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Behold the perils of trying to turn the family and friends support line into a sideline

That time when a professional turned out to be somewhat amateur

On Call Friday! At last! And with Friday comes the promise of the weekend and the reality of The Register's weekly dip into the big bag of On Call experiences.

Today's tale of callout calamity comes from a reader we'll call "Sam" and deals with a situation familiar to oh so many of our readership: the freebie friends and family support line.

That special phone call from an acquaintance that you've only received because you "know about this stuff". You know the one.

Sam had managed to turn this chore into somewhat of a sideline: "I did jobs for friends, friends of friends, and whomever they recommended me to.

"In this case, a young couple wanted to get online with the local cable outfit."

The telecom giant in question has a name that kind of rhymes with "Bum Blast", although Sam suggested a slightly, er, bluer pseudonym.

Back to the young couple: "The aunt of one of them had given them her old desktop, and I was to make it suitable.

"I cleaned up the machine, added memory, installed a NIC and a modem." He also installed a fresh copy of the OS of the time: Windows XP (Service Pack 2, of course). Then he checked, double-checked then triple-checked that everything worked, particularly that network card and modem.

"Everything was fine, so I dropped it off to them."

Except it wasn't.

The dreaded call came in: the cable tech had turned up and, after three fruitless hours of seeking connectivity, had declared the computer Sam had built, and thoroughly tested, as defective.

Baffled, Sam pitched up after work, armed with a laptop and cables, in order to get to the bottom of things.

"I plugged my laptop into the wall plug and connected immediately.


Maybe the tech was right, and Sam's pride and joy was indeed defective. That would be a tad embarrassing. Working his way through the fault tree, Sam unplugged his cable from the laptop and plugged it into the PC.

"...which also connected without issue.


Sam was now properly baffled. Both PC and laptop had connected without issue. Nothing made sense, until he remembered that he was using his own cable.

"Then I looked at the cable that the tech had supplied.

"The locking tabs at both ends were missing." And, of course, this was a supposedly "new" installation.

Sam, who nearly 20 years on is enjoying a well-earned retirement thumping the heck out of golf balls, told us: "That was my first ComCrap follow-up, but I can assure you that it was not my last..."

Ever been called out to do some friends and family support, only to find a so-called professional has left fetid pile of IT fail that is now somehow your fault?

Of course you have. And you should share the pain with an email to On Call. ®

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