Clunk, whirr, buzz, whine. Shared office space can be a riot and sounds like one too

And what about my buttocks, eh?

147 Reg comments Got Tips?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? It's that hum in the office. It's getting to me.

I have spent the last hour picking up active devices around my current nine circles of open-plan hell and holding them to my ear to see which one is the culprit. Various strangers – I call them "colleagues for the day" – are obviously taken by surprise to have someone waltz over to their desk to lift an external hard drive or whatever to the side of his head and immediately replace it. But by the time they have thought of how to object, I have waltzed off again.

It's the waltzing that gets them. Walking normally gives them time to respond.

Several members of staff had DVD-R drives, God knows why. A couple of techies had even installed their own little multi-slot NAS boxes which I'm not sure is allowed. At least invest in some solid-state gear, guys. Spinning disks, fans, moving parts, aargh. Hummmmmmmmm. Whsssssssssss. Fffffffffffffff.

A high-pitched background whining sound was eliminated by putting the network printer to sleep, a double blessing since it caused the office dog – every office should have one – to stop barking immediately.

You know what: they should rename hardware products that contain moving parts to match the annoying noise they produce. The Western Digital BuzzDrive, for example, or the HP WhistleJet. And given the unexpectedly loud amplification of a vibrating alert when a smartphone is resting on a tabletop, Huawei should consider marketing its next model as the Fart Mate.

Hey, I'd buy it. I'm a sucker for entertaining product names. My own NAS at home is from Synology, a manufacturer I chose purely because its name – in a vague nod to Maureen Lipman's Beattie character – suggests a scientific study of committing moral offences.

The disks inside my Synology box tend to commit the syn, er, sin of gently but persistently whining. Another media server box downstairs near the telly emits its own kind of quiet hum that bugs me even when I can't hear it just because I know it's doing it anyway.

Unlike Michael Ginsberg, however, I don't feel the need to solve the problem with drastic measures. Propping the NAS at a slight angle and putting a piece of carpet under the media server seems to do the trick for me. No kitchen surgery required.

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I'm especially keen on company and product names that only sound funny in another language. Such a thing used to be a staple of readers' letters pages in years gone by, with people sending in photos they'd taken while on vacation of packets of crisps branded Shiit or fizzy drinks labelled Vom. These days it ought to be easy to check your brand for accidental international language goofs before you launch it, but thankfully plenty of organisations don't bother.

For example, the way the French pronounce the letters of the alphabet make for some entertaining initialised brand names. Riffing on Ginsberg's embarrassingly dated homophobia, the popular delivery company DPD pronounced in French sounds like someone saying "poofters". A company named POQ might want to rebrand in France for fear of informing customers that it has a farty arse.

Around the turn of the millennium, modern Chinese translators struck a blow against such puerile-sniggering-bordering-on-casual-racism by reinventing the occidental to Latin transliteration of the very common family name once written as Wang to Huang. Unfortunately, not every proper noun can be spelt away so easily when travelling abroad, as the King of Bhutan, Jigme Wangchuck, has no doubt found to his occasional dismay.

Nor am I terribly keen to walk to my local supermarket and back wearing one of these hoodies. Everyone will assume it's a description of the wearer, like a kind of live caption under my face. Yup, they'll think, what a cock.

Even French president Emmanuel Macron has become embroiled in such matters, trying to spoil our fun by inviting citizens to come up with a new moniker for its unfortunately named housing quango, MFS (Maisons France Service). Pronounced frog-style, MFS sounds exactly the same as "et mes fesses" – that is, "and my buttocks".

This would be such a shame as its current acronym gives the organisation a charm that is as sorely welcome as it is wholly undeserved. In complete contrast, you can almost hear the cogs of logic turning in the minds of French visitors to British furniture store MFS as they browse all manner of items specifically designed to be sat upon.

Talking of hearing cogs, I finally sourced the bastard that was making an irritating ticking noise: it was the fancy water fountain gadget for the office dog. It's now sitting on strips of rubber tubing I found in the skip – the fountain, that is, not the dog – and now it barely purrs – in this case, both the fountain and the dog.

Hold up, a service desk minion has just waltzed over to me with a query. What's that? The space next to my desk? You want to install what?

Ah, it's a Huang Dot Matrix ScreamPrint.

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Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He has tried wearing noise-cancelling earphones like a hotdesking hipster but says it increases the frequency in which people come over to his desk to ask questions. Once the earphones are removed, everyone leaves him alone.@alidabbs

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