Specializing in Small Business & Home Office Support
In working with computers, I have encountered many situations that, while they may not have been so at the time, I now find amusing. I thought I'd share a few of those, because they illustrate the reasons for my approach to computer support. In the paragraphs below I "spin a few yarns" that will hopefully amuse you. They might be fact or fiction, see if you can guess!
I got a call from a customer who said "I haven't been getting any email for two days!" I was alarmed since their business depended heavily on email to and from suppliers and clients. I drove over to the store and took a look at things. I did all the usual troubleshooting and could not find any reason why her email would not go through. I contacted the email service provider's tech support and that person couldn't find anything wrong either - all the settings and password on the account were correct, but test messages still would not go through. We changed the password at both ends - no go. Finally in exasperation I tried adding a new account, which worked! But - My customer was adamant that she must keep the same email address! -so I was back to square one. I decided to examine the last "known good" message that she had sent - there was absolutely no difference between the address on that message and the one that was now stubbornly refusing to transmit. I was now desperate, so I abandoned my normal procedures and started experimenting. Her account logon name started with an uppercase letter - I tried retyping it and at last, I typed in the name using all lowercase letters and, yep, it worked! Here's what happened: The ISP, in their unceasing vendetta against SPAM email, had changed its email server security policy to accept ONLY LOWERCASE letters in email logon names! It had done this WITHOUT NOTIFYING ANYONE including their own tech support. When I called to confirm my suspicions that they had done this, they denied it! I finally demanded to talk to their email services manager, who, after 2 hours, called back to admit that, yes, they had changed the logon policy, "to prevent unauthorized access". I asked, "what about authorized access?? He had no response. The worst thing was, I was unable to switch ISP's because my customer then would have needed to change her email address!! But you can bet I started planting the seed to my customer that we needed to plan to change ISP's soon, which we did within a couple of months. True story.
One afternoon the office phone rang and a gravelly voice said, without further ado: "My computer is all screwed up". I asked how I could help. He went on to say that he "hated computers", that he thought computers were part of a conspiracy to enslave the American people, and that he was going to "throw it in the ditch". I asked again, "Is there some way I can help you?". His next statement was: "How soon can you get here?" I said I would be there in a couple of hours after I finished up with another customer. "I'll be waiting for you." When I arrived I was amused to find that he matched my mental picture of what he must look like. His gruffness, I found later on, was a cover up for a man with a heart of gold. It turned out that he was using AOL (sometimes known as "SOL") email with dial-up (this was before the days of broadband connections) and they had changed their dial-up phone number, so he couldn't get his email from his buddies. I also found he was supporting orphans in Southeast Asia, among other things, and used email for that as well. I fixed the problem (it took 5 minutes) and spent the rest of the time arguing with him the benefits vs. disadvantages of computers and society in general. This turned out to be a pattern for all future service calls which I greatly enjoyed. He passed away last fall and I sure do miss him. True story.
Are you superstitious? I wasn't until I encountered this customer who had the most remarkable run of bad computer luck. If I hadn't witnessed this myself, I wouldn't have believed it. It's no secret that computer hardware and software is unreliable and quirky, a problem that continues to this day and will be with us forever due to the complex nature of the business. But, it's generally on the order of 10% chance of failure with more modern hardware and software. Not for this person! She works for a small business that I support, and also has a side business that is run from home. In the past 10 years, we have upgraded and serviced many different components both the business workstation she uses, and her home PC. In that time I have observed that almost every time we procure a new piece of equipment for her, it is defective in some way that is not normal. We've replaced her workstation 4 times in 10 years, and EVERY ONE of the new workstations we've set up has some weird anomaly or hardware problem, excepting this last time, a new Velocity Micro system that has (so far) been perfect. She's had hard drives fail, cooling fans seize up, motherboards and CPU's that run 'way too slow, bad memory chips, bad ethernet cards, bad wireless adpaters, bad wireless routers (3 in the last 2 years!), several bad printers, and software problems that are so rare it's sometimes necessary to just uninstall and reinstall the software.
She remains upbeat and has accepted that somehow she was chosen to be a victim of Murphy's law and just anticipates her computers to fail. We back up her data religiously on both systems so, when the inevitable happens, we can get her back up and running quickly. I suggested she set up a spare bedroom so Mr. Murphy can be more comfortable.