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Today I shall explain how dual monitors work using the medium of interpretive dance

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

On Call What's worse than having to deal with an idiot over the phone? Having to drive thousands of miles to deal with the same idiot, face to face. Welcome to another Register reader's experience of helping those who won't help themselves in On Call.

"Jack", for that is not his name, is a member of that special breed tasked with hopping into a car and going wherever the cries of the users were loudest. He explained his job was "maintaining the 'Desktop Experience'" and required both the burning of brain cells and petroleum to deal with all manner of fails and failures.

One 130-mile trip was to deal with a complaint that "the Internet isn't working" only to find the network cable stuck to the top of the monitor. "When asked what they had been doing for the week, they said 'oh it's been working the rest of the week'."

Hmm. Plugging it in fixed the problem. "I can only suppose that they were browsing the cache files in the interim," Jack observed drily.

However, it is the call-out to fix the broken monitor set-up that stands head and shoulders over the usual nonsense. Jack had installed several dual monitor set-ups at customer sites before getting the call from a distressed user: "The monitors are not working."

Back in the car he went for another jaunt of three-figure mileage. At first glance, the screens looked OK. The power was on, the desktop was visible.

A small crowd gathered to watch him work his dark IT magic.

"As I moved the mouse onto the second screen," he said, "they exclaimed, 'How did you do that?!'"

Do what? It eventually dawned on Jack that the users were unable to grasp that the two monitors were actually showing one, big desktop. Despite his attempts at moving the mouse and shifting files around, the concept of the two-screen desktop remained utterly alien to the onlookers. In the end, he was forced to go down a slightly more practical path in order to drive the lesson home.

A physical desk was cleared and Jack piled everything in one place. He moved the pile to one corner. Then to another. And the penny, for some, finally dropped.

"Some of course couldn't handle it," sighed Jack, "and I wonder if their homes were the same, piled high with junk and letters with them sitting in an empty space in front of the TV..."

Ever had to explain an IT concept via the medium of modern dance? Or mimed the consequences of an unplanned server shutdown? Share your experience with an email to On Call. ®

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