T E C H S U P P O R T T A L E S # 5



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 #5 of TECH SUPPORT TALES - the publication which proves that stupidity breeds humor. OK, it's time to turn your attention away from the profound thoughts of Kato's brilliance and to something more entertaining than cleaning the little ball inside your mouse. Tech Support Tales is now a whopping 6 months old and has been keeping me fairly busy on the weekends. With the current subscriber list at 600+, I'm finding that keeping track of all you people in a text editor is not exactly the easiest (or most intelligent) way to handle the little things. Changing a subscriber's address can be as frustrating as trying to find all the dead aliases laying around on your hard drive. I know what you're thinking...."Why on earth would he put all those names in a SimpleText file?" Well...after the first issue, I really hadn't expected to have to handle more than a few dozen subscribers. I know of a few options, but I want to hear from you. Chances are, one of you knows of the perfect little app. to handle a bunch of e-mail addresses. But I'll tell you...for a straight-up word processor, I like SimpleText. I like it better than Word, I like it better than RAMDoubler, I even like it better than those tasty, little White Castle cheeseburgers.<burp> So all you Mac users out there, e-mail me with your suggestions. (and please try to contain yourself from the aol.com jokes!) Hurry! My text file is close to 32K! Enjoy! =:-)

-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, rants and extra PowerMac CPUs to:


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

wfwright@corp.hp.com, SOOOOHAPPY@aol.com, Alan123@aol.com, DANTZ@AppleLink.Apple.COM, OMcoach@aol.com, JugglerTec@aol.com, XE0008HZ@macpo1.mwnjmac.mwhse.com, martinw@rodan.altera.com, scottie@sequent.com, AFC DavidF@aol.com, MELCHIONDA_J@A1.BCH.CI.BOSTON.MA.US, ssimon@eagle.ais.net, pat@infographix.com, SamplerKWP@aol.com, Mike.LeClerc@f406.n712.z3.fidonet.org




An Intel Pentium engineer goes into a bar and orders a drink. The

bartender serves him and says "That'll be five dollars."

The engineer slaps a five dollar bill onto the bar and says, "Keep the



* 31 Signs That Technology Has Taken Over Your Life *

1. Your stationery is more cluttered than Warren Beatty's address book. The letterhead lists a fax number, e-mail addresses for two on-line services, and your Internet address, which spreads across the breadth or the letterhead and continues to the back. In essence, you have conceded that the first page of any letter you write *is* letterhead.

2. You have never sat through an entire movie without having at least one device on your body beep or buzz.

3. You need to fill out a form that must be typewritten, but you can't because there isn't one typewriter in your house -- only computers with laser printers.

4. You think of the gadgets in your office as "friends," but you forget to send your father a birthday card.

5. You disdain people who use low baud rates.

6. When you go into a computer store, you eavesdrop on a salesperson talking with customers -- and you butt in to correct him and spend the next twenty minutes answering the customers' questions, while the salesperson stands by silently, nodding his head.

7. You use the phrase "digital compression" in a conversation without thinking how strange your mouth feels when you say it.

8. You constantly find yourself in groups of people to whom you say the phrase "digital compression." Everyone understands what you mean, and you are not surprised or disappointed that you don't have to explain it.

9. You know Bill Gates' e-mail address, but you have to look up your own social security number.

10. You stop saying "phone number" and replace it with "voice number," since we all know the majority of phone lines in any house are plugged into contraptions that talk to other contraptions.

11. You sign Christmas cards by putting :-) next to your signature.

12. Off the top of your head, you can think of nineteen keystroke symbols that are far more clever than :-).

13. You back up your data every day.

14. Your wife asks you to pick up some mini pads for her at the store and you return with a rest for your mouse.

15. You think jokes about being unable to program a VCR are stupid.

16. On vacation, you are reading a computer manual and turning the pages faster than everyone else who is reading John Grisham novels.

17. The thought that a CD could refer to finance or music rarely enters your mind.

18. You are able to argue persuasively the Ross Perot's phrase "electronic town hall" makes more sense than the term "information superhighway," but you don't because, after all, the man still uses hand-drawn pie charts.

19. You go to computer trade shows and map out your path of the exhibit hall in advance. But you cannot give someone directions to your house without looking up the street names.

20. You would rather get more dots per inch than miles per gallon.

21. You become upset when a person calls you on the phone to sell you something, but you think it's okay for a computer to call and demand that you start pushing buttons on your telephone to receive more information about the product it is selling.

22. You know without a doubt that disks come in five-and-a- quarter-and three-and-a-half-inch sizes.

23. Al Gore strikes you as an "intriguing" fellow.

24. You own a set of itty-bitty screw-drivers and you actually know where they are.

25. While contemporaries swap stories about their recent hernia surgeries, you compare mouse-induced index-finger strain with a nine-year-old.

26. You are so knowledgeable about technology that you feel secure enough to say "I don't know" when someone asks you a technology question instead of feeling compelled to make something up.

27. You rotate your screen savers more frequently than your automobile tires.

28. You have a functioning home copier machine, but every toaster you own turns bread into charcoal.

29. You have ended friendships because of irreconcilably different opinions about which is better -- the track ball or the track pad.

30. You understand what Geordi is talking about on Star Trek:The Next Generation, and can correct him when he says something that is obviously incorrect.

31. You understand all the jokes in this message. If so, my friend, technology has taken over your life. We suggest, for your own good, that you go lie under a tree and write a haiku. And don't use a laptop.


Q: Why didn't Intel call the Pentium the 586?

A: Because they added 486 and 100 on the first Pentium and got 585.999983605.


Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Jerry Sanders (CEOs of Microsoft, Intel, and AMD, in case you didn't recognize one (or more?!) of the names) were in a high-powered business meeting. During the serious, tense discussions, a beeping noise suddenly is emitted from where Bill is sitting. Bill says,

"Oh, that's my emergency beeper. Gentlemen, excuse me, I really need to take this call." Bill lifts his wristwatch to his ear and begins talking into the end of his tie. After completing this call, he notices the others are staring at him. Bill explains, "Oh, this is my new emergency communication system. I have an ear piece built into my watch and a microphone sewn into the end of my tie. That way, I can a take a call anywhere." The others nod, and the meeting continues.

Five minutes later, the discussion is again interrupted when Andy starts beeping. He also states, "Oh, that is my emergency beeper. Excuse me, gentlemen, this must be an important call." So Andy taps his earlobe and begins talking into thin air. When he completes his call, he notices the others staring at him and explains, "I also have an emergency communication system. But my ear piece is actually implanted in my earlobe, and the microphone is actually embedded in this fake tooth. Isn't that neat?" The others nod, and the meeting continues.

Five minutes later, the discussion is again interrupted when Jerry emits a thunderous fart. He looks up at the others staring at him and says, "Uhh, somebody get me a piece of paper... I'm receiving a fax."





The computer was having problems reading the disk. I checked the disk and found that it had a coffee ring on it. I asked who set their coffee cup on it and one guy raised his hand. I asked why, and he said "Well, I didn't want to hurt the table."


Some years ago, I was working for Apple's Customer Service line, answering as many technical support calls as possible. Since this was before Apple offered "official" customer assistance, I often answered technical questions with the standard company line "Have you called your Apple dealer yet?"

One day I received a call from an elderly woman, who wanted to pay her local utility bill. I told the woman that she had reached Apple Computer, and that she had probably dialed the wrong number; fully expecting that she would acknowledge her error and that this would be the end of the call.

Much to my surprise, she countered "Young man, don't tell me where I've called, I dial this number every week and you can't tell me that I cannot pay my bill through this number!" I was stunned. I repeated my insistence to her that she had reached the wrong number. Still, she wouldn't budge. She had dialed the right number and come hell or high water she was going to talk to someone who could help her.

I was exasperated, but being the quick thinking employee I replied, "My mistake ma'am, you are correct, you have dialed PG & E. If you just tell me the amount on your bill, I'll enter it into our records here." I made some keyboard noises in the background trying to sound as official as possible. "You're all set here Ma'am. You can just mail your check into us."

There was a pause on her end. Then "Could you give me the billing address so I can mail my check to you?".

Red alert!! "Uhhhh, Ma'am? Our address should be right there on your bill."

"Oh yes, you're right."


I run a computer lab at a large junior high school, and I also take care of the everyday problems that happen to Macs in the classrooms. Last month, the Science Department was able to get a 630 with an HP 560C for each science room. All was fine until I got a call from the teacher in room E-3. E-3 is easily two city blocks away from my lab, where I am frequently summoned to fix such problems as unplugged cables or an un-chosen Chooser on Mrs. E-3's personal PowerBook. This time, E-3's new printer wasn't printing. I really didn't have time to jog clear across campus for another nuisance call. I recited my usual litany over the phone. "Power? cables? chooser? - has anything else unusual happened lately?" "Yes," replied E-3. "The printer smells of mouse urine." I checked the calendar. It wasn't April 1. Then I remembered the last time I had visited that particular science lab. I had stepped in a glue trap intended for a classroom pet gone feral.

"Yup!", I diagnosed. "Your printer has mice!" Having had some mice as lab mascots myself, I was aware of a rodent's tendency to chew. "He probably nibbled a wire inside."

And that's exactly what was wrong. I presented myself to the principal and told him that if he didn't call an exterminator RIGHT NOW I would go to the SPCA and get a crew of cats. He did, I didn't, and now the only mice we have are attached to Macs.


I called tech support for help with the Macintosh version of the software for Apple's QuickTake digital camera. The first live person I got asked what kind of Macintosh I had. "Centris 610" I told him. "Is that the DOS Compatible version?" he asked. "As a matter of fact, yes." So he put me through to QuickTake for Windows tech support... I figured I should eventually be able to find a Mac person at Apple, so I called back.

The Mac tech said my problem was caused by "a corrupt Extensions folder." I'd never heard this one before in my years as a Mac software tech support guy, so I asked, "Do you mean one of the files _in_ the Extensions folder might have gone bad?" No, he said, the Extensions folder itself could be corrupt, but I could fix the problem by throwing it away. "What about all the files inside it?" I asked. "Yeah. You'd better take them out first."

I didn't take his advice, but the next day I called SOS-APPL one more time, and told a different tech support person about the advice I had received the day before. "You must have heard him wrong, sir. There's no such thing as a corrupt Extensions folder."


Customer called and mentioned that his modem was not dialing out correctly. I had him issue the ATH1 command to obtain a dial tone, when all of a sudden a local AM radio station began playing clearly on the phone line.


We've got a bulletin board as part of our tech support that customers can log on to, give themselves a password, and download useful items. Customers forget their passwords all the time, and such was the case when this customer forgot his password. He called us up right away, though--he said he had no idea what his password might be. We looked it up; it was a woman's name. When I told him what it was, there was a silence on the other end of the line.

"Sir," I asked, "Are you OK?"

"Yeah," came the reply, "It's just... that was my wife's name... my ex-wife... we just separated."

In tech support, we generally like to think of ourselves as being able to come up with a response for anything. Not so in this case.


Some of our older systems have two different card cages in them: one for the proprietary system bus (processors, memory, major I/O controllers), and a Multibus cage. The cards that go into the system card cage are much larger than Multibus cards; you'd think a person could tell the difference.

We had one customer where the sysadmin was prone to do his own hardware debug. He managed to fit one of the system disk controllers into the Multibus one time, despite the fact the board stuck out a good four inches!


Caller: You've sent me a disk but it doesn't seem to fit into the drive. It seems to be an inch to long.

Me: In order to make the disk fit into the drive, you have to make sure that the metal shield is towards the computer, and that the round wheel is downwards.

Caller: Ahh That's better, but it still doesn't work.

Me: You have to push the disk in until the blue button pops out.

Caller: Oh God, now it works! How come you can't read that anywhere?


When I started working here, I got myself all the computer accounts I needed, etc... including an e-mail account. I was given my passwords for all systems except e-mail. After about a week, I called up the appropriate person to find out what the problem was, and was told that my password had been e-mailed to me.

Along the same lines, we have several satellite sites that use a dial-up access system to access our network (once again, including e-mail). One week, the modem servers crashed...i.e. none of the satellites could get into the network.

The person working on the problem assured me that the satellites had been notified that the servers were down and were wouldn't be back up for another week or so. When I asked who he had spoken with, he said no-one....he sent e-mail to them.


Back when the PS/2 first came out I was setting up a bunch 'o machines for a Big Eight accounting firm here in Chicago. Management at the company did not want their users having floppy drives because that was just another hole for a virus to enter their network. The funny thing about those old PS/2's is that the front of the CPU had the disk slot and eject mechanism even if there was no drive in the bay (later fixed, of course). Thus, we send e-mail out to everyone describing this anomaly and put tape over the disk slot. Needless to say, nearly every CPU had diskettes laying on the motherboard after only a month!


Recently we were trying to talk one of our customers through an installation of an SBUS card in a Sun SPARCstation 20. About halfway through the install, at a point where we had the top off the machine and had been swapping RAM, moving hard drives, and moving SBUS cards around for a while, one of the people at the remote site commented that "funny things" were happening on her monitor. It was at that point that I realized that she had never turned the computer off!


A Mac user called me in shear panic. "My computer just turned off by itself", she said. Fearing the worse, I went to her office immediately. Once there I saw that her screen was blank, and I noticed that she wasn't wearing any shoes. She was also in a panic saying "I need my computer today. I have a BIG deadline. Can you fix it, please?"

Instinctively, I investigated her surge suppresser and found it to be off.

Apparently she removed her shoes to stretch her toes, and in doing so hit the toggle switch to the surge suppresser and cut off her own power.


A friend of mine has a daughter who had started attending a university and had decided to buy a computer on which to complete assignments. Her father suggested she call me for some advice on what to buy, since he knew I worked with computers. I answered the questions based on her needs and thought she had a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals of what we had discussed about RAM, applications, windows etc. Until she asked.... Oh, and Mike, which is better, Hardware or Software?


I thought my old SE was having some major problems one night. I mean I kept looking at the screen and periodically it would jiggle. I ran Mactools, I ran RAM checker software. I just could not figure it out. I looked for electrical interference, everything. I could not get it to do it consistently at all, it was very intermittent.

After 30 minutes of struggling with this, I called my older brother who is an Apple certified technician. I asked him, and he went through the promptings. Then he noticed that I was eating some chips. He asked "How long have you been munching?" I said "about 45 minutes or so." He said, "Stop munching." Every time you chew something crunchy the monitor will appear to jiggle. He was right. Boy was I embarrassed.

You should try it sometime. It really does jiggle!


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 e-mail 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 periodically open your hard disc casing and lubricate generously with peanut oil to keep it running happy smooth.

*you make the call! ;)

**If you think I'm going to assume responsibility for this one, you must be drinking.

(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.