talesfromtechsupport

“Why is my monitor black?”

“Why is my monitor black?”

Back in the day, I was a supervisor in a small internal help desk that supported 10k+ customer-facing employees. I learned quickly that while my help desk employees knew the applications we supported very well, general computer knowledge was sporadic at best.

As I got ready to leave one day, $Employee came up to me in a panic.

$Employee: The keyboard wasn’t working, so I tried to fix it but now the monitor isn’t working either.

I followed her back to the desk, mentally listing the things my employees normally did, like bumping a cable or accidentally hitting the power button on the monitor. When I got to the desk, I saw the power light on the monitor was amber, so I hit the button. No dice.

And then I noticed everything seemed oddly quiet. Out of curiosity, I put my hand against the computer tower sitting on the desk to see if I could feel a vibration.

Nothing.

I hit the power button and heard the computer roar to life. The monitor flashed on and the keyboard lit up.

$Employee: What did you do?!

$Me: I turned it on.

Many years and many problems later, it’s still the greatest issue I’ve ever solved.

Ah yes, the old "computers work better when they are turned on".

I think it was like this: Rule 0: Is it even there Rule 1: Is it even plugged in Rule 2: Is it even on Rule 3: Did you try turning it on and off again

Rule 2 of troubleshooting: Is it even turned on?

Funny, when I'm turned on I can't get any work done at all.

the site is logging me out immediately after logging in.

the site is logging me out immediately after logging in.

from when I did phone support for a hosting provider a few years back.

$me: Thanks for calling $SupportCO etc

$woman: Every time I log into the site I am logged out immediately. My husband needs me to make a change immediately and your site's broken.

$me: I hope not, I haven't had an issue and we haven't had any other calls, let's troubleshoot a bit. What happens when you log in?

$woman: It accepts my password and after redirecting me to my account page it logs me back out and sends me to the front page.

$me: Ok, sounds like possibly a browser issue, let's try some stuff

We check cookies settings etc, try some other browsers, nothing is working she says the same thing every time.

$me: wow this is just bizarre, can you humor me and just log in one more time and just tell me each thing you're doing no matter how small or mundane the point seems.

$woman: long sigh yes. I visit your site. I click login. I enter my user name. I enter my password. I click login. It logs me in. I click "My Account." It says "Hi Tim, if you're not Tim, click here" I "click here."

$me: Wait don't click that, that's what is logging you out, that's for if you somehow found yourself in the wrong account...

$woman: I'm not Tim

$me: No, but your husband is; he set this up.

$woman: Oh my god. Oh my god. I'm so sorry. Click

hahah some users. but yeah, at least shes honest.

first time I'd ever been able to hear someone turn red over the phone ;)

Wait, she said she was sorry?

That’s a rare gem of a user, there.

At least the penny dropped. I was 100% expecting something like "...but I'm not Tim!!" at the end.

Too many buttons

Too many buttons

Sometimes, though not often, I come across a person who really is challenged by technology. Noreen was one of those.

A lady in her 80’s she had spent her working life first in an office then for more than 20 years teaching people in a business college to type and take shorthand. Noreen was a phenomenon, she still used pitman shorthand for her shopping lists.

A “crafty” woman, she excelled at knitting, crochet, and tapestry work. Alas when it came to technology she had a problem.

The first challenge came when her old TV died; you see the new one came with a remote control. When it was unpacked and set up I first hear the phrase “MountainWombat you know that there are just too buttons!”

I helped by pointing out that all you needed to use was just five of the buttons. The power button, channel up and down, and the sound up and down. Noreen was happy with this, but she asked if she only needed these five why where all the other buttons cluttering up the control?

Next Noreen bought a microwave oven. Again there was “too many buttons”. She resolved this problem herself. Every time you pushed the “start” button it added another minute to the cooking timer.

Then Christmas came and a DVD as a gift. Fortunately it was the same brand as the TV and that meant only one control, but still there was too many buttons. This was easily solved by using whiteout to paint a circle around the two extra buttons that she used, video select, and the DVD “play” button

It wasn’t for lack of interest, or of intelligence. Noreen saw technology as being unnecessarily complicated. She was right. A quick check in my lounge room found that I had a total of five remote controls. Even for someone as technically tragic as me this is way too many!

Noreen was not afraid of new things, a mobile phone was next on the shopping list, and she had signed up to a computers for seniors training course in her local community center.

Alas, this was not to be. Noreen, my mother in law passed away suddenly earlier this month.

One of my enduring memories of this wonderful lady was of her looking at me with a small smile turning up the corners of her mouth and a twinkle in her eye as she said “MountainWombat, there are just too many buttons!”

Sad to hear she passed away friend. My condolences. She sounds like the best sort of people, open to new things, eager to learn all the while staying critical.

I wouldn't say that she was challenged by technology. She challenged technology! She's right, too. A lot of the devices we use have way too many buttons and awkward non-intuitive user interfaces. Some remotes these days have all but the most important buttons hidden under a sliding cover, but not nearly enough of them. And when the buttons gets Red, Blue or Green symbols in addition to the white ones, to show 'alternate' functionality based on something or other... Half the time I'm pushing buttons(besides source select or volume) on the TV remote I'm just guessing and hoping to hit the right one. I seem to have stopped using the 'channel up/down' buttons on the TV remote now... finally... nearly a year after I got fibre broadband and a Broadband TV box. Then there's the stereo remote that is supposedly a universal remote... The last time I tried to use the 'universal' functions to skip a chapter on the DVD player, my ancient VHS went into Fast Forward...

As somebody who works for a broadband/ISP company, yes there are way too many buttons, and way too many different remotes.

WTB> Standardization [insert relevant xkcd here] (xkcd is blocked at work)

When UIs are made by engineers, they make UX that appeals to engineers.

Source: an engineer who has been teaching his peers about UX for non-engineers for decades.

Lets escalate to the head of HR. Or how I learned to stop being apathetic and actually give a crap about my job. Finale.

Lets escalate to the head of HR. Or how I learned to stop being apathetic and actually give a crap about my job. Finale.

$ME = ME

$hit = Head of IT.

$HHR = Head of HR

$EVPIT = Executive Vice President of IT and Technology. (Yes… I know)

So yesterday was strange, to say the least. The meeting was scheduled for noon so the beginning of my day was pretty mundane. Handled a few issues with users who had purchased their own machines because “ours were not fast enough,” even though the ones they bought were supplied by us. But cest la vie.

At noon I walked into the conference room for the video review. $HIT was in there as well as the executive vice president of IT and technology. (yes I know) The conference started hilariously as the head of HR, or $HHR, could not get her video working.

I walked her through how to fix that as it was a simple error.

$ME – Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?

$HHR – Oh duh. Should have known it was something stupid like that.

We started the conference and HOOO BOOOY. She was gunning for me hard.

$HHR – So I have in front of me 19 complaints against you this year. Can you explain these?

$ME – That’s it?

$HHR - Clearly not expecting that. Uhh yes. How do you explain it?

$ME – Well as you well know, each complaint is different and most do not have merit.

$HHR – So you are saying these complaints were made…incorrectly?

$ME – Yes that is exactly what I am saying.

I pulled out the same folder she probably had.

$Me – On Feb 12th User complained that I refused his request.

$HHR – Good one to start with? Explain it.

$ME - user wanted me to put a folder on his desktop that would allow him to transfer items between his local desktop and citrix. This is not possible unless he works on the domain…which he does not. I offered him several alternative options but he refused each one. He only wanted the original option of a folder on his desktop.

$HHR – So this was impossible?

$ME – Technology wise of course it is possible. We could have set him up with an FTP option to direct into his session. But that would never EVER get the approval.

$HHR – Lets move on to the next one. Different user Claimed that you were rude to her on the phone and hung up on her.

$me – Lets play the call log.

The call log is me being professional while she politely berates me on the phone…until she cusses me out. I terminate the call and send it to HR.

$Me – That call is the reason why SHE is fired. Your predecessor said I handled it well.

$HHR – Ok lets move on to the lady who had to wait 4 extra days to get her laptop back from you.

$ME – Name?

$HHR - lady who yelled in my face said you helped her 3 days in a row and finally took an extra 4 days to get her laptop back to her.

$ME – You mean the lady who yelled in my face and got fired because of it? Yeah I remember her. I had to go to the hospital that Friday so none of my work got done.

$HHR – I see the note here. You thought you had a hernia but it turned out to be a UTI?

$ME – Thanks for repeating it here… Yes. Anyways the point is her laptop was finished within 2 hours of me returning to work. The 4 days she is talking about is because we had a 3 day weekend.

The meeting went on like this for well over 30 minutes as we ran through each complaint with only 1 that was legitimate. I misread a technical error and had to fix it 30 minutes later. Oh well. Then came the real kicker.

$HHR – Lets talk about the fire you started.

$ME – I STARTED!?

$HIT – HE STARTED!? (same time.)

$EVPIT – Wait what?

$HHR – Per your report. The fuse box was overloaded when the third rack of servers plugged in and started a fire inside the wall that ended up burning out most of the building.

$ME – Yes that does sound correct. What your report failed to mention on the report, which I have in front of me because I FUCKING sent it. (Yes I did say that.) The circuit breaker was not an actual circuit breaker. It was a bypass installed to bring the building up to code. The fuse box had cabinets built over it so that the owner could hide it. When too much was plugged into a mains line, which was rated to handle it, the fuse should have blown. But there was about 50 cents worth of pennies shoved in there.

$HHR – How was this missed.

$ME – I don’t know. I am not an electrician, I am not a state building inspector, I am not omniscient, and I am certainly not omnipotent. I went in to set up an office.

$HHR – You appear to have an excuse for everything.

$ME – Yes its called CYA. You literally have that on a poster in your office.

$HHR – Now lets talk about your language to me yesterday.

$ME – How about lets talk about your blatant disregard for the termination procedures you set in place. You created a paper snafu for my worker because you could not help yourself but to stick your nose where it does not belong. If you had followed procedure and not sent the termination paperwork through, he would have health insurance right now. Instead you decided to play tech and fired someone in the system. I spent 4 hours yesterday chasing paperwork and trying to keep this knowledge from him.

$HHR – I Do not appreciate your attitude.

$ME – And I do not appreciate you taking actions on your own. You may be HR but even you are not allowed to terminate employees without

$EVPIT – OK That is far enough you have made your point $me. Remember that $HHR holds your job in her hand.

$hit – Like a small bird.

$EVPIT – Thank you $hit. So you do need to show her some respect…that being said. $HHR? He is right. You violated company policy, you tried to terminate an employee when it was not called for, and you created a mountain out of a single email. (Turning to me) Do you want to keep your job?

$Me – Yes.

$EVPIT – Then never take a disrespectful tone or cuss at a member of the senior management again. I expect a written apology to her by the end of the day. No further action needs to be taken here. (Turning to the monitor that has $HHRs face on it) As for you.

$HHR – Yes?

$EVPIT – You will apologize to both him and the employee you tried to terminate by the end of the day yourself. While he was disrespectful, cussed, and generally made an ass of himself, he is not wrong. You did overreact and wrongfully terminate a good worker forcing $ME here into overdrive trying to stop it in its tracks. You could have solved this by going to $ME when you first heard about it. I heard the call log and read everything about this incident. Simply put the end user was an idiot and needs to trust the people she calls to fix her computer.

EVPIT stood up and gathered his things.

$EVPIT – Hopefully this is the last I hear of any animosity towards upper management, or animosity coming from upper management. Good day people.

EVPIT left and I went back to my desk apologizing for the attitude I took with the head of HR. At 4:55 PM the email came in from the head of HR apologizing for her role. I then had 5 minutes to explain to the tech what happened. He decided he owed me a lunch.

I miss the Wahoo Lady.

Ho. Lee. Fuhhhh...That review was blatantly retaliatory. Quite hostile. The kind that requires the state and a lawyer or to to get involved.

Echoing this. Revealing medical info to other parties with no reprimand should be a big flag.

Yep, HIPAA violation right there. And if there is proof of that being said time to seek outside council. Especially after a retaliatory review it won't matter if it is an at-will state.

I imagine EVPIT feeling like he was dealing with teenagers.

No insult intended, you showed him you care and will fight for your workers. HHR showed she is an idiot who will make mountains out of nothing and is vindictive.

"Your Internet link is down." "That might be because it's on fire."

"Your Internet link is down." "That might be because it's on fire."

This is my all-time favorite interaction with tech support.

Late one December evening a number of years ago, I got an unexpected call from my boss. He said there was a fire at the office, and I might want to come in and see what was going on.

So I did. By the time I got there, the fire was on its way out, and I and a couple dozen others were standing around in the parking lot waiting for the firefighters to give us the all-clear to enter the building.

We had Internet service through an awesome local ISP at the time. The kind of small company that really cared about service.

While I was shivering next to a fire truck, my cell phone rang. It was one of their techs, whom I had shared on office with at a different company years ago and knew well.

Me: Hello?

Tech: Hi, this is $TECH from $ISP. Just wanted to let you know that our monitoring noticed your Internet link is down, and we're working on it.

Me: That might be because it's on fire.

Long pause. Then:

Tech: Did you just say it's on fire?

Me: Yeah, there was a fire in the building. I'm standing next to a fire truck right now. They aren't letting us in yet.

Then, without missing a beat, $TECH said something he never said at that ISP (remember, premium service):

Tech: Ah, well OK then. I'll assume the problem is on your end. click

Despite the cold and the uncertainty (how badly damaged was the office, etc), I couldn't help laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Because $ISP was awesome, less than 5 minutes later he called back to say, "I just checked, and we have two portable generators that aren't in use right now. If you need them, just say the word, and I can have them there in 2 hours, any time, day or night. No charge." Our contract with them had nothing in it about generators.

Ah, well OK then. I'll assume the problem is on your end.

I mean, he's not wrong.

I'd like to have an ISP of that kind. They seem to be really nice

Mine just called after about a month of >99% upstream utilization to ask:

If we know about it Is it part of an attack even if it didn't result in any abuse reports Do we want to upgrade What the fuck is going on

They are running the ultimate Bee Movie script: Bee Movie, but everytime the word bee is encountered, a new thread is created running the Bee Movie script.

Tale about a girl who stored her files on the monitor

Tale about a girl who stored her files on the monitor

So few years ago we were swapping monitors for some of the employees who where still using CRT, so everyone can get a fancy flat one. Each of them was asked if they need help with plugging it in or taking care of the old one - most of them said they can handle it, some of them not but they ususally called for help eventually (which was totally fine with me).

But there was this one lady, the corpo-bitch style. Always high heels, always pristine make-up and clothes and speaking in a manner like she was the queen of her suburbs. And of course you first smelled her parfumes and then saw her. It was easy to determine if she was passing by in the last 10 minutes even if you're not a trained police dog.

Anyway, she comes to pick up her brand new LCD Dell monitor. I'm asking as usual:

Hey, you'll need any help with that?

You think I can't handle such a simple task? I didn't get this job for nice looks.

Umm... sure ok, just call us if any assist is needed.

Pfff

The next day The CB is storming into our office and says that she demands her previous monitor.

Umm, it is somewhere in the IT-shack but why would you need that?

YOU SHOULD'VE TOLD ME THAT I NEED TO COPY ALL MY FILES SOMEWHERE BEFORE THE SWAP OR I CAN LOSE THEM!

No... it's impossible.

Yeah? You think so? So come and see for yourself. And give me back my f* monitor.

Well, so I went over to her place to see what the hell could've happened. And so I see her monitor in 1028x768 resolution overcrowded with icons like a club on a Saturday Night.

Ok, so I've asked you if you'll need any help and you've said no.

brlahg bghhh lalgllgghgghhgh (basically spitting out some stuff about her being the most competent person in the existence of human kind and my fault that I didn't warn her about the data loss)

switching resolution to native So your files are still there, next time just say that you need help with the setup and we'll help you.

Just go already and let me get back to my work.

Yeah, and so it is. In the meantime she also said that maybe we don't want to give her the monitor back because we're stealing the data to sell it to our competitors. Sure thing, one cent per kilobyte on papertowels and plastic cups usage. Did I mention that she was just a team leader for a maintenance team?

Because we IT people get into the business to steal the important stats on toilet paper usage.

You were supposed to pour her files into the new monitor before giving it to her. what kind of IT PERSON ARE TO NOT KNOW THAT ? LOL

It was my main motivation when choosing Computer Science for Uni, right after I've learned that you can charge 1 cent per kB.

Tell their manager next time around. Shows bad team work and hostility in the work place.

Had to fly to customer site to install software

Had to fly to customer site to install software

This was from several years ago. We produce custom desktop software for customers. These particular customers were especially tech illiterate and didn't even have an IT department to speak of despite being a major manufacturing corporation (anonymized, but you've heard of them for sure).

Our software is nothing super crazy: download our run-of-the-mill installer, open it, and click next a few times and you're done. Sure, there are advanced options but most people would be fine with the defaults.

Support had a problem with three people trying to install. No amount of "click next" was getting through to them. They were seriously questioning the advanced options they thought they had to set, and talking them out of changing the defaults was an exercise in futility.

Them: It is asking for a path to install.

Support: Just leave it be. Click next.

Them: But what do I put for the path?

Support: What is it set to now?

Them: See two dots diagonal line program files diagonal--

Support: That is the correct path. Click next.

Them: But I should set the path, shouldn't I?

This circular conversation went nowhere... Finally, the customer had a great idea.

Them: "Can you send someone out here to help us?"

Support: "The nearest person is 500 miles away."

Them: "We will pay whatever expenses it takes. We just have to get this thing installed before tomorrow."

Next thing I knew I was boarding an airplane bound for their city.

2 hours later I was at their office... 20 minutes after that, hitting next a total of 6 times (3 for each luser), I was done. The application worked fine. They drove me back to the airport where I came back home that night.

The only good thing was they dutifully paid the thousand-odd bucks for the flight plus premium hourly cost.

TL;DR: Customer spent >$1,000 to have a qualified tech do the equivalent of hiring a mechanic to unlock your car using your key.

Edit: To the repeated comments suggesting we use Team Viewer or something similar: how do you expect us to walk them through setting that up if we can't even get them to install this?

My favorite TL;DR here so far.

SIR I HAVE TOLD YOU I'M NOT A COMPUTER PERSON

You were lucky, I have an Executive Secretary demand that I come out and change the toner in her Laser Printer because she was too important to listen to the "FREE" instructions I would give over the telephone.

Went out, pull out the old toner, unboxed the new toner that was sitting right beside the printer, inserted it and did some test prints.

I spent more time walking from my car and up the stairs than I spent on the printer.

Then she complained about the bill that had one hour travel time built in and one hour min. on site PLUS 15% taxes. (This is Canada after-all).

Imagine being so computer-phobic that it's easier to fly someone in instead of clicking through a damn installer.

"Grandma, why are you running Linux?"

"Grandma, why are you running Linux?"

Background: I work at my college's helpdesk

Recently I was home for the weekend, which means that if any of my family members needed computer help I was available. My mom told me that my grandma was "having issues with her computer", which can range to it not turning on, to her forgetting her email password. She also somehow went through 3 laptops in one year, don't ask me how

So I went over to my grandma's house, and lo and behold, she forgot her online banking password. She hands me her laptop, and her desktop looks different

Like, very different. Like, not a windows desktop different

To confirm my suspicions, I do CTRL+ALT+T, and there it is, a terminal. Somehow, she was running Lubuntu on her laptop

$me: Grandma, why are you running Linux?

$gran: What's that?

$me: Your laptop, it doesn't have Windows, it's running a thing called Linux. How did that happen?

$gran: I don't know. I took it to the shop in town, and they told me something about windows errors, and this is how I got it back.

I didn't get a lot of details but apparently she was having issues with it, and took it to the local computer repair store. For whatever reason, their fix was to uninstall Windows and install Lubuntu.

I got her banking password reset and was on my way, but I think its kind of nice that I'm not the only one in my family running Linux, even if they didn't know it

I have installed linux on several senior citizen's computers, and the # of PPY (pesters per year) has been greatly reduced. Kudo's to the shop that did this for her.

For the user, it is no more complicated than windows. Click icon for browser, email, no tech skills required. It is more friendly because there is almost no risk to malware infection. I don't give them root password, so they can only do so much damage.

Your grandma is wise you should listen more to her.

She probably had tons of toolbars, adware and viruses. The only fix for those people is actually to install Linux or buy a Mac.

Eventually the stripped down Windows version where you can only install from the store.

Working as intended.

Working as intended.

As I'm sure we all know, IT support covers way more than just computers. Today, it was thermometers.

I work for an ag company, and as such, we keep quite a bit of medication for treating the animals, and much of it has to be stored in a cooler between certain temperatures. After a large amount was lost due to a dead compressor, IT got tasked with setting up a monitoring system to let people know when the temperatures were not in the correct range (33-45F). The long term solution for that is a few Pi Zero Ws that will send out emails when there is an issue, but we haven't got that set up yet, so the short term is a set of wireless thermometers with an audible alarm.

So, first call Monday morning? The alarms have been going off all weekend, and they can't make them stop. So we head over to look at it to see what's wrong with them.

The first is fine, but the second is showing 28F, which is way too cold and will freeze the meds. So we go check the mercury thermometer in the fridge and it also shows ~28F.

So for 3 days, instead of fixing the problem that the alarm was meant to alert them to, they just waited for Monday so they could have IT shut off the alarm.

The people that alerted us were involved in setting it up.

Did you warn everyone about this new feature ?

I know it can sound silly, and I guess you probably warned some people. But if the information wasn't correctly forwarded, the week end worker had no clue what these alarms were for.

f they knew, well, ¯\(ツ)/¯

One of our customers once got an alarm, and decided to disable it instead of tracking it down. This meant, among other things, going into the PLC and removing the logic that generates the alarm.

The system that was being monitored was an enclosure that was supposed to contain 100% hydrogen gas, to be heated to 1300 degrees. The alarm warned of the presence of oxygen. After the alarm was disabled, the burners were turned on, and about a minute later, the container exploded.

The last I heard, the person who disabled the alarm explained it by saying, "That's what we were trained to do." I never heard what happened to him after that.

(Most of the time, there are no people on the production floor. Fortunately, that was true at that moment.)

I don't mind learning new skills, I actually enjoy it. My annoyance was the fact that they were complaining about the thermometer doing what it was supposed to instead of correcting the issue it was reporting.

WiFi Is A Bug And The Internet Catches It

WiFi Is A Bug And The Internet Catches It

Even better, a few moments later that classmate began shouting to someone else and then our teacher yelled “Shut up $Classmate you’re slowing down the wifi”

And then the whole class stood up and cheered.

Listening closely, she makes a joke about it soon after ^ see earlier comment

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