Ouch! When the IT equipment is sound, but the setup is hole-y inappropriate

Let me draw a picture for you

On Call The week may be over, but the capacity of users to stick things where they shouldn't is far from exhausted. Welcome to another edition of On Call.

Today's tale takes us back to when we worked in offices and the concept of "hot desking" was a fashionable thing that did not require the attention of hazmat-clad workers between sessions.

"Ben," for that is not his name, regularly travelled from city to city as part of his job and, being a conscientious type, popped into company offices along the route to deal with any callouts. He and a colleague would arrive early in the morning to diagnose complaints and deal with IT issues faced by staff.

There is little like the delight of arriving at one's desk to discover the good IT fairy has already been round and dealt with that broken printer. Unlike the bad IT fairy who insists on shovelling Microsoft's occasionally iffy updates down the Ethernet.

"The workers," said Ben, "were mobile and the laptops were all of the same model which made it convenient for them to stop by any of our office branches and plug into a docking station to work.

"The docking station was hooked up to a large monitor, along with keyboard and mouse for their convenience."

All very familiar. This hack well remembers one large company that invested hugely in docking stations from a certain manufacturer in order to allow staff to hop from desk to desk. It all went a bit wrong when the laptop fleet received an upgrade and the discovery was made that the manufacturer had dropped the original dock connector in favour of USB. A handy skip was soon filled with expensively redundant slabs of metal and plastic.

Ben was preparing for his next epic road trip when he received the inevitable call. One of the docking stations was not working. The keyboard and mouse were dead. The monitor was receiving no signal. The light on the docking station was dark.

Ben tried the obvious – was the dock actually attached to power? The answer was swift: of course it was. He then had the user attach the monitor directly to the laptop, and the screen obediently lit up. The employee could continue working more or less as usual, but the dead dock was a bit of a mystery and Ben resolved to attend to it personally the following morning.

Upon arrival at the stricken device, Ben spotted the issue. Yes, it was indeed plugged into a power outlet, and yes, power was indeed flowing....

Except it was flowing into the cable lock. Somebody had managed to jam the power lead into the hole reserved for securing the laptop dock from light-fingered users.

Ben popped the power lead into the correct socket – you know, the one marked "Power" – and things fired up as normal.

He didn't tell us how the user reacted to the magical fix but did discreetly get the training documentation updated "with pictures and instructions on the correct way to plug the power cord into a docking station."

We knew an Accident and Emergency worker who delighted in sharing tales about all manner of things being inserted into all manner of orifices. Shoving a power cable into a security slot was, we hope, toward the more innocent end of the scale.

Ever been called out to sort something stuck somewhere it shouldn't? Share your tale with an email to On Call. ®

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