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Your Favorite Support Anecdote 1177

Most of us have had the unfortunate opportunity to have worked tech support at some point, whether it was for a paycheck or for a relative. The Register has offered up a vote for several of their favorite support stories but I'm sure there are many more out there to be had. My favorite horror story was while working a tech support call for a governmental employee, when asked to take her mouse and click on the "start" button all I could hear over the phone is what I later found out was the user banging her mouse against the monitor. What other horror stories have people seen from the trenches?
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Your Favorite Support Anecdote

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  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:41PM (#15661192) Journal
    We had made a fat client app for a company with a metric buttload of regional offices all over Germany. Each office had their own database, and it was replicated daily against the central database. (Short story: each office only needed the data for their region, so it really didn't need the whole central database. And conversely the "mother" corporation didn't need their data immediately either.)

    So this woman (afaik, a sorta boss for that particular office too) calls that the application stopped working on her machine. The tech-support guys can't solve it, so they forward the call to us programmers, namely to the guy next to me. Turns out that she had heard about evil hackers and whatnot, and someone recommended that she installs ZoneAlarm and forbid any programs to connect if she doesn't know what they are and what they do. So she installs it on her work computer too. And forbids our application from talking to the database.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:47PM (#15661253)
    I was serving at a forward deployed location with the US military. Many things were wrong with our technical position, including the fact that our office was NOT being provided the security updates for MS Exchange, due to a typical military SNAFU.

    One of the many known and expected email attacks hit us, and crashed our server.

    We couldn't get the server back up. Our "home office" back in the US couldn't figure out how to get our server back up. We got permission to pay for the service, and called the MS Service line. After a short discussion, the MS Techs knew exactly what our problem was, and told me to download a 4.2 Meg update. At this point I had to interrupt, and point out that my connection to the world wasn't that stable, and didn't have enough bandwidth to keep that download under 12 hours, if the connection didn't get lost.

    The next thing I knew, I had two MS Engineers on the phone, talking to each other while I listened, trying to figure out how to deal with the problem without using the download. That phone call ran nearly 5 hours. It ended with me typing in hex edits to the MS Exchange software . . ..

    EVERYTHING these men suggested short of that I had to refuse, for technical or mission reasons. The direct hex edit was something like the 7th or 8th solution the engineers came up with.

    How would YOU like to hear "Yeah, that would probably work, but, I can't do that because . . .." and have the because be something you recognized you couldn't argue against?
  • by usermilk ( 149572 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @01:49PM (#15661277)
    Me: How may I help you?
    Customer: Hi, my name is Customer.
    Me: Hi, how may I help you today?
    C: I just bought a Powerbook G4 and I can't get it connected to the internet. There are no ports at all, no USB, no Ethernet, no modem.
    Me: What? Are you sure there are no ports on it?
    C: Yes, this is the worst purchase I ever made! Can I bring it to you guys to have a look at it and get ports added?
    Me: This is the first time I ever heard of this! You're sure you flipped down the panel in the back?
    C: Panel in the back? I don't see a-- I am such an asshole! Thank you so much, I feel so stupid.
    Me: It's okay, don't worry. I'm glad I could help.
    C: I am sorry for cursing, thank you so much you just saved me so much money.
    Me: You're welcome, have a good day.
    C: You too!
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:04PM (#15661373) Homepage Journal
    The IBM Mouse Balls story is one of my favorites. Snopes says [] it was an internal joke memo. Here is a version from 1989 [], scroll down for it.

    I once read on another source, probably made up, that this WAS in fact a real memo and that the person sending it went to some lengths to bypass the normal internal checks that keep such humor from getting out into the field. Specifically, the person who allegedly wrote the memo declared it a safety emergency memo, which at the time allegedly went through virtually zero in-depth checks from management. I am unable to find this source and I don't give it much credibility.

    As for photocopying disks for backup purposes, I do so for insurance purposes. If my house burns down, my "off-site backups" help me file an insurance claim. It works for hard drives too.
  • Ah, war stories. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:09PM (#15661419) Homepage Journal
    First Story:

    Many moons ago, back in the 80s, I worked for a company that sold and serviced mini and microcomputer systems. We had one company that was complaining and threatening to sue because the "crap" computers we had sold them kept crashing several times per day. So we sent a tech down to check them out. He walked into their brand new, ice cold computer room. Noticing that the room had, like most computer rooms, flourescent lighting, he pointed to a bank of dimmer switches on the wall.

    "What are those for?" he asked.

    "Oh, they control all the outlets in this room," was the reply.

    The tech walked over and spun them all to "max". Problem solved.

    Second Story:

    Another customer who said our "crap" computers were crashing. I personally flew down to to visit them to see what was going on. As we were discussing the situation, the lights dimmed for a few seconds, came back up, then flashed bright, then went back to normal.

    "What was that?" I asked.

    "Oh, there's a auto crusher across the street. When the turn on the magnet we get a little brown out, and when they turn it off the lights go up for a moment."

    "I here see you opted not to by the uninteruptable power supply, and have not even installed a surge suppressor," I noted. "Do you think that the fact your power is unreliable might have something to do with your problems?"

    UPS == End of Story.

    Third Story:

    Which is not to say our computers weren't crap. Most weren't installed in computer rooms, they were installed in offices, which was kind of a new thing at the time.

    We certainly did have a number of strange reset problems, especially in the winter. Then one day we get a technical bulletin entitled, "Static discharge from pantyhose implicated in unexplained system resets." The recommendation: secretaries doing word processing and data entry should stop wearing pantyhose. Now, most of our customers were New England CPAs, and standards for business attire in New England at the time were formal. The secretaries were NOT going to where slacks or skirts without pantyhose.

    So one of the techs comes up with a solution. "Hey, isn't fabric softener supposed to stop static cling?" So, the recommendation goes out: avoid pantyhose, but if you must where them, spray Downy brand fabric softener on them several times a day. Naturally, they all opt to go into the ladies room every couple of hours and spray their legs with Downy.

    Another problem solved.
  • Re:Here's a good one (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:11PM (#15661441)
    Customer to foreign ISP tech support:
      Do you comprend English?
    Support Person:
    No but I can speak it fine .
    says who?
    Support person:
    I had 3 full weeks of english accent removal training, we used a speech device made by an american company in New Jersey to visually learn it, so I speak it well.

    Customer: What about comprension?
      I dont know that language called comprehension!

  • Scroll bars... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:16PM (#15661477) Homepage Journal
    Two weeks ago, a user here complains that her Excel spreadsheet is broken. Where she used to have three wide columns with data, now she only has the rightmost one, and it's on the left side of the screen. Plus, the letters at the top don't start with A, now they start with C.

    Yeah, she scrolled to the right, and couldn't figure out how to go left. 30-year old woman, reporter, uses computers daily. Mmmkay.

    One week ago, I send her a /. story that relates to a piece she's producing. She tells me that she can't read it because the text goes off the bottom of the screen and ends in the middle of a sentence.


  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:17PM (#15661483)
    Remember when CD rom speed was a hughe deal and liteon game out with the loud 52x drives.. i had a customer put in his win98 cd.. and when it spun up the cd shattered and (more like an explosion) blew the from of the drive off and mangled the drive.. he was asking us over the phone if this was normal.. brought a whole new meaning to winblows 98
  • by Saint Aardvark ( 159009 ) * on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:17PM (#15661486) Homepage Journal

    "There's something wrong with the network."

    "Okay, what's going on?"

    "Well, the machine was all like, bam! bam bam! and that surprised me. Then I tried making it go again. That didn't work, 'cos it just sat there going ghh-ghh-ghh-ghh!"


    "It's a machine gun sound. Now it's just sitting there, all like, what the fuck?"

    "Okay, what does that mean?"

    "I said, first the machine was all--"

    "Never mind. What were you doing when this happened?"

    "I was running a test."

    "And then what happened?"

    "I started getting NFS errors."

    "Aha. What kind of NFS errors?"

    "You know, like, the file wasn't there."

    "Okay. Then what happened?"

    "The machine gun sound. Weren't you listening?"


    "I'm heading out of town next week, and I'm going to need the notebook."

    "Okay, when do you need it?"

    "Oh, some time next week."

    "I can do that. What do you need on it?"

    "Foobleymatic 2.5, BarfTastic XP, and Crunchometer 2."

    "Okay, that sounds good. How's Tuesday sound for you?"

    "Today's Friday, right?"

    "Yep. Why?"

    "Well, I'm actually heading out of town on Monday."

    "Aha. When on Monday?"


    "Early as in, you won't have time to come in here and pick up the laptop, right?"


    "I see. So really, then, you need it today, don't you?"

    "Yeah, I guess I do."

    "I see. Well, thanks for telling me."

    "Hey, no problem!"


    "Have we thought about wireless access here?"

    "I'm agin it. It's too easy to sniff traffic and there are lots of data ports here."

    "Well, has anyone ever sniffed traffic?"

    "Absolutely. A guy got convicted in the US for sniffing credit card numbers from a Home Depot. They were using encryption. The FBI recently demonstrated how to crack encryption in about four minutes using off-the-shelf software. It's not hard."

    "Well, I don't think we have that many secrets."

    "...Email? Our source code? Budgets?"

    "Well, I'm only thinking of this as a way of getting the printer closer to my office."

    "What, you don't print any secrets?"


    "You've just picked up your printing, right? Look at what you have in your hand: email, budget requests. Programmers print out code all the time. Should we open the window and throw it all into the streets?"


    "We have shredders for a reason."

    "Well, maybe I should just get a printer and put it by my desk."



    A: Ever since I moved to Linux, I can't print these PDFs any more. I think it's a font problem, just like B had. Have you fixed that yet?

    Me: No, but I don't know that you're having a font problem. There are, like, four programs involved in printing that, and each one of them is different now.

    A: No, I think it's a font problem. I hate OpenOffice.

    B: Fonts are screwed up in Debian. This never happens to me on my Fedora Core machine at home.


    Me: Well, I printed out seventeen pages from two different machines in eight different ways using the printer on the floor above me, and as you can see the crucial difference is the version of Acrobat Reader used to print them. It's not a font problem. Those big black bars? It's a bug in the latest version of Acrobat Reader.

    A: Oh.

    Me: Yep, the PDFs generated by OpenOffice were fine. Now, I'm reluctant to install an older version of Acrobat because of security pr--

    B (sitting right next to A all this time): Oh, you don't have that problem if you use this PDF reader over here.

    A: What?

    Me: What?

    B: Yep, just use the Gnome PDF reader and it prints just fine.

    A: Why didn't you tell me yesterday?

    B: You said it was a problem with OpenOffice, not PDFs.


  • by allroy63 ( 571629 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:25PM (#15661557)
    I used to work for a large IT firm doing internal support. On the morning of 9/11/2001 I received a phone call from a manager in the manufacturing division. I was based in NY and he was based in MN. He demanded to know why he had not been able to access his e-mail for the last hour and a half. I explained to him that our mail servers were located in building #2 of the World Trade Center, which no longer existed. He demanded to speak to my supervisor because he could not believe our response time to correct the problem and reboot the mail server was so slow. I pointed out that three targets on American soil had just been attacked, two of them civilian and completely destroyed. He still didn't get it. I pointed out that 3000 people died. He again demanded to speak to my supervisor, screaming about our Service Level Agreements and such. I hung up and walked out.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:28PM (#15661574)
    That's a fun one!

    I don't know how old you're client was, but I have a pet theory that the reason our grandparents can't handle VCR's or computers is because they're used to farm machinery and exposed gears, where if you screw up because you don't really know what you're doing, somebody gets maimed or killed. They don't like messing with things they don't fully understand.

    With computers, screwing around with something that you don't get just means losing a little bit of data or picking up a virus.
  • by slgrimes ( 974517 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:29PM (#15661585)

    So i'm working tech support for a company in Massachusetts, 1st job out of college in 96 - it's a small company, and I'm supporting their product...but, that's getting old, so I tell them I'd rather be in IT and if they want to keep me, they should move me sooner rather than later. They agree to move me to IT, but couldn't do it right away. No problem, eventually is better than never.

    (on a side note, I'm glad I was there in the days when a college grad with little real world experience could make a play like that and win)

    3 months later I'm still not down there - there's a new mgr there who no one likes, so I'm not complaining. One day, one of the guys there, Muz, gives me a call asking me to come down to his new bosses office.

    Apparently she came storming into the IT area, grumps her way into her office and, 3 minutes later, comes flying out saying "My f'n laptop doesn't work AGAIN - you told me last time you fixed it that you FIXED IT, and you clearly didn't. I'm going to talk to HR - if you want to save your job, get in there and FIX the laptop, today the mouse doesn't work." Muz pops his head in to her office after she leaves, and immediately calls me. He tells me the story, and pop down aand peek into her office...and duck my head back out, now laughing.

    Boss chooses this point to come back, CIO and HR rep in tow. Now in her defense, she wasn't an IT type person - IT needed a manager, and they threw her under the bus....but there are limits.

    So, back to her office, she asks what I'm doing there (all irritated) and I let her know I was helping Muz troubleshoot her problem. I asked her to put her laptop back into her bag as if she had just arrived and show me what she did. So she pulls the power out, slams the lid closed, puts it in her laptop bag, walks out. She comes BACK in 2 minutes later (method actor, I guess). Opens laptop bag. Puts laptop on desk. Opens, turns on. Grabs mouse on her desk and moves it...."See! See! This stupid thing just doesn't work, i want that guy (the actualy IT Person) fired immediately!"

    I reach over and grab the dangling end of the mouse and show it to her. That's all, didn't say a word, just twisted it back & forth between my fingers while looking at her.

    I don't think I've seen that colour of red in a long time. She was totally embarassed and actually apologized to Muz. CEO, HR head ask Muz and I to walk out. 20 minutes later, the mgr walks out. 2 days later, new mgr in IT - sadly, they just shuffled her to another location within the company...

  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrSquirrel ( 976630 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:30PM (#15661588)
    At least his network cable fit in his cd-rom drive. Working for a university helpdesk, we had a delightful time when we found out a father wanted to impress his little princess daughter with his marvelous technicial skills by hooking her computer up to our network... unfortunately the computer had a modem not a network card... fortunately for the story, he had a hammer. No, no, sadly the modem did not work with the network cable inserted.

    And on the subject of things fitting into cd-rom drives... another technician job I led me to be baffled that a woman (a secretary type person who had been using computers for a long time and, I thought, knew what she was doing) inserted 4 cd's into her tray-load cd-rom drive... one of which was a critical cd full of precious data that was not stored anywhere else. Thankfully I was able to take the drive apart and find the cd she needed unscratched. People never cease to amaze me.
  • Surprise Ending (Score:2, Interesting)

    by whamett ( 917546 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:36PM (#15661636)
    The joke in on tech support in the end in this one, from my first job. George received the call, which went something like this:

    Customer: Hello, I'm calling because your CD-ROM makes a buzzing noise during installation.
    George: Pardon me, sir—a buzzing noize?
    Customer: Yes, it vibrates, making a kind of loud buzzing noise.
    George: Are there any errors?
    Customer: No, the installation works just fine.
    George: And the software works correctly?
    Customer: Yes, no problem. But the CD makes a buzzing noise.
    George (becoming creative): Hmm... well, sir, there's a lot of information on that CD, and it could be that there's more information on one side of the disc than the other. If it's weighted unevenly, this could make it wobble as it spins, causing it to buzz.
    Customer: Oh, that makes sense. Well, no big deal, I guess. Thank you.

    It turns out that many other customers called with the same complaint; there was indeed a manufacturing defect with a batch of CDs.
  • by tcphll ( 979777 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:42PM (#15661673)
    Just a couple of months ago, I had a co-worker come in and complain that one of the machines (windows) he was working on had the file extensions removed from all the files, so he went in and renamed around 100 files so that they would have the proper extensions, but soon found this tiresome. He asked me if there was a reason the file extensions were gone and if I had a quick fix so he wouldn't have to rename the files. I went to the machine, went to folder options, unchecked the "hide extensions for known file types" and voila! a directory full of files with names like "filename.doc.doc" or "something.pdf.pdf". Of course now he had to go through and rename all the files again. To top it off, this guy teaches an "intro to computers" class at the Army base we work on.
  • 2 Short Ones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pisces22 ( 819606 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:45PM (#15661696)
    1. I asked the user to restart their PC. 5-10 secs passed and she said, "OK". I said "it restarted already?". "Yeah." Turns out she had turned off her monitor and then turned it back on. Oddly, the problem persisted. 2. I was roped into fixing a PC for someone. I'll often tell people just to bring me the "tower". That wasn't enough instruction for this person so I told her to bring me the part of the computer she used to turn on the computer. My mistake: it became clear shortly thereafter that she intended to bring me the powerstrip!
  • by enselsharon ( 968932 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:48PM (#15661736)
    This goes against the grain of the comments in the thread, but I have to voice gratitude and pleasant surprise at my offsite backup ISP,

    I'm not that interesting of a customer - I pay something like $5/months for some offsite storage through them, so I kind of expect to not be a high priority.

    However, their customer support philosophy clearly states that there are never "first level" technicians, there is no ticket system, and all support is handled immediately in a normal, sane email conversation.

    And it turned out to be true. At 11 pm on a Saturday night (ok, I have no life) I emailed them a fairly technical issue regarding how I was doing ssh key exchange with their system, so I could do automated rsyncs. I got a response two minutes later (!) that not only showed me how to fix the rather obscure permissions issue that was causing the trouble, but also with a full rewrite of the small script I was using to do the rsync and save logs, etc.

    So I would say that the kind of support, and the philosophy of not having lame ticket systems and first level junior techs that employs is my favorite support anecdote.
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @02:59PM (#15661841)
    There was a similiar type of incident when British Telecom switched their first telephone exchange from analogue to digital. In order to ensure a complete switchover, the decision was made to physically cut the analogue connections inplace, so there was no going back.

    They chose a long weekend (public holiday monday) in order to do this, so it gave them more time to fix any problems. After starting early saturday morning, by sunday evening they had the exchange fully on digital and were congratulating themselves - and then the exchange crashed, entirely.

    All sunday evening and night it went through a cycle of 'reboot, work, crash' on an hourly basis. The engineers could not figure it out, tehy did acomplete code dump and laid out the entire codebase on tractorfeed paper in the halls, went over it line by line to find out what was wrong.

    Eventually sometime monday morning, the night guard from a factory across the road popped across the road and mentioned his phone was going absolutely crazy, every hour he would try to ring his head office to report onsite, and the phone would emite a high pitched buzz and go dead.

    Turned out the exchange switchover had put his phoneline in limbo with no phonenumber associated but in a live usable state, and the exchange software couldnt handle that state and so it died with no error state reported.
  • IP Blocks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:02PM (#15661879)
    Sometimes you get an IP block just for having a contrary opinion to the majority of Slashdot viewers. I had the temerity to suggest that freedom of speech might not be a universally desirable thing, and was modded so far down - as "troll" no less - that nobody from my company could post for over a month.

    The irony was overwhelming.
  • Re:Angry Customer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BobNET ( 119675 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:15PM (#15661968)
    Turns out he had the mouse/keyboard cables plugged into the opposite sockets, despite clear labelling.

    An easy mistake to make, especially in the days before the cables and connectors were colour-coded.
    Someone [] developed a fix, but the idea was killed before it could catch on...

  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:21PM (#15662046)
    I worked for a major 3rd party DSL provider a few years ago and I heard this one from a VP in the smoking area (in the parking garage next to peachtree...)

    They have this strange situation with a DSL customer.

    It was your basic off the web order ,install, we sent out the kit and he was running at good DSL speeds. No problems.

    He calls in about 4 weeks later and reports his DSL has stopped working. We have him check the NID and he doesn't have any sync which means he's not even getting a signal from the Central Office. So we roll out a telco truck and they find that his cable was pulled from the DSLAM box and they just pop it back into his copper line.

    A week later he calls in the same problem. We have him check his DSL at the NID again and no sync. We call the teclo company again and they send a truck out to the central office box and check the DSLAM, find it was disconnected again, and pop the cable back in again for the DSL.

    Then it happens a again... They send out another truck... Fix it... A few days latter... It happens again... And they keep sending the trucks to fix it...

    Finally after several weeks of this... The VP gets a call from the teclo... Who has the FBI on the phone asking us to stop fixing the DSL because its disconnecting their wiretap!

    So the VP has a CS rep call the guy and politley explain that DSL isn't possible at his location and refunds his money.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:23PM (#15662063)
    One student punched holes in [5-1/4" disks] so they can be stored in her binder.

    That's not that bad of an idea, so long as you knew where it was safe to do that: one hole in the corner would be sufficient to fit it on the center ring of a three-ring binder. Half an inch in from a corner is easily safe.

    I take it though that she did it midway down a side.

    It's a good think 3.5" disks have a hole built in for this (once you slide the write-protect slider to the open (protected) position). That's another think 5.25" disks got wrong: using a notch taken out to enable writing, which was the opposite of the cassette tapes used previously where breaking off the tab would protect them.
  • by Were-Rabbit ( 959205 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:33PM (#15662155)
    I still remember just about everything from that incident - my manager's vocal tone and the look on her face, the way the director was flinging his arms up when he saw me walk in, the reactions of my fellow IT people. It was great!

    You also have to keep in mind also that that was around the time when we were migrating everyone off of shared DOS PCs over to everyone having a Windows PC on their desks. So, there were a lot of learning curves that gave IT the source material for a lot of laughs.

    Part of that conversion was 13 weeks of training. One of the other IT guys and I were solely responsible for training everyone in the depratment how to use Windows, Word, Excel, and Mail with one group of people each week over 13 weeks. We exchanged roles every week. One would do Windows and Word; the other Excel and Mail; switch the next week, and switch back the week after. Few people had Windows experience; some had DOS experience; most were clueless. I could go on for hours about some of the things we went through during those 13 weeks of hell.

    And, yes, I swear to whatever deity might be out there -- we really did have one guy who lifted his mouse up and pointed at the screen!! Now in retrospect the one thing that I regret is that we didn't have a video camera in the training sessions. Some would be video contest material.
  • Damn holidays (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abh ( 22332 ) <> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:35PM (#15662184) Homepage
    I did tech. support for an ISP back in '97-98... once we had a lady call in who couldn't connect. She was pretty sure what was wrong... before I could start troubleshooting, she wanted to know if the internet was closed for Memorial Day...
  • by ComaVN ( 325750 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:41PM (#15662245)
    Java is more difficult on Windows?

    If all you know is Windows 98, how can you judge the difficulty involved in doing tasks with Windows XP/2003?
  • My personal story... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:08PM (#15662498) Homepage
    A few years ago, I once worked for a company doing internal development of a VB/Access CRM and trouble ticket application. In its original incarnation, it was using Access 97, and supporting around 25-30 people using it. Amazingly enough, it worked, for the most part.

    Of course, it did have problems with the database corrupting, on occasion, as using Access in a multi-user application is not something you should do. What can I say, I inherited a nightmare (by the time I left, we had migrated it to Access 2003, which behaved better, and I had also went a long way towards getting it communicating and working well with PostgreSQL). At any rate, under Access 97, one of the more heavily accessed tables would - every once in a while - get a corrupted row. This wasn't much of an issue, unless you tried to access such a row, say by doing a search or other table scan function. At that point, the application would crash. I added layers of error checking, which worked OK - at least the app wouldn't crash. Still, it annoyed the users, they would complain via an email to me, and I would have to go in, locate, and remove the offending row in Access.

    After doing this a few times, I got tired of it, and realizing that I had a process which worked every time to correct the issue, I proceeded to come up with a solution to automate the task. What I did was create a simple bit of code which would perform the "correction", and randomly pick a user when the started the application to call the routine. When the routine ran, I would write to a config table that it was being performed, so that way other users wouldn't be running the same fix at the same time (to avoid any possible collision issue - though it probably wouldn't have mattered). The users wouldn't even know this was happenning, outside of their session running a little slower, as I did it in such a way (ie, calling DoEvents) so that they could continue using the application as normal.

    So, one day after this was put into place, I come in to work and see an email (sent about an hour before I got in) "The database is corrupted again...", immediately followed by another email from the same user (about 5 minutes later - realize, I am still not at work) "Thank you! You fixed it! It is working great now!". The user had no clue that I was never even in the office (most likely, I was in the shower at home, or sleeping, or something). I had successfully automated myself!

    I showed the emails to my supervisor, and explained what I had done - he was cool with it, liked that I had taken the initiative to put such a thing in place. We immediately began to think how to correct the issue for good, as well as how to educate the users that the system would automagically fix the problems in the meantime. This led to a redesign of the database communication layer (one of the big things was dropping as much use of VB/Access DB update commands, and using SQL heavily, while switching to Access 2003, both of which dovetailed neatly into using PostgreSQL, ultimately)...

  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by digidave ( 259925 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:10PM (#15662526)
    Speaking of punching holes in floppy disks, am I the only kid who drilled a hole into the edge of a low-density 3.5" floppy so the computer would read it as a high density disk? Occasionally it even worked (probably when a manufacturer put high density disks in low density cases because it was cheaper to only manufacture one kind).

    I also remember trying to format disks to sizes larger than 1.44MB using all sorts of weird formatting utilities. 1.88MB worked pretty well. This sort of thing made a difference when Star Trek used 25 disks.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rvw14 ( 733613 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:34PM (#15662726)

    he had inserted the network cable in the cd-rom drive

    I had much the same thing happened to me, except that it was my own wife calling me at work to tell me the digital camera wasn't working. After asking if she had plugged it into the USB hub I sitting on top of my wireless router, she got a little irritated with me, saying she knows how to plug a USB cable in. Long story short, when I got home I found the USB cable shoved into a port on the router. Being a little smarter than I was when first married, I said nothing.

  • by VonGuard ( 39260 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @04:36PM (#15662748) Homepage Journal
    OK, this one comes from Georgia Tech. It's an oldie, but a goodie.

    A tech gets a call from Professor Anders in the statistics department. Anders says that the members of his department are only able to send email 500 miles. The tech gets a strange look on his face, then starts asking questions about the situation. After a lengthy phone discussion, he decides that the fellow who has called him is truly not making this up. After all, this is the statistics department, and they're not prone to pulling figures out of the air.

    So, the tech goes over to the statistics department and checks out their server. It's a simple old SPARC running Solaris. He sends out some email to a friend in California. Sure enough, it bounces. He sends an email to a friend in Florida, and it goes through fine. The tech scratches his head.

    He asks Anders is anything has changed on this SPARC server recently. Turns out that, yes, the server was recently updated to a newer version of Solaris (Version numbers lost to the fog of history). So the tech takes a look at the server and finds that, despite the newer OS, the older version of SendMail is still on the machine. Anders nods and says that, after the update, they downgraded SendMail to an older, more stable version. Ahah! The tech opened the config file, and sure enough, he found the problem.

    The new version of SendMail had created a new Config file. This file had some new format for the "Timeout" entry. When the old version was placed onto the system, it tried to read the new config file, but couldn't interpret it correctly. Thus, it set the "Timeout" to "0." How far can electronic information travel away from the server before the CPU can count to 0? 500 miles.
  • by bombboyer ( 948246 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:02PM (#15662928) Homepage Journal
    The following is the God's honest truth, I am not exaggerating in any way:

    OK, so I do work for this auto garage, and the owner is a pretty cool guy, but his 13 year old fat son is strange. He looks exactly like the kid from King of the Hill. He's always watching exactly what I do on the computer, and asking all these really odd questions (Do you know how to hack computers? Because I dropped mine down the stairs once...) (wtf).
    Anyway, one day I'm working at the garage, and the owner mentions that something's wrong with his home PC. I've got a slow day, so I offer to ride over there and check it out. "Oh, I'll send my son with you to show you where everything is". SH*T So the kid and I get in the car, and drive over to the house. So we get there, and the computer is full of spyware. But the internet temp files are all full of porn, porn bookmarks, etc. So I think this is because of the spyware, but the kid is standing over my shoulder, and starts going on about how he loves these blowup dolls that are in his bookmarks. So I'm like ok, whatever, I'm deleting these, don't go to them again.

    So the kid leaves, and I'm going about cleaning off the PC. I hear a noise behind me, the kid is back, but this time, HE'S WEARING HIS MOM'S LINGERIE. A lacy bra and panties and nothing else! He's got toilet paper stuffed in the bra, and he starts dancing around making noises and talking about blowup dolls. At this point I tell him to put some clothes on, and that I'm leaving now. I start to get up and leave as soon as humanly possible, and he's like "wait, I'll leave". So he runs out of the room.

    Against my better judgement I stay to finish the computer (it's almost clean). 3 minutes later I hear the door open again...and it's gotten worse. The kid is NAKED! And he starts singing/screaming and gyrating around, his fat flapping against himself. At this point I leap out of my chair and sprint from the house, as he chases me naked and singing.

    Needless to say, I never went back to that house, and I stopped doing the work for the garage.
  • by sloth jr ( 88200 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @06:17PM (#15663382)
    Same has happened here - but we've got some pretty decent management. Most of our market is B2B. We've gotten the occasional "fine customer" who through helpful heaps of abuse, have actually brought members of our support team to tears. Unbelievable abuse, laced with filth and personal attacks on gender, intelligence, ethnicity, and sexual orientation (including their mothers, sisters, fathers, etc.).

    However, we also have VPs who call other VPs at the offending companies, and explain to them exactly the content of the conversation that occurred (a good audio replay usually gets people's attention). That is usually about all it takes to clean up abusers. Too bad that's not usually something that can happen in the enduser support arena....

  • Re:USB= bad format (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @06:18PM (#15663385)
    There aren't any isosceles triangle connectors. Lotsa trapezoids, but not a single triangle.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @06:21PM (#15663406)
    Interesting. The 8" floppies I encountered were the opposite way: a notch would protect, a sticker would re-enable writing.

    What systems required punching a timing hole as well to use both sides? Did you have to put part of the punch inside the jacket so that you wouldn't punch the media a second time?

    Ever put a small padlock through the write protect hole of a 3.5" disk as a read-protect scheme?
  • by Aranth Brainfire ( 905606 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @06:32PM (#15663453)
    Not entirely tech support related, but we got a call from a telemarketer while the 9/11 events were still going on.

    Me: " you know what's going on right now?"
    Marketer: "No, I heard something was happening, what is it?"
    Me: "Well, a couple airplanes just flew into the World Trade Center in New York."
    Marketer: "Holy shit!" *click*

    Most satisfying way to get off the line ever.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stkpogo ( 799773 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @07:39PM (#15663755) Homepage
    Received a database backup on 5-1/4" floppy disk for DB repair via overnight delivery.
    Stapled to a memo letter right through the disk's data...

    Those interesting ways to determine if the end user has a 5-1/4" floppy drive or 3-1/2"
    Can you bend it?
    (Oh, it's a 3.5)

    From another support call.:
    Please insert the disk and close the door.
    "Ok", sounds of disk inserting, followed by several footsteps and a then the thud of
    office door being closed...)

  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aevan ( 903814 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @07:47PM (#15663786)
    No way. I used the same line on my mother for the exact same reasoning...she was convinced it would be a block of scrap if she clicked the wrong icon.

    Sure enough she did screw it up with a virus and such eventually, which brought the chance for our first 'let's format and reinstall the OS' session.

    Now (3 years later) she installs her own hardware and tinkers in the registry.

    Honestly isn't that how most of us learned computers, tinkering around until we screwed up, then learning even more when we fixed it?
  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Macgrrl ( 762836 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @08:16PM (#15663888)

    Alternately, I had a client trim their 5.25" discs with scissors so they'd fit in their new 3.5" drive, then complained the drive was faulty.

    I also had a client who would back up religiously to 5.25" discs, then put a label on the discs and put the discs in her typewriter to type the label... and was upset when her backups failed.

  • Re:A day at work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @09:22PM (#15664168) Journal
    I used to do support for a small IT group at a University. In addition to the general sysadmin stuff and the odd bit of web/db foo, I also did basic tech support for our building.

    One person in particular kept asking me questions about how to do various things in Excel or Word - nothing that was too obvious, but nothing too difficult either. What I realized after a while was that even though these people spent literally hours a day working in these applications, whereas I used them (at most) an hour or two out of every week, they considered me an expert.

    Eventually, I started responding to every question with, "I'm not sure - I need to look that up in the help" before every question. I usually needed to do that anyway, but once they realized that's what I was actually doing, I think it emboldened them to try it themselves.
  • by mswope ( 242988 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @10:00PM (#15664321) Journal
    "check the web logs. Bad password. He is connecting fine but typing in the wrong password. I try to find some way polite way to ask if he knows his own last name. He does. It was Johnson. OK. I keep having him try the user ID and password. I lead him through the numbers one at a time, although I could see from the web logs that he was getting that right. I finally lead him, letter by letter, through the spelling of his own last name (not case-sensitve). That worked."

    It *almost* sounds as if YOU were "socially-engineered" into revealing the password to him until he got in.
  • by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @10:15PM (#15664386) Homepage Journal
    The reason? The computer was a smoking wreck from lightning strike. He didn't want to call the manufacturer because they would charge him for support.
    Oh yeah, been there & seen that. I used to do ADSL faults/installs for the most hated ISP in the country []*, and it was remarkably common for this to happen. You'd walk into a house where everything electrical was a smoking wreck, and the customer would insist that you "fix my computer, because it's connected to the modem so the damage must have come from there!"

    Or they'd turn around and demand that you, the ISP/phone company, provide them with a loan computer while theirs was away for repair at IBM/Dell/HP/the local Computer Clown...

    Lightning strikes are odd, though. More often than not, a single electrical appliance would survive - a clock here, a microwave there. Surprisingly often, it was the ADSL modem that survived. I walked into one place - on the top of a ridge; prime lightning strike territory - and was lead down to the "server room". In this suburban house, I saw the best collection of HP/Cisco routers & switches I've ever seen outside of a datacentre. All in order to connect his desktop & laptop to the internet. OK, so the guy's a geek...

    Anyway, the room stinks of smoke. The monitor has a huge ding where the shadowmask has warped & the phosphors have been stripped - must have been nearly a direct strike to cause that. Everything is dead ... except, what's that in there? Green lights? The modem's OK?!

    Plugged my laptop straight into modem - yup, fine, right on to the 'net. I traced the ethernet cable back to the patch panel so he could temporarily plug his laptop straight in. Couldn't unplug it from the patch-panel though - that end had melted into the jack.

    I explain this to the guy, point out to him that the modem is OK - in fact, it's the only thing in the room that's OK - and he goes absolutely ballistic, swearing at me, casting doubts on my parentage, and insisting that my mother had been involved in congress with dogs. Finally, he calms down enough to be merely raving at me that it must be the modem's fault everything's destroyed because "I have a UPS plugged into a filtered powerboard, and that has a $50,000 insurance guarantee". He reaches down to show me the powerboard, and can't - because it's melted into the carpet...

    Still, he wanted a replacement ethernet cable. Under warranty, of course. So then I had to break it to him that his warranty had expired 5 days before the storm. I did offer to waive the $99 callout fee - if he signed another 12 month contract...

    * Don't hate me for that, though - I was one of only 2 or 3 out of 60 who actually understood the technology & knew what they were doing. Which led to me (a) doing it full-time, rather than only occasionally like everybody else, and (b) not meeting their daily job targets, because I only did 3 or 4 jobs a day from running all over town doing the bastard jobs...
  • by Mr. Shiny And New ( 525071 ) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @11:44PM (#15664758) Homepage Journal
    My favourite support calls:

    1. A friend of mine had a computer with similar specs to mine, a 486 DX2-66 with 16 MB of RAM (I had 12 MB). Thing was, on my computer Duke Nukem 3D ran great, but on his it was slow as a dog. He drives his computer out to my place, 25 miles, and we set it up in my basement. Sure enough, it's freaking slow. I check his conventional memory, seems fine, in fact everything seems normal. But it's slow. So I hit the turbo button, and what do you know? The damn thing works now :)

    2. Same friend, new computer. He's got a shiny new Athlon (original Athlon) and everyone's envious. But for some reason his "explorer is messed up"; when he opens "My Computer" the button appears on the task bar but the window is nowhere to be seen. But if he clicks on the button he can see a maximize/minimize animation, but no window appears. I right click on the button, hit "resize", tap the arrow keys, and the My Computer window expands out of nowhere in the middle of the screen. He says "Great, now why don't you just hit the turbo button?"

    3. Customer where I used to work: The computer shop I worked at had lots of corporate customers who had their own IT depts and only called us in when things got bad. Well, some non-IT user calls us up and says he's trying to install Sympatico software on his Win 95 box. (Windows 95 OEM version A, or Win95 upgrade, doesn't have TCP/IP by default). So Windows says "Please insert Windows 95 Disk 2". The user is confused, he doesn't know what to do.

    Me: Are you at the computer?
    User: No

    Me: Did your helpdesk give you any disks?
    User: Yes, there are two stacks, the Windows 95 disks 1-13 and the Sympatico disks 1-4

    Me: And the computer is asking for Windows Disk 2?
    User: Yes

    Me: What's the problem?
    User: Which disk do I put in? There are two disk twos, one in each pile.

    Me (trying not to sound condescending): Well, usually when the computer wants a particular disk, it'usually pretty specific. So if it's asking for Windows 95 disk 2, I'd use the Disk 2 from the Windows 95 pile.
    User: So that's it? What do I do next?

    Me: Well, you can press enter to acknowledge that the disk is there. But if Windows asks you WHERE the disk is, type A: and press ENTER.
    User: (long pause)... how do you spell that?

    Me: ... well... it's the letter A, and the colon symbol.
    User: ....

    Me: It's next to the 'L'
    User: which side?

    Me: The right side.
    User: Do I have to press SHIFT?

    Me: Yes.

    And we're not talking about people who don't speak English, or who speak it as a second or third lanugage or anything. This is someone who was born and raised speaking English, but doesn't know what a colon is. One of my coworkers told me I should have said "You type the letter A, then your name..."

  • by NateTech ( 50881 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @12:47AM (#15664965)
    Agreed that cocky IT people are more dangerous to a company than anything else.

    A great example would be when companies operate fleet vehicles. They lay down a few basic policies, and handle ALL maintenance of the vehicles or hire only those they can trust to do the maintenance if the vehicle is in the care of the individual.

    The maintenance people don't cop an attitude to the drivers, if they ever even see them, and they certainly don't question the boss for giving the driver the vehicle. They just fix the damn cars/trucks so the company can keep doing business.

    Too many IT people think they're more than just glorified copy-machine repairmen. Only those who actually HELP their companies make the situation better and fix the root-cause problems (get the users training, provide only "kiosk" machines for workers too untrained to use a full operating system, make or keep the company's money) are anything more than that.

    Complaining about "stupid users" without providing training in the use of the complex equipment sitting in front of them is stupid. It's like pointing someone at an F-16 and saying, "She's all yours. Go do your job. We'll make sure you're shot down quickly so you don't have to do anything other than get it airborne."
  • Re:A day at work (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shadowmas ( 697397 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @04:36AM (#15665610)
    Actually there is a very good reason for this. The floppy drive detects read only status by a optocoupler which will get obstructed by the write protect tab.

    This design means that if the optocoupler gets blocked by dust it will, at worst do the safer thing of making a writable disc read only, rather than making a read only disc into writable one which might do something bad.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by titzandkunt ( 623280 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @05:46AM (#15665758)

    "... I do CAD work that gets output to a large CNC router, and by setting some values incorrectly, I could at the very least create a situation resulting in the possible loss of a hand, if not more..."

    Takes me back to my salad days, when I was studying Mech Eng at a tech college in Oxford. Got myself a summer job at a local engineering concern where I was filling in for various people as they disappered off for their holidays.

    It was a decent gig and because of the reason I was there, the work was pretty varied. No way I could fill the shoes of the three or so production engineers, but I could cover tasks that were mainly routine or boring to the full-timers.

    One of the jobs I got to do was to produce programs for a horizontal machining center. This was done entirely by reading the drawings and typing in "G" codes at the machine's keypad. Offline programming had yet to rise over the horizon for this particular company. It was pretty easy, as the designers were all ex-apprentices and they knew instinctively how to keep things simple (and quick) to manufacture.

    I'd usually run a program through in fresh air to make sure it looked correct and safe but on one occasion I'd either got complacent and hadn't bothered or I'd just missed a bad step. I set the program going with a cube of steel about one foot sized in xyz bolted to the machine bed. All was going well, and a serioes of pockets were cleared and holes drilled until the load meter redlined, the motor noise went from a whine to a loud hum and then a piece of something bounced around the enclosure, spang-spang-spang!

    I hit the Big Red Button, killed the power and opened the enclosure to see what was up. Turns out that whatever was bouncing around in there was the actual tool head which was now snapped from it's shank.

    Going back over the program and the drawing it appeared that I'd done a rapid traverse without withdrawing from the hole I'd just cleared. Even worse, the tool I'd just broken was a custom diameter end-mill which cost us about GBP200/ea even back in those days. I nearly started crying. I'd have to work for a month practically for free to make up the damage. I walked out of the shop and strolled around the outside of the factory to pull myself together and come up with a plan.

    I went back to the shop to find the foreman standing next to the machine, wondering why it was sitting there idle and costing us money. I said I'd broken the tool and offered to meet the company half way and cover 50% of the damage. The foreman looked at me like I was a complete tard for a moment, then burst out laughing. He took me over to the tool store where there was a small pallet with dozens of such tools sitting there in rows like good little soldiers. "Those things go out of spec about four times a day on that machine. Get a new one, take it over to measurement to get it mounted in a toolholder and GET THAT FUCKING MACHINE BUSY AGAIN!"

    Long, boring (NPI) and mainly OT, but the lesson of the day is that you can do anything you like short of maiming and killing but don't ever hold up production.
  • Re:A day at work (Score:2, Interesting)

    by the_xaqster ( 877576 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @07:52AM (#15666016) Homepage Journal
    I used to deal with calls from mobile phone users. The number of times you explain to someone where the IMEI number was on the back of the phone under the battery and get cut off 20 seconds later...

    But my all-time favorite went like this:

    Me: Hello, IT Servicedesk.
    Caller: I am having a problem with my phone, can you help me?
    Caller: Excellent, thank you. Bye! {hangs up}
    Me: ???????
  • Re:A day at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumPion ( 805098 ) on Thursday July 06, 2006 @11:40AM (#15667370)
    I used to work as a student tech support guy at my university. I had one call to a typical sorority girl who had trouble getting her internet connection to work. I quickly glance behind her tower to check for the link light, which is on. So I go about with the usual troubleshooting routine. Nothing seems to work, and I am about to call the NOC to schedule a line repair, when I notice the ethernet cable looks kind of funny coming out of the wall. Upon closer inspection, I discover it is, in fact, a phone cable jammed into the socket. That just blew my mind, that a phone cable could make a solid enough connection to give a link light.
  • Re:Angry Customer (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 06, 2006 @01:25PM (#15668337)
    It sounds to me like you fucked up a little bit.

    The teaching I had left was teaching emotionally disturbed kids, so I had a lot of experience handling irrational people, and also in not letting them push me around.

    You previously worked with emotionally disturbed kids, but then you started working with emotionally disturbed adults. That's a different ballpark, man. With children, you need to maintain some sort of power relationship where you are the adult and what you say goes. With adults, specifically customers, that's exactly the opposite. The mantra once was "the customer is always right", and even though we all know that's unture, we still want to make the customer think it's true. My first rule when I deal with overly angry or emotional people is to agree with them. When they spurt out some detail about how something sucks, just agree with them. Don't say anything else. "Does it really? Yeah, that sucks." "Uh huh." If they spout enough to give me some idea of what's going on, I'll try and echo their feelings about it in my own words, and then agree with them some more about how right and justified they are to feel that anger/hatred/whatever, and damn, I'd be anger/pissed/whatever, too, if I had to put up with that. It does strange things to a person when you agree with them, or more importantly when they agree with you. In NLP/hypnosis/speed seduction terms, this would be called "pacing", and it builds rapport. Pace, then lead.

    You may have saved face to the people around you, but you didn't calm the bitch down and fix her problem, which admittedly wasn't really your job at the time. Would've been cool, though.

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.