User had no webcam or mic, complained vid conference didn’t work

European Commission sysadmin offers us tales of Euro-dunderheads


On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s weekly reader-contributed tales of facepalm-worthy failures in the field of tech support.

This week, meet “Pete”, who shared three stories from his time working at the European Commission (EC).

His first tale concerned a scientific advisor to one of the EC’s general directorates, a role that you’d think would require someone pretty brainy.

Yet said advisor came to Pete to complaining that his conferencing app wasn’t working.

“If you guys come over you will probably see what's wrong,” the user told Pete, who did his duty and trekked to the other end of the building to find a PC with half a dozen windows all running the same conferencing app. Five of the windows had people in them, but the advisor’s window was empty.

“When I click the ‘talk’ button, nothing happens, they can't hear me,” the user complained.

At which point Pete pointed out the PC had no microphone. Or Webcam.

“Do you think that’s the problem?” the user asked Pete.

At the same job Pete was also called out to troubleshoot some laptop docks that the Commission decided to test.

A few days into the pilot, Pete took a call from a user who complained he could not log in. Pete again made the dutiful trip to the user’s desk and noticed the laptop was not in the dock. Nor was the user in the office, so Pete joked with a secretary that the absence of the computer would be a fine reason for the login problem.

Little did he know that he was right: when the user returned, he showed Pete how he could press CTR-ALT-DEL until his fingers bled, but nothing appeared on his blank screen.

Pete asked where the actual laptop might be found, to which the user answered “My laptop? It's at home. Why do you ask?”

Pete’s last story involved a user who called to ask why a document written in Arabic wasn’t readable. Our hero quickly figured out that the user didn’t have any Arabic fonts installed, so visited to install them.

With that job done he asked the user if everything was alright. The user couldn’t fault Pete’s work, thanked him but also chose that moment to admit “I’m not sure, though, because I can't read Arabic.”

Have you had to help anyone more clueless that Pete’s crew? If so, write to On-Call with your stories and you might appear in this space on a future Friday.

We’re also about to fire up a new column in which readers confess to the times they messed up. Readers have already sent lots of lovely stories to set things rolling, but we can always use more. A tip: be sure to share the consequences of your errors, so we can square off the story.

We’re thinking of calling the column “Who, me?”. If you have a confession to make, or a better name for the column, hit the El Reg mail-o-matic link to share your story. ®

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