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Computer Stupidities

Nice Try

Sometimes it's pathetic what people will try to pull and apparently think they'll get away with. Nice try. Better luck next time.

I work for Iomega tech support. One day, when I was answering the AOL message board questions, I ran across a letter complaining that this person's zip drive had ejected a zip disk clear across the room and hit her dog in the eye. The dog supposedly lost vision in that eye and wanted Iomega to pay for the vet bill. I wrote back asking for a picture of the injury. I got back a picture of a dog wearing a pirate patch.

One of my duties as a teacher at a respected university's computing department is to assess students' practical laboratory exercises. One day, a student proudly asked me to mark his work, a short programming exercise involving the development of around ten lines of code. Upon inspecting the code listing, it was very difficult not to notice the considerable preamble which was present at the top of the file. It consisted of a lengthy email header which had originated from a friend of the student and was followed by the line: "Here is the stuff you need to pass the exercise." He didn't.

My friend and I were walking to school one day when this guy tried to impress us with his computer knowledge. He launched into this big discussion about how he wrote all these cool programs for nuking people on IRC and that sort of thing. I had a feeling he was lying, so I asked him, "What language did you write them in?" His reply was, "English, of course."

I have been working at a local national chain computer store for the past few summers as a salesperson in networking hardware.

He proceeded to ask about four more wireless adapters until he got it that there was no possible way for him to get into their network. Then came the topper.

At this point, I put the call on the speaker phone and motioned at the other techs to listen in.


Email from a customer:

My birthday is in a few weeks. Could you maybe send me one of your CD-Rewriters as a present? If not, then could you please send me the technical specs of them so I can decide on which one to buy?

A client brought in a computer with a hard drive problem.

I gave him a list of several places he could go to get his data back. He left, but later he called back.

One day a customer walked into our store and wanted to buy a new motherboard for his computer. He bought one, but the next day he brought it back.

So I brought out ten or so motherboards, and he started going through them, finally finding one with only one or two holes in its plastic bag.

He looked at the board for a while, weighing his options, and finally accepted the board, left the store, and mumbled about lousy products.

A client was having a problem where the software could not find the correct directory. I asked what directory he had typed. Then I directed him through Windows Explorer to make certain that the directory existed. It did. At a loss to understand why this was happening, I finally sent him a version of the software that created a log of its actions. I asked him to try it and mail the log file back to me. Viewing the log, I noticed he had misspelled the directory name.

While working for a small PC shop, we got all sorts of requests. For one, a system that was brought in with the assurance that they had not opened the case or done anything inside. But after opening the case, we found their screwdriver, which we returned to them with the bill for the now out of warranty replacement of the motherboard.

Um. What kind of problem could this be if the operator is getting involved?

The operator puts the customer through. She didn't sound the least bit hysterical or sound like she'd been crying.

After lots of ranting, I finally got her serial number. I discovered that the system was four months out of warranty, not just a couple days. Furthermore her system was trouble-free until yesterday. I told her that my supervisor was on the phone and asked if I could have him call her back. She reluctantly gave me her last name (only) and her phone number.

I approached my supervisor and told him the story. He loves bursting the bubbles of this kind of customer. He said he'd wait an hour and call her back.

I checked the customer notes forty-five minutes later, and she'd called back complaining to customer service about me. It made its way up the food chain until the director of customer service ended up promising to call her back.

Finally, my supervisor called her back, telling her exactly what I told her (and what all the customer service reps told her). No out of warranty pro bono replacement of her hard drive. I overheard a piece of the conversation he had with her:

When I quit the company in July 1997, I checked back and discovered that the director of customer service had never called her back.

The only thing scarier than when someone tries to get away with something obvious is when it works.

At this point the customer preceded to standup and walk to the counter with the product under his arm.

This would be the first and only time I ever heard a supervisor call a customer an idiot over the phone.

My old boss spent some time writing statistical analysis packages for the Archimedes. One of them got fairly popular for Archie software, and he started a small business selling it. For those who don't know, Archie software usually came as source code and was executed through an interpreter.

One day at a scientific meeting, he noticed that another company was showing Archie software with remarkably similar functionality to his own, so he wandered over. The longer he watched, the more familiar it looked. Eventually, when the sales representative had gathered a good crowd, he asked in a loud voice:

The screen displayed my boss' copyright notice. All they'd done was remove the front end.

It widely accepted as the biggest laugh of the show.

The music giant Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG's global digital business division, responded with the following in an NPR interview about complaints that anti-copying technology on some of Sony's CDs create serious security vulnerabilities.

"Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"