short story is that she normally connected from a terminal at her desk. This time she connected from the main console. It took another couple hours to fix what she'd screwed up.. All the while she was insisting that turning off the console wouldn't shutdown the machine.

  • by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary.addres ... NosPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:54PM (#26270731)

    The central computer unit of my university has become populated by less clueful individuals lately. This summer they decided it was a good idea to move mail handling over to Windows computers running Exchange or whatever they call it. One of the consequences was that spam filtering did not work very well anymore, especially for one professor at my division who was suddenly getting unheard-of amounts of spam. So this day, he came into office checked his correspondance and burst out in the corridor, shouting "Gah, 8000 mails!". Poor soul, I doubt he ever found the real ones in that pile.

    I think I know where spam comes from now - Microsoft Exchange.

  • by FMZ (1178473) <kj_sonny@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:54PM (#26270735)
    I worked the night shift at the NOC for a couple of years. Mostly just monitoring client's networks and dispatching technicians as needed etc.

    On night at about 2am, I received a call from one of our field technicians. Quite distraught, he told me his computer was broken and he had a high-profile job in the morning and needed it replaced ASAP. He explained that when he tried to type in his username to login, it was showing garbage on the screen, "all sorts of weird numbers and symbols". He regaled me with the story of how he had taken the laptop apart, checked the contacts on the keyboard ribbon cable, found his keyboard chipset model, and Googled the problem, eventually finding it to be a common issue known as a "K9 Keyboard Chipset error". This guy had done his homework.

    Having no way of getting his laptop replaced so quickly by myself, I was forced to call the desktop support manager (who was the epitome of a BOFH). He groggily answered, and the technician told him the issue.

    "Do me a favor," said the BOFH.

    "OK?" the technician responded.

    "Hold down the shift key, and press the Num Lock key. Then login."

    "ITS WORKING!"

    "Gentlemen, we will discuss this on Monday," growled the BOFH, before slamming the phone down. Those words are to this day etched in my mind. I don't blame him for being angry, but in my defense, the tech *did* sound like he'd already tried everything. From then on, I became known as NumLock PantsDown. I'll tell Slashdot about the "PantsDown" portion another time.

  • by YttriumOxide (837412) <yttriumox@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:00PM (#26270807) Homepage Journal

    Before my current job (writing software and supporting software developers for the MFP industry), I did "connectivity support" for the same company. I didn't deal with end users, I dealt with technicians. Many of these guys however were NOT IT techs, the vast majority were old curmudgeony copier techs that were a bit hesitant to enter the wonderful world of connected copiers (keeping in mind this was several years back, and I did deal with small dealerships' techs as well as our branch staff). As such, I have quite a few wonderful tales from my time on the other end of the phone/email/escalation system. Some names of people and companies altered to protect the guilty (but yes, my name is Ben, and I do work for Konica Minolta).

    Story 1) The magical wireless RJ45 socket.
    *Ring ring*, *ring ring*
    Me: "Konica Minolta, Ben speaking."
    John: "Hi Ben, it's John from Small Rural Copier Company here. I just hooked up a second hand Di251 at a customer and they said they want it connected to their PC to print. So, we sold them the Pi3502 (print controller), but it's not printing, what could be the problem?"
    Me: "I'm gonna need a bit more info John. You've installed the controller and the NIC, and plugged everything in right?"
    John: "Yep, I even set an 'IP Address' and installed the 'print driver' like the setup instructions said!"
    Me: "Okay, good start. Tell me happens when you try to print."
    John: "Nothing at all. The customer opens a document, selects to print it, and after a while it just says it failed to print"
    Me: "Right, the most likely cause then is just that it can't communicate for some reason. Can you ping the MFP from the PC?"
    John asks how to do that, and I talk him through it
    John: "Nope, it says no reply."
    Me: "Okay, tell me the IP address of the Pi3502 and the computer."
    John does so, and I'm actually a little stunned that they're actually valid, on the same subnet, and everything sounded like it should be okay.
    Me: "Hmmm... this might be a faulty NIC in the Pi3502, since we've seen a couple of those on this model, and it is second hand. Could you check if the link light is on?"
    John: "Sure, where do I find the link light?"
    Me: "The NIC has two LEDs - right on top of where the ethernet cable is plugged in, one should flash from time to time and the other should be on permanently - that's the link light."
    John: "Ethernet cable? Is that the blue one that was in the box? I didn't know what to do with that, so I haven't done anything with it, it's still in the box."
    Me: "... so, just to get this straight... what cables are currently connected to the Di251?"
    John: "Just the power cable."
    I then explained the 'finer points' of the concept of networking to John, who eventually became enlightened as to the purpose of an ethernet cable, and managed to get everything working about 10 minutes later

    Story 2) How to scan.
    *Ring ring*, *ring ring*
    Me: "Konica Minolta, Ben speaking."
    Peter: "Hi Ben, it's Peter from Moderately Sized City Dealership here. I've never set up scanning before, but the customer wants to use the 'Scan to FTP' function. Can you talk me through setting that up?"
    Me: [stifling a groan] "Sure Peter. Do you have the details of the customer's FTP server?"
    Peter: "Server? They don't have one of those. Do they need that for scanning?"
    Me: "If you want to scan to FTP, you need an FTP server. They could install one on a desktop PC if they don't have a dedicated server though. Talk to their admin and ask if they'll install one somewhere for scanning. There's one on the CD that came with the MFP if they don't have a preference, and I can talk you through the setup of that" (The one on the CD was basically a dead simple little "write only" FTP server specifically designed with scanning in min

  • by slackmaster2000 (820067) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:04PM (#26270857)

    I had a user once who was a woman in her mid 50s. Most of her job duties were performed on the computer, so she could get around a little bit (a lot perhaps, considering that she got fired for spending upwards of 10-20 hours per week playing solitaire and shopping online).

    Anyhow, she calls me up one day and says that something is wrong with her computer: "It says CHECK SIGNAL CABLE in big red letters!"

    So I wander on down and sure enough, the monitor reads CHECK SIGNAL CABLE. Recognizing that the message was from the monitor itself, I started poking around at the back of the machine trying to see if anything was disconnected. After about five minutes and a big self-slap on the forehead I asked, "ummm...is your computer on?"

    "Well of course it's on, it says CHECK SIGNAL CABLE."

    "Yeah, but I mean the computer itself. You know, the "tower", or the "CPU", or the "hard drive", or whatever you happen to call it." (I wasn't really so snippy)

    She suddenly realized what I was talking about, and she proceeded to turn her computer on. We had a good laugh about it and I went back to my hole.

    About a week later I get another call: "Something is wrong with my computer. It says CHECK SIGNAL CABLE."

    I was speechless at first, and almost thought she was joking. After a moment I calmly asked her if she had turned her actual "computer" on, and not just the monitor. She gave an embarrassed laugh and made some apologies and I told her not to worry about it, everybody "has those days."

    Maybe a week or two later I get another call from the same lady: "Something is wrong with my computer, it says CHECK.... oh wait, nevermind."

    I hung up the phone and took a moment to reflect on how fragile reality can be.

    A week or two later I happen to be walking past this lady's desk and one of the guys from our engineering department is looking at the back of her computer and pulling on wires and whatnot. Being a bit dumbfounded I just decided to keep walking on by.

    A few hours later I caught up with the guy from engineering and asked him what was up. Sure enough, the lady had forgotten once again to turn her computer on. What really gets me though is that she called this other guy from a completely different department because she *knew* that calling me would somehow lead to embarrassment. And while she could remember this potential for embarrassment, she could not remember that the solution to this particular problem was to simply turn her computer on.

    Anyhow, that's my favorite story. Maybe you had to be there. A close second was when a much younger and more savvy woman called me to fix her mouse which was "too slow". Before I was able to get into the mouse properties in Windows and adjust the speed, she insisted on explaining her hypothesis that this particular mouse was slow because it's cord was very long.

    Which brings up an interesting reality. I bet that a large number of the support calls I get are solved by having people re-adjust the location of their wireless mouse receiver, which is rarely described as "my mouse isn't working right" but more often "my computer (or 'the internet') is slow, I have to click on things ten times before they open."

    Another large number of calls are solved by having people shake the crap out of their keyboards... a stuck ALT or CTRL key can be hard to diagnose the first time. :)

  • One Client (Score:4, Funny)

    by Pop69 (700500) <billy@benart y . co.uk> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:17PM (#26271025) Homepage
    Called at around 8am a couple of weeks after we'd installed a wireless router into his office saying he was having problems connecting to the wireless.

    Ran through checking he had the wireless key correct, etc and then finally thought to ask him where he was.

    Moscow he says immediately letting me know what the problem was, signal strength, the signal from his wireless point in Edinburgh couldn't quite reach the distance to where his laptop was in a hotel lobby in Moscow......
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:25PM (#26271131)

    Tale #1: Years ago, I owned a tape backup drive with a few extra tapes that I used to make periodic system backups. A friend of mine had a virus infection on his system. He was going to send it to a repair house that was famous for formatting and reinstalling Windows at the slightest hint of a problem. I offered to lend him my drive and a spare tape to backup his data. My father tried to stop me from doing that because, in his opinion, the virus would infect the tape drive hardware and then infect our system. No matter how many times I argued with him about how that was impossible, he insisted that it would happen and he knew better than me. (This from the guy who asked me how to copy files from one disk to another one. "Drag the files to a folder on your desktop. Now put in the second disk. Now drag the files to that disk." "You're a genius!!!")

    Tale #2: We had launched a system allowing users to book appointments online. About 10 months after launch, everything was running smoothly when I got a call from a user claiming that our page wouldn't accept her e-mail address. I checked the obvious things (AOL user? Yes. Putting in "@aol.com"? Yes.) and was just firing up the code to check for some weird edge case triggered by her request when she asked: "Do I need to put my e-mail address in the box that says e-mail address?" No you don't. I employ Psychic Programming. Just look at your screen and think about your appointment and it'll book it for you. If it doesn't book, it's because you're not staring hard enough. *rolling eyes*

    Tale #3: I got an e-mail from someone reporting a problem. I asked them to send me a screenshot. They replied that they would if I could just send them my e-mail address. Um... If you don't have my e-mail address... how did you JUST E-MAIL ME?!!!!!!! (She explained that she didn't know how to attach a file to a reply but knew how to attach one to a new message. I still don't get it, though, as the actions are completely identical.)

    I'm just glad that Tech Support isn't my main job.

  • Gotta keep it clean (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xawen (514418) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:17PM (#26272857)

    I once had a user call because her computer wouldn't boot. I ended up pulling the hard disk and putting it in another machine so I could recover some of her files. When I looked at it, I noticed a bunch of folders on the root of the disk with three letter names: DLL, EXE, INI, SYS, BAT, etc...

    The really impressive part is that she had actually managed to move most of the system into these before hitting the files that were in use.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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