From technology to politics to video games; these are the random thoughts of a geek with too much time on his hands
Dumb, yet plausable...
Published on October 31, 2005 By Zoomba In Personal Computing
A good number of you are pretty tech-saavy and as a result end up being the unofficial tech support person for your friends and family. Heck, I bet a fair number of you even do some tech support professionally. I myself spent a good solid 8 years doing front-line helpdesk work for both my High School, and later at my University. Today I do some higher-level support, but most of my work is centered around infrastructure projects.

Some time ago I wrote an article about a Computer Help spoof book idea I had called "What Every Computer Geek Wishes You Knew: But doesn't have the patience to tell you" The concept was to have it be a light-hearted jab at the ridiculous, but extremely common, tech support questions we receive on a daily basis from those in our lives who are forced to deal with technology, but are frightened to death by anything more complex than a toaster oven (and lately, even THOSE are getting too complex).

The concept was broken down into three sections...
1. "Ok, what do you see on the TV part?" - A guide to computer hardware and basic terminology
2. "No, do NOT open that E-Mail attachment!" - What every user needs to know about staying safe online
3. "The Proper Care & Feeding Of Your Helpdesk Slave" - How to treat your helpdesk/IT guys to get the best service possible!
4. "What Ted the computer guy doesn't feel like explaining" - A Q&A style section with one page dedicated to one common question or issue.

Throughout this "help book" there would be little anecdotes of both stupid users, and stupid tech support people. The whole thing would be done in a humorous tone, and it would be as much comedy as informational.

Well, that was the concept for the whole thing, but putting it all together in a book is a bit of a large task. So instead, I think it might be a fun exercise as a series of articles here on JoeUser. Maybe when it's all done it could be rolled up in a PDF or something, I'm not sure yet.

The thing is, while I've spent a lot of time doing support, I've forgotten all but a few gems of user intelligence. This is where you, the reader, come in. What are your favorite personal tech support stories? Most frustrating moments? Most common points of confusion?

If you've got 'em... post 'em! If you don't want to do so publicly, email them to me at with the subject "Idiot Users" I'm looking for all sorts of funny stories (ones you've experienced personally please, trying to avoid the email forward stories or the urban myths of computing).

Comments (Page 1)
on Oct 31, 2005

Here's a link to an article I wrote on the subject.  YOu are welcome to use any of the situations for your work! - sorry got the wrong link before

on Oct 31, 2005

Zoomba, WHY aren't you writing this for National Novel Writing Month? There is no reason you can't write a non-fiction book! I think it's a great idea!

Although I must admit it would be very generous of you to write it as a series of blogs and give it away to the world.

on Oct 31, 2005
I don't think I could swing 50,000 words out of something like this in a month. Plus, it'll be a lot more fun to do it as a series of blogs anyway since discussion can take place on any point I write on.

Also, this is likely to become another one of my projects that I pick up in spits and spurts over a very long period of time. Something I'll add to when inspiration hits me

on Oct 31, 2005
here you go Zoomba..

to this day, this is still my worst (and best) experience from when i worked in the support industry (and one of the reasons i got out) :

back in the old days (mid 80s) i was supporting some propriety hardware for a shipping firm when i got a call from the CEO's secretary. she: i can't get anything to print. ok, says i, and we went through the whole 'is it turned on?, is it plugged in?, are the cables connected?'...after exhausting all possible options with no luck i had to make a trip to the office (two hour round trip)...when i got there i checked everything and everything seemed fine so i asked the secretary to tell it to print again, and sure enough she looked at the screen and then said "print"

i submitted this to Clientcopia Link
a while back, which is a great website for browsing all the silly questions that get asked
on Oct 31, 2005
With todays modern technology, you know high speed internet, light-speed fast CPUs and memory, our computers run very efficiently compared to just 5 years ago. My father has a Pentium II (366 mhz) laptop with 320mb of memory and a 6 gig hard drive. He uses it for writing Safety Awareness Programs as he is a safety consultant to industries from coast to coast. He believes that these documents, the "Safety Programs", cause his laptop to run slower. What I mean is that he has the concepts of "storage" (hard drive) and "memory" confused. The documents take all of 100-300kb of space, but he believes that the more he saves to his hard drive, the slower his laptop will run. I have drawn diagrams, written lengthy text files and left them on his desktop, yet he still has this misconception.

Between myself and my mother, we have Win 98se through WinXp pro. My mother loves to dabble with themes and likes the Windowblinds I installed from my OD Network. I try to convince her that she would get a lot more goodies out of WB if she switched to XP. I have intermediate knowledge of streamlining XP to the users needs, and she knows this well. But I can't convince her that. She says that everything is renamed and she can't find anything. I tell her that all she has to do is switch to classic view and everything will look like her Win2k. Then when she wants options like hiding the desktop icons, she doesn't like the fact you have to have active desktop on to do so. I tell her you don't have to do all that with XP...

How about trying to explain why, if you have cable-internet connection @ 1-3 MB/second, you only get download speeds of 200-300kb/s? Bandwidth is not something you can give visuals of to those who are not technically minded...

Kinda off subject: My ex-wife went to the Wal-Mart in town. She was gone for hours, as usual. She calls me at home, tells me the car won't start. It had gas. A new battery. I went into to town. When I get there, I sit in the drivers' side, put my key in and glanced at the console gearshift: it was set in drive. I put it into Park, turned the key and wowsers it started.
Just a little from my experiences.
on Oct 31, 2005
One of my firends works at a tech support call center (no, I don't live in India ), and he says 90% of the call he gets go something like this:

"Help! my internet won't work!"

"Okay, try unplugging your modem and plugging it back in"

"Wow, what did you do?"
on Oct 31, 2005
Its hard to think... Im still reeling from that recent article someone wrote entitled "Why is the White House Called White?".

Dumbest support related question i ever had went something like "what exactly do you mean by "click"?"
on Oct 31, 2005
I knew someone who worked at tech support for my old ISP.  He said someone called and asked how much it cost to send Email.  He asked what they meant, and they said that they wanted to know if they'd have to get a 'stamp' for each email they sent.
on Oct 31, 2005

I loved your tale of woe dealing with SBC support. Do you have any other stories of stupid support people?
on Nov 01, 2005
from a short while ago on the hwcommunity irc server:
(22:34:08) NovaBurn: omg had this funny as sh*t call at work
(22:34:15) NovaBurn: some guy calls in asking a question
(22:34:30) NovaBurn: said his nephew spilt coke all over his laptop
(22:34:38) NovaBurn: want to know if tehre was soemthing they could do
(22:34:58) NovaBurn: it didn't turn on any more after they took it apart and "cleaned" it
(22:35:26) NovaBurn: i was so close to laughing on the phone when he said that
(22:37:40) sidewinder: so, he voided warranty and wondered if he could have something done? heh
(22:37:50) NovaBurn: if he had any warrenty
(22:37:54) NovaBurn: its gone now
on Nov 01, 2005
Now here is one.

We had to replace the computer used to run our GC (gas-chromatograph). The GC was a bit old and was connected to the (now dead) PC through a cable leading to an old ISA-card in the PC.

First Problem: the tech department at the Uni would not allow us to buy a second hand computer and we needed one, since newer Mobos just don't have any ISA slots anymore! Buying a newer connection system for this GC would have been possible, but since the GC was slowly on its way out as well, an investment of $4000.- was just not considered feasible. After a long fight with the tech-boss over serveral days trying to explain the need for an older PC sporting an ISA slot, they finally agreed to shell out one of their old PCs to be used for our GC.

Second Problem: I asked them just to drop off the PC at the Lab, since I wanted to connect and install the GC myself. The tech guys did obviously not think that I would be capable of doing this so they decided to turn up with three! men. I had previously explained to the tech-boss that I would place the ISA-card needed for successful communication between PC and GC on top of the counter right at the spot where the PC would be set up. When I arrived at the lab to check whether the PC was set up, I saw the following....

...the tech boss standing in front of the PC scratching his head, and the two others standing on both sides of the PC trying to stuff the connection cable of the GC into the serial port of the PC!!!!(note that they had dutyfully moved the ISA card asside to make room for the PC) I walked up to them grinning and trying to control myself. When I reached him, the tech boss started to explain that "the connector on the cable must most likely be bent". At this stage I just bursted out into loud laughter and got some very nasty gazes in return (note that male tech-blokes to not appreciate to be laughed at by blonde females ). I picked up the ISA-card next to the PC and told the boss that it might be a good idea to actually install the card first. Three red-faced techies left the building, while I installed the card and software and got the GC back online.....

Posted via WinCustomize Browser/Stardock Central
on Nov 01, 2005
(note that male tech-blokes to not appreciate to be laughed at by blonde females )

[American Accent] You go girl! [/American Accent]

Posted via WinCustomize Browser/Stardock Central
on Nov 01, 2005
I swear to god this really happened...I walked into work and the new girl at the front desk says, "I think my computer is fried, it says Non-System Disk, press any key!!!"

on Nov 01, 2005
Oh, and when I go on vacation I leave a little note by my phone that says,

"Don't call me at home unless you've rebooted."
on Nov 01, 2005
"Don't call me at home unless you've rebooted."

'snort' 'snort'