Why does Skype only show me from the chin down?

Plus: The story of the mysterious 'Internet Fan' that sped up the web

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On-call Welcome again to a special festive On-Call, in which we dredge worthy tales from the On-Call inbox and give them a spin to compensate for the lack of pre-Christmas news. And also because lots of people write in and we should give lots of you a go.

Today: stupid, stupid people with stupid explanations for simple things.

Let's start with “Dan” who tells us he used to work “on first line support for a major UK retailer.”

One day, a chap called into say his internet was slow because “my Internet Fan isn't working.”

Dan knew that PCs could end up in all sorts of odd configurations, but an Internet Fan? What the? So he started asking questions and then suggested basic triage, including a request that the caller load up the disk that came with his modem to reinstall drivers.

At which point the caller said “It's fixed! I can hear it now” and declared the problem solved, even before anything installed

Dan eventually figured out that the PC had a CD in the drive from day one and Internet Explorer used to poll all available drives. This meant the caller associated being online with the sound of his CD-ROM spinning but, ignorant of what was going on, decided it was an “Internet Fan!”

“The phrase "'checked Internet Fan' made it into many customer call notes from then on as a standard diagnostic measure,” Dan told us.

Defrag what?

“Graham” offered us a tale of an ignorant colleague in IT, from a time when he supported a server-based app and investigated why it was running so slowly.

“The organisation had over fifty sites so we did occasionally get some networking issues,” Graham told us. So he did a tracert to the server and watched as the number of network hops went well into double digits despite the server being “about ten miles down the road.”

So Graham called a colleague on the networking team, explained the situation and then recoiled as he was told “You need to defrag the C: drive".

“I won't go into what followed,” Graham told us, save to say I strongly questioned his suggestion. He refused to check anything or change his opinion. Eventually I left and came back later and found someone else in the team who took on the job and found and fixed a routing error.”

“I've since found out that this numpty has almost complete contempt for anyone who does not outrank him.”

The unkindest Skype of all

Cuthbert offered us the story we popped in the headline, as one day he was summoned by one of his employer's directors.

“When I Skype people why can they only see me from the chin down?” she asked, as her attempts to conduct job interviews on Skype weren't going well.

To this day, Cuthbert wishes he'd suggested a shorter chair as the answer. Office gossip, he added, suggested she'd sometimes conducted business on Skype in her pyjamas. Which we hope were suitably modest, lest candidates have been distracted.

“Peter” sent us the simple tale of being called out to a small shop where a chap complained his monitor displayed only the error message “"No signal, check cable”.

So Peter asked to see the shops PC, was told it was under the desk and soon had to tell the shop chap "I'm sorry, but there is no PC."

“What do you mean?" was the retort.

Peter tells us the only thing to do at that juncture was to suggest the shop chap have a look for himself to confirm the problem.

The strange tale of the migration saboteur

To finish, one from “Will” who sent us a story from a long-ago migration from DisplayWrite IV to WordPerfect 5.1 for which Will provided outsourced training and support.

As part of the project, everyone was trained in the new application, with special attention paid to the fact that the incoming program needed printers to use US Letter instead of A4. Will told El Reg that users had been told they needed to tweak one setting, once, and the change wouldn't be a problem.

Yet even with that simple advice, the number of calls to the help desk climbed and because help was outsourced, costs soared.

Cue a meeting in which Will and his colleagues were given a bollocking by the client's finance director … until Will produced data about the nature of the calls.

Overall, they were down twenty per cent. Aside from just one caller, who made 40 per cent of all calls to the help desk.

That caller turned out to the finance director's very own personal assistant, who never wanted to move from her beloved DisplayWrite. Her cunning plan was to call the help desk twice an hour in the hope her solo sabotage would indicate the migration had failed, forcing a rollback.

“Needless to say she was told in no uncertain terms that she was wasting company money and no amount of tantrums and helpdesk calls would see the company roll back,” Will told us.

On-Call will be back tomorrow with another festive edition. But we're always hungry for more stories of user shenanigans, so feel free to ping one over. ®

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