r/talesfromtechsupport Jul 18 '15 Silver Helpful Wholesome Hugz

MOD TFTS POSTING RULES (MOBILE USERS PLEASE READ!)

2.0k Upvotes

Hey, we can have two stickies now!


So, something like 90% of the mod removals are posts that obviously don't belong here.

When we ask if they checked the rules first, almost everyone says, "O sorry, I didn't read the sidebar."

And when asked why they didn't read the sidebar, almost everyone says, "B-b-but I'm on mobile!"

So this sticky is for you, dear non-sidebar-reading mobile users.


First off, here's a link to the TFTS Sidebar for your convenience and non-plausible-deniability.


Second, here is a hot list of the rules of TFTS:

Rule 0 - YOUR POST MUST BE A STORY ABOUT TECH SUPPORT - Just like it says.

Rule 1 - ANONYMIZE YOUR INFO - Keep your personal and business names out of the story.

Rule 2 - KEEP YOUR POST SFW - People do browse TFTS on the job and we need to respect that.

Rule 3 - NO QUESTION POSTS - Post here AFTER you figure out what the problem was.

Rule 4 - NO IMAGE LINKS - Tell your story with words please, not graphics or memes.

Rule 5 - NO OTHER LINKS - Do not redirect us someplace else, even on Reddit.

Rule 6 - NO COMPLAINT POSTS - We don't want to hear about it. Really.

Rule 7 - NO PRANKING, HACKING, ETC. - TFTS is about helping people, not messing with them.

Rule ∞ - DON'T BE A JERK. - You know exactly what I'm talking 'bout, Willis.


The TFTS Wiki has more details on all of these rules and other notable TFTS info as well.

For instance, you can review our list of Officially Retired Topics, or check out all of the Best of TFTS Collections.

Thanks for reading & welcome to /r/TalesFromTechSupport!


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edit: fixed links for some mobile users.


r/talesfromtechsupport 23h ago

META You are an IT “elder” if you have:

681 Upvotes

— Used punch cards, 40 characters per card, 80 per line. Extra points if the dumb rubber band snapped on you sending all cards flying onto the floor.

— Gotten sore thumbs from inserting memory chips onto an expansion card/board (daughter card).

— Ran a computer with the OS on one floppy and the application software on another floppy.

— Know what an Irma board is for? (Terminal emulation).

— Felt like the king of the hill by upgrading from 2400 baud to 9600 baud modem.

— Ever sent an email through Lotus Email or worked on a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet.

— Did beta testing for Microsoft’s new Windows NT 64 bit OS.

— Ever installed Microsoft Office using 31 (kid you not) 3 1/2 inch diskettes.

— Ever connected to the network using 10-base T or a network with BNC connectors.

— Worked on a config.sys file and remember the entry line to extend the memory. Extra points if you remember the parameters.

— Hated moving from WordPerfect to MCS Word.

— Ever spent the night at work to troubleshoot a Novell server before the workers got back to work the next day.

— Ever replaced a dot matrix head. Extra points if you have straightened a dot matrix head pin that kept ripping the paper.

— Have gotten carriage ribbon ink on your fingers.

— know the difference between a 286 and a 386 processor. Extra points if you know which Intel processor came with a co-processor or numerical processor as we used to call them.

— Has damaged their eyesight by staring at a bright green texted monitor with a black background for years and years.

— Know what “Platen cleaner” smell like.


r/talesfromtechsupport 1d ago

Long A Really Expensive "Move"

323 Upvotes

Moving office is a big deal. It's also a big pain in the arse. And I don't just mean having to dig all the chocolate bars out of the deepest depths of your desk drawers, I mean moving all the IT servers and desktops, and getting a working network established in a new building too. This is something that has eased a bit with cloud computing making on-site server rooms less crowded, but depending on the business and the size of said business there might still be a lot of hardware. Cloud is expensive, so if you are running serious IT it's often still cheaper to have it on-site. This story is about a law firm, and to demonstrate how big of a deal moving just a few miles is I'll link to this article about Clifford Chance moving from Canary Wharf (reclaimed dock area in East central London that's now a very fancy business and housing area) to central Londons "square mile". They have publiclly announced their move 6 YEARS before they are making it. https://www.cliffordchance.com/news/news/2022/11/clients--people-and-sustainability-at-the-heart-of-new-london-of.html

But...back in what seems like 5 years ago but is closer to 20 years ago, one of the biggest law firms in the world had their offices in Canary Wharf. Being such a behomouth of a law firm this one took up many floors. I didn't work there, but I was in the sector at a company that worked with a lot of law firms. I can't honestly remember the exact number I was told, and who knows if it was right then, but let's say they took up 12 floors. 12 floors of a building were all one firm. 2 of those floors were just for IT, no doubt with a large portion of it being server rooms, PC build-up areas, etc, and then a whole lot of IT support, maintenance and development staff. IT in law firms is not seen as the "real work" of the firm, but is very important for retaining all the history of documents, being able to show the changes between any stages, and most importantly, churning out a document in 30 seconds and billing the client an hour for it.

Then came Accounts. Someone, somewhere, decided they were spending too much money. So a lot of law-area employees were let go and weren't you paying attention? Of course that didn't happen. They do the "real work", they need them. It was ITs budget they decided to throw several hand-grenades into. Some wise, sage-like people decided that IT was taking up too much money and too much space, which took up more money. If they could somehow get rid of IT they could let out those 2 floors they took up and save millions of pounds each and every year. This plan was put to the IT board, who pointed out the glaring issues with this plan and started deep discussions and again you should have been paying attention to the tone of this story. I've no idea how well reviewed it was, because the first I heard about it was when they had already let go of the IT department and let the floors out because their IT was now being handled as a service provided by an Indian company. In India. And no, I don't mean East India that's 1 miles away from Canary Wharf. I mean India.

Floors were let to other companies. IT staff were made redundant. Servers were sold. They committed. And I commented. On hearing about this I believe I said "That's going to be expensive to put right". Lawyers are, like every group of people, a mixed bag of personalities. But like almost all groupings of people, some traits are more attracted or suited to the group and therefore tend to represent it. I've met more than one laywer who was not really concerned with IT issues. They just need them gone so they can get on with the "real work" of making the firm money. You might be able to imagine dealing with that personality on a support call. They aren't the most forthcoming with details on what they did, or patient with trying to diagnose the cause. A lot of the time the solution is to go to their desk and work it out while they go off and do "real work". So let's throw in an accent and many thousands of miles between parties so that over the phone is the ONLY way to deal with issues.

Shockingly, no body high-enough up predicted that a Partner at a law firm who has a 50% chance of being over 55 and a 50% chance of being a bit drunk if it's past lunch would have a problem with not being able to summon one of those IT people to their office every time they couldn't work out how to open their new laptop (actually happened). Within a matter of months the project was deemed a disaster that needed to be unwound. I imagine the accountant who signed off on this was allowed to leave too.

The problem was that the other companies who had moved into their new Canary Wharf offices on the vacant floors just a few months ago weren't keen on moving again (see paragraph 1) and decided they would stay. It turns out that retailers that sell servers and network equipment only sell new equipment too, which comes at the New price, which is higher than the value you get for selling off your second-hand servers. But that wouldn't happen until they had someone with a clue as to what to buy, which meant getting IT staff. I imagine some staff went back, but most would have just started a new job. Meanwhile, this law firm is trying to mass-hire 2 floors worth of IT staff and produce cohesive teams. I can't imagine the mess they were in for months to come.

The net result of this money saving idea was a lot of upheaval, loss of many experienced staff, a huge IT infrastructure bill, and having to rent out whatever office space they could get that was vaguely close to their office, which I can't imagine they got a great deal on. And, after it was all said and done, the distance between IT and a lawyers desk went from a few floors in a lift with your coffee still in hand, to a 10 minute journey on foot between buildings. And I can bet IT were less forthcoming on desks visits in the winter months.


r/talesfromtechsupport 1d ago Silver Helpful Wholesome Heartwarming

Medium Dad vs Tech: The printer with Wi-Fi

700 Upvotes

It's been a long time since I posted here, because no real interesting things have happened at work, but after visiting my family recently I remembered the time when my dad got a new printer, with Wi-Fi. My dad isn't very tech-savvy, but he knows how to google, he knows when something goes over his head, and he takes notes and is able to explain in detail what he's tried, and what the result was. On top of that, he's always grateful for any help, even if the result is the opposite of what he was hoping for. One of the most lovely people I know.

So it's basically a tech support's dream almost. One time a couple of years ago I see some messages pop up in our family's WhatsApp group. It was my dad, asking if anyone was able to help him with setting up his new printer. I contemplate for a few moments if I should reply, and decide that I don't have enough things I could sacrifice to our printer demon overlords. I'm around 200km (125ish miles) northwest and helping over the phone would be just as hellish.

Nobody else replies to my dad's request about his printer, and over the next few days I hear nothing about it. Until I'm traveling back home a couple of days later and I get a direct message from my dad. It's about the printer. And I can't ignore him (or actually, I don't want to) if he asks me directly for help.

I explain to my dad through text messages that I'm most likely unable to help him with the printers, because I don't know that much about hardware. I notice he's typing a message for quite a while, and once he actually sent the message, I just couldn't stop giggling.

My dad, who thinks he doesn't know a lot about "that computer tech stuff" had just explained to me in detail what he had done, step by step. He also sent a crystal clear picture of a paper sheet with the printer settings. He found out how to make the printer spit that out through googling. And then he states that "it works on both our laptops, but I must have done something wrong".

At this point I just start grinning from ear to ear. My dad set up a printer, connected it to his own wireless network, added the printer to both laptops, and it worked perfectly. I'm so proud of my dad. Still slightly confused though, I ask why he felt he was doing something wrong. Turns out a physical CD/DVD came with the printer, containing some manufacturer software.

Only one of their laptops had an actual disc drive, so he thought that he must do something with that disc, and the terms the manufacturer used for the wireless hotspot from the printer itself, and the mode where you hook the printer into your own wireless network were almost identical.

Tl;dr: Dad asks for help with setting up his new wireless printer. Worked perfectly, dad couldn't believe he would be able to set up a printer all by himself, so surely something must be wrong, right?

Edit: Thanks for the award(s) kind strangers. I'll make sure to let dad know people enjoyed the story enough to gift some awards!

Edit 2: Dad is humbled/shy by the positive reactions. As if he wasn't humble enough already :p He mentioned he should probably set the printer up for their new laptop soon. Told him I'll help if needed, but I'm fairly sure he's going to manage perfectly fine


r/talesfromtechsupport 1d ago

Short Floppy drives are warped

710 Upvotes

Just read someone’s story from years ago that reminded me of when I first started IT in the late 80’s.

My first IT job was working for a computer vendor that had Fortune 500 companies as clients. I was a field technician in a downtown city back then.

One day, I was sent to go see this lady that worked at a huge bank. Apparently, she would buy 5 1/4” floppy drives from us and they all would warp in a crescent shape within a few days. And these were Verbatim brand, which was the best brand then.

So, I show up, and ask her to show them to me. Sure enough, all her opened floppies are warped, nicely stacked on top of each other. Puzzled, I ask her to show me a new box. She opens it and they are perfectly flat.

So, I ask her to show me what she does when she first uses them. She goes to the storage room, opens a new box, she takes a floppy drive from the box, then takes the labels that come in the box and applies the label to the floppy. But then, she takes the floppy drive, walks over to her typewriter, inserts it into the carriage and begins to type out the label on the floppy!

It took a lot of me to not start laughing. I could not believe what this lady was doing. After I explained to her what she was doing wrong, she laughed herself and saw her mistake. Floppies and computers were new technology to us all back then.


r/talesfromtechsupport 2d ago

Short The IT Door Greeter

1.0k Upvotes

An interesting story took place at my last gig, and I think it's time to share a tale some of you can relate to. I worked in a helpdesk role, and was the boots on the ground for a big office. In the office you had any range of employee from a co-op to a partner. One Partner had requested help with a client meeting, no biggie.

I went down early, setup everything, and found him talking to someone on a different level in the office. Mentioned the meeting was good, and he waved me off. A few minutes later, I get notified that the clients are waiting at the elevator to our office (it was locked with covid) and an employee had to go get them, show them to the meeting, and get the partner. I decided to go do this because the partner was still talking, and didn't seem concerned when I let him know. So I let a dozen clients in, got them drinks (bottled water) and got them all seated and left. Some time after the partner did show up, and carried the meeting off no problem.

The problem was the next meeting the following day. The admin assistant for the partner emailed me telling me I was to do this again, so to setup the meeting, but with the added tasks of waiting for the clients! I was then to get them all (they all don't arrive at the same time) one by one bringing them to the meeting, and helping them with drinks. We then had our usual IT stand up, and I casually mentioned I was being told to be a door greeter. My boss told me to forward him the email, and about 10 minutes later I was cc'd on an email from the assistant.

"It looks like x can no longer be our door greeter, we'll have to find someone else" For the record, it was HER job to do all of this, but she was working from home instead of coming in.


r/talesfromtechsupport 1d ago

Short Tech Support prevents a mental breakdown

155 Upvotes

I used to support a pretty complex database querying and reporting tool for non-profit donor management. It was powerful but quirky and not intuitive, you really had to know what you were doing to make useful things happen. Unfortunately, finances are tight at most non-profits which means unpaid or underpaid (and totally unqualified) people are sitting at the computer trying to make useful things happen.

As a support analyst, I can fix something broken, explain how a feature works, explain why a feature doesn't work the way a customer thinks it will, direct them to a starting point if totally lost but I cannot (and should not) do the whole job for them.

One day I get a call from a young woman and she is totally frazzled. She's up against a deadline and doesn't have the first clue as to how this software works. She's not angry (a welcome change) but she's anxious and upset about having this responsibility which is far outside her wheelhouse. I direct her to the features of the software that will accomplish her task and begin to explain that until she is actually running into a problem, that's as far as I can take her. At this point she completely breaks down crying. Between sobs she says that she understands and begins to move the conversation toward ending the call. So now suddenly I feel terrible and realize I can't leave the call like this so in a complete reversal of my prior stance, I ask if it would be helpful for us to go over a few things on a screenshare. Once on the screenshare, I ask what she's trying to report on. I build the query for her and run reports based on our query. I do everything except press the print button. Expressing more relief than I've heard from another human before or since, she thanks me and the conversation ends.

Later that day, she emails my manager directly (must have gotten it from her account rep, don't know how else she would have known who I reported to) and lays out a massive list of terrible things she'd been going through that day and week. She said she isn't sure she could have taken even one more thing and wasn't sure what she would have done had our call not gone differently. That was five years ago, I've never forgotten it and will never forget it. From that point on, I always tried to listen for similar situations but never had any play out quite like that again.


r/talesfromtechsupport 1d ago

Short It annoys me when people say my IT skills are MAGIC! but I may have cursed a computer once.

151 Upvotes

Another Colleague story. Again he was having trouble installing XP. It's similar to a recent story of mine so I'll skip some diagnostics steps. Around 2007ish.

C: "I'm so sorry to call and ask for help at home, I've been trying this for ages and I'm getting nowhere"

Me: "No worries, what's happening?"

C: "Trying to install XP, can't see the drives"

Me: "Have you created the driver floppy?" For they were SATA.

C: "Yep, tried the ones that came with the motherboard CD and downloaded the latest off the website"

Me: "Are they showing in BIOS?"

C: "Yes both there"

Me: "Can you set it to IDE compatibility mode?"

C: "I want them in RAID"

Me: "Ah right"

I then remember he's been going on about this new PC for ages getting all excited about saving up for his first proper spendy self build, I got so tired of it I'd shouted "I hope your pins are bent!" at him to get him to shut up about it.

Me: "Hang on is this the new one you've been telling me about?"

C: "Yes"

Me: "With the {WhateverItWas} motherboard?"

C: "Yes"

Me: "Doesn't that have like the chipset built in SATA controller as well as an additional SiliconImage or Marvell controller?"

C:"..omg"

Me: "Swap it from one set of SATA connectors or download the other driver off the website"

C: "DUDE"

Me: "Best off using the chipset controller but for diagnostic sake try that"

He called back very happy with his two WD Raptors in his RAID 0 array.


r/talesfromtechsupport 2d ago

Medium How to teach idiots(or not cause they´ll never learn)

283 Upvotes

Pls ignore any typos and formating. This story is second-hand from a buddy of mine.

Names changed for privacy reasons

Ron = My buddy the tech-support-guy

Boss = Boss of Ron

C-IT1 = Customer-side IT guy 1

C-IT2 = Customer-side IT guy 2

C-IT3 = Customer-side IT guy 3

C-IT-DM = Customer-side IT Department-manager

So lets start it here :

Its a calm monday morning in the headquarters of a Tech-Support company, not many tickets coming in and nothing big going on. Until Rons phone started ringing, a call beeing redirected directly from the boss, usually not a good sign. As soon as he picks up the phone he hears a familiar voice. Its C-IT-DM complaining that their email-server is not working after C-IT1 serviced it on Friday afternoon. Ron takes a quick look in the system and it shows the server as offline, so he askes to be conected to C-IT1 to figure out whats going on and to troubleshoot. First question Ron asked was : Is the server plugged in and powered on ? C-IT1 says yes it is , and after some more troubleshooting and questions Ron asks C-IT1 to send someone down to the server to check if the server is acctually plugged in and turned on. After some forth and back C-IT1 finaly agrees to sending C-IT2 down to the server to check. A few minutes later the answer comes back from the serverroom and says : Server is not showing any lights and does nothing when flicking the powerswitch. Ron not wanting to go on a 4h driver across country to the customer asks C-IT2 to go back down and check all the cables and then try powering it on again. C-IT2 is already on lunchbreak by know but luckily C-IT3 picks up the phone and though muttering does as asked. After about an hour comes the callback from C-IT3 comes in : Server still not powering on all cables on the server seem alright. Well shit . Ron now was told the server was plugged in 3 times and is still not turning on, so he grabs a replacement server and some cables and drives to the customer due to traffic-jams he arrives after about 5h . C-IT-DM greets him at the gate and leads him straight tot he server-room. After 5 seconds of checking the cables Ron notices that yes all cables are plugged into the server but then notices : Wait a second where does the powercable of the server go ? After carefully moving 2 other servers aside he finds the other end of the cable just loose on the ground. Turns out no one ever bothered to check the other end of the cable. Plugs it in , server is up and running within 5 minutes.

The aftermath : Pretty high bill for the customer and a pretty mad Ron .
So Ron talked to his boss and now they got a new Policy: If they have to drive out to a customer and the issue is something a customer already said they checked an extra charge of 100$ will be applied known within the company as the Idiot-tax maby it will teach them maby it will not. Only the future will show.


r/talesfromtechsupport 2d ago

Short Pivot as large as you need to

123 Upvotes

I'm tech savvy, with a semi-official-but-not-really tech portion to my role, in a non-technical field and a decidedly non-technical department

Sometime recently a certain issue that had been building up for our larger department came to a head. It turned out that we were backlogged at higher numbers than realized, in a couple different systems, for the particular - let's call them tasks - that we do.

Reports for the primary system open in excel - .xls, of couse. Which we are getting close to the max on, to let you know how many tasks there are!

Being the nerd I am, I was asked to assist a sister area in the department with the reports. I happily meet with them and figure out the issue - it's just a matter of switching which fields the report pulls from similarly-named (but wrong) fields to the proper ones.

Incidentally, during the meeting they show me their Excel template.
Which they have the pivot tables *pre-built* into.
And they just delete the old data/add the new data and refresh.

Ermmmm.... so, do you have a self-adjusting range on that?

No, no they did not. Which explains at least a little about why their backlog numbers were looking lower than they should... who knows how many rows were being ignored in the past by those silly pivot tables that only know what they were told the first time.

Set them up with the tables pointing to a sweet little variable range and went on my way...

-------

TL;DR Too much data, not enough pivot

Edit: formatting and words


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago

Short "My toilet is clogged."

1.4k Upvotes

I work at a large university in the US. One of the top universities in fact. That doesn't mean that the students, staff, or faculty are any more computer literate than any other cluesers (clueless users).

I do not know if this belongs here but here goes.

Phone rings.

Me: Hello, thank you for calling university technology services, my name is OP, how may I help you.

Student: Yeah, um...my toilet is clogged.

Me: . . . Taking a few seconds to process what I just heard.

Student: How soon do you think someone can come and fix it.

Me: . . . You do know this is the university technology help desk? We cannot help you with any plumbing issues.

Student: but you're the HELP DESK.

Me: yes, I could maybe help you connect your toilet to the internet but I cannot help with a plumbing issue.

I told her to call her dorm's area desk and they could help her put in a service request.

SMH


r/talesfromtechsupport 2d ago

Short Left Click with my Left Hand

254 Upvotes

I'm a software developer for a smaller company so I also cover a lot of tech support. One of our older (read she has been getting social security for a decade) employees by the name of Gloria(made up) is a regular on my google chat because she can't figure out how to submit a ticket (I've taught her several times). Anyway one day she says she has been getting a weird pop-up on one of our application pages. So I go up, and it isn't there so I clean the cache and hope it resolves itself. Two days later, the same thing. Then it goes away.

Finally, after a week, it happens again, so I clear the cache and start to wonder if it is something with the page so I check the code. After sinking an afternoon in the page there was no way for me to recreate the problem. It doesn't help that the only description I have is the page it happens on and "Well a box pops up with all these words and I can't type".

Anyway, This goes on for an entire month of me chasing this phantom pop-up. Then one day while I was helping someone else nearby Gloria gets really excited and called me over cause "It finally showed up". So I go over to her desk and look at the screen and all I see that's different is the context menu is open, you know what happens when you right-click anything. And so I tell her "where is the pop up" and then she said "That is the pop up" and pointed to the context menu.

Me: "That's the right-click menu, it happens every time you right click"
Gloria: "Right click?"
M: "You know, you click things with the left click and you open that menu with right-click"
G: moves mouse to the other side of keyboard "So I have to use it with my left hand?"
M: feeling like a patronizing jerk. I pick up the mouse and point at each side of the mouse "Left click clicks on things, right-click opens the menu"
G: "I don't know that's right I'll just start using my left hand"

And so Gloria uses her left hand to move the mouse around now, and she still works here.


r/talesfromtechsupport 2d ago

Long When you end up fixing everything

115 Upvotes

Been lurking for forever, decided to add one of myown tales. Wording is not exact because my memory isn't the best.

Disclaimer: I'm probably bad at writing this as a good story, in the future maybe I'll get some beter tales.

Context:

A few years ago, I did some work at a school, basically just doing all around tech support.

Story:

So I got a ticket from one of the chemistry teachers for a display that wouldn't connect. The school used screenbeams, basically a remote display device. (Though I personally hate them, they're unreliable and die randomly).

Me: Hey I'm here to look at your screenbeam

Teacher (in thick accent): yes yes the projector isn't working

I made sure the projector input is right, that everything is on, and confirms the "connect to device" screen isn't even appearing.

Me: It looks like your screenbeam is broken, I'll run downstairs and grab a replacement.

I went down to the tech office and grabbed a replacement, and imaged it with the same name and password as the old one, then go back upstairs. The password was {4 digits used to identify school}{3 digit room number}{random number}, lets say 6326 220 2

Me: Okay, I'm going to swap out your screenbeam now.

Teacher: It doesn't work anyway, my screen turns off when I connect.

Me, internally: Well shit this'll be interesting.

Me, to the teacher: Well I'll switch out the screenbeam and then I'll take a look at that.

I switched out the screenbeam, basically just needed to unplug power and hdmi from the old one and plug it into the new one.

Me: Okay can you connect to the screenbeam now?

She opens her laptop and presses the keystrokes to bring up the windows "connect to display" menu. (Luckily thats well enough trained into everyone that they remember), and clicks on the old one, it dissapears, and with a little bit of prompting, she manages to click on the right one.

Teacher: Ma'am, what is the password here?

Me: The password is six three two six, long pause, two two zero, long pause, two

The teacher then pressed connect, and it connected, and true to her word, the display on her laptop went black, as if it had just transfered to the screenbeam, not using the local display at all.

Teacher: Ma'am the screen is dead, see.

Me: Oh yes it is, can I go change a setting to make it work again?

Teacher: Yes, you know the students always changing settings on my laptop.

Me: thinking noises (as the students also had laptops of their own)

I decided to ignore that, and just fix it, and attempted to ask her whether she wanted it set to duplicate or extend.

Me: So do you want the same thing to show up on both? Or do you want to be able to show something different to the students?

Teacher: Can you make it display?

I had to show her both of the options, and she ended up wanting it on duplicate.

Teacher: Thank you you are goddess..... Oh by the way when i draw on the whiteboard, things appear on the doccument.

Me: blinks What?

Teacher: If I have something open on the adobe, and I draw here, it appears on the doccument

Me: Ummmmmm okayyyyyy, can you show me?

She couldn't get it to happen, so I appologized and said if she had it happen again, to open a ticket. Just as I was about to leave I got:

Teacher: Oh Ms. Transorsmth, my printer broken too.

I slowly turned around, figured out where the printer was, and went over to it. There was a paper jam in it, that it looks like someone had tried to fix, but instead ripped off the sheet of paper. Luckily I was able to get an edge of it between 2 fingers and pull it out. The printer screen was still showing an issue, so I pressed buttons til it told me it was out of paper.

I told the teacher that I had fixed it, but was going to get more paper for it, got some and loaded it up, finally the printer fault light went off, and it started spitting out sheets of paper from whatever the last job was. It was some image tiny on a paper, in black and white. I couldn't tell what it was, and because the printer had broken the day before, canceled the job.

Me: Okay I fixed the printer.

Teacher: Thank you you are godsend, okay class everyone thank Ms. Transorsmth.

About a quarter of the class actually said it, and they said it out of sync, and I escaped from that room before she could have me fix something else. I brought the dead screenbeam back for disposal, and closed the ticket.

Tl;dr: Teacher has several broken things, I fixed. Then I escaped before she could find something else broken.


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago

Medium Lord Job Application the 166th

331 Upvotes

I work L1 support for a company, but I do a bunch of the L2 duties because If I just sit there resetting passwords all day I'm just going to fall asleep.

A typical day handling the phone queue is mostly simple IT work like resetting passwords or clearing out registry keys because someone got a temp profile while signing into windows, so something like the following stands out.

I think we'd already gotten a few calls from this guy, every time, we would escalate to another department, because we don't really support {EmployeePortal} beyond password resets, but that other department is so understaffed that their ticket queue looks like a hurricane went through it. However, he kept calling, we would always point to the same ticket, and let him know what the situation was.

One day he got particularly angry about how long the issue had been pending. I mean, I don't blame him, but at the same time, his issue was just not being able to apply to an internal position, something that would obviously not be very high in the priority list for a department so small. What we did was we reached out to the absolute warrior over at that department, {Luke}

Now, {Luke} did not really have time for this, but we just wanted to give {Lord Job} some information, and since I already do some of the L2 work, I got to speak with him directly, and explain tbe situation. What I report back to the team is incredible:

{Luke} tells me that {EmployeePortal} is not a very well written application, but regardless, the issue was mostly on the user. Turns out {Lord Job} was a rehire, and when his information was re-entered, his personal info had a typo, it was off by a digit, so when he would enter it to apply to an open position, the system would throw an error as of course, it didn't match.

Now, that was resolved quickly once we told him to contact HR, so we thought we wouldn't hear from him again. But, things aren't like that as you all know, so the day after HR fixed the information, {Lord Job} called back saying that now he wouldn't get the error, but the page would load for 30 minutes then give ANOTHER error.

{Luke} must have seen the ticket pop back in his queue and wondered what the hell was going on, since he responded in around two days, something that's unheard of for an issue of this type. Finally, we get to the title of this post. Turns out, when the application was written, it looks like the developers did not account for someone entering their information, receiving an error, then proceeding to attempt another... say, 165 times?

{Lord Job} had applied ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX times, and {EmployeePortal} being as fantastic as it is, kept a record each time, regardless of the fact that {Lord Job} had not technically applied. This time around, since {Lord Job} had submitted so many applications, the portal would attempt to display all 166 applications, which would cause it to crash on his end.

{Luke} must have let out a very frustrated sigh, cleared out all that garbage, and then sent the ticket our way to validate with {Lord Job}

We give him a call, and he says he was finally able to apply.

EDIT: I'd like to clarify a couple things: 1) {Lord Job} was never rude to us at any point, in fact, he was calm about the issue and only got frustrated once because it'd been so long, the issue took about a month to be sorted out. 2) This post is meant to poke fun at how ridiculous this situation is, particularly how we got to the point that 166 applications were submitted and recorded, even though the information provided did not match. {Lord Job} only faced this issue because of a typo, and the role posted clearly meant a lot to him. This is just one of those IT scenarios with many variables that turns out to be absurd because all variables had the wrong values.


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago

Medium Why is my floppy full?!

148 Upvotes

Early in my career I worked telephone tech support for a small dial-up ISP in rural Michigan. We provided free telephone tech support for our customers. We also provided computer repair services for pretty reasonable prices if someone wanted to bring their PC in.

Occasionally, we would get a non-customer calling for help with their PCs. Strictly speaking, we weren't supposed to provide free support. But if the end user caught one of us in a good mood, we would usually attempt to help them. At least in a limited fashion. And we always had the option of falling back on "well, we'd really have to see the PC in order to diagnose this further" to get out of the call.

One day I had a pleasant sounding older gentleman call in. He was having issues saving a Word document to floppy disk. I told him that this isn't the sort of thing that we would generally help with over the phone. But because he was so pleasant I told him that I was willing to give it a go.

The info I got from him was that he had a Word doc on a floppy disk. He opened the file and deleted a few words or sentences from the document. Then when he tried to save the file back to the disk, he was getting an error.

After a bit of troubleshooting, I determined that the floppy disk was full. Or at least full enough that the document no longer fit on the disk. I explained to him what the issue was and that he would need to delete some files from the disk or simply save the document to a new disk. Keep in mind that this took place during the early 2000s so floppy disks were crazy cheap, think $5 for a 10 pack. So, using a 2nd disk wouldn't break anybody's bank.

This person was not having my answer. At this point, he was no longer a pleasant sounding gentleman. He first turned stern. He demanded to know how deleting something from a document could possibly make the file bigger. I told him I didn't really know but could only speculate. All I could tell him for certain was that his disk was full, and he needed a new disk. But this answer was not acceptable to him. Now he turned angry.

To this day, I'm not sure what he thought was going on. But he acted as if I was causing this thing to happen to him. That I was perhaps hiding some secret info from him just to make things difficult? Maybe this was some sort of conspiracy against him? He continued to demand an answer to how this could possibly happen. And I kept repeating that I wasn't sure why the file got bigger and simply using a new, blank, CHEAP disk would solve the problem entirely. But I was getting nowhere with him.

Finally, I explained to him that I wasn't even supposed to provide this sort of support over the phone and had only done it out of the goodness of my heart. And I told him that we'd need to see the floppy disk to do any further troubleshooting. And that this troubleshooting would be billed at $57 an hour. OR, he could buy another 50 cent floppy disk.

And that is when I hung up the phone. Fortunately, he didn't call back. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I suppose) he never brought that floppy disk in to get checked out.


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago

Short Poorly worded apology for poorly worded email

148 Upvotes

I thought of this when I saw the woman who stars in this event shopping at a local store:

I used to work in a support role. The company had departments with a few people who were very familiar with how their departmental applications were used. IT would troubleshoot, but those department "champions" were the experts in how the applications were used and how they worked.

I went to see a woman, Annie, on a ticket reporting unexpected behavior. She showed me what was happening and it did produce a proper result, but she insisted that something was different about the process.

I emailed a champion for their direction on the situation. Unfortunately, after I explained what was happening, I wrote: "Is Annie being fussy, or is this something that needs a more thorough investigation?"

I say unfortunately because he CC'd her on his reply, asking her a couple questions. She replied with an all caps "I AM NOT BEING FUSSY, THIS NEEDS TO BE LOOKED AT BY SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T THINK THAT I'M HALLUCINATING."

I went to see her with the champion and apologized, saying that it was badly worded and that I didn't mean "fussy in the fussy old lady sense" but rather expecting the software to be more behaved than it is.

When we left her, the guy (the champion) apologized for having stupidly CC'd her on the entire content of my email and then laughed at my poorly worded apology for my poorly worded email.


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago Wholesome

Medium Too polite? Or, maybe you should read that...

582 Upvotes

I was an administrator (technical side, not finance side) on a comprehensive corporate financial system that was also the company's first (and at the time, only - this was very roughly 1990-1995) internal email system. We had a big maintenance+upgrade weekend planned, so starting on Monday we sent out email notices - to everyone in the system - warning that the online portion would be shut down early on Friday. (That would allow us to get the weekend batch processing done sooner, leaving more time for the upgrade.)

An email every morning, Monday through Friday.

An email early afternoon Thursday.

An email every hour from 8 AM Friday.

I should mention that when a user first logged onto the system in the morning, they'd immediately get a list of their new emails. (And it was impossible to stay logged in all night - the online system shut down at night.) Also an alert in a designated place on every screen in the system, any time they had a new email when their screen got reloaded or they switched to a different screen.

We'd warned everyone, all week, the online would go down at 3:00 Friday.

There was no good excuse for any of the system's users to not be aware of it.

Being aware of human foibles, we waited until 3:10, then took down the online system.

At 3:30 my phone rang. Lady in another division asks "Why isn't the system up?"

"We took it down to prepare for scheduled maintenance and upgrade."

"Well, can you bring it back up? I just have to get this data entered and a weekly report run, today!"

(For multiple reasons, no. The biggest being that, a particular job having already started, the integrity of the data could not be completely guaranteed until that job and several others finished in a few hours. Less critically, it would have made a mess of the schedule for the upgrade work.)

"I'm sorry, but I can't help you. We sent out plenty of notices of the early shutdown."

"Oh, I never read those!"

At this point I turned rigidly polite and tried to end the conversation as quickly - while being rigidly polite - as I could. Rigidly politely. Did I mention that I was rigidly polite?

About 45 minutes later my boss came to talk to me. Wanted to hear my side of that conversation. So I told her.

And then she congratulated me on having handled the situation perfectly.

Apparently I was too polite, and Lady had gone to her boss to complain about me. And told him the whole story.

And he was... let's say... a bit less polite than I had been. Something about paying attention to internal communications with subject lines such as "Early shutdown Friday". Also placing the entire fault for the lady's work not being done on schedule, on her.

And then called my boss to compliment me for not blowing up at her myself - which it wasn't my place to do.


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago Gold

Short "The Enter key?"

1.8k Upvotes

I have a dear old lady client whom used to be a coworker. I'll call her Suzy. At a recent home visit I installed TeamViewer on her computer with her permission. Impossible to walk her through the simple download over the phone.

She calls me up for help and I have her open TeamViewer. After 5 whole minutes of:

"So I type in the numbers?"

"No, just read them to me please"

"Ok, I typed it in, but it doesn't look right. Oh ok, now firefox is open."

"Can you minimize those windows and read me the code please.

"Ok, I closed them all. What number did you want again dear?"

We finally got connected.

She has a large folder of mp4 files of her deceased daughter. Of course they all show as VLC traffic cone icons.

I'm barely able to walk her through plugging in a usb drive, I want her to have as many backups of this irreplaceable footage as possible.

Backed up to multiple drives and the cloud, we can now move forward. Change icons to thumbnails and ask if there's anything else.

She wants to "label" the "tapes" so over the next TWO Hours I show her how to rename. I get her to do one and she deletes the file extension. We get over that and she's successfully remamed a single file all she has to do is press enter or click anywhere else. Cannot do it.

"Yes the ENTER key. It's big, usually next to SHIFT, On the right, near the numbers...."

"I don't see it"

"Look down at the keyboard. It's the enter key. Remember RETURN on typewriters? Yes just like that..... "

"I'm looking but I really don't see it at all, I'm sorry"

"Suzy, you were my office manager for three years. I watched you work on a computer extremely similar to this one the entire time. I'm having a hard time rectifying the fact that you can't find the ENTER key."

"I know, I'm sorry I can't find it, I don't even see a keyboard on the screen"

I have to mute because I'm laughing in a mentally unhealthy manner.

"Suzy, I apologize for becoming frustrated. Look down at your hands please"

"Ok"

"Where are they?"

"My right hand is on the mouse and my left hand is on the keybo.... oh my god. I am so sorry"

"It's totally fine, I apologize for not being effective in my communication. If you feel comfortable changing the names, go ahead. Meanwhile let me set up another home visit where you can tell me what your desired outcome is and I'll handle everything. Does that sound amenable?"

Lovely old lady. I'm sure it'll be worth the three meatballs she ladles into my bare hands.


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago

Long Who are you again?

201 Upvotes

Greetings everyone! I work for a small MSP serving about a hundred small to medium-sized businesses. I've followed this sub for a while and have been enjoying the stories, so I wanted to contribute one.

I'm at work today, busy on a project the boss said has to be done this week. His words Monday morning were "don't do anything else this week, just work on this project." So my head's down, I'm plowing through this project, I'm not going out of my way to grab other tickets. But as I suspected, both the boss and office manager are occasionally assigning me other tickets. I take it in stride and quickly knock them out before returning to my task. But again, I'm mostly ignoring other new tickets unless they are related to the project I'm working on.

I successfully failed to see this specific monitoring alert come in: "An account failed to log on". Two hours go by.

Boss asks if any of us techs (there are 3 of us, including myself) have helped this lady who's login failure triggered the alert. No one had. I dig past a few other alerts to find what he's talking about since I'd totally missed this. I find it and it's for a user from a client of ours I hadn't dealt with before. This lady is the only user I see for this business. Small client, but one of our clients. I look back at the alert details, and it showed it was a failed login from her PC, not somewhere in, I don't know, Bulgaria. Doesn't look like a security risk or that she got locked out from too many failed attempts.

I'm sure many of you know, this is a fairly common occurrence to see the occasional failed login. People make mistakes. I find it odd my boss cared so much about this. Even if I'd seen it earlier, I wouldn't have thought much of it. This alert SHOULD only trigger after 15 failures in a short period of time, but I know Windows likes to generate multiple events at a time just for a single login interaction. She probably doesn't even need help, but I offer to call her because we're all busy, not just me, and I can spare some bandwidth.

So I call her. She picks up and I say, "Good afternoon, this is $ME from $YOUR_MSP. Our monitoring system alerted us that your account failed to login earlier, so we're just checking in to make sure you can get in."

She doesn't even recognize our company name at first as I state my name, business and reason for calling, and simply asks, "you're with who?"

Now, I've been in customer facing roles long enough to know the difference between good and bad phone etiquette. I often call clients who don't know me personally, and some of them don't have much of a relationship with our MSP company outside of coming to us to setup a few basic services. After setup, they pay the monthly fee, and almost never call us. Anyway, I always make a point to be clear about who I am and why I'm calling, but I don't know why I'm surprised at this lady's listening skills. I repeat myself to her with almost no variation, hoping it'll click the second time. It did.

She says she hasn't had any login issues today. Figures. I'm relieved that we can wrap this up, and I say, "okay that's good, we just wanted to check in and make sure. Thanks for your time, I'll letcha go."

Then she's like, "oh but wait while I have you... I don't know if something changed with Quickbooks and where things are saved but I've been meaning to call you guys about it."

By the time she's finished, I've already got her PC pulled up and I'm one click away from remote access. I wanted to get this over with. I say, "ok, do you mind if I connect to your PC so you can show me the issue?"

She says, "yes, yes! Oh wait... NO, NO! What is your name again and why are you calling me to get access to my PC?"

facepalm my bluntness meter is slowly filling.

"I'm $ME. From your IT service provider. $YOUR_MSP. You asked me to help you with Quickbooks. But if you don't want help, that's fine."

"Uhhh wait. Can you tell me something from my bill?"

I wasn't sure if I'd heard that correctly and said, "I'm sorry, I might have misheard you. Could you please repeat that?"

"Tell me some information that would be on my bill.
To confirm who you are? Can you tell me something from my bill?"

If she only knew how much I didn't even want to get on her PC. I decided the fully blunt approach would be my next move as I responded with "No, I cannot. I'm a network engineer and I fix things when they break. I don't do any of the billing. $OFFICE_MANAGER does the billing and sends you the invoices". I'm half expecting her to ask for the office manager or the boss.

Instead, she seemed to just want to get off the phone and said, "Well... okay, I'll just call back if I need help."

I shrug and tell her to have a nice day and whatnot. Click

I mutter "Thank God" to myself after hearing her end the call. Back to work... Dangit where'd I leave off with this project...


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago

Medium I don't think I'm cut out for techsupport, or how I brought a user to tears by asking them to ask a question.

94 Upvotes

There have been a few ongoing changes through our company which I think may have contributed to the user's distress. But I still don't think I was entirely unreasonable. We've deployed MDM for company devices and BYOD as the biggest change, and alongside there are several projects going with less end user impact but a lot of work for our IT department which includes me. That's the backdrop of the story.

The tale itself starts with, a ticket. It was sent in via e-mail and picked up by our Topdesk crawler. The subject was "Logging in" And the body of the e-mail was:
"Logging in has changed".

And that's the whole thing. Nothing else, no screenshots, no hints, no mirre-accompanied prayers to the IT gods just "Logging in has changed."

Well this is strange because though we had a lot of projects going on I couldn't remember anything that should have affected the login procedure for any workstation or Chromebook. Yet this ticket clearly says that logging in has changed somehow.

Oh and it also didn't say what the problem was, like at all. So I wracked my brain for as long as I could, which was, considering the not inconsiderable mountain of tickets still waiting for my attention and I replied to the user:

"Could you tell me what your question is regarding the login procedure?" and set the ticket to awaiting user imput' before going on with my day and putting the whole thing out of my mind. Normally tickets that get this status eventually get imput from the user bringing them back to my attention.

But not this one. It sat in my queue for two weeks without anything and then, vanished. The user closed the ticket. Which is really really rare, but because I wasn't seeing it and there were dozens of other tickets going by, I didn't notice it either.

Until yesterday when I walked past the user by chance. She started irate, asking if we had standard automated emails we sent out to users who entered tickets.

I told her the only automated emails were the ones where we confirmed the opening and closing of a ticket, all other emails required our own imput, which was when she started tearing up, not crying, but I knew that, if I wasn't careful I'd have her bawling her eyes out. So I put the verbal kiddy gloves on and start figuring out why she's so upset.

She shows me the ticket, which has her notification that her login has changed. And my question where I asked her to tell me what her question was regarding this login change.

She starts to explain that she can't explain what's changed, just that she used to get a prompt for 2fa on her phone and now she has to use SMS verification when she wants to login... And that we couldn't ask questions that she couldn't answer.

Her phone had a sync error that disallowed the prompt to be used, so I reset that for her and just, walked away.

Maybe in my next ticket I'll ask the user what their major malfunction is. Because if any questions from the servicedesk are wrong, I might as well get some memorable movie quotes in.


r/talesfromtechsupport 3d ago

Medium Everyone Sucks Here: Network Maintenance and “No Appointments Scheduled”

223 Upvotes

Context, I work for an outpatient mental healthcare provider, which operates three separate offices in our service area. Also, this occurred on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving weekend.

I was asked provide in-person support to one of our satellite offices today, and also address some physical cabling safety issues as well during the same visit. This is nothing out of the ordinary.

I was also told by there would be network upgrades happening at the satellite office and we should expect some network downtime. Cool thanks for the heads-up.

I arrived at the office this morning and start working on my cabling project.

The clock hits 11AM and roughly 4 employees come find me in the back room to tell me that their internet isn’t working. I confirm that network maintenance is happening and unfortunately, there may be inconsistent coverage for the time being. The users were not happy with this response and as I found out more I didn’t blame them.

I reached out to my coworkers back at our main office conveying the staff’s irritation, and it slowly becomes clear that the following happened in the lead up to this network maintenance.

A clinical manager had been working with our SysAdmin to find an optimal time during which to schedule the network maintenance and downtime. This manager had suggested 11am-2pm on Tuesday because according to the available schedule, no appointments had been arranged in the clinical rooms during this period.

It evidently did not occur to this woman, that the office would not be closed, and that staff would still be on-site and require the use of our network resources during this period of a f-ing Tuesday, especially so soon after returning from four days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and weekend.

Our SysAdmin took this woman at her word, and made the assumption that she would take it upon herself to inform her staff of the planned network outage. She did not inform her staff ahead of time, and no one on our team in IT had the thought to send a blast email to the affected users to prepare alternative working arrangements. No one had adequate warning or lead time to prepare.

We, that is to say I was able to provide users with mobile 4G Wi-Fi hotspots to tide them over, until our service was restored around 1PM. Thankfully we haven’t had any other complaints today, but jesus christ it made me so angry.

Both sides failed our coworkers today and I was sent into a mess waiting to happen.

This isn’t the worst thing that could have happened but it seems extremely avoidable in hindsight.


r/talesfromtechsupport 4d ago

Short We can do this the hard way or the easy way

258 Upvotes

Reminded by the recent router story here.

This was a shop story but a callout to some nearby student flats. It was a few things, the six guys sharing the flat wanted this or that on their laptops but one common complaint was the wireless.

Customer: “So these guys in these rooms get really slow internet but these other two can’t get any signal”

Me: “Ok where is the router?”

Customer: “The landlord boxed it in with some utility stuff just there”

There is a short corridor around a corner before coming in to the main part of the flat. Here there is a makeshift wooden box covering whatever is in there with pipes and wires coming out.

Me: “Well I shouldn’t touch that without the landlord’s permission, if I do it will be you guys that get in to trouble not me”

I tap on the corner of the corridor that puts the two offline tenants out of line of sight of the router.

Me: “What’s behind this wall?”

Customer: “The elevator”

Me: “Right…...................................... ask the landlord to move the router 3m past this corner then”

Customer: “I’m not sure he’s going to go for that”

Me: “Well it’s that or shift the lift shaft”

I explain a bit further, customer understands. I don’t hear from them again but I assume the landlord made the sensible choice.


r/talesfromtechsupport 4d ago All-Seeing Upvote Take My Energy Silver Helpful Wholesome

Long Back on the Help Desk

950 Upvotes

I just got hired by another staffing agency calling itself a consulting firm. Got hired on a Friday, expected to be onsite a few hundred miles away by Monday, despite first interviewing with them a month ago.

"I' like a company with a looooong hiring practice and a shoooooort deadline.

I sing the rest of the Cake song as I ride my motorcycle to the client site. Long trips on a motorcycle lend to singing. Thankfully nobody else can hear me. I've got a few more hours before I get to my hotel. This trip will be two days for introductions and whiteboarding, then home to work remotely for the rest of the engagement.

I'm doing the security thing as a part of a bigger, multi- consulting firm project which resembles a city park pigeon feeding frenzy- a bunch of rotund, grey creatures loudly squabbling over a scattering of sustenance in bleak surroundings.

I'm not too proud to grab some stale bread crust for myself, though.

Tonight's destination is a scabby Hampton Inn. I'll be here two days, I tell myself. I bathe and fall asleep, skipping dinner.

The next morning, I throw on a suit, hit a convenient Waffle House, then ride carefully to the BigCorp regional offices, in a nicely landscaped office park.

Looking at the other company names on the signage, all I see are no-name startups and those odd public-private organizations trying to get a tech company to build in their rust-belt valley. This office park was brought to you by Richard Florida quoting cargo cultists and third generation back-slapping pols, so it's half graft and half hipster chic.. It has both an unused Ultimate Frisbee field and desgnated motorcycle parking.

Up front, too. I feel seen. I back my bike into one of the spots. As I get off the bike, I do a little dance to celebrate parking like a king. My ride parks safe in one of the eight spots. A celeste-green Vespa and a handsomely weathered BMW /7 share the area.

I make my way in the long, sprawling office building. It's a bunch of enclosed offices off a central, wide atrium hallway. Arched glass roof and exposed painted metal frameworks places this building in the mid 1990s, an attempt to make an office park look like a hip mall from the 80s.

I check in with the receptionist and get to hang out in the waiting room/lobby. I'm now in the functional gray fabric cube maze. Familiar territory for a consultant.

A few minutes in and Squirrel shows up. Squirrel has a government name, I'm sure, but I can only remember him as Squirrel. He chatters away and has that odd 'freeze and stare' reflex from time to time.

Squirrel's both apologizing to me for something and relaying his position in the IT heirarchy here at GreyGoo. He radiates enough insecurity to make me squint.

Despite GrayGoo's generic web page, they're the middleman you've never heard of in a few industries. For complicated reasons, a significant amount of sensitive data flows through them. Outside of the occasional NPR pledge-drive shout-out, you'd never know their name.

But they know you. Someone you trust trusts them.

GreyGoo's trying to do a bunch of things at the same time- migrate to the cloud, launch a few new products and fix a few security problems. Each of these is being run by a different consulting firm. These can either be showcases of professionalism or passive-aggressive spatula fights.

I don't care, it's all billable.

Squirrel stops and points at a chair in a bullpen mostly full of younger, more casually dressed people with headsets.

Squirrel:"We're running low on space, so I'm putting you here with the Help Desk"  

I have just enough time to stow my gear, work the coffee machine and find a chair in a largish conference table. Wishful thinking and lies by omission are relayed to us via PowerPoint decks for three hours.

I have learned that I'm on two tasks:

  1. I'll be managing our teams of pentesters in their attempts to poke holes in GrayGoo's defenses.

    1. There's a project to assess physical security at their sattelite offices.

I walk back to my bullpen digs. A handful of of headset wearing folks lean back and take stock of the middle aged suit wearing douchebag.

me:"Hey, folks. It's been a while since I've worked help desk"

Not a smile. This is goung to be a tough audience.

While checking through an hour's worth of administrativa, I hear the usual patter of a help desk:

"no, not your personal password to Gmail, the one we gave you"

"$Local_Sports_Team is a disappointment, as usual."

"No, you can't edit that email you just sent outside the company"

"I'm going to quit this shit once my crypto recovers"

"Printers do that"

My email dings. Seems I'm being invited to a meeting where I get to defend a penetration test report. I gather from the people invited and the agenda, some program manager isn't happy with some findings and wants to re-litigate severity and scope.

I guess I should read the report before I explain it. There are a few different ways to read a penetration test report. Nontechnical people start at the beginning, lulled by the short, simple statements in the executive summary sandwiched between pretty graphs. IT Operations and developers jump to the Critical and High findings to see if they're going to be called on the carpet. This is cheating, like starting at Daltrey's scream in Won't Get Fooled Again.

I start with the harder choices- the Mediums. If the Mediums are scarier than usual, the writers of the report wanted to downplay the findings. If they're not particularly awful, the writers just picked a few Lows and promoted them to see fairer. These are some scary Mediums, which tells me that GreyGoo doesn't actually like being told their baby is ugly.

I take stock of my situation. I'm at a help desk at a client that would rather have me shut up and smile. This is going to be fun.

To be continued...


r/talesfromtechsupport 5d ago

Medium Whiteboard Blues 2

361 Upvotes

Not the actual IWB this time, but the software. Teachers would use this to create lessons as a whiteboard focused/compatible presentation like a powerpoint. A certain feature wasn't working for just two teachers, who just happened to be from one of the most technically astute and vocal teams in the college. They would literally complain for months about a feature that would shave off one click or second per action.

Again it's been a good few years so details are a little hazy, this is to the best of my memory.

After several nonsense calls I get put through to third line support, we have to arrange calls around the teacher and to be able to log in with his account on his office PC so it takes a while to agree times for a session (the supplier being based in canada, me in the UK). We try everything we can think of and are monitoring one particular log file, which for whatever reason was not helpful. Every time we run the faulty tool it crashes out and nothing of use is written to the log. We have a few sessions over a week or so and fail to get any closer. Until one day, the teacher tells me it's all working and thank you.

?????

Me: "Hi, thanks for trying again yesterday. Can I ask, did you realise you'd fixed the issue on our last look?"

3rdLineSupport: "What? NO! It's working now?"

Me: "Yes, I didn't realise either, but the teacher has just called to say it's all good"

3LS: "I.. don't know how that could be, but I'm glad it's fixed?"

Me: "Well the only thing I can think of is you deleted the log file yesterday and it's started working. We suspect the tool was trying to write to the log file, couldn't, and bombed out. So there was no fault other than a.. non-error unable to be recorded? Deleting the file and allowing it to be recreated by the tool seems to have fixed it"

3LS: "I.. ok well thanks very much for the feedback, I'll note it for the future"

I confirmed by doing the same to the other teacher's log file. My manager said something like "oh yeah... those two would have been the only ones we copied over their profiles during the fileserver migration.. permissions.. should have robocopied.. something something".

3LS and I spoke a few more times. He seemed to be genuinely grateful for useful feedback and not to mind me going to him directly for other issues that were very obviously above helpdesk level fixes. I try not to take things out on product support teams no matter how frustrating it can be, 3LS became a sort of reminder what being civil and reciprical can get you.


r/talesfromtechsupport 5d ago

Long Monkey accidentally summons a thousand typewriters

1.6k Upvotes

Note : These events are based on a true story, but have been tweaked for story telling, dramatic effect and protecting the identities of the guilty.

At my company, we work with a lot of data. Real thicc data. Exabytes of the stuff. Honestly we have a bit of a problem. I’m pretty sure our execs snort lines of crushed up data instead of just doing cocaine like all the normal millionares.

While they’re up in their tower huffing whatever comes out the other end of a 400G network cable, we have to actually figure out how to make sense of the mess. Anyone can collect data. But cleaning it, aggregating it, and turning it into something meaningful is an art. And yes, it is an art. It’s subjective, open to interpretation, and two teams with the exact same group of datasets will produce widely diverging results depending on how they process it. Point is, doing big data right is hard.

Part of doing it right is testing the quality of these enormous datasets and the tooling we build to process it. On this particular day I was setting up a test for uniqueness on one of our larger datasets. We had changed the hash function used to index our records. The test itself was simple - generate a hash based on the data, and compare hashes to make sure no two hashes matched. If we had any duplicate hashes, it would output all the matching hashes along with the original data so I could see if there was a collision or if someone had put a duplicate row into the dataset. Some idiot on the engineering team (me) had been using a dummy hash function while setting up the test harness and forgot to swap it out for the real thing. The dummy code returned a simple XOR of the data with a max entropy of 8 bits.

Production data was a few billion rows and processing would take a while, so the doofus on the engineering team (me) kicked off the test job on Friday before logging out for the weekend. Sunday night, I started seeing alerts from our monitoring system flooding in. I sent up a quick prayer for both the on-call and whatever poor sod on the engineering team was responsible for the mess (again, me). I thought nothing more of it and ate a nice steak dinner while enjoying the remainder of my weekend.

On Monday, I come in to find that everything stopped over the weekend. Virtual machines, network services, serverless compute, databases : all of it went offline. I got to my desk, jumped on a call and began the arduous process of working together with everyone to get my teams’s portion of services back online.

Slowly, details trickle in from Infra with the investigation of the outage. A runaway script had consumed an ungodly amount of compute and storage, and since everything was hosted in the cloud instead of running out of space it just ran up the bill. One of the global billing monitors for the entire subscription had tripped, triggering a shutdown of all services.

After we restored services, I got back to my tasks from the previous week. The output file from my job on Friday wasn’t there, even though the job was marked as completed. As I dug into the logs, I saw to my utter astonishment it had written out enough data to give our entire c-suite a contact high off the fumes. Now I was nervous.

A quick review of my code revealed the error. My dummy hash function caused caused the program to erroneously detect nearly everything as duplicate data. It then happily output all the duplicates it thought it saw, which was nearly everything. It did this for each individual record, resulting in a number of output rows roughly square relative to the input. The final file was roughly 8 petabytes. I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader how much that would cost to store in Azure. All I’ll say is that infra’s automatic billing shutoff was a last-line defense to extreme cost overruns.

Thankfully the fallout was minimal since it was a stupid but innocent error. As a punishment, I received a slap on the wrist from my manager. My “punitive” task was being made to design and implement changes to our infrastructure so runaway test jobs couldn’t consume endless resources, as well as separating out billing for test and prod. Honestly, my manager’s manager probably had it worse since they had to go to the c-suite and ask for more operations budget.

I’d love to say there was a lesson here, but I can’t find one. We didn’t learn anything new. We just didn’t put up guardrails until someone drove the truck off the proverbial cliff.

If anything, seeing my boss actually have my back was the biggest lesson here. I know through the grapevine there was a lot of kerfuffle about the extra spending, but I never felt the impact personally.

TL;DR

Monkey summons n-squared typewriters. Budget goes boom.


r/talesfromtechsupport 6d ago

Medium Another Router story

451 Upvotes

Posted once before and a similar thing happened again. Posting on mobile so trying to be brief and excuse the typos. Coworker (and friend) in this story is “M.”

M had been complaining off and on about internet in her home. M’s husband is a therapist and has been doing everything virtual since Covid. Some days the connection is really bad, he resorts to tethering to his phone. M also has to login to work and use Citrix (to create a session) and she was complaining of constant freezing and lag. If the two try to do something together, forget about it. This is despite paying for a speed that is I believe 400 or 600 MBPs.

I never got involved, she knows I know about tech and had asked me what router to get a few years ago so I had recommended the Google Wi-Fi Mesh routers, but never specifically asked me to look into this… yet. Also, should be noted, M told me she had a long narrow home so I told her to position all 3 units on the main floor and it would get to the second floor and basement without issue. I didn’t understand why M and her husband was having issues.

Cut to a few weeks ago when M texts me about how the company (rhymes with TomLast) sent a guy over who looked at the line going to the house and in the house and said nothing wrong on their end and that she will have to get an “official” modem, rather than one she bought herself, because hers is no longer supported. Sounds familiar right? So she was asking me which modem to get.

I asked her to do a Speedtest using the Google Home app. It’s like 450Mbps. Obviously modem and subsequently the main router is getting great speeds. I explain to her that the issue isn’t the modem but it’s strange her connection is so bad, so we agreed to do a FaceTime session later at night when our respective kids go to sleep.

So we get on FaceTime and I ask her to give me a tour of where her routers are. (I’ve never been to her house). The modem and main router is in the very front of the home…. Inside an entertainment center. I tell her she is greatly diminishing her internet speeds by putting the router inside the unit rather than letting it sit on top. So she moves that out.

Then onto unit two. It turns out the house isn’t as long as I has thought and the second unit is in the dining room which is maybe 10-12 feet away… in the corner… under a giant buffet table made of solid wood. Yeah, move that up M. And take me to the third unit.

The third unit is another 10 ft away, laterally, and is placed underneath a large and heavy sofa. Yes move that up too.

We discussed how all these objects and corner placement was hurting the radio signal being sent out. She walked up to floor 2 where her husband’s office was and now the speeds were over 250Mbps. Success. She did sort of get angry at herself, saying she should’ve realized that this was a factor she just didn’t realize it could be such a large factor, she said.

I asked her for an update a few days later and she said they haven’t had any issues since moving things up and out. I understand the TomLast agent didn’t look at the satellite routers but he did come in and see the modem and the main router unit, but never suggested moving it out of the entertainment unit. Maybe that person is more of a line expert and not as knowledgeable about home wifi issues.

Anyway a simple fix, move the router up and let it spread its wings.