Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth

There's a rat in my system, what am I gonna do?

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On Call It's Friday! That time of the week when thoughts turn to the weekend, a well-earned rest, and a vermin-infested tale from The Register's On Call archives.

Our story this week comes from a reader we will call "Andrew" and concerns the time he spent taking calls from customers worrying about beige boxes and billowing clouds of burning insulation.

"Over the years answering client calls," he told us, "I have had the usual, 'There is smoke coming out of the big box with the wires attached to it, is that normal?'"

This call, however, was a bit different.

A new client of Andrew's had purchased a system from which to run a home office. It had all the modern conveniences, including a copy of Microsoft's Windows XP. As you would expect, the client could not get the thing to work.

Man and woman argue (cartoon illustration). via Shutterstock

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Enter Andrew, who duly turned up at the client's residence, got the recalcitrant kit working ("much to the delight of the new client") before declaring "job done" and retiring for the day.

A few days later the inevitable call came in: "A rather cross client rang to say the mouse, keyboard and sound had all stopped working at the same time."

This was a bit odd. While a driver problem and some over enthusiastic tinkering might explain the keyboard and mouse, losing the sound output at the exact same time seemed strange. Andrew pondered the possibilities as he dutifully headed over to his new client's home to commence diagnosis.

Pitching up in front of the new shiny, Andrew hit the power button and sure enough: a keyboard error during boot, no life from the mouse and no sound.

While his first instinct was the whip out his spare keyboard and mouse, Andrew told us: "I have a book that I carry listing all the odd fixes to get stuff working. In bold letters on the front page it states, 'Check all the simple stuff first'."

A handy thing, and something we can imagine people from all walks of life could do with.

Perhaps some excessive foot-tapping during the early days of the home office experience had dislodged something, so Andrew took a deep breath and dove beneath the new office furniture to double-check the connections.

"Very quickly the problem became apparent: chewed wires."

Andrew took a closer look with a magnifying glass and noted the perpetrator had quite large chisel-shaped teeth.

"How do you tell a client that they have rats in their rather nice house?"

We'd probably say something like "did you know you have rats?" but then we've not had to worry about staying in the favour of an already-cross client, regardless of the snark occasionally found on our pages.

"As I sat there pondering my next conversation with the client, I was joined by the family's pet guinea Pig," said Andrew, "who was wondering why I was sitting in its new play area."

The damaged components were replaced, returning the system to its former glory.

Furry animals were henceforth banned from the home office, preserving the cables as well as, we imagine, ensuring that the life of a precious pet was not prematurely truncated with a damp squeak by a thoughtless roll of a wheeled office chair.

"The client is still with me," said Andrew. "Guinea pig is now v3.0+…"

Ever found a rat's nest of cables that was ... an actual rat's nest? Maybe you'd like to share some pics of some of the more grungy bits of kit you found on a call-out? All are welcome, via an email to On Call. ®

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