T E C H S U P P O R T T A L E S # 4



It will never cease to amaze me how silly and befuddled some people get with their computers. Every day thousands of people turn on their computers (or try to) and come across a problem which they think they understand. The results of their actions can be amusing and often hilarious. Oh, and let's not leave out some of the boneheaded Techs we all have to endure from time to time.

*** WELCOME ***

to issue #4 of TECH SUPPORT TALES - the publication which proves that stupidity breeds humor. When I started this ezine last year, I uploaded the first issue onto AOL and received some complimentary feedback and a few dozen subscription requests. I was pleased with this start and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. Since then, the subscription requests have started pouring in. It's currently pushing 500 subscribers and it's not slowing down one bit. This is one of those kind of publications people like to share with others via email, passing around the office, etc., and I thank everyone who has.

Since issue #3, I have joined the staff of MacSense, the monthly Macintosh ezine. Now select tales can be found complimented by Editor Chris McVeigh's wonderful graphics. There are some other projects in the works as well for Tech Support Tales. More about that in the next issue. Enough of my yakkin'...On with the tales! =:-D

-Eric Hausmann

Editor, Tech Support Tales


TO SUBSCRIBE: I'm not using a fancy-schmancy mail server, so please don't send me any cryptic mail server type messages...a simple note with the words "Subscribe Tech Support Tales" in the subject field will do the trick. If you need copies of any back issues, let me know and I'll send them your way. And as always, if you have any of your own stories that you would like to see in a future issue, please send them along!

Send all mail, comments, rantings and extra SIMMs to:


Thanks to the following individuals for sharing the stories you are about to read:

The Iocat@aol.com, SOOOOHAPPY@aol.com, Suzanne_Courteau@Macworld.COM, peikba@login.dknet.dk, h-bar@obs.ct.se, Alan123@aol.com, ssimon@eagle.ais.net, ejohnfel@ic.sunysb.edu, shokwave@io.com, BettyMD@aol.com, a-brandg@microsoft.com, starsabre@oui.com, brand@bnr.ca, Pearlite@aol.com, Chris A W@aol.com, hannibal@iastate.edu, bradt@microsoft.com, ShellG@aol.com, Matt_J._Gribbins@capmac.org, 72662.131@compuserve.com, AFC DavidF@aol.com




* Preserve wildlife - pickle a squirrel today.

* People who love the law and sausages should watch neither being made.




* What's another name for the "Intel Inside" sticker they put on Pentiums?

A warning label.

* How many consultants does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

None. They're all in the dark.

* Who is General Failure, and why is he reading my Hard Drive?

* How many tech support people does it take to change a light bulb?

None. That's a problem with your printer. I suggest you call the manufacturer.


In the beginning there was the project.

With the project there was a plan and a specification.

But the plan was without form and the specification was void

Thus the darkness was on the face of the Engineers thereof.

The Engineers therefore spoke unto their Project Leaders

"This is a crock of s*!t and we cannot abide the stink which abounds"

And the Project Leaders spoke unto their Unit Managers.

"This is a crock of excrement and we cannot abide the odor which abounds".

And the Unit Managers spoke unto their Subsection Managers.

"This is a vessel of excrement and the odor is very offensive".

And the Subsection Managers spoke unto their Section Managers.

"This vessel is full of that which makes things grow and its characteristics are very strong".

And the Section Managers spoke unto the General Manager.

"This vessel promotes growth of the company and it's very powerful".

And the General Manager looked at the project and saw that it was good.




CALLER: We need a technician out right a way. We have always put 10 floppy disks in the machine for the daily backup!

TECH: What's the problem?

CALLER: We've got nine disks into the drive but we can't get the last disk in.


On day, a friend of mine stood with his back turned to a table with a Sparcstation upon it. He leaned more and more on the table, until he found himself sitting on the Sun's keyboard. The "login:" prompt had by then changed to "login: assword:"


One of my clients called me frantically one day. It seems that she had just bought a new Mac computer with a built in CD-ROM drive. Upon taking the Mac out of the box, something was wrong with the system, so she wanted to reinstall a fresh system from the CD. She had never done this before, but decided to try it herself. Well, she called me and told me that the CD was stuck in the drive, and the Mac wouldn't start. I asked how it got stuck. She said that she had just followed the instructions on the CD package that said Install Me First. It said to put the disk into the CD-ROM drive. Although this sounded correct, I questioned further. It turned out that she had followed the instructions too well...she had not put the CD into the caddy! When I pointed this out, she said "The instructions on the 'Install Me First' package did not say anything about a caddy!"


About 6 years ago I was starting to get into 4th Dimension (on the Macintosh) and was setting up a multi-user database for a client. I got everything setup as a single user system for the customer because they didn't want to allocate resources to the database until debugging was thru, etc., etc. So, all was fine and dandy as a single user system. The customer called me back 3 days later and was very frustrated trying to get multi-user working. Everything seemed okay in his setup, but he couldn't use both "machines" at once because the other user kept "messing up the screen." Turns out that he just plugged two keyboards into the same Macintosh and thought that meant multi-user.


I had a secretary with a three letter power-on password. She forgot it after our one week vacation over the Christmas/New Years holiday (She must have been partying it up pretty well). I keep a master list of passwords locked in a file cabinet, organized by building, room, and initials. Next to her three letter initials, was her three letter password. Need I say more.


The company we work for is a PC and Mac software house. We work on the Mac side, doing programming and helping out with tech support when someone calls in with a problem that stumps the regular tech support folks.

Recently, they forwarded a call to us that had them stumped. The customer kept telling them that the disks we sent to her were unreadable. They had sent three sets of disks so far and each time the customer had said "the computer says this disk is unreadable". The customer reported that the

computer was alright in other respects, and could read and write other floppies OK, it was just ours that were a problem.

We decided to go back and start from scratch, in case they had missed something obvious (you know, is it plugged in?). First, we asked, "so, what kind of Mac is this?" "I don't know", the customer replied, "just a regular one, I guess, it says 'Dell' on the front, does that help?" Yes, you got it, they were trying to use the Mac disk in a PC and, of course, it was unreadable. Now, the disk says "Macintosh Version" on it, but the customer just wasn't aware of the differences between Mac's and PC's (thinking, evidently, that a Mac was just another type of PC). The problem was SO basic, none of the regular tech support people had been able to catch it.


I am a support engineer at Microsoft for Word. I had a call the other day from a man who had used Norton Utilities to back up his hard drive. He then took his computer in to have a new Hard drive put in it. When he got it back, he said that he could not get his computer restored. I asked him what he was doing. He said, "I put disk 1 of the 45 in the drive and it does not do any thing." I asked what he had on the computer right now and he said just the system software. I then explained to him that he would need to load Norton Utilities back on and use it to restore his files. He said, "Norton is backed up on my disks also." I told him to find his originals. After he finally found them and understood what to do, I asked why he had called Microsoft for this problem. He proceeded to tell me how he thought it was our job to help him because he had Word for the Macintosh backed up.


Back in the daze of the Atari 800, I was hanging out at Atari Adventure, an arcade the featured a "Computer Education Room" loaded with Atari computers. One day, a woman came in to ask about a problem with her machine. It seems she had bought a game and could not get it to work on her machine. She took it back to the store to have them try it out, and it worked fine. We asked her if she could bring the game in so we could look it over, and she immediately pulled it from her purse. Yar's Revenge. It took us over 20 minutes to get her to understand the difference between the Atari TV videogame system and Atari computers.


I once had to deal with a user who was upset because they could not edit their document. I asked her what application she was using, she said WordPerfect for Windows. I asked her what the problem was, she said she had loaded the document into the computer, was able to see and read the words, but she could not edit the text. I was puzzled until she told me she had scanned in the document; we do not have any OCR software, and she had inserted the bitmap image of what she had scanned in into the file. I tried to explain, but she did not listen. I could only shake my head as she scanned it in again, and kept on trying...


CUSTOMER: Where can I get a BIOS upgrade for by 286 computer?

TECH: The unit should have been shipped with the latest bios.

CUSTOMER: Well I upgraded the processor myself, and my computer doesn't seem to work.

TECH: What did you upgrade the processor to?

CUSTOMER: I upgraded it to a 486DX-50.

TECH: Sir... The 286 chip is soldered on the motherboard!

CUSTOMER: I know, I took out my handy soldering iron and took it out and put the 486 on myself.

TECH: Sir, the 486 is bigger than the 286.

CUSTOMER: I know, I had to use quite a bit of solder to solder the extra pins together.


I work as the Macintosh support for a state agency. One day a user called for help complaining that she had moved her Mac to a new desk and now it was not powering up. The users are really not supposed to move their computers with out consulting us first for many reasons. I asked her the standard questions, is it plugged in?, is the power strip on?, are all the cables connected? She answered yes to all them and I told her I would come take a look at it. As I walked to her office I was thinking maybe it was a bad keyboard or power supply so brought the appropriate equipment. Sure enough the Mac would not power up from either the keyboard or the power button so I proceeded to double check all the cables. I followed the power cord through a jumble of cables to the power strip. The power strip was in the on position (this strip had no power indicator light) so I followed its power cord to see where it led. Much to my amusement she had plugged the power strip cord into one of its own outlets.


A customer brought in a Macintosh SE with a diskette stuck in the disk drive. Even using a paper clip in the manual eject hole would not eject the disk. Upon disassembling the disk drive, I discovered why. The customer had a fondness for carrying 3.5" disks in his front shirt pocket. He had also put his Visa Gold Card in his front pocket that day. It managed to lodge itself on the back of the disk by slipping under the metal shutter. Without knowing he had inserted the disk, Visa and all, into the drive. And yes, to pay for the repair, he charged it.


I just had a call from a woman who read to me everything in the "About Box" for Microsoft Works for the Macintosh. Her frustration was that every time she tried to click on the user's name in the about box it disappeared! "How do I get rid of this woman's name," she asked? "Well," I explained, "that's the name of the owner of the program, you can't get rid of it." "What?! You mean every time I startup Works I'm gonna have to look at my husbands ex-wife's name?"


A call came in and the customer said that his computer was acting funny. The customer said that he shouldn't be having these problems, because the computer was reading that it was "Ok". The tech pondered a moment, and came to the realization that the display actually was "zero K"-the customer's disk was full!


Over the summer a couple years back, I was working for a small chemical company as a process engineer. The secretary in the area where I worked had recently acquired a new Macintosh computer and since I was one of the few who knew how to use it, I got called when ever there was trouble. Well, one time I got called to come over and help her. I got there and found out that she was having problems getting the 3.5" disk into the disk drive. It would only go about half-way in and no further. I proceeded to check to see if there was already another disk in the drive and also used a paper clip to see if somehow the drive had gotten into the down position. I was stumped...until I looked down at the disk and realized that she had put the disk label completely on the front of the disk. In the process she had literally "taped" the metal door shut so it wouldn't open when she tried to put the disk in. After laughing for a couple of minutes, I told her what she had done. (I found out she had labeled a whole pack of the disks that way).





Regarding a problem with out-of-gamut color, I was told to give Adobe a call and tell them the problem. I was told by a guy at another company, "You'll never get an exact match. Might be the way Photoshop perceives color...call Adobe."


Yet another technician told us to use the Blue Adjust on the Status Window, "I'm not sure why it works, but it does". Another suggested "try saving as a PICT then print out. This printer really prefers to print out PICTs. I think you'll see a big improvement." Another said "The blue color is strong on the

ribbon--nothing you can do...that's the way it is".


Font problems also brought advice to call someone else, or no advice at all. A particular technician knew I needed to download fonts but couldn't really tell me how to do that - he told me to check the manual. On another call, "what do you mean, bitmapped?" One knew what was happening but had no suggestions - said, "It's just the was it is." and "I really don't know". The next technician said I had to tell MS Word to download the necessary fonts when I booted up. At another company, the first technician we reached was unfamiliar with the printer model and had someone else call back -- but the second technician said if it's not a resident font to call Adobe.


The next technician couldn't describe the print head, and said I could wipe it off with my finger (didn't tell me I wanted to use a lint-free cloth). This was interspersed with long periods of silence as I waited for information that he just wasn't going to volunteer. On the positive side, after asking me if I had a manual, he dug one up and read through it--but then told me, "well, the manual doesn't really say anything. Probably some little scummy thing in there."


One question concerned bitmapped fonts. At one company, after my original call wasn't returned within two days, I called back and spoke to a guy who put me on a speaker-fone and sorted through his paperwork while we talked (so that at times I couldn't even hear him over the rustling--not that he seemed to care). He finally told me to check my font manual--he was very indifferent and rude.


At one company, the line was busy on six consecutive calls; the technician was not a Mac user - he had to talk to someone else and call me back; the line was busy on another set of three consecutive calls - resorted to main operator transferring me directly into TS - technician rambled "It's hit or miss, huh?...let me have you talk to a laser specialist...what kind of cable? Sounds like a communication problem...could be a problem with the port...we don't have any known problem with the printer or bad connector box...it doesn't see the printer...try on a standard Mac..."


Some vendors we couldn't even reach: we were referred to our Apple dealer, or the TS line was busy 8 times and 13 times on different questions, or repeated messages left and not returned.


A user brought her IIcx in because she had trouble installing some RAM SIMMs. She had accurately diagnosed the problem: one of the clips on one of the slots was broken and the SIMM wouldn't seat properly. After scratching my head for a while, I called in my supervisor for advice. He looked at it for a while and then asked if we had a spare mousepad lying around. I offered him a few choices. He took one and, with a pair of scissors, carefully cut out a small square. Pressing the vertically-disadvantaged component into the upright position, he wedged the mousepad shim between it and the next SIMM. Restart -- voila! I guess that's why he's the supervisor.





HELPLINE: "General Motors HelpLine, how can I help you?"

CUSTOMER: "I got in my car and closed the door and nothing happened!"

HELPLINE: "Did you put the key in the ignition slot and turn it?"

CUSTOMER: "What's an ignition?"

HELPLINE: "It's a starter motor that draws current from your battery and turns over the engine."

CUSTOMER: "Ignition? Motor? Battery? Engine? How come I have to know all these technical terms just to use my car?"

HELPLINE: "General Motors HelpLine, how can I help you?"

CUSTOMER: "My car ran fine for a week and now it won't go anywhere!"

HELPLINE: "Is the gas tank empty?"

CUSTOMER: "Huh? How do I know?"

HELPLINE: "There's a little gauge on the front panel with a needle and markings from 'E' to 'F' Where is the needle pointing?"

CUSTOMER: "It's pointing to 'E'. What does that mean?"

HELPLINE: "It means you have to visit a gasoline vendor and purchase some more gasoline. You can install it yourself or pay the vendor to install it for you."

CUSTOMER: "What? I paid $12,000 for this car! Now you tell me that I have to keep buying more components? I want a car that comes with everything built in!"

HELPLINE: "General Motors HelpLine, how can I help you?"

CUSTOMER: "Your cars suck!"

HELPLINE: "What's wrong?"

CUSTOMER: "It crashed, that's what wrong!"

HELPLINE: "What were you doing?"

CUSTOMER: "I wanted to run faster, so I pushed the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. It worked for a while and then it crashed and it won't start now!

HELPLINE: "It's your responsibility if you misuse the product. What do you expect us to do about it?"

CUSTOMER: "I want you to send me one of the latest version that doesn't crash any more!"

HELPLINE: "General Motors HelpLine, how can I help you?"

CUSTOMER: "Hi, I just bought my first car, and I chose your car because it has automatic transmission, cruise control, power steering, power brakes, and power door locks."

HELPLINE: "Thanks for buying our car. How can I help you?"

CUSTOMER: "How do I work it?"

HELPLINE: "Do you know how to drive?

CUSTOMER: "Do I know how to what?"

HELPLINE: "Do you know how to drive?"

CUSTOMER: "I'm not a technical person. I just want to go places in my car!"

(author unknown)


Current and previous issues of TECH SUPPORT TALES are available on America Online, eWorld, Speaker's Corner BBS (904) 448-2020, various newsgroups or directly from email request at junkspill@aol.com. TECH SUPPORT TALES also appears in MacSense, the Macintosh ezine every month. Download it from http://tkb.colorado.edu/OLM/zines.html. Or contact them directly at MacSenseEd.@eWorld.com

To be included in an upcoming issue of TECH SUPPORT TALES, send your letters, stories & computer jokes to: JUNKSPILL@AOL.COM

until next time...remember to peel the casing off of your floppies before using.

*well, at least most of them claim to be ;)

(c) 1995 Eric Hausmann. Authors retain individual rights. You are encouraged to distribute this document freely and post it to other online services & BBSs provided it is kept in its original state and remains unaltered. If you are interested in reprinting any part of TECH SUPPORT TALES, let me know & I'll have my people contact your people.