The Clueless User Mini-FAQ

This is an unofficial alt.folklore.computers and alt.sysadmin.recovery mini-FAQ on clueless user stories. These are all at least possible, even if they didn't actually happen.

I am starting a Clueless Admins Mini-FAQ also. Currently it's just one item, but hey. You gotta start somewhere.

Thanks to Alan Fleming and Alan Bailward for their collections of support stories, many of which were abstracted here. If you can verify first-hand a story listed here, please mail me. The first person to verify a story gets their name attached to it.

Please mail comments to home page.


Disk Drives You Nuts:

User attaches disk to surface (desk, fridge) with magnet. -- Carl Jacobs

User does same with thumbtack/pin/nail, or punches holes and stores in binder. -- John Reames

User who is employee of company X asks for demo copy of database software from company Y. Receives reply letter from company Y... with disk stapled to letter. -- Chip Taylor

User attempts to delete files on 5.25" disk using Wite-Out®. -- Glenn Kuhlman

User complains, "My CD-ROM drive isn't working!"; has forgotten to push caddy into drive after inserting disc.

User puts CD into caddy-drive, without caddy. -- Kevin T. Broderick

User puts CD still in jewel case into caddy and rams into drive. -- Greg Legowski

User shoves CD into 5.25" floppy drive. -- Kevin T. Broderick

User attempts to shove CD into 3.5" drive. -- Richard Coubry

User accidentally shoves disk into drive with a disk (or multiple disks) already in it. Variation 1: ran out of high-density disks, thought two low-density would work just as well. Variation 2: user who is unable to format a floppy is told to try another one. When that fails and user is told to try a third, responds that the third one won't fit in the drive. -- Steve Ferguson (Variation 1)

Jammed 5.25" disk recovered from drive is found to bear teeth marks. -- Tony Ellis

User shoves disk into space between computer components (usually two floppy drives). -- Richard Coubry, Larry J. Sklar

User has non-functioning disk, oils because "it looked very dry."

User types on disk labels...after putting them on disks.

User puts disk label on shutter of 3.5" disk, with predictable results. -- Kin Hoong Chung, Teddy Hogeborn

User cuts (or folds) 5.25" disk to fit 3.5" drive. -- Larry J. Sklar

User folds disk to mail, carry or store it (5.25" and 3.5" have been subjected to this). -- Chad Robinson, Nancy Anderson

User inserts disk in drive, neglecting to remove plastic liner. Reason: virus protection. -- Steve Ferguson

User keeps disk in same container with lunch, with predictable results. -- Richard Coubry

User inserts floppy upside-down, wrong end first, or both. -- Richard Coubry

User peels case off floppy before inserting in drive, often with no loss of data: see Follow the Leader.

Blank Screen (and Mind):

User calls tech support and complains "My computer won't work." Reason turns out to be:

User (on a Mac running System 7.5) has Finder hidden in background, cannot understand why Finder icons are not visible.

Follow the Leader: Following the Wrong Directions

User is asked to send/bring "a copy of the disk." Sends/brings a photocopy of (usually both sides of) disk.

User is told to "insert floppy, close door." Inserts floppy, closes door to office. Variation: tech checking that power is on asks, "Is the light on?"; user confirms. After failing to get response from the computer, tech asks, "You're sure the little green light is on?" to which user replies, "What green light?" User had been telling the tech the room light was indeed on. -- Jim Suter (original)

User is told to bring the page up (or down), tilts monitor. -- Richard Coubry

User is told to "point to X and click the mouse," picks up mouse, points at screen, clicks button.

User is told to "move the mouse (pointer) up," picks up mouse. -- Richard Coubry

User is told to press an icon, presses finger on computer screen. -- Richard Coubry

User is told to "press the X button" (on the on-screen toolbar), looks for button on keyboard. -- Richard Coubry

User is told to clean disk drive heads, asks, "What kind of shampoo?"

User is told to clean <insert delicate part here -- usually keyboard>, does so with soap & water.

User is told to remove disk from plastic sleeve. Complains that disk is very hard to remove, then very hard to insert in drive. User has removed both sleeve and case.

Snipe Hunting, or Bogus Diagnosis

User asks how much large disk pack weighs, is told, "Depends how much data is on it."

User asks, "What's wrong with my computer?", receives reply: "Broken muffler belt [or other bogus car part]." Says, "Should I call Midas [or other auto repair shop]?"

User brings in trashed disk, asks, "What's wrong with it?" Tech pretends to scrutinize disk closely, suddenly says, "There! That bit right there is wrong!" User says, "Thanks!" and leaves.

Setting: lab with lots of terminals connected to computer through 9600 baud modem. Tech's terminal is hard-wired into computer. User asks why tech's terminal is so much faster than his own. Is told, "Because the cables to those terminals are so tangled that it takes longer for the bits to get there."

User sees tech deleting files from mainframe, asks why. Tech says because there are only so many of each letter in the computer, and if one letter runs out, the computer puts a blank there.

User gets "magic dust routine" from techs. Truly hilarious. Variation: two techs keep transferring caller back and forth, pretending to be various departments.

User asks where "any" key is, tech tells him "that little blue switch there," while pointing to power switch. -- Glenn Kuhlman

Greek to Them (Just Plain Clueless):

User fails to understand: User calls, asks how to set up computer. After being told to follow steps in manual, responds, "I just spent $2000 and I'm not reading any damn book!"

User complains that icons disappear when one is double-clicked. After 15 minutes, tech manages to explain concept of foreground and background in a window environment. -- Jamie Rishaw

User calls tech support complaining their computer is infected by the "301 virus." Computer is beeping and giving "Error 301" because keyboard was placed face-down on floor to free up desk space.

User gets new modem, plugs into back of monitor as directed. Unfortunately, "monitor" is actually TV, resulting in massive damage to all components. -- Kathy Boelter

User calls tech support complaining of garbage characters in file. Turns out file was created with word-processor X, opened in word-processor Y. -- John Jetmore

User calls tech support, says, "My printer won't print." Printer turns out to be:

User calls, wants to order "a slot." Has just bought mouse which requires a card (included) to be installed. Box says, "requires one slot."

User mishandles an item (usually a disk), does not realize disk, not computer, is defective, takes to another computer, ruins other computer, repeats until discovered. -- John Reames

User ignores "No Food or Drink" sign in lab, spills drink, destroys components while trying to clean up and fix the problem. Variant: uses white-board cleaner (a very powerful solvent), melts & fuses innards of keyboard! -- David Given

User complains computer is making funny noise even when turned off. Phone turns out to be off the hook.

User uses air intake fan to clean chalk erasers, keep cigarette smoke out of room, etc.

User (who is also programmer) asks tech for help on binary numbers for program. An hour later, asks, "Is there a pattern to which binary numbers go with which decimal ones, or are they randomly assigned?"

User calls tech support for help. When asked what software is running, says he/she only runs hardware.

User calls store, can't find DOS prompt anywhere in box. [!]

Lotus Notes® user complain that Notes didn't take leap year into account. Other users have correct dates on screen. User turns out to be going by date on his analog watch, which is wrong. -- Jeff Mead

User deletes vital files because cannot understand contents (CONFIG.SYS, MSDOS.SYS, etc.). Variation: calls tech support to complain all her files are unreadable garbage. -- Jeff Mead

User pries key caps off, rearranges alphabetically, cannot understand why wrong letters show up on screen.

User cleans components with liquid cleaner while power is on.

User's child puts various items in various places in computer (pizza in CD-ROM drive, peanut butter on a floppy, etc.).

User stirs coffee with light pen.

User allows pets to sleep on computer or peripherals.

User calls tech support, either claiming to have done something which is impossible, or reporting an error message which the program could not have possibly generated.

User calls tech support, complains he/she can't fax. User is holding paper up to screen and clicking "Send" button.

User calls tech support, says, "My computer doesn't have a sticker." Wants an "Intel® Inside" [or other product label] sticker for computer.

User calls tech support, complains that "dust cover" makes mouse hard to use. User still has mouse in original plastic bag.

User calls tech support to complain that "the triangle" has disappeared. User is using a word-processor on Mac® or Windows® . Arrow pointer has changed to I-beam in text window, user panics.

User complains of extra spaces while typing. User turns out to be a well-endowed lady who leans forward while typing, breasts are hitting spacebar.

User calls tech support for computer to ask about WordPerfect® [or other software]. When directed to the software company's tech support line, replies that that line is busy. -- "Rev. Buck Nakid"

User calls tech support at computer company, tech refers him to local Egghead®. User says, "Sure, I know a couple of geeks at work."

Misguided Maintenance (Screwy Screwdriver Men):

Maintenance guys hit disk drive with ladder, leave when they realize it's crashed.

Field engineer hangs coat on "emergency power off" plunger-type switch. When removing coat, pulls out switch, causing minor disaster. -- Chip Taylor

Variation: shelf at level of Emergency Power Off button, manual tossed on shelf hits switch, causing minor disaster. -- Scott Morris, via Tracey Morris

Maintenance guy installing cover for Emergency Power Off button hits button with hammer.

Maintenance guy drops wrench [or other tool] into computer equipment.

Janitor unplugs units to plug in vacuum cleaner [or other equipment], causing unexplainable shutdowns at roughly the same time every day. Variant: modem link from company HQ to warehouse goes down at roughly the same time every night. Dial-up security system is on the same phone line as inventory computer! -- Mark W Stiebel

Maintenance is told to install electrical outlet caps in computer room, installs on every outlet for several floors.

Electrician testing circuits powers down computer line to test.

Construction working shuts off power to air conditioners in building, including cooling unit of ETA-10P supercomputer. Catastrophic meltdown results within 3 minutes, despite immediate start of panic shutdown, resulting in repairs totaling over $100,000. -- Carl Jacobs

Last updated: 16:45 EST, 16 Aug 1996