User dialled his PC into a permanent state of 'Brown Alert'

At same office, chap asked for help fixing keyboard. Spoiler: he had two of 'em

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On-Call Why hello there, dear readers, and welcome once again to On-Call, The Register's Friday folly in which we recount readers' tales of being asked to undo the messes that users leave behind.

This week, meet “Rick” who told us that in the 1990s he “worked in a security centre that had bespoke hardware and software for monitoring remote security systems.”

Rick's job involved “hardware/software upgrades and maintenance on lots of different platforms including dedicated hardware, DOS clients Windows ,Unix and Novell network servers.”

“I was called out on many occasions, but two that stand out were involving a DOS based terminal server connected to a UNIX server.”

One of those incidents involved an application that colour-coded actionable events, but which had somehow mixed up its colours.

“The operator called to tell me all the High Priority Events were showing on the screen in a brown colour on a specific PC, but all others were showed red as expected.”

Off Rick went to inspect things and when he arrived he went through his full repertoire of diagnostic techniques and tricks … all of which failed to turn the stinky CODE BROWN into a more useful RED ALERT.

As a last resort, Rick twiddled the monitor brightness knob and – Shazaam! - the problem was solved. Dull brown reverted to rampant red. Presumably Rick saw red too, as “The operator later admitted to turning it down during the night-shift as it was making his eyes tired.”

On another occasion a user of the same application called in to say his keyboard had stopped working.

Again, Rick did all he could – remote reboots, endless chats on the phone, you name it – but eventually realised he'd have to eyeball the machine to sort this one out.

But just as Rick arrived he was told the problem had been solved.

“I went inside to double check that all was OK, but the operator was very reluctant to tell me how they had resolved the issue,” Rick told us. “It turned out that they had put a second keyboard from another PC on top of the terminal server.” And then forgotten which one was plugged in!

On-Call has started preparing a load of inbox-emptying pre-Christmas specials and could use some stories of jobs done over the festive season. If you've got one, or just a run-of-the-mill support SNAFU, write to On-Call for your chance at anonymised immortality. ®

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