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Tales From the Support Crypt 855

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.

    -- []: where geeks create side-businesses together

  • by mrphoton ( 1349555 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:28PM (#26269729)
    I prefer uneducated users.....It does not matter what the problem is you can still charge 20Euros per hour to fix it.....
  • 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.

  • by hemp ( 36945 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:32PM (#26269777) Homepage Journal

    Breakfast at their house must be a trip.

  • by RemoWilliams84 ( 1348761 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:33PM (#26269787)

    When I started college I took the entry level computer class and it had a lot of women who were recently laid off from a sewing factory. The first day an older lady raised her hand and told us she was having a problem with her mouse. Turns out she had it in the floor trying to use it with her foot like a sewing pedal.

  • 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: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.)

  • 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 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:thoughts (Score:2, Funny)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:37PM (#26269829)

    I would buy you a pint if I could, you poor bastard.

  • 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.

  • 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???

  • 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 ReverendLoki ( 663861 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:43PM (#26269899)

    "Upside down" depending on your vantage point. He was simply transposing the "directions" on the screen to the plane in which the mouse moves. In other words, his father had the mouse turned around, front-to-back.

    I've actually experienced the same thing, except this was a decade and a half ago or more, so I was also informed ".. and the cord keeps getting in the way", which helped diagnose the problem immediately.

    A similar complaint I fielded from the era: "The mouse's dust cover keeps getting in the way" - They just unpacked a new computer, and the mouse was packaged so the cord fed out of the plastic bag the mouse came in, so they thought the bag should stay on.

  • 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 Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:44PM (#26269911) Homepage Journal
    Wow, they got you for that much? They fixed my problem by for only $100 by selling me a special mouse pad.

    You, sir, are a sucker!
  • 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:Virus (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:47PM (#26269951)

    One morning i boot up my computer, and i get a really weird boot screen ... i figred it had to be a virus, so i use my friends computer, google it, and come to find out, it was just the windows boot screen :) Happy holidays

    Hey, I've heard of that one before and it's a really insidious one! It's involved in all kinds of botnets and I heard it's even crashed and stopped ships before, not to mention that the people behind it are so violent that they're known to throw chairs. That's pretty f-ing scary man. You really should have reformatted and reinstalled, it's the only way to be sure!

    Makes me wonder why they call it Windows anyway. They've got the "brittle and easily broken" part down but the window analogy doesn't work so well without the "transparent" part, which they are definitely missing.

    For the more thought-impaired, trigger-happy mods I will add that this was a joke in response to a joke. If this looks like Flamebait or Trolling to you, it's because you're the joke. No, really, being so thoroughly dominated by your personal feelings about software to where you can't even entertain humor about that software without wanting to lash out by abusing the moderation system, well, that's pretty pathetic. It's a shame you don't want something better than that for yourself.

    "What if Bill Gates had one nickel for every time Windows crashed? Oh wait, he does!"

  • Re:Kill!!! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:49PM (#26269989)

    Where I work it's common for our users to take a screenshot and save it using a 3rd party program we gave them. They then print the screenshot in black & white.

    Then they fax the screenshot into our automated fax server which sends them a TIF image attachment which they then open and copy & paste it inside of word and then send us the word document.


  • 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.

  • by IceCreamGuy ( 904648 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:58PM (#26270077) Homepage

    There was a similar incident with a Frap spilled "near" a keyboard (stuck keys do so many wondrous things!).

    I had a user who called me over to her desk and demanded, angrily, to know "why we bolt down all the monitors? Do you think we're going to steal them?" I informed her that we do not bolt or glue down any monitors, but sure enough, when I went to lift it, it felt like it was glued down. I pulled really, really hard and it ripped off the desk, to reveal a giant circle of dried coffee.

    Another time, she called me over because her mouse was acting funny. I picked it up, it seemed fine, but when I took the ball out the encoders had water droplets all over them. "Why is there water in here?" "Well I spilled coffee on it so I washed it off in the sink." "Ah! well, that's the problem! Please don't ever get anything related to your computer wet" Got her a new mouse, ten minutes later, same problem, and she is angry and impatient. I came over found that there was water on the lens (replaced it with an optical) and felt her mousepad. Yep, she had also washed her mousepad.
    :`-( !

  • 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: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 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.

  • 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 [] believed.

  • by citylivin ( 1250770 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:07PM (#26270187)

    I used to work in a call center. One day, one of the CSR's came to me with a problem. She was trying to write notes in a customers file but every time she put her coursor into the text field, strange words appeared. The words came as if they were typed in manually and seemed to go everywhere. Address bar, email messages, word documents. The user was convinced that someone had hacked her pc and was sending her cryptic messages like "please visit the bathroom my apple friend".

    Long story short, I went to investigate but could not duplicate the problem. That is, until I watched her take a call. As soon as she started speaking into the mic the words returned, and I was able to figure out that microsoft text to speech (came with word) had been installed and enabled somehow. It was doing voice recognition on all her phones headset speech.

  • 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."
  • Re:Kill!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by yog ( 19073 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:21PM (#26270327) Homepage Journal

    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 on her. He did not call back, suggesting that the solution worked.

    This probably doesn't make a lot of sense to younger people who are used to all sorts of battery-powered computer appliances, but back then it was very funny indeed!

  • by mmandt ( 1441661 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:23PM (#26270343)
    When I was in college, I wrote and marketed my first retail software program. I sold about 100 copies before I realized I was in over my head. One day I got a support call from a guy who had ordered the software and had just got his copy in the mail. His problem was that the software would not install. So understanding, that for some reason it didn't autorun the setup file, I tried to walk him through running the setup file himself. But we could never get that far. Finally, I figured his disk drive had gone bad, or maybe the disk he was sent was bad. Cause no files were showing up at all. Yet, he claimed the disk drive was in working order. When he clicked on the A: the little light would come on (yada yada yada). OK, 20 minutes into the phone call... I tell him to mail the disk back and I will send him a new one. Then he was like, "Ok hold on. Let me find it." I was like "find what?" He said, "The disk." I was like, "Isn't in your drive?" He sincerely says, "No, here it is on my desk." *dead silence from me* He then proceeds to ask if he should put the disk in the drive, maybe that's the problem. YEAH, maybe that's the problem!
  • 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 Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <perry.matt54@[ ] ['yah' in gap]> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:29PM (#26270407)

    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...

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:30PM (#26270431)

    We recently had a sales rep tell us that his laptop DVD drive failed because of a "design flaw". We told him, ok, whatever, mail it in. When we got the machine, we discovered a ribbon cable hanging out of the DVD drive-- which clearly implied that he had disassembled (unscrewed) and reassembled (rescrewed) the drive with the cable hanging out. I guess the "design flaw" he was talking about was that you can't do stupid shit to your computer and expect it to work.

  • by tedrlord ( 95173 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:32PM (#26270447)

    Back in my support days, I always used the "can you make sure the power cable isn't loose?" approach. Sometimes that was actually the case even when they had checked before, but usually it reminded them that it might not actually be plugged in.

    Honestly, ignorant home users aren't nearly as difficult to deal with as java developers.

  • by jackb_guppy ( 204733 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:33PM (#26270455)

    My oldest, now 15, was 6 at the time thought "Ghost Writer" from the TV show was "talking" to her via her computer...

    I installed VNC to maintain her computer along with others in the house. I was playing one day, with her via VNC by moving her mouse, click on things. She opened NotePad and asked if I was Ghost Writer. I said yes, for the next two years we (including her mother) had great conversations (even helped with spelling) via this method without her catching on that it her parents she was talking to.

    We did had to explain to my daughter's friends' parents what was going on when they wanted to buy the same program we were using, since your daughter was telling friends at who she was talking to, even demoed to (opps on are part)

    We did find out things via Ghost Writer that we were not told about directly as parents though. So we had to keep them a secret until Ghost Writer could talk her into telling her parents about the issue.

  • 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...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:35PM (#26270475)

    The place: Purdue University. The year: 1995. (A.D.)

    I worked for "PUCC" (Purdue University Computing Center), sitting at the help desk at various computer labs on campus. Our official mandate was to pretty much: keep the labs clean, make sure the hardware worked, keep the printers topped off with paper and toner, and answer simple questions. However, most of us who gravitated towards these jobs were either CS/engineering students or self-made computer/unix tinkerers who loved to dink around on the campus computers, so more often than not, we knew quite a bit more than the average lab user.

    At the time, the "LAEB" (Liberal Arts Education Building) basement lab was still shiny and new, with some of the best PC equipment on campus. For those familiar with Purdue, this was the big building that sprouted up next to the "wind tunnel" CS building during that time.

    So there I was, in the mid A.M. shift on a day classes were in session. I'm at the big desk in the basement. A rather grumpy looking T.A. approached the end of the desk furthest from me. I look around, hoping I'd miss this one. One of my peers was chatting on the "havens" in a dozen simultaneous sessions under TinyFugue, so he was oblivious. The other was engrossed in the relatively new game of "Marathon" on the single Mac at the desk. So I took the complaint.

    "The overhead isn't working." Our labs were all equipped with overhead projectors with color LCD devices that hooked up to the instructor's computer. He was very agitated, obviously pissed that we somehow failed to ensure that *his* lab was in working order before class started. His time was way too important to be dealing with this stuff. You know the type.

    Knowing that he was in error, but experienced enough to know better than to dispute the claim, I followed him back to his room.

    The routine which followed was pretty much autonomic. I could tell that the projector itself was fine, as I could hear the fan and see the light behind the fan. I checked the cables, and the everything looked good. I stand up, approach the projector, and peer down. I lift my head, grin, wink at the 20-odd bored students, then lift the vanilla envelope from the top of the projector and hand it to the T.A. who just stares at me. The wall at the front of the class is now illuminated with the day's lesson outline. A few chuckles from the class follow as I excuse myself and exit the room.

    Good times.

  • 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.

  • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:43PM (#26270597)

    That will be the best part.

  • by mmandt ( 1441661 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:53PM (#26270723)
    Reminds me of this skit: []
  • by FMZ ( 1178473 ) <kj_sonny&hotmail,com> 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."


    "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 mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:55PM (#26270743) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Re:thoughts (Score:3, Funny)

    by Falstius ( 963333 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @03:58PM (#26270791)

    My advisor has a 24" cinema display set to 1024x768 resolution. It makes me cry each time I see it.

  • by YttriumOxide ( 837412 ) <> 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:01PM (#26270823)

    I can do ya one better - my first job (circa mid 80's), we had a system that used 3 Amigas for graphics processors. This was right at the start of the Amiga run, so they needed a boot floppy (3.5 inch), and a then an app floppy to fully boot up. So to restart this system required the on-site admin to eject the app disks, insert the boot disks, and then eject the boot disk and insert the app disks. Tedious, but simple right?

    One day we get the call that one of the graphics screens is not working. We drive to the site and find the Amiga driving that display nonresponsive, so we power-cycle it, and try to eject the app disk. No dice - the disk does not come out. The other machines work fine, so we end up dismantling the broken one to find that someone has managed to insert the boot disk into the drive while the app disk was still in there! After we crack the drive case, we are able to screwdriver out the disks, so we try to repeat the feat - and it's nearly impossible! Someone had to exert more force than any of us could muster to get the second disk into the slot!

    We amended the instructions to include eject steps, and asked where they kept the admin gorilla.

  • 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, " 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. :)

  • by Bromskloss ( 750445 ) <auxiliary.addres ... y@ g m a i> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:08PM (#26270903)

    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.

  • Re:Kill!!! (Score:4, Funny)

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

    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:thoughts (Score:5, Funny)

    by Joe Snipe ( 224958 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:10PM (#26270941) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that most users are stuck on number 5.

  • by devotedlhasa ( 1298843 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:15PM (#26271007)
    Not worth it... she will give you a virus
  • One Client (Score:4, Funny)

    by Pop69 ( 700500 ) <billy AT benarty DOT co DOT 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 farker haiku ( 883529 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:19PM (#26271049) Journal

    TopCod3r? You're here too?

  • Re:Kill!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by YttriumOxide ( 837412 ) <> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:22PM (#26271071) Homepage Journal
    The worst one I ever had was a black and white scan of a printed screenshot. I asked the guy about it and he apparently had taken the screenshot, pasted it in to Word, printed that and then used an MFP's "scan to email" function to send it to me. I am still boggled about how anyone could do this and NOT stop to think for a second they could've just emailed me the screenshot to begin with.
  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:25PM (#26271131) Homepage

    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 ""? 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.

  • by Ed_Pinkley ( 881113 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:27PM (#26271169)
    The trick there was to blow thier mind by saying "It's floppy on the inside!"
  • by tadheckaman ( 578425 ) <tad&heckaman,com> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:32PM (#26271219) Homepage
    holy crap, I can right click in minesweeper! Now its a whole lot more fun to play!
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:49PM (#26271477) Homepage Journal

    I've done that, even broke them open to show them. Hand them a real hard drive and they freak, too.

  • by BattleApple ( 956701 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:03PM (#26271725)

    have you ever the documentation they write?

    I bet they omit critical words from sentences and stuff like that. Idiots.

  • Re:Kill!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by cool_arrow ( 881921 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:03PM (#26271739)
    Not long ago I was looking at a live cd on the wife's laptop. I left it in the machine and turned off the laptop. Later she turns on the laptop and starts clicking away attempting to exit the "app". Installed a new OS over the existing one and then asks "so where's my pictures?".
  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:25PM (#26272129) Homepage

    "have you ever the documentation they write?"

    No, but I the post you wrote, and it was hilarious!

  • another (Score:2, Funny)

    by xaositects ( 786749 ) * <<xaos> <at> <>> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:28PM (#26272185) Homepage

    over the phone support:

    • Me: "Right-click on 'My Computer' and select 'Properties'"
    • Them: "How do I right-click on your computer?"

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault