On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's weekly wander through readers' recollections of tech support traumas.
This week, meet “Alan” who once had a gig as “both sysadmin and developer in charge of an image analysis system linked to microscopes for analysis of bacteria in a University hospital.”
“These systems consisted of a PC with monochrome displays for text, a frame grabber linked to a camera on a microscope and a colour monitor showing either the live camera image or the current progress of the image analysis process,” Alan told us.
Alan says the job involved frequent “tweaks to code, ports to new image processing hardware and adding features the users - medical doctors and graduate students – requested.”
As a sensible Reg-reading type, Alan told us “I always tested new code thoroughly before releasing it into the wild.”
After one such release, which Alan told us was “purely related to improving speed in the analysis part of the code, and some user-interface layout” a user logged a panicked support call.
“The display is upside-down!” the user wailed.
“I raised an eyebrow and stated that was impossible,” Alan told us. But the user was adamant. Alan entertained the idea that someone had installed upside-down as a joke, so visited the user in their lab and found the monitors right-side up and everything else behaving perfectly.
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But the user insisted the image of a bacteria on her monitor was upside down, which rather bemused Alan seeing as microorganisms don't seem to have a right way up.
So he asked a few more questions and was eventually told that it the bacteria on screen was the wrong way round compared to the image in the user's microscope.
“I took one look at the camera on the microscope, rotated it by 180 degrees around the optical axis, which sorted out the issue,” Alan told us, adding that the user did at least have the decency to turn a proper shade of embarrassed red before sending him on his way.
For a few minutes anyway, because as Alan settled back in at his desk the same user called to complain that “the mouse was moving the wrong way, like it was upside down.”
This, too, was allegedly a consequence of Alan's latest code update.
“I walked back, asked the user to demonstrate the problem, and subsequently collapsed laughing,” Alan wrote. Which the user didn't entirely appreciate.
Alan then “rotated the mouse 180 degrees, so the 'tail' could point away from her. A deeper shade of crimson appeared on the user's cheeks, and I don't think they ever dared suggest new code was faulty ever again.”
If you've fixed something back-to-front, inside-out or just plain ass-backwards , write to On-Call to share your story and it might be your anonymised tale of woe filling this space next week. ®