Boy, does that bring back memories. I used to work an in-house help
desk a long time ago. Every once in a while I would get somebody on the
phone who resisted all my efforts to get them to read me the error
message they were getting on their screen. They would give me vague
descriptions of the problem, or tell me stuff that I just knew couldn't
possibly be true. So, I'd say, "OK, don't do anything, I'll be at your
desk in 5 minutes".
When I'd get there, I discover that their screen was blank or something.
"Where is the error message you were telling me about?", I'd ask. "Is
this the state the machine was in when I told you not to do anything?"
They'd assure me that they hadn't done anything at all. "But, you were
reading me an error message on the screen when we were talking on the
phone, what happened to that?". "Oh, well, after you hung up I tried
deleting the file and that didn't work so I rebooted the machine".
"But, I asked you not to do anything". "Oh, I didn't do anything, I
just rebooted the machine because sometimes that helps".
If you've never worked a help desk, you probably won't believe that
stories like this are true. :-)
I used to work a help desk back in the mainframe days.
I like to think I was pretty good at it, and one day
they asked me to write a script of questions so they
could use cheap student work study types to do first
line support. I pretty much told them I couldn't
do it because my questions depended a lot on who called
and what they said was the problem. If a Physics professor
called and launched into a fairly complex question there
was a good chance he knew more about computers than I did,
and he certainly knew enough to check that the power was on.
If, on the other hand, the Physics departmental secretary
called and said, "my computer doesn't work" then asking
if it was plugged in might be a valid first question.
Actually, some of those departmental secretaries were
pretty well clued in too.
On the receiving end of a tech support line I have
had some experience with some an overseas help desk and
I was favorably impressed. The guy seemed to know his
stuff, and when I explained that I was using Linux instead
of some Windows or Mac OS he didn't skip a beat, but gave
me useful information that solved the problem. I suppose
it makes a difference how much they pay for the outsourced
Both are true. I was there.
Windows or Mac?
Cust: I need some statistics software for my computer.
Me: Is that for a Windows or Mac?
Cust: Huh? Whaddya mean?
Me: Is your computer a Windows or Macintosh
Cust: I don't know. How would I tell?
Me: How many buttons does your mouse have?
Cust: I am having trouble with my stat software. I need to reinstall and
things aren't working.
Me: What is the error message you are getting?
Cust: Well I know it's missing or something is broken. I put the first disk
in and it did some stuff. Then it said to put in disk labeled Disk 2. I was
missing disk 2 so I labeled a disk and put Disk 2 on it and it still doesn't
... went through a long and difficult session with a family member
getting a mac to work. It'll be easy I promised.
Hours of effort including reinstallation only to learn that data entry
was done using the l (the letter) rather than a 1 (the number).
Response was that it worked on the typewriter...
I've worked as tech support (software) in the past, but a year or so
ago I still managed to pull one of those dope-slap moments.
The power supply went out on my wife's computer, so I ordered a new
one. It came and I installed it, plugged in and tried to turn on the
system - nothing, not even the fan. Fiddled around for a while then
called the company and they graciously agreed to accept it back as
DOA. Paid the return shipping and they sent out a new unit, identical
to the first. Installed it, plugged in tried to turn on - nothing
again. Now I'm not stupid (well, maybe a bit) so I figured that the
odds of getting two DOA power supplies in a row were pretty slim, so I
started working backwards. Cord plugged into wall... check! Cord
plugged into power supply... check! Power in wall socket... check!
Power supply properly plugged into motherboard and power switch...
check! Still wouldn't work. Finally decided that I *had* gotten a
second DOA power supply so I started to remove it from the system.
As I was taking the screw out there was a little click and something
moved slightly on the back of the power supply. I turned it over and
there was a little rocker switch labeled 0-1, now in the 1 position.
Light bulb time! ATX power supplies can be switched on and off through
the front panel switch, but many (maybe most) have a power switch on
the back of the supply. The original on that system didn't, but the
replacement did. I'd just wasted two weeks and $15 bucks in shipping
charges (not to mention causing the mfg. to toss a perfectly good
p.s.) just because I hadn't *turned the stupid thing on!!!*
Oh well, as Albert Einstein once said "the only difference between
genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."
I finally (after several years) got one of the techs at my ISP
to add a note to my customer record. It says "if this guy says
we have a problem, check it out - he's usually right". We'll
see the next time it happens :-).
At a shop I used to work at, I was the in-house tech guru. And the
point-of-contact for our vendor (Sun MicroSystems) support contract.
The account ended up flagged "If this guy calls in, transfer him
_directly_ to Level FOUR support". There was a good reason for this --
if it was anything simpler than that, I handled it internally. On those
occasions where I had to holler for help, it was *deep*sh*t*, and it
needed somebody with direct access to system source-code to work the
It may also have helped preserve the sanity of the front-line support
people. They, by their own admissions, didn't understand the questions,
let alone have answers. Level 2 would recognize things enough to know
that they didn't know what to do -- beyond punt it to Level 3. Who
understood _immediately_ what I was talking about, but didn't have
sufficient access to get the necessary answers. And, once or twice,
I even managed to stump the L IV bunch.
We didn't have a source-code license -- the support guy couldn't
tell me what he was looking at on the screen, so I'd tell _him_. Conversation
generally along the lines of:
Me: Ok, first it does this,
Me: Then it does this.
Me: Then it does _this_.
Me: and *then* it does..."
He: Oh, *SHIT*!!!
And there'd be a patch on the way within a couple of hours. at least 95%
of that latency was the Q/A 'verification', and supporting paperwork.
That was another reason they were so willing to let me talk with the real
'back room' crew. They rarely had to do much 'research' on a problem I
found. I could lead them to the exact spot -- faster than they could find
it themselves, given that they were approaching the issue 'cold'.
Not sure if even that doesn't make them over-qualified.
In East Indian accent:
"OK, I want you to remove the connector at the back of the modem, the
one that goes between the transmit and receive modems. Now, run your
fingers across the pins to make sure all static has been removed from
the system. Wait 10 seconds, now plug re-attach it and check to see if
the problem has gone away"
Has *that* ever solved anybody's problems?
Actually, I did benefit. This computer lives on the floor and I hadn't opened
the case. He told me, sort of, how to open the suitcase style case. And I then
checked the cables. And I next blew all the dust out. And then re-checked the
cables, re-assembled and found no change.
Next up, re-install XP, with the notation, from Mr. Singsong, that the next
step was a format of the hard drive, which is why I let the machine take his
call. Yeah, I can back up my stuff. That's why I've got a removable hard drive.
But I do NOT want to spend most of 2 days reinstalling stuff (for someone who
commented: Dell also provides program disks) and then off and on time over the
next month getting it into the shape I like. And I don't believe it will work,
either, which means I would have nearly 3 days time and a huge amount of
inconvenience invested in, essentially, nonsense.
"It is not strange... to mistake change for progress." Millard Fillmore
Been there a long time ago, never again.
Now I use a local one man shop. I've bought my two home computers and about
10 at work. If there is a problem, I drop it off when he gets in the shop
at 10 AM and pick it up at lunch time, all fixed. Network problem? He
comes to me. Price is very competitive with Dell, Gateway, etc. Customer
service is fantastic.
Plenty of small shops around like that. My experience is that this is the
best way to go.
I'll agree with that. You have to be careful and check into a place but when
you find a good one (there are plenty out there), they are far better than
namebrand. Someone you can talk to, knows your system inside and out
(because they built it) and often will come out and fix it. Again though, be
careful. There are enough lousy ones out there to keep the good ones doing
use a local one man shop. I've bought my two home computers and about
Tom, I once hired an IT guy, friend of a friend. He said and produced all of
the right things. Within two weeks, I fired him - dumber than sack of
hammers. Found out later tat he moved to TX and went to work for DELL
I have 10 laptops - all SONY. I have tried and used them all over the last
few years. I am very satisfied with all of the Sony's. We had one problem,
our fault, one call, sent it to SONY in San Diego, two weeks and $300.00
later, its back and works perfectly.
All USB ports plus a parallel port.
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Tom, I haven't dealt with them for a year or two, but I've
always gotten excellent service from JDR (www.jdr.com). Usually
I've bought a motherboard and the pieces to build my own, but
they also sell complete systems. Unfortunately I don't think
they sell laptops, although they do have some very small
desktops. As well as some industrial stuff that will live
forever bathed in sawdust :-).
I recieved my Inspiron 8600 in late November of last year.
It has both serial and parallel ports.
Their pre-sales support was pretty helpful.
Their post-sale 'offshore' tech support has not been much help, big suprise
It been pretty decent. Use it with my eCabinets design software a good bit.
If you plan on dual booting w/Linux check out the hardware compability
with the 'flavor' you choose. Some are picky about notebooks, but, they
much better than the used to be.
Also, this goes back about 10 years though. I used to work for a company
bought a lot of Gateway tower PC (I think they liked the cow boxes). We
install Unix on them along with our own system software. Gateway was
NO HELP with *nix. We were definetly on our own. Dell, up until recently
shipped some systems pre-installed w/Linux, not sure about laptops. IBM
big on Linux may do the same, or offer support at least.
No, I'm leaving out the part where the ports were not described at
all in the system specs when I ordered and the only clue was the
pictorial representation of the back of the unit.
Would you like to characterize my assumption that those ports would be
included, based on a Dell provided product tour, that I screen
shotted, to be without merit?
Thomas J. Watson-Cabinetmaker (ret)
Real Email is: tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet
I just clicked my way over to the site.
Under "Tech Specs", the IO ports are CLEARLY listed.
I don't see a parallel or serial port on the list, therefore I would assume
they were not there.
Especially for high tech products, the picture doesn't mean jack squat. How
long have you been in this world? Did it ever occur to you to pick up the
phone and call about a possible difference between the CLEARLY LISTED I/O
SPECs and some picture? Did you zoom in and get some processor and
throughput specs from that picture too?
Dell runs a pretty good show, IMO. Send that puppy back if you don't like
it and see what your money buys you in ordering ease, support and customized
hardware configuration over at the competition.
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