Beware the Friday afternoon 'Could you just..?' from the muppet who wants to come between you and your beer

Polishing balls for mates is no way to make a living


On Call Welcome to an On Call with a difference. Today The Register retells a story familiar to all too many readers: "You know about computers, right?"

We will call the reader in question "Will" in order to ensure there is no chance of an interruption to his beer supply by an angry landlord.

It was the middle of the last decade, and Will was enjoying what he described as "light refreshment" following the usual stresses and strains of a working Friday.

The landlord of the establishment sidled up to him, and asked that dreaded question: "You do computers, don't you?"

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Perhaps Will was feeling particularly helpful, or perhaps a pint or two of the "light refreshment" had left him in a relaxed mood, but he did not immediately shut down the conversation with a "No, I'm in PR" to demonstrate a lack of technical prowess. Instead he allowed the landlord to ramble on.

"The computer at home," the landlord explained, was "acting up." Apparently the device seemed to have acquired a mind of its own. Could Will possibly sort it out for him?

Will agreed. Upon further questioning it turned out the landlord's daughter was not keen on protection and "surfed the net without any kind of security".

"I duly turned up at his home," recalled Will, "and booted up the beast, and right enough, the cursor was all over the place and unresponsive."

Naturally, he checked the obvious things. The rollerball of the old IntelliMouse was clean and there was no sign of grot in its internals.

He then opened his toy box and performed scans with his various antivirus software apps, but all came up empty.

Maybe a rogue registry entry was making Windows poorly? He hunted through the tree "looking for something out of the ordinary" but still nothing. The cursor still hopped around the screen like a seven-year-old in urgent need of the bathroom.

With the landlord looking on, and his IT superpowers at stake (along with a hoped-for unlimited bar tab), Will deployed the nuclear option and "offered to do a complete reinstall of the OS"

"Remember," he told us, "this was Windows 7 and those [expletive deleted] updates take over an hour to install..."

Two hours later – impressively quick for a full reinstall and patch frenzy – the setup was complete, but the computer still suffered from haunted mouse-pointer syndrome.

It was only then that Will thought to use the external mouse he kept in his bag.

"The [expletive deleted]'s running like clockwork."

It transpired that while the mouse ball was as clean as a whistle, the cable had suffered from years of wear and tear and had a break that manifested itself as erratic cursor behaviour.

"A quick visit to local computer shop for a five-quid mouse and all was well."

He was down two hours labour, and a fiver for the mouse, but Will was sure he would receive his just reward for saving the day. Surely a night of free beer from a grateful publican was in prospect?

Sure enough, the landlord slipped him an envelope with a "Thanks." Not wishing to reveal the landlord's largesse, Will opened it once he'd left and peered inside, expecting to see the equivalent of a golden ticket for day or more of "light refreshment".

"Inside was a poxy £20," he recalled, "so for my good deed I 'earned' £15.00"

Not a bad hourly rate when dealing with friends and family support calls in our experience.

But for Will, the moral was: "If anyone in the pub ever asks you if you 'Do Computers' just say no..."

Sage advice.

Ever had to don your IT superhero cape and save the day for friends and family? Only to find yourself rewarded with stale sandwich and a phone call when the next thing goes wrong? Share your story of a mates-rates call-out with On Call. ®

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