Printers

Solving support problems with good table manners

Remember what your mother told you about good table manners? They are as relevant today as they ever were, and they might help you find the solution to a support problem.

I must be getting old, but the error messages we see these days aren't as silly as the ones we used to see. Who can forget: "Non-system disk or disk error – replace disk and strike any key to continue"or "Keyboard error or keyboard not present, press any key to continue."

While musing on this theme, I was reminded of a perplexing error that was brought to my attention when I was the go-to guy at a technical college in Reading.

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A student approached my desk in a state of panic: “Jeff, there's a virus on my computer, and it’s making the printer go mad. Help! Quick!”

I got up and said, “Show me.”

She led me to the printer, and, sure enough, it was pumping out sheet after sheet of blank paper. “What can we do?”

The first thing was to look at the print server and see what was in the queue. Under her userid was a print job running to over 900 pages. This surprised me, as this girl and her peer group were notorious for doing very little work, preferring to sit at the back and chatter. I cancelled the remaining part of the job and fed the blank pages back into the paper tray.

Back at her desk I looked to see why it had happened. On her screen was the blank page of a Word document. I pressed CTRL+HOME to get to the top of the document, this took awhile but eventually I could see the two short paragraphs of which her essay consisted. At the bottom of the screen I saw the page count shown as 1/963.

Deleting the blank pages I advised her to check the page count before printing. She replied that there must be a problem with the computer because she had noticed it clicking. I couldn’t see what was wrong at that point so I returned to my desk.

A little later I was doing one of my regular walk-arounds and saw her back at her desk, deep in conversation with a fellow student. On the screen I could see page breaks rapidly scrolling up the screen. Then the penny dropped.

While she was talking, she had her head in her hand, her right elbow supporting it. Trouble was that the elbow was on the Enter key.

Sometimes the odd problems have a very ordinary solution. I felt like her primary school teacher when I advised her to sit up straight and keep her elbows off the table.

39 comments
Scott_willcocks
Scott_willcocks

I worked for some 10 years in local government this did include working with the schools team which had some interesting calls but none were ever quite as special as the calls I have received Here is one of my personal. favourites. I am all for power to the people and feel our union reps are an important symbol of local government. But occasionally they just haven't a clue. One day I was happy working on the next PC image for the current continual roll out, when this call came in now I must stress I was second third level support and I had one of the help desk come direct to my desk this is unusual in the least as most of the help desk were scared of my sarcasm but still he sheepishly came over. Help desk: Scott you were involved on the latest PC roll out I have the head of unison on the phone she is very upset with her new pc could you please talk to her I have no idea what she's going on about and she has threatened to go to the CEO and head of IT. Me: Ok this better be good put her through. Unison: Who is this? Me: My name is Scott I have been asked to speak to you as I was in charge of the PC roll out what seems to b e the problem? Unison: I would like to complain about my new workstation you have installed. Me: Oh what seems to be problem? Unison: My old workstation had a coffee cup holder yet this new one does not seem to have one installed I would like it back. If I do not get one installed I am going to speak to the head of IT and raise it in the next it business meeting with the executive board. At this point my evil side did come out but how this made it's way past the help desk I had to say I was a little disappointed.. Me: Excuse me can I just inform you I am going to use this call for training purposes and put this on speaker phone can you hold please whilst I get the help desk member of staff to overhear this so that we can improve on the service you receive. Me: Sorry to keep you waiting could you please repeat what you just said. Unison: My old workstation had a coffee cup holder and yet this new one does not and I would like one installed. Me: Ah did you used to press a button on the front of your workstation and out popped a tray for your coffee cup? Unison: Yes that's it just like in my Car. Me: Right I know just what you mean. Can I ask you do you know what a CD is? Unison: Of course I do what does this haver to do with my problem? Me: Glad you asked, because The tray that you used to stand your heavy cup of coffee on was in fact a CD tray for putting CD's in. Now I am looking at the requisition form for your new computer and it does not have the CD Rom box ticked so it has been ascertained that you did not need a CD Rom installed on this computer. Now you can take this to the executive board meeting but I do feel that they may not sanction the purchase of a CD Rom in this instance. Have you ever needed to use the CD Rom in the past? Giggling in the background from techies. Unison: Er no Um oh thank you. And said person hung up. Needless to say this person never bought up the missing CD Rom at the said meetings and hopefully they will never use A CD Rom tray for putting there coffee mug on ever again, I did speak to the help desk manager and explain that maybe this member of staff needed to go on the A+ course to learn about all the wonderful components and explained that they might get a complaint come in which never materialised for some unknown reason.

cowen80194
cowen80194

I had someone carry a computer in complaining about the "SHABBY DESIGN IN THE HIDAWAY CARRY HANDLE" I politly explained where the Cds went and asked if they would like to use them and installed a new drive. And a home computer course. That was not covered under the 1 year warrenty so they were charged. Then took care of the original upgrade they were bringing the computer in for in the first place. That was back in the early 90's when CDROM was becoming available. I hope things are changing now I grew tired of the foot pettal the did nothing too.

Scott_willcocks
Scott_willcocks

My Cd Rom query was in the year 2000 as I remember it from the second 3 year roll out this is what made that call all the more special. My other personal favourite was I had a seemingly legitimate call from the helpdesk marked as urgent the leader of the Council had phoned up to complain that his mouse was not working, so as usual with all important people that they don't want to upset, and want resolving quickly ended up on my desk. I remoted in to his pc and talked him through moving his mouse around the screen and double clicking on icons as I talked I could see some eratic movement on his screen of the mouse pointer, so I asked if he had ever cleaned his mouse ball as you would, and he replied he wasn't comfortable doing this on his computer screen. So I took his pc model and pulled out a replacement mouse and rushed to said council leaders office to see if cleaning his mouse would help if not I'd replace it. Now this council leader he was an incredibly nice man in his late 50's 60's and I walked into his office I asked him to move the mouse around the screen and point at an icon on his screen and double click the left mouse and at this moment he picked the mouse off the desk held it over and icon on his screen and started clicking like a maniac. Then the obvious questions had to come out have you ever used a computer before I kinda knew he was going to say no and asked if he had been on one of the councils IT training courses which he hadn't I then decided to call our training department and explain I was with the leader of the council and that they had never used a computer and that he did not know even how to use a mouse at which point they decided to send a trainer for some special one to one training. This man was in charge of a local council was in charge of 150 million pound organisation yet could not even use a computer mouse british local government is entertaining. But it goes to show that even I was fooled into thinking there was a problem when there wasn't and that sometimes people have to see the users to even beleive what can happen and that training courses for new users is very important.

Scott_willcocks
Scott_willcocks

And there we have it. I have been a techie for 11 years and it has always been a varied and interesting career for me. But I have always found the greatest problem is the pebkac (problem exists between keyboard and chair) be it that they do not have the vocabulary to expalin there problems or they simply have not been trained or informed of changes within the systems they use. I have received more calls of this nature I have also noticed that people seem to forget the human component of support and that table manners can be the most important part of the process but good table manners? I think not , As techies we have to be a strange mix of part counseller part psychologist and part geek this is a unusual mix of skills where somtimes you have to tip toe around one user the next person you may have to simply embarrass them to get them to see sence each call is individual as each person is an individual. So yes table manners are important but sometimes you have to be good yet other times you really need to be mean and nasty it's hard but hey that's our job to understand that component in the computer that has screwed up sometimes it's the operator that has a clue sometimes it's the person that thinks they know but really is clueless sometimes it was the person that thought they could program and made a mistake or didn't realise that a partuicular piece of code would not work with another at the end of the day there is a human that screwed up along the way. As much as I would like to think that good table manners can be useful please not everyone needs the good table manners feel free to be a complete sod if the situation needs it, oh by the way it's fun as well as a good stress release for us techies that need to listen to the comnputer woes of the individuals within our organisation. But hey what would a techie know about support, there is no golden bullet that explains how too be a good techie but I would advise you treat each person that needs help as a genuine call all the time and adjust how you deal with that person as your experiance deems fit.

cowen80194
cowen80194

We are so busy automating things that we forget the human element. But you are very right we do need to see what is going on first hand and follow it up with the required training methods. I was thinking my example was not all that good.

GSG
GSG

We have one vendor that had a programmer with a sense of humor. You can run a process in verbose mode (which is my preference) so that you can see any error messages, confirmations, etc... When you shut down the process, a message will pop up that says, "Tap a Key, Dude" instead of the ubiquitous "Press any key to continue".

svasani
svasani

I was once having lunch at around 2:45 PM at my desk--door closed. One of the clients knocks, opens the door, gets in. Client: "Oh, sorry I did not want to disturb you. Could you please setup the Conference room with a Projector and presentation? No rush." Me: "OK. When do you need it?" Client: "By 3"

reisen55
reisen55

I was minding my own business, having a wonderful day when an executive asked me to prepare the 105th floor conference room for a powerpoint presentation on her laptop. That room was historically a problem child due to bad audio visual connects, but not an issue really so I asked " when ? " and the reply was in the next five minutes!!! So I raced up there, got her laptop up and cabled in and the blessed room actually worked for a change. Later, I caught up with her and advised her not to do that again. Oh last minute requests go with the territory - no problem there for me - BUT if I had a problem up there with the connections, SHE would have been the one doing a tap dance in front of her client!!! Oh .... she thought about that and saw the logic of it instantly. Good table manners and I made a good association there too.

reisen55
reisen55

First, I made a very good friend with this user, a delight really. On another occasion, also 101st floor of World Trade Center, she reported her laptop could not get to the internet. OK folks, standard problem right? What would you do and this was in the Windows 95 days. ...... I'll wait. Ok, I saw her computer, little old Latitude in a docking station with monitor, etc. Monitor is on, 95 is up, display working, etc. All normal. Remember running winipcfg? Did that, no IP address. Hmm, must be cable - right? Nope, cable in back of docking shows green light, getting data .... hmmm. IP Protocol maybe corrupted, so as I move the machine around .... .... it goes "click" in the docking station. It was docked JUST ENOUGH so that the keyboard, mouse and monitor teeth on the back WERE solid but whatever teeth the network connect used WAS NOT DOCKED properly. Just out of alignment by 1mm or so. All was perfect then. Go figure sometimes.

psu1989
psu1989

No offense, but the "bad audio connects" are your problem not hers if they do not work.

cowen80194
cowen80194

50/50 blame. And I make my point at the bottom. It is "HER" problem giving a last minute request. What if there was a "fire" in the Server Room and "HE" is the only "TECH". on site (as many of us are) and needs to handle it. Server problems "ALWAYS" Supercede requests at the desktop/laptop. And Last minute requests take a back seat to scheduled issues or when a group of people are have a problem and are not being productive. The path of productivity should be followed. As Spock says "The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few". And "HIS" blame is that he mentions that that room has always had issues. The connections should be checked, repaired, or replaced, to become more reliable. "Warrenty" maybe? Maintance neglected in the room could cause an issue in the "middle" of the presentation and now "HE" has to do a "TAP DANCE". Yes he was able to get things working in "5 MINUTES" but what if he certified it to work and in the "middle" of the presentation the sound and video went out? Now who is looking bad in front of the "Potential" Client? Example: I know that one of my projects I worked on. I walked in to the "Bank" to gather "ASSET" information for the Corporate Headquarters. I had my service papers and all my badges on me even a story that only the Bank should have known. I told them I needed access to the Vault, Tellers windows, and Drive Thru Window, even the Offices out front, anywhere computers and IT equipment was in the building. Very sensative information and knowledge that is not widely known was gathered. Well if the Branches would have just let me do my job I could have completed the work in 2 hours. Well that never happened. It took 3-6 Hours to complete depending on the size of the branch but most took 3 hours average. 30-45 minutes of that was the security checks to verify my story and work order from "Their" Corp. offices. Now if they would have called MY contact in the first place I would have been cleared instantly after talking to "Their" Corp. IT even when my National Accounts Corp. called to tell them I was on my way and the exact time I would be there. But NOOOOO they have to call their numbers to get the information and seems like the failure of "Their" Corp. office of sending the Email to Texas did not help any. But the Point is. IF the Manager would have just let me walk in flash some papers and then walk round un checked. "I" would never use that BANK for ANY transactions. IT IS A BANK there should be procedures and if a BANK can not follow basic safty/security procedures then take your bussiness else where. I would apply that to any type of bussiness I do bussiness with. If you can not have something working for me to see what your trying to offer there are alot of others out there who spend money to get my business. I am not trying to be harsh maybe there are budget issues here but I would take this up with managment to get the issues fixed on both ends. My time on site is dedicated to alot of things and last minute needs must be done after all my important work is completed that I am "expected" to complete by my person above me.

cowen80194
cowen80194

You got out with you life. I "DO" remember 09-11 and 09-12 The sadist day and the MADIST day that followed. And all the people who were invloved at both ends of the tragidy. And I do want peace again but only with out the terror. But you are one of the lucky ones and my hat is off to you.

cowen80194
cowen80194

Thank you, I have done just that one way or another and that was all, I think every one who posted was trying to say. Yes he was right making her see the issues of a rush job. But if they were going to keep using that room it would be less problematic to just get it fixed and maintain it. What if someone NOT in IT set it up for them selves? Todays world alot of people can hook up a VCR to the TV and stop the blinking 12:00 on the display.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I had a disingenuous "Gee, I wonder why..." all ready to post, then I saw your second line. It would have been so much more fun if you'd only left it out... :D edit: spellig

larrybell_2000
larrybell_2000

Reisen55: Go back and read your original post. You said that the user came to you for a last minute request to set up a conference room for a presentation on the 105th floor. You state that the particular conference room is a known trouble maker for connection problems. OK fine. NOT ONCE do you state that the maintenance for the room and the computer/presentation connections are the responsibility for another group/division. All you seem to do is say "The connections are bad", and imply "oh well, I don't care". You DO make fairly valid points that she should not have wait until the very last minute to request the room be readied for a presentation. You DO need adequate time to make sure all equipment is in working order. If equipment fails in the middle of a presentation, well, "stuff happens" and it is perhaps BOTH of you who have to do the song and dance until/if things can be repaired to complete the presentation. But if she was thorough, she would have had a backup plan should the original presentation go bad. You got into a pissing match with others here over the maintenance of the room because YOU forgot to include the fact that ANOTHER group was suppose to be responsible for it. HOWEVER, if you are often setting up presentations in that room, and since you already stated you know it to be a 'problem child', then YOU should have taken it upon yourself to FIX the connection problem to keep YOU from looking bad. If you use the room often enough to know of its problems, it sure seems that you should be just as responsible for the maintenance of the connections in the room. Instead you take what I think the other 2/3 of the country consider a "New York attitude", and say "It's not my job". Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands to cover your own ass, or at least keep it out of the fire.

reisen55
reisen55

I don't worry about that room anymore. 105th floor of 2 World Trade Center.

reisen55
reisen55

Wonderful, I would have been in front of my manager in a heartbeat!!!!! IT WAS MANAGED BY A SISTER DIVISION that had zero contact with us. WE were the smaller division. Got that!!! I would not have put up with lousy connects IF I HAD CONTROL but I did not so I had to make do with what I had. EVEN SO how many times has a Windows system failed in one or another, or a corrupt powerpoint, or some other issue. MY POINT IS THIS: Instead of taking the user to task for a last minute request, I made her see the value FROM HER SIDE of the street (or his, this is not a sexist remark at all) for giving IT time to do a job right. ***** Sheesh, lighten up here.

reisen55
reisen55

You missed the point. The room itself was managed by another division of the company that we had ZERO contact with and they were an arrogant bunch anyway. Secondly, even so if the video and audio connects were OK, what if something else did go wrong? Anything is theoretically possible as you should well know. I like to have time to get a room set and not do it on the rush, and this is always a good rule of thumb for support. Also, 105th floor should be a give-away to tell you where that building was.

oscar.onorato
oscar.onorato

The comment is stupid and sexist.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Explain yourself. Why is it stupid and sexist? It sounds like all he did was relate a fact that actually happened. Sounds like you need your cranial-rectal inversion looked in to.

kris.willison_klm
kris.willison_klm

I have 2 funnies... 1) Techie was called in because of giberish appearing on screen. He went out to investigate & watched as the woman typed.... seems that she was VERY near sighted & very well endowed. She would type & then lean forward (onto the keyboard) to see what she had typed & giberish would appear on the screen. 2) Our help desk was called because users were unable to connect to the network & certain software from our other building. We asked the individual to ask around & see if they were the only one or if multiple users were affected... the entire accounting group was affected. So one of us walked over to the other building to see what was going on. There was a circut blown in that half of the building, not one person had considered that w/out power their computer wasn't working at all & therefore they would not be able to connect to the network.

tel196.au
tel196.au

We had a power outage a few days ago, knocked out both our offices, then my mobile starts ringing, people are saying there computers are no longer working and asking me to fix them! after explaining the power is out and they will work when power is restored. I then got asked why the printers had stopped! At least it gave our new UPS's a test, which they passed with flying colours :-)

cowen80194
cowen80194

Well in a school any closet is a potential storage room (see where this is going don't we!) well I got an "Emergency" call to a school on a Mmonday morning i beleive just before the State testing was to be done and graded. Seems that the entire upstairs floor was off the network but the first floor was ok. When I got to the school I started to go to every closet to find where the issue was.

shuff
shuff

Just yesterday, I had a similar problem. I was urgently summoned to a computer that was unresponsive and beeping constantly. My user wanted me to swap it out for a "good" PC, but all that was necessary was to remove the corner of her purse from the edge of the keyboard - instant tranquility and a zippy PC besides! -SLH

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

What causes this one? I suspect it's because of an uncommon font being used but I'm unsure. Does everybody get it or is it just me?

seanferd
seanferd

versus Western ISO or somesuch. Also, things pasted in from Word docs can go a bit wonky. edit: duhhhhrrrahhI see that question has been answered.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The funky characters appear when data saved with the UTF-8 character set are displayed using the ISO-8859-1 Western character set. For whatever reason, CNET sites, including ZDNET and TR, do this [u]a lot[/u].   This capture is displayed in Unicode UTF-8 character encoding:   This capture is displayed in Western ISO-8859-1 character encoding:   You can sometimes change the character encoding locally (look under the View menu), but you'll be busy. Every time the page refreshes, it will change back. And some pages won't allow you to change it at all.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

You cleared up a mystery for me. Now that i know how to fix it it won't be so annoying.

anne.powel
anne.powel

And you are not by any means the only one who gets that lovely symbol. By now, I just translate it in my brain automatically.

MGP2
MGP2

I've experienced that many times over on ZDNet. It usually occurs when you copy text from the page to quote in a reply. Someone explained it in a blog post, but I forget the actual reason. However, I've found the best way to alleviate it is to paste the text into notepad, then copy that and paste it back into your reply. As simple as notepad is, it gives you raw formatting without all the invisible style attached to most fonts. Give it a try.

Jaqui
Jaqui

the MS default charset used by word. it's ONLY compatable with ms software. [ turn OFF smart quotes and it goes away forever ]

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

I've never gotten that error in a post I've made. It is interesting to note that the post above this one says he/she doesn't see the error. I wonder if they're messing with me.

seanferd
seanferd

Values of β will give rise to dom! I like this list of errors: http://www.tmk.com/ftp/humor/computer-error-messages.txt

Tink!
Tink!

There's always someone who ends up with a ton of blank pages at the end of their document. (Although I must say 962 is QUITE ALOT!) worst I had was around 20 some. :)

reisen55
reisen55

If you just keep printing a document 90 times, eventually it WILL print somewhere. Note: if you hate somebody, just set their local laserjet by default to print 999 pages instead of 1 page.

reisen55
reisen55

Ages ago - when Windows 95 was king: I had users who wanted Windows 97. They really wanted an upgrade to Office 97 from 95, but they did not think that way. So for a select few I would do the proper upgrade and then put a logo.sys file for Windows 97 (the version that never made it out the door) on their system too. DELIGHTED USERS and I let them smile for a day or so before I brought them on my joke and straightened out the logic, which they appreciated all the more. One user was a constant complainer of error messages on her system. Every single one drove her nuts but she was OK so, with the permission of my boss, I put a screen saver on her system that did nothing but populate it with error messages. Wonderful. Walked by and asked " any problems today?" She caught the joke too. YOU do have to be careful doing this but if you laready have a working relationship, a bit of fun can be had and this, too, is good customer service.

dave
dave

Some time ago, I had written a multiuser order processing application written in Clipper(Dbase) for a client. Like any program, users would sometimes complain about really trivial stuff. One day when I was at the client's site, I was installing PCAnywhere to configure so that I could support the app remotely. When one of the office guys, Jim (whom I often shared some laughs with), was using the application, I decided to have some fun. I kicked PCAnyWhere into LAN mode, and took control of his PC without blanking the screen, so he would still think he had sole control of his workstation. As he would position his cursor in an edit field and look down at the paperwork he was entering into the field and then look back at the program again, I had moved the cursor to another field. After several times of this, I was just bursting at the seams as I watched from across the room. With confused determination, he would set the cursor in the field, then I would the [ENTER] key remotely on my PC like 3 times as he would watch the cursor dance several fields down. He would reposition the cursor, then quickly type something in, and I would hit the [ESC] key and remove it. At this point, he looked around the room, and I just stared at my monitor as if I was working on something unaware that he was having problems. When he turned his attention back to the monitor, I typed in his current edit field "Why are you hitting me so hard, what are you trying to do?" The look on his face was priceless! He shook his head, his eyes widened as someone who is performing a reality check, and I just exploded with delight! Jim quickly joined in the laughter as he appreciated the humor and we enjoyed a great belly laugh for the next five minutes!

bgallmeister
bgallmeister

My two greatest hits are "Kill the wabbit" and "Sssublimate the trembling aardvark"--the latter to suss out a customer installation problem they wouldn't tell us about, and the former--well, it shouldn't have happened in the first place (but of course did, in testing).