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    Default Stupid Tech Support Pt1 *Long*

    Copy/Pasted from [Only registered and activated users can see links. ]


    I used to work for MacWarehouse as a tech support representative. One day a gentleman called who had never had a computer before. He was trying to set up his new system. I tried and I tried but I just couldn't make him understand where to plug the cables in. Finally I looked up the details on his order. He had ordered top-of-the-line everything -- monitor, keyboard, printer, modem, scanner, speakers, CD-ROM drive, external hard drive......except, he had not ordered the actual computer itself. No wonder the cables would not plug in anywhere.



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    Customer: "One of my friends gave me an ImageWriter printer and this keyboard. He said he gave me all the cables, but I can't figure out how to connect them. Am I missing something?"
    Tech Support: "Well, a computer would help."
    Customer: "You mean this keyboard isn't a word processor?"
    Tech Support: "No ma'am, its just an input device."
    Customer: "Then I need to buy a computer, right?"
    Tech Support: "Yes."
    Customer: "Do you think I'll need a monitor, too?"


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    Customer: "Do I need a monitor? I have everything else."
    Tech Support: "Yes, ma'am."
    Customer: "Why? That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of."


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    On one occasion, a lady came into the store, apparently interested in buying a home computer. After surveying the models on display, she walked over to one and pointed to the monitor and keyboard saying, "I think I need one of these, and one of those...." She then pointed to the CPU and continued, "...but I don't think I need one of those."



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    Well, I had one event happen to me, where one lady had just bought a Apple IIc and complained that she was having problems with her monitor, so we told her to bring her monitor in, and we'd check it out. So she brings her monitor in, and we plug it in, and it works without a flaw. We tell her that the monitor isn't the problem, and to bring her CPU in. She stares at us blankly, and asks, "What's the CPU?" Joe explains that it's the piece of equipment that all your devices plug into. So about twenty minutes later, she returns and walks in carrying the surge supressor. When we explained to her the item that we needed her to bring in, she replied, "Oh you mean the keyboard!" (On Apple IIc's, the CPU box and keyboard are part of the same unit.) And to make this all the more interesting, she was a gradeschool computer class instructor.



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    Back in the mid-eighties, the high school I went to had just purchased a handful of 8086s along with some basic hardware -- at that time these things still were horribly expensive. A few weeks later, the computer lab was broken into and some of the hardware stolen. But the computers themselves had been left untouched: only the monitors and keyboards were gone. Apparently, the only computers the thieves had known were C64s or Apple II's, where the computer and keyboard are part of the same unit. Imagine the frustration when these guys tried to get the stolen machines to work!



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    I was one of a group of students who would help other students and teachers at my high school with computer problems. One day I got a call from a teacher saying that her computer was not working at all. I went to her room to find a perfectly good Mac PowerPC on her desk. With one problem.


    Me: "Excuse me, ma'am. Where's the keyboard?"
    Teacher: "Oh, it's over there in my travel bag."


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    A man who owned a small business asked me to program a sales and inventory system for him. He was replacing his old 286 PC and had been running a DOS-based program.

    He wanted all the bells and whistles, wanted it browser-driven, with images of all the products in his inventory. But the most important thing to him was that it all run off of floppies -- his 286's hard drive had crashed in the past and he lost all his records, so now he didn't trust hard drives. Not only did he want the whole thing on floppies, he wanted to be able to do a backup onto one floppy every night.

    The other thing was that he didn't want to use a mouse or any other sort of pointing device.



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    A while back, a friend of mine and I were discussing his new computer when he made a comparison to another friend's computer and said, "I know mine's better because it's bigger." I had a hard time not laughing.



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    I went with a friend to help him shop for a computer. Looking through the different varieties, he said, "I don't think I can afford one of these big ones [desktop machines]. I think I'll have to go with one of these little ones [laptops]."



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    I was advising a friend on a used PC she was considering buying from a friend. I asked the friend if it was a Pentium PC, and he laughed, "All computers have Pentium processors!"



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    A few years ago I was watching TV with a few other people in my college dorm lounge. A commercial for the Pentium II came on. That prompted one of the girls to ask everyone, "Ok, what the heck does that Pentium thing DO in a computer, anyway?"



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    I was in our University Bookstore the other day looking at software when I overheard a salesman talking to a lady about an iMac.


    Salesman: "It has a built in color monitor and comes with a mouse and keyboard--"
    Customer: "Does this thing come with a battery backup system?"
    Salesman: "No, but we have one over there for $99.00. Do you have problems with power outages?"
    Customer: "No, but I don't want to lose all of my Microsoft documents everytime I turn off the computer!"
    Salesman: "You don't need a battery backup for that. That's why it has a 4 gigabyte hard drive."
    Customer: "A hard what?"
    Salesman: "A hard drive. It's like a whole bunch of floppy disks inside your computer that you can store documents on."
    Customer: "I want the battery backup."
    Salesman: "You don't need it."
    Customer: "Why?"


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    Friend: "My 486 is getting too slow; I want to upgrade it. Do you think a couple megabyte SmartDrive would help?"


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    I own a computer store. One day, two policemen came into the store and told that they owned a 486 and a 286. They asked if a 486 and a 286 could be assembled together into a 686. I replied to the dumb request by asking them if two 200 horsepower police cars can be used to make up a 400 horsepower Ferrari. The policemen didn't get it and replied angrily that altering car engines is strictly forbidden by law.

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    Customer: "I have a 386 Pentium."


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    Customer: "My brother has a 486 with a Pentium chip in it."


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    Tech Support: "What type of systems do you have?"
    Customer: "I have four. A Pentium 200, a Pentium 66, a Pentium 33, and a laptop."
    Tech Support: "I don't think Intel ever made a Pentium 33."
    Customer: "It's a 486 Pentium."
    Tech Support: "Um, did you mean to say 486SX or 486DX?"
    Customer: "It's a 486DX Pentium."


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    Tech Support: "How fast is your modem?"
    Customer: "I don't know, it's got a Pentium chip in it."


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    Tech Support: "What operating system are you running?"
    Customer: "Pentium."


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    While working in a small computer store one day I had a customer walk quickly into the store and right up to the counter.


    Customer: "I want to buy a mainframe."
    Me: (playing along with the "joke") "I think I have a couple of them out back."
    Customer: "Good. I need a mainframe because I want to learn how to program in COBOL. I'd prefer a Pentium mainframe, if you have one of those."


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    Customer: "Does my PC support a Pentilum 3?"


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    When working at a computer chain store, I had to keep a straight face while this guy kept calling the (new at the time) Pentium processors "Pentootium" processors.



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    Customer: "I want a Penitum processor, because those Pentiums are just no good."


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    Customer: "I don't want one of those systems based on the cellulite processor."


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    My friend and I were comparing computers.


    My Friend: "What kind of processor do you have?"
    Me: "A [name of processor]."
    My Friend: "Oh, me too."
    Another Guy: "Hey, I have a word processor!"


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    Tech Support: "Ok, when the machine reboots, hit the 'del' key a few times. You should see a blue screen."
    Customer: "Ok, it tells me that I am in the Cosmos setup."


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    Customer: "I have a US Robotics Sportscaster modem."


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    Customer: "I have a teer to teer network."


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    Customer: "I'm in 386 enchanted mode."


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    A user called and demanded that his Windows 3.11 environment be changed from "386 Enhanced" to "Pentium Enhanced" since he felt he was "not getting the full potential" of his Pentium.



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    Customer: "It's a problem with Tcipx/ipspx."


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    Customer: "What is this PUNKZIP thing?"


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    Customer: "My computer's telling me I performed an illegal abortion."


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    Received by email:


    Dear Creater of this good game,
    I like your game and I wish I could play it more but I can't.
    I could play it just fine the very first times I tried. But now I cant
    cause I put in a name and password it loads like for 5 minutes then a
    BRRIINNNK noise pops my speakers and a word thing popped up and said
    something wierd like Operation Collapsed or something like that. Please
    write me back!!!



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    A quote from a badly written piece of software: "You can click the OK plate if you wish to continue, but you can click the CANCEL plate if you wish to cancel."



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    I work in the tech support department of an ISP. You wouldn't believe the number of people who pronounce "Eudora" as "Endora."



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    Tech Support: "What version of Eudora are you using?"
    Customer: "Navigator 3.0."


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    Overheard at the office:


    "Someone has a hexadecimal exitor?"


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    Tech Support: "What type of computer do you own?"
    Customer: "I don't know. I just bought it."


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    Tech Support: "What kind of Mac do you have?"
    Customer: "It's the kind that sits on my desk...not one of the newer ones."


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    Tech Support: "What kind of modem do you have?"
    Customer: "Oh, it's a 486."
    Tech Support: "No, that's the kind of computer you have. Ok, how much memory do you have?"
    Customer: "It's supposed to have one gigabyte."


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    Customer: "It says I have 2 zillion bytes available, and I need 8 zillion."


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    Tech Support: "Ok, in the lower left-hand corner of File Manager, what does it have for 'Free'?"
    Customer: "10,578 kegabytes."


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    Customer: "Please put 60 nanoseconds of RAM in this computer."


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    Friend: "Hey! This one has 300 MHz of RAM!!"


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    I spotted a garage sale with some computer equipment on a table, so I went over to investigate. There was an old dot matrix printer, an amber screen monitor, and what appeared to be an IBM XT. The lady who was running the garage sale noticed me looking at her equipment and came over.


    Her: "Hey, are you interested in buying that? It's a full computer, still works. It's got a color modem and everything."


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    I'm new to computers, and a little while back I was talking to someone who claimed to be a PC tech. Having recently found out what a processor actually was, I asked her what its number meant. She said, "That's your memory," and began an explanation of RAM. Thinking she misunderstood the question, I clarified with, "When someone says 'Pentium 266,' what does '266' mean?" She replied happily, "Oh, you mean your operating system!" I laughed, because I thought she had to be messing with a newbie's mind, and said, "No, not Linux or Windows or anything like that. I just want to know what that one number means." She looked very hurt and confused and walked away insisting that it was the OS.



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    I was just talking to a user who had been having problems with her machine -- it was losing its settings every time she turned it on.


    Her: "I asked my boyfriend about it. He knows about computers, and he said it sounds like it might need a new sea monster battery."
    It took me a while to figure out what she meant.



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    While in art school, where we mostly worked with Amigas and Macs, a Spanish exchange student asked me if I ever worked with MS-2. I thought he meant OS/2 but he didn't know what that was. It took me some time to figure out that he meant MS-DOS. "Dos" in Spanish means "two."



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    In 1986, a reporter from the local newspaper was interviewing me for a story on my company, which does software development. His first question was: "What language do you program in? MS-DOS or ASCII?"



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    Tech Support: "What version of the Mac OS are you using?"
    Customer: "Word 6.0."


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    Tech Support: "Go to File and select Exit Windows. Click on 'OK'. What do you have on your screen now?"
    Customer: "Windows. I clicked on 'Cancel' because it said it would injure my Windows session."


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    Customer: "Eudora keeps giving me the error 'connection confused'."


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    Customer: "My DOS system got corroded."


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    Student: "Hey, how do I lodge in to Hotmail?"
    Me: "You've got to type in your username and password in those fields that say 'username' and 'password'."
    Student: "I don't have one of those."
    Me: "You need one to log in to Hotmail."
    Student: "It's 'LODGE' in."
    Me: "The term is 'log in,' and you can't log in without a username and password. I can help you create one if you'd like."
    Student: "Um, excuse me, but I THINK I know what I'm talking about. It's LODGE in, and I don't want a username and password, I just want to get some email!"
    I just went back to working after that, and he left complaining about how "crappy" the computers in the lab were, after trying to "lodge in" for ten more minutes.



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    My mother owns a child care center which is situated in our very own home. One of the mothers of the children she cares for wanted to ask me a computer related question. She started telling me about how she was installing childrens' software for her kids and how one program required another program to be installed. She said the program was called "640 times 480 times 256." She went on to tell me that she looked for the program, eventually found it (I have no idea where she might have thought she found it), but couldn't install it.



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    My grandfather has recently started a course called "Computers for the Terrified." He's nearly eighty and, although used to be an engineer within the British Royal Airforce, is completely stuck when it comes to computers.

    He came back from his first evening at this course. When asked how it had gone, he replied, "Yes, it was really good. I really enjoyed it, but I really couldn't get to grips with my mole."

    I stopped for a second, completely puzzled, until I realised he was talking about the mouse.



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    One day I asked if my Mom could shut down my computer. I told her to press "the big gray switch on the computer." After some time, I phoned her and asked if she shut the machine down, but she replied, saying there wasn't any big gray switch on the keyboard.


    Me: "No, Mom, not on the keyboard; it's on the computer."
    My Mother: "Computer?"
    Me: "Yes, that gray box on the floor."
    My Mother: "Ah, the engine!"
    Me: "Engine?"
    My Mother: "Yes, it's making lots of noise."


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    Once I went on site to set up a computer for a school. I spend several hours setting up the equipment and configuring all the software and checking the Internet connection. When I left, everything was working perfectly.

    The next morning, I got a call from the teacher, saying that the computer wouldn't turn on. Perplexed, I paid another visit. I sat down at the desk and looked at each component: the scanner was on, the monitor was on, the speakers were powered up, but the screen was blank. I looked under the desk, and, sure enough, none of the lights on the face of the computer were lit. I reached down, pushed the main power button, and the computer immediately came to life and booted up normally.


    Me: "Why didn't you try that?"
    Customer: "The light on the brain was on...."
    She was pointing to the speakers.



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    As the local computer enthusiast, I sometimes get called on to troubleshoot computer problems. A while back, my boss asked me to help her figure out what was going on with her computer, complaining that her "rat" (mouse) was not responding. She surmised that it was a problem with the "ropes" (cables) behind the computer.



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    I had a friend who was ready for a memory upgrade on his Mac notebook, and he wanted to know how much "megaram" he needed.



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    Customer: "How do I use my High Megabit memory?"


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    Customer: "This DOS program says I have insignificant memory."


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    Customer: "The computer told me it had contagious memory. Does it have a virus?"
    Tech Support: "No, that is 'contiguous' memory, as in 'sequential'."
    Customer: "That is impossible, it said 'contagious'."
    Tech Support: "Type 'mem' and hit the 'enter' key."
    Customer: "Oh."


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    Customer: "I have 384,000 free contentious memory."


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    Customer: "I have a terminant swap file."


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    Customer: "I have a terminal swap file."


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    Customer: "I have a scummy card in my system."


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    Customer: "I lost my blue cyanide color."


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    Customer: "I have a cursing flasher."


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    Customer: "It says one copy filed."


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    Customer: "I'm in the CONSYS.FIG file."


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    Customer: "I have SETUP.EXERSIZE on my B floppy."


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    My Grandmother: "I can't find the sloppy disk!"


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    My Teacher: "Do you have a booty disk on hand?"
    Me: (almost losing it) "Don't you mean a boot disk?"
    My Teacher: "Oh no. I need a booty disk to make the system booty up."
    I could contain my laughter no more. I got in trouble for that one.



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    Customer: "I am getting an error on my computer"
    Tech Support: "What kind of error?"
    Customer: "It says I have a corrupted file on my hard drive, and I should run 'Check Disk'."
    Tech Support: "Ok, we need to call in a ticket, and someone will be down shortly."
    Customer: "Can you make sure you bring some extra Check Disks, because mine does not work."
    Tech Support: "Uh. We're out of stock right now, but I'll order some."


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    When I was setting up a local network (simple thin ethernet) with my neighbors, one of them asked, referring to terminators: "Do we have to have any of those predators at the ends?" Maybe he just watched too many Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.



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    One day I was shopping for RAM with a friend of mine. We checked out a few places. During the trip, my friend blurted out:


    "That was some cool RAM in there. Pentium makes the best RAM, not like that cheap RAM other places got!"


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    The place where a friend of mine works was going through the process of upgrading all of their computers. On one computer in particular, they had determined they needed more memory. One of the senior partners got it into her head that they needed more "Meg." My friend tried to tell her that what they needed was RAM, but she insisted that the machine had plenty of RAM and that they needed more Meg -- specifically, about 16 megabytes of Meg. He got tired of arguing with her and said to go down to the computer store and buy some Meg.

    She came back with an envelope with RAM in it -- on the envelope was written "16 megabytes of Meg."

    "The salesman tried to tell me the same thing you did," she told my friend, "but then he went and talked to his manager, and he set him straight. Now go install this Meg."



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    Customer: "Well...we have the CD, but we can't find the ROM!"
    After some inquiry, I finally understood what she perceived the "ROM" part of "CD-ROM" to be: the picture. She said a specific multimedia CD was not displaying the ROM. I corrected her mistaken impression, to which she said, quote, "Huh." I walked her through the problem, and when it was fixed, she exclaimed loudly, "We found the ROM! WE FOUND THE ROM!!!!"



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    I was supporting a group of very illiterate computer users on one specific application they needed to run in batch mode daily. One day one of the ladies couldn't find the icon on the Windows 3.1 Program Manager screen to launch the process. I asked her to read to me what was in each of the the title bars in the sub-windows. At one point she blurted out 'Microscopic Applications' instead of 'Microsoft Applications.' It took all the restraint I had to not reply, "Well, there's your problem. Your applications are too small."



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    I needed to wipe someone's hard drive and re-install Windows, so I asked her what she had on her system that wasn't backed up.


    Customer: "I have some data files for Mississippi Works saved."


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    Customer: "I have Microword Soft."


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    Customer: "Microwave Windows?"


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    Customer: "Will this upgrade include Microwave 97?"


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    Customer: "I ran Microwave Defrost, but it didn't help."
    (Referring to Microsoft Defrag.)


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    Seen on a web page:


    "This site best viewed in Netscape Explorer."


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    Customer: "I'm having trouble with Internet Exposer."


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    Customer: "I have Microsoft Exploder."


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    Customer: "I have Microscope Exploiter."


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    Customer: "I have Netscape Complicator."


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    Customer: "I have Netscape Regulator."


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    Customer: "Uhh...I have Newscape and Outlook Exposure."


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    Customer: "I use Outlook Explorer."


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    Friend: "I was using AOL, but now my ISP is Netscape."
    This was back before Netscape actually became an ISP.




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    Overheard at a library:


    "Yeah, surfing the Internet is really cool. You do it with this thing called Netscape -- what's the technical term for that, a program? Oh, no, an icon, that's right. Netscape's an icon!"


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    Tech Support: "What browser are you using, Netscape or Microsoft?"
    Customer: "Netscape."
    Tech Support: "Could you read to me what it says at the top of the window?"
    Customer: "'Global Travel Conference - Microsoft Internet Explorer'."


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    Here's a silly one. My high school computing teacher routinely called Word for Windows "Windows for Word" through the whole time I went there.



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    Tech Support: "What operating system are you running sir?"
    Customer: "Word."
    Tech Support: "I think you mean windows, sir."
    Customer: "Oh yeah, WordWindows. It's very popular."


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    This happened when I was working for Kinko's:


    Customer: "I need to print out my letter here."
    Me: "Ok, what program did you use to create it?"
    Customer: "Macintosh!"
    Me: "No, what actual program did you use. Was it MacWrite? Claris?"
    Customer: "Microsoft."
    Me: "OK, you used Microsoft Word. We have that here, so go ahead and sit down at one of these Macs."
    Customer: "It wasn't Microsoft Word. It was Windows!"
    Me: "I need to know what kind of computer you used. Was it a Macintosh or an IBM?"
    Customer: "I don't think it was an IBM."
    Me: "It could be an IBM compatible. Do you remember anything about what kind of computer it was?"
    Customer: "Microsoft!"
    Me: "Did the computer have a little apple on the front of it?"
    Customer: "I think so."
    Me: (What I should have done five minutes ago...) "Give me the disk, and I'll put it in my computer and check it out."



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    Customer: "Does this come with Microsoft?"
    Tech Support: "Um, well, we install Microsoft Windows on all our systems, unless you say otherwise."
    Customer: "Oh, no, no, I need Microsoft to do my letters and stuff."
    Tech Support: "Well what do you use to write your letters?"
    Customer: "Microsoft!"
    Tech Support: "Ok, but do you use Word?"
    Customer: "Yes, I use Word at work."
    Tech Support: "Ok, so you'll need the Office Suite then, too."
    Customer: "But doesn't this computer come with Microsoft?"
    Tech Support: "Well, yes, it comes with Windows 95 installed."
    Customer: "Oh. Can I type my letters with that?"
    Tech Support: "Yesss...but you need a word processor installed, like Word or WordPerfect. Our systems come with the Corel suite, but we can use Microsoft Office instead if you like. It just costs more."
    Customer: (thoughtfully) "WordPerfect sounds familiar."


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    Customer: "Is Corel WordPerfect IBM?"


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    I was having a conversation with a friend in the computer cluster. A girl overheard us and piped up.


    Me: "So, what's your ICQ number?"
    Girl: (staring) "Why do you need an icy cucumber?"


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    A lot of people seem to think that all computers are made by Microsoft, and that all software is called Windows. This story comes from our school's computer cluster.


    Student: "I typed this document I wrote at home, but it won't load in here."
    Tech Support: "Ok, what word processing software did you use at home?"
    Student: "I have Windows, version 6."
    Tech Support: "Um, no, I mean, what is the name of the actual program you go into to write documents?"
    Student: "Windows."
    Tech Support: "Well, not quite, that's the operating system. Maybe it's WordPerfect, or it could be Microsoft Word, does that sound familiar?"
    Student: "Ah yeah! That's it! It's Microsoft Windows."
    I turn the monitor towards him and fire up WordPerfect.


    Tech Support: "When you start it, do you see a picture like this, of a fountain pen?"
    Student: "That's the one. Except you have Windows version 7 there, eh? I only have Windows version 6."


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    A client just called in reference to our most recent survey, which asks if they have Microsoft Access. The client said, "Of course we have access to Microsoft -- how else do you think we run our programs!?"



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    My Dad: "Ok, so I go into the Microsoft..."
    It usually takes two or three guesses to determine which Microsoft application he's in.



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    A few years ago I saw an advertisement that said:


    "Required: Office Assistant: Must be familiar with Lotus One, Two, and Three."


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    Tech Support: "Are you installing on a Mac?"
    Customer: "No, I'm using a 3.5" thingee on a disk."


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    Overheard in a computer games store:

    Customer: "Will this run on a Dell?"
    Salesperson: "Um, I'm not sure, sir. What kind of processor does it have?"
    Customer: "Um...uh.... It's a Dell."


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    Tech Support: "What kind of hard disk do you have?"
    Customer: "Well...it's black with a little red light...."


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    Customer: "Hi, I need to buy a box of hard disks."


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    A Friend: "Wow! That disk is pretty defragged."


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    Actually happened here in the Kansas City area a few years ago. My wife and I almost fell off the couch laughing about it.

    During a public television auction fundraiser here in Kansas City, they had the hostess of a local morning program reading off the product descriptions. One was for a software package. To make sure potential bidders could use it, she read off the system requirements and told us that the software came on five "dash-one-slash" four-inch diskettes.



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    I asked this guy to read whatever was on the screen, and he kept calling the asterisk an "Afterfisk."



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    When asking questions about setting up a new account online, the caller asked me if she had to put an 'astronaut' (asterisk) in front of the customer name.



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    Tech Support: "Is there an asterisk to the left of the discount field?"
    Customer: "Nope, just a 'squishy bug'." (her name for an asterisk)


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    The IT manager in my company, after a new software piece was ready for implementation, said, "But we are now able to manage the company on a virtually on-line real time way!"



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    A friend of mine has a daughter who had started attending a university and had decided to buy a computer on which to complete assignments. Her father suggested she call me for some advice on what to buy, since he knew I worked with computers. I answered the questions based on her needs and thought she had a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals of what we had discussed about RAM, applications, windows, etc. Until she asked, "Oh, and Mike, which is better, hardware or software?"



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    I was working for a major college in our area and we had a real neophyte end user that was constantly having problems with her PS/2. I went over to find out what was wrong. I wanted to find out what program she was running, so I asked, "What software are you using?" She replied, "Software? Oh, we don't use software." Needless to say I was totally amazed, I guess her computer is telepathic.



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    Talking to a Mac user:

    Tech Support: "Do you have any extensions on?"
    Customer: "I have a surge protector."


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    A friend had to go over to a bank and set everyone's software up. Since all the Internet software his company supports runs under MS Windows, he asked the manager "Do you have Windows?" The manager stared at him blankly and said, "No, we've got air conditioning."



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    A woman called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer. The tech asked her if she was "running it under Windows." The woman then responded, "No, my desk is next to the door. But that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his is working fine."



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    My mother works in a bank. She told me that every once in a while the printer would go crazy and spit out dozens of blank pages for no reason. I told her that sometimes happens when somebody prints a binary file that contains unprintable characters.

    The next day, she proudly announced to everyone in the office that the reason the printer goes crazy is because it's printing "unmentionable" characters.



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    I'm an employee of a major computer retail store. Recently I saw a woman wandering around, looking confused. I asked her if I could help.


    Customer: "Yes, I'm trying to compare these computers to see which one is better."
    Me: "What are you looking for in a computer?"
    She looked at me disdainfully, as if I was the world's dumbest idiot for having to ask.


    Customer: "I need a computer with both megabytes and gigabytes."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Once one of my students asked me:


    Student: "When are we going to see those there gigglebites?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "How much memory is in the computer?"
    Customer: "Eight megadrives."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Teacher: "I really want to buy a new computer. I think I just need to change the hard drive. Do you think a Pentium hard drive is fast enough?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "What kind of modem do you have?"
    Customer: "It's a 56 killer beet modem. Or killer beep?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I have a 33 kilowatt modem."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    While selling off some salvaged computers, we had a couple of 286 CPU cases stacked together with a monitor on top; another monitor happened to be sitting nearby. A woman asked me (pointing to the first monitor), "How come this one comes with two risers and the other none?"



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My company publishes clip art products for the computer, so many of the tech support calls involve people trying to use our products with their own illustration software -- Aldus FreeHand was one of the most popular. One day I overheard the tech guy in the next office say to a customer, "No, I think you mean Aldus. Adidas is the shoe."



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    Customer: "I'm going to install Windows 75 as soon as you guys send it to me."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I've been using Windows 94 at work."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A job ad that I saw in a storefront in London in March 1998 was for someone with "Windows 97" experience.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "What version of Windows do you have?"
    Customer: "Windows 94."
    Tech Support: "I presume you mean Windows 95?"
    Customer: "Of course not. I've got the version that came out first."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The other night I was talking to my girlfriend's father about computers. He was complaining about the difference with his computer at home and the one he has at work. The one at home was a Pentium II with Windows 95. The one at work was an old machine running "Windows 91."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "This has Windows 98 on it -- did it have Windows 98 or 95 on it when it was sent out for repair?"
    Customer: "I think it had Office 97."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I'm on Windows 96."
    Tech Support: "I'm sorry, do you mean Windows 95?"
    Customer: "No, I'm on Windows 96."
    Tech Support: "I'm sorry sir, but there is no such thing as Windows 96. You must be using Windows 95."
    Customer: "Look, I bought this computer in 1996, so I know it has Windows 96 on it."
    Tech Support: (pause) "Sir, buying a computer is not like buying a car with the different model years."
    Customer: "Oh, I didn't know that."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Friend: "Yeah, I use this neat thing to build my web page. It has bars and stuff, and it's just like a normal picture. Internet Maker or something it's called."
    Me: "Um, you mean Front Page Express."
    Friend: "Yeah, that's it, my computer uses Windows 5, you know."
    Me: "Windows 95?"
    Friend: "No, Windows 5."
    Me: "Windows 5 doesn't exist."
    Friend: "Maybe it's Microsoft 5. Yeah, that's what it is. That's what the little box says."
    Me: "You mean Internet Explorer 5."
    Friend: "Yeah, my computer uses Internet Explorer 5. You know, my neighbor had an advance copy of Windows 95 in 1990."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A guy I work with came back from the dentist, puzzled. The two had been commiserating about Windows and its instability, and the dentist had observed, "Yeah, last night I was fooling around with the system, and I blew out all my interrupts."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "This may sound strange, but my friend told me that if I emptied my cash box, it would help the Internet go faster. Ever heard of that?"
    Tech Support: "I believe he was referring to the cache files in your AOL folder."
    Customer: "No, he specifically said cash box. And I think it's the one in my Quicken software. How do I empty that? And what happens to my cash balance?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "We should use FTP to transfer this picture."
    Customer: "No, we do not accept FTP, we can only use JPG."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "Yeah, my Internet Explorer can only save pictures as bumpy files."
    (He was saving them as .bmp files.)



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "Backsplash. Backsplash?"
    Tech Support: "Backslash."
    Customer: "C colon backspl...backslash."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    My Boss: "Well, I think this Windows 95 thing is gonna be a big blackslash for Microsoft."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "...and then when I push the smash button it does..."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "How much free space do you have on your hard drive?"
    Customer: "Well, my wife likes to get up there on that Internet, and she downloaded ten hours of free space. Is that enough?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I just shut down Windows 95, and it says, 'It is NOT safe for me to turn off my computer.'"
    Tech Support: "Um...are you sure?"
    Customer: (terrified) "Yes!"
    Tech Support: "Sir, read me the screen letter for letter."
    Customer: "Ok. I, t, i, s, n, o, w--"
    Tech Support: "There! It says 'now', not 'not'. Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was doing some training for an initial release of our software. One of the students found a bug that caused the software to crash. The student was new to computers, so I explained that the program had crashed.

    The student proceeded to look behind the laptop he was working on, look below it, and then look at me, confused, and asked, "What did it hit?"



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I had a lady that called up complaining that she couldn't access the Internet. Now keep in mind she had an IBM system with a "Mwave" modem. She said that every time she tried to connect to the Internet, it told her that there was no dial tone. She looked up the error message in her help documentation, and it told her to make sure her phone line was connected.


    Customer: "I can see that I put one end in my computer, but where does the other end of the phone line go? My microwave doesn't have a connection that fits this plug."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I turned on my computer, and it just sits there. What do I do?"
    Tech Support: "Is the computer plugged in?"
    Customer: "Yes, of course."
    Through the course of our conversation, I discovered she was calling the monitor the computer and the computer the disk drive. So I clarified.


    Tech Support: "Is the little gray tower with the slots in it plugged in?"
    Customer: "No, but it doesn't need to be."
    I helped her get the system working, but she returned it anyway. She said, quote, "I couldn't get no hard drives programmed into the CPU." The return was accepted without hesitation.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I'm having trouble inserting my ethernet card into my hard drive."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "It's not my computer that is slow. I have a 200 horse power hard drive."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I work as a tech for my local school district. One day we got in a Mac LC with a problem tag stating the following:

    "Need to install CD chip into hard disk drive to expand memory to accept CD programs."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I turned my computer on this morning and it said something about a pipe being burst? Should I call a plumber, or can you fix it?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "Hmm, sounds like your system froze up."
    Customer: "I don't know why. It's about 80 degrees in here!"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I work at a computer store in the upgrades department. One day, a customer came up to me and asked for a "card game."


    Me: "A card game? You mean, like poker?"
    Customer: "No, no. I just bought a steering wheel. I need a card game."
    Me: "You mean a 'car game,' like Nascar? So that you can use the steering wheel to drive?"
    The customer looked at me like I was a complete idiot.


    Customer: "No. I have a Compaq computer. We tried to plug the steering wheel in, but it didn't work so we need a card game."
    I was trying to figure out how a card game was going to help them out. Instead of getting a racing game, at least a card game would work. But it wouldn't be very easy to play a card game with a steering wheel.

    Then I figured it out.


    Me: "You mean you need a 'game card,' to plug in your steering wheel?"
    Customer: "Oh, yeah. Maybe that's what it's called."
    Me: "They're in aisle 10 with the steering wheels."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "My computer won't start up."
    Tech Support: "Is the power light on?"
    Customer: "Yes."
    Tech Support: "Is anything on the monitor?"
    Customer: "Yes, it says to press F2 for setup, or I can press F1 and fill out a resume."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "Is a Pentagram better than a 486?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One morning, a man walked up to our service window and asked me to help advise him which computer he should buy. "I want one of them Pentenniums," he stated.

    "Ok, you want a Pentium," I replied, hoping he would note the subtle correction. But he didn't. Several times during our chat, he continued to say "Pentennium."

    After we were finished talking, he thanked me and started to walk away -- but then turned and came back to the window. "Hey, about that Pentennium," he said. "Is that a 386 or a 486?"



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I have worked for several years selling computers at national chain and am continuously amazed at how many people ask if our computers come with a "Pendulum Chip" in it. I am proud to say that I never once succumbed to the urge to tell them to simply listen for the ones that make a tick-tock noise.



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    Customer: "I have a Kumquat Presario."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A couple years ago, I tried to get in on field testing of cable modem service in the Chicago area. I was calling to order cable TV anyway, so after setting up my cable TV account, I asked the guy if the field tests for cable modems were available in my area.


    Cable Guy: "Cadle Mobem?"
    Me: "Cable Modem."
    Cable Guy: "We don't have that."
    Thinking his reply was a bit too quick, I asked him to go and check with his supervisor as to whether the service was available. He put me on hold. No less than ten minutes later, he came back.

    Cable Guy: "Did you say Cadle Mobem?"
    Me: "Cable. Modem."
    Cable Guy: "Hold on."
    Five more minutes on hold.


    Cable Guy: "Is that like email?"
    Me: "Yeah. Kinda like email."
    Cable Guy: "We don't have that."
    I gave up and found through other sources that, indeed, it was not available in my area. Now that I have one, though, I can't help but call it a "Cadle Mobem."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We had a guy in our office decide to become an advocate of client-server computing. "We shouldn't be using the file server for accessing shared information. What we should be using is a client server."

    We were laughing over this one for a long time afterward. The term "client-server," of course, refers to a particular type of architecture, of which the "file server" is an example.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A few weeks ago, we had a young man come in and say, "My computer is getting cervical errors." He looked surprised when we started laughing.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I spoke with a woman who appeared to be knowledgeable about computers and wanted to inquire as to which modem to purchase. She asked which ISPs were supporting 56K modems, how noisy the phones lines were, the pros and cons about voice modems, and so forth. After determining which modem would best meet her requirements, she asked, "How much more hard drive space will this give me?" Then, before I could recover enough to answer, she asked, "Or would a trackball be better to speed up my computer?"

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Tech Support: "May I ask what operating system you are running today?"
    Customer: "A computer."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A girl walked into the computer center where I work. She said she was having problems with her Mac. I asked what kind of Mac she had. In an indignant voice, she replied, "Duh, Intosh."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "What operating system are you running? Windows 95?"
    Customer: (a little too excited) "95, 97, 98, I've got them all!"
    After conferring with her husband, it turned out she owned a Macintosh with System 8.1.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I don't use DOS. What would happen if I deleted that directory?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Friend: "Does Windows 98 support Linux?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Overheard in a classroom:

    Student: "How much do Windows cost, and do you have to buy each one separately?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "How much do Windows cost?"
    Tech Support: "Windows costs about $100."
    Customer: "Oh, that's kind of expensive. Can I buy just one window?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Friend: "Hey, cool Mac! Does it have Windows!?"
    Me: (incredulous stare)
    Friend: "Oh, wait, that was stupid. All Macs have Windows."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: (angrily) "You said I would get 98 windows with this computer. Where are they?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    A customer called in with modem problems.


    Tech Support: "Ok, we're going to check your modem settings. First thing we need to do is make sure all programs are closed."
    Customer: "How do I know if everything is closed?"
    Me: "Make sure all windows are closed."
    Customer: "But...I'm in the basement. I don't have any windows here."
    Lucky me, I made it to the the mute button in time!



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    I can't even count how many people I argue with about this, yet they insist there is an operating system call "Windows 95 NT."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One day I got a call toward the end of the day from a sales rep in Chicago who couldn't get his computer to boot up. We went round and round for about two hours -- nothing worked. I was ready to pull my hair out, but I don't like losing. To lighten the tension of the moment, I started chitchatting with him as we're waiting to see if the machine will restart. He has an IBM ThinkPad, and I told him how much I like mine.


    Him: "Yeah, they're ok, but I travel a lot, and I got tired of the darn thing being so heavy, so I installed Windows CE to make it lighter."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    I was calling to sign up with a new DSL provider. When the guy asked what operating system I was using, I said, "Linux." I was put on hold for five minutes, and then a supervisor came back and told me, "You can't use Linux to connect to the Internet. It's a hacker tool, anyway." I almost fell out of my chair.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Last year, the temp agency I was working for was arranging a contract for me, and some additional "computer skills" tests were necessary. The branch manager asked what kind of computer I was comfortable with. I said, "Windows PC," although I had used several others. She cut in right then and asked, "Word or Excel?"



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    Customer: "I installed Windows 98 on my computer, and it doesn't work."
    Tech Support: "Ok, what happens when you turn on your computer?"
    Customer: "Boy, are you listening? I said it doesn't work."
    Tech Support: "Well, what happens when you TRY to turn it on?"
    Customer: "Look, I'm not a computer person. Talk regular English, not this computer talk, ok?"
    Tech Support: "Ok, let's assume your computer is turned off, and you just sat down in front of it, and want to use it. What do you do?"
    Customer: "Don't talk like I'm stupid, boy. I turn it on."
    Tech Support: "And then what happens?"
    Customer: "What do you mean?"
    Tech Support: "Does anything appear on your monitor? I mean, the TV part."
    Customer: "The same thing I saw last time I tried."
    Tech Support: "And that is what?"
    Customer: "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
    Tech Support: "Yes, sir. What is on your screen?"
    Customer: "A bunch of little pictures."
    Tech Support: "Ok, in the upper left corner, do you see 'My Computer'."
    Customer: "No, all I see is that little red circle thing with the chunk out of it."
    Tech Support: "You mean an apple?"
    Customer: "I guess it kind of looks like an apple."
    Then it took me fifteen minutes to convince him that he had a Mac. Even after showing him "About this Macintosh." I spent another fifteen minutes trying to convince him that Windows 98 wouldn't work on his Mac. He said it should work because Windows 98 is for PCs, and he had a PowerPC. I think he's still trying to get it to read that CD, because I never could convince him.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Two night forepersons at our company were discussing our new computer network after just having been to a brief orientation session. One of them wanted to know what "windows" were, so I explained. Just as she seemed to be catching on to the concept, the other foreperson piped up. "Well that's great, because we have ninety-five windows on there!"



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "Do you have any windows open right now?"
    Customer: "Are you crazy woman, it's twenty below outside..."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Co-Worker: "What version of DOS does UNIX run?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "How can I help you?"
    Customer: "Well, everything is working fine, but there is one program that is not."
    Tech Support: "What program is it?"
    Customer: "It's called 'MSDOS Prompt'."
    Tech Support: "What's wrong with it?"
    Customer: "Well, I click on it, a black screen shows up with NOTHING but a sign that reads: 'C:\WINDOWS>', and it just sits there and doesn't do anything. I have to turn off the system to go back to Windows."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    For my work-study job, I work tech support at a small college. One night I was working Help Desk and the phone rings. I pick it up to have a student telling me she can't get the computer to work.


    Me: "What operating system are you running?"
    Student: "Hunh?"
    Me: "Do you have a Mac or a PC?"
    Student: "Um, I don't know."
    Me: "Ok. What does the screen look like?"
    Student: "It's yellow."
    Me: "Ok. What does it say on the computer CPU?"
    Student: "What's that?"
    Me: "The big grey box."
    Student: "It doesn't say anything."
    Me: "Never mind that...do you have a little 'Start' button at the bottom of the monitor?"
    Student: "Monitor?"
    Me: "The thing that looks like a TV sceen sitting on the grey box."
    Student: "Oh! That! No. No start button."
    Me: "Ok. Is there a little apple symbol anywhere on the screen?"
    Student: (very puzzled) "Why would I have fruit on my computer?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Back in the early days of Windows 95:


    Customer: "I have Windows Thirty One."
    Tech Support: "Ok, this program requires either Windows 95 or Win32s. Do you have Win32s on your system?"
    Customer: "No, I have Windows Thirty One, not Thirty Two."
    Tech Support: "Windows 3.1 is the operating system. Win32s is a program that makes your computer fast like Windows 95."
    Customer: "What's Windows Ninety Five got to do with it?"
    Tech Supprort: "You need either Windows 95 or Win32s to run this."
    Customer: "I HAVE THIRTY ONE! WHY WON'T IT WORK?"
    Tech Support: (giving up) "Ma'am, your computer is too old. Buy a new one with Windows 95."
    Customer: "I've heard about Windows Three Hundred and Eleven. Wouldn't that be better than Ninety Five?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My father decided that it would be a nice surprise to install Windows 95 on my seven year old computer. He had one of his employees give him step-by-step written instructions but neglected to mention that my computer is so old. When I got home he had Windows 95 installed and was struggling to install the first piece of software.

    My Dad: "It says there's insufficient disk space. How much stuff to you have on the hard drive?"
    Me: "It was almost full. You shouldn't have been able to get Windows 95 on there."
    My Dad: "Well, I just followed these instructions."
    I looked at the instructions and saw that he had backed up everything and wiped the hard drive.


    Me: "If you followed these instruction properly, the only thing on the hard drive should be Windows 95. How much space does that take up?"
    My Dad: "It doesn't take up any space. It's an operating system."
    Me: "No, it takes up a lot of space, and it shouldn't even be able to fit on this computer."
    My Dad: "No, you don't know what you're talking about. The problem is that you have too many files. You have to delete some of them."
    Me: "You already deleted all my files. They're on that stack of disks now."
    My Dad: "Yes, and those disks are taking up too much space."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A friend just got his new Aptiva/Win98 system and bought a bunch of software to go along with it. He installed everything, then complained that when he started his computer up, the screen was so cluttered he was having a hard time finding his desktop. I talked him through the process of making his desktop a more simple place by turning off fancy wallpaper, toolbars, and so on. He rebooted and said it was just as bad as it ever was. Sighing, I took a quick trip over to look at it.

    Somewhat to my amazement, I discovered that every time the computer booted up, a half dozen or so program groups opened up on the desktop, and all sorts of programs were spilling their menu contents onto the screen. After some poking around, I discovered that he had installed everything -- everything -- into his StartUp folder.

    I asked him why he installed all his programs in there. He said, "Well, I wanted to be sure they'd start up when I needed them, so...."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My father likes to delete things from the Windows System directory because he's convinced that's where the swap file lurks. I have to reinstall Windows 95 almost every day.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A friend of mine had an old system with a small hard drive and not much memory, so she continued to use Windows 3.1 rather than suffer under the strain of Windows 95/98.

    She called me one day to help her because her computer will no longer run Windows. Past experience had taught me most of her computer problems were self-inflicted, so I asked her what she had done to the computer recently.


    Her: "Well, I needed more space from the hard drive so I could get more JPGs and WAVs from my friends on mIRC."
    Me: "Ok, so what did you do?"
    Her: "I just deleted all the blank files from my computer."
    Me: "Blank files?"
    Her: "Yes, blank files. I deleted tham all."
    Me: "What exactly is a blank file?"
    Her: "When you run File Manager, every file shows a picture. I just deleted all the ones with the blank page picture."
    Say goodbye to every .DLL and unassociated file on her system. She was somewhat indignant when she found out she would have to find some Windows 3.1 install diskettes and reinstall every piece of software she wanted to use.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    About two months ago, a client called in screaming profanities at me and demanding that I either give him a refund on his one year old system or send a technician out to repair it immediately. His problem was that the taskbar was on the right-hand side of his screen, and he couldn't get it back to the bottom.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A few days ago, a client called in wondering why he couldn't delete items off the Windows desktop. It was soon discovered that he'd already dragged Internet Explorer, MS Outlook, and a few other items off into the recycle bin, and was trying to delete 'My Computer' and 'Network Neighborhood.'



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I saw two older looking ladies trying to figure out the computers at a local store. I knew one of them would say something that I could send to Computer Stupidities, so I tried to listen in.


    Woman 1: "What is that little trash can on the screen?"
    Woman 2: "My son says that is call the 'recycle bin'. He tells me when I don't want a Word document anymore and I delete it, it really goes in there."
    Woman 1: "Why in the recycle thingy? Can't you just erase it?"
    Woman 2: "Oh no, Word wouldn't work for very long if I did that, I would run out of blank pages."
    Woman 1: "Why?"
    Woman 2: "Because it cleans the words off the pages, then sends the blank sheets back to Word so they can be used again. That's why it's called the recycle bin."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My coworker (who uses Windows 95) was having trouble downloading a self-extracting archive off the net. In an attempt to make it easier to open the file with WinZIP, he associated *.EXE with WinZIP.

    Nothing worked after that. Every program he tried to run would load WinZIP first. He couldn't even run REGEDIT to delete the association.

    He ultimately had to reinstall Windows 95 and all his programs.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    From a Windows 95 user:


    Customer: "I think my computer doesn't know what it is doing."
    Tech Support: (pause) "Why? What is the problem with the system?"
    Customer: "Well, it keeps asking me, 'What is this?'"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I keep getting an error message whenever I try using the MSDOS mode in Windows 95."
    Tech Support: "Can you describe what happens?"
    Customer: "Well, I keep getting a black screen with an error message saying, 'C:\WINDOWS>'."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "Something's wrong with my computer."
    Tech Support: "Like what?"
    Customer: "When I turn it on the screen goes all black."
    Tech Support: "Totally black?"
    Customer: "Yes."
    Tech Support: "Does it say 'C:\>' in the corner?"
    Customer: "Yes."
    Tech Support: "Then it's not really all black, is it?"
    Customer: "I guess not."
    Tech Support: "Type 'win' and press the enter key."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I work at an office supply store. When Windows 98 came out, we had a sale on new computer systems. There were more than a few people who were completely taken in by buzzwords and had no idea what they were talking about. The worst case was a person who spent five or ten minutes looking through Windows Explorer, apparently trying to find something. Trying to make the sale, I stayed with her, helping her when necessary. Eventually, I asked to know what she was looking for. "I'm trying to run Windows 98," she said.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Read in a message board of a local BBS: "I try to avoid using Microsoft. That's why I use MS-DOS."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "What software are you using to backup?
    Customer: "Ms. Dos." (spoken like it was a person, like Mr. Dos or Mrs. Dos)
    Tech Support: "What, are you just copying the files with the xcopy or copy command?"
    Customer: "Oh, no I use Ms. Backup for that."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    At least three people from our company have come to me panicked, almost crying. They all say, "I think I just erased a program!! Help!!" In reality, it turns out they just minimized the window. When I open it again, they gasp, "What did you DO?!?!?"



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We maintain a 24 hour, 800 number call desk for our maintenance contract customers, a very expensive undertaking. Non-contract customers can call as well, but our per-call maintenance charge is $250/hour, with a minimum of three hours. If you only call us occasionally, it's a lot cheaper than a contract, but it's clearly designed to discourage trivial calls.

    In 1996 a per-call customer called. "What does MSDOS stand for?" she asked. We told her. Her firm paid the $750 bill without demur.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One time a user was trying to clean up his hard drive. He saw a folder called "system" which took up lots of space but only had a few things in it. So he moved the fonts and sounds to a new location and deleted everything else.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One of our users, upon receiving his new computer, deleted most of the files in the system area. He said he didn't know what those files did, so he got rid of them. For some strange reason, the system refused to work properly afterward.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Had a user that called the other day, complaining that all her files were "garbage" and that I should take her computer back and fix them. It turned out she was looking at system files. She couldn't read the binary code and assumed, therefore, that the files were corrupted.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was asked to fix Word Perfect once, when it had apparently "just quit working." They didn't know why, but it didn't take long for me to find the problem. They had cleaned up their hard drive by erasing all binary files because "they weren't readable."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One user -- a regular caller of ours -- got herself into some serious computer trouble when she set about cleaning up her system. She had been exploring the hard drive in the file manager and discovered hundreds of files in the Windows directory with all different file extensions. Being of an orderly mind, and with several hours of free time, she had created a TXT folder, a COM folder, a DLL folder, and so forth, and moved all the files into these subdirectories.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Me: "You really should exit Windows before you shut down."
    Friend: "Why?"
    Me: "Well, otherwise you could end up with fragmented files and hard drive errors and that sort of thing."
    Friend: "Oh well. Who cares about hard drive errors?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "My machine won't do anything."
    Tech Support: "What's on the screen right now?"
    Customer: "It's frozen, it's showing my Windows desktop."
    Tech Support: "Try hitting Ctrl-Alt-Delete, tell me what happens."
    Customer: (taptaptap) "Nothing."
    Tech Support: "Did you hit all of them at once?"
    Customer: "Umm...just a second." (taptaptap) "I did that time. Nothing happened."
    Tech Support: "Try it again."
    Customer: (taptaptap) "No, it's just sitting there."
    Tech Support: "Move the mouse around. What happens?"
    Customer: "Nothing, the arrow doesn't move."
    Tech Support: "Ok, last try, hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete again."
    Customer: "Still nothing."
    Tech Support: "Hit your numlock key. Does the light flash?"
    Customer: "No."
    Tech Support: "Ok, you're going to have to shut your computer off. Just press the power button, wait for a couple of seconds, and turn it on again."
    Customer: "I've heard that's bad for Windows."
    Tech Support: "Um, well, you can't do anything else, right?"
    Customer: "No."
    Tech Support: "Well, you can't hurt it any worse then."
    Customer: "But I've heard it's bad for Windows to just shut it off without shutting down first."
    Tech Support: "Yes, but it's locked up. There's nothing else you can do."
    Customer: "Will it hurt my Windows?"
    Tech Support: "Probably no worse than it already was by locking up."
    Customer: "Well...ok...but if it doesn't work, will you come over and fix it for me?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I put my foot in my mouth rather firmly once. I was teaching a new user some basic UNIX commands just so she could get around on the computer when she needed to. I thought I was doing pretty well, but, in a moment of self-doubt, she said that she didn't think she'd ever learn how to use a computer. My feeble attempt at consoling her follows:

    Me: "Don't worry. You'll get the hang of it. When I first started using UNIX, I didn't even know how to change directories!"
    Her: "What's a directory?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "File manager? What's that?"
    Tech Support: "How long have you had your computer?"
    Customer: "Three years."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Talking to a Mac user:

    Tech Support: "When was the last time you rebuilt the desktop?"
    Customer: "Did what?"
    Tech Support: "How long have you owned this computer?"
    Customer: "Four years."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A customer walked into the computer store I work in, wanting to return a computer.

    Me: "Sure, is it defective?"
    Customer: "No, that's not the problem. When I took it home and turned it on, I realized it was only half programmed."
    Me: [scratching head] "What do you mean by half programmed?"
    Customer: "Well, look at the computer on display." [points to the Windows 95 desktop] "Do you see how all the programs are on the left side of the computer?"
    Me: [biting tongue] "Well, you are right sir, I will take your computer back."
    I decided the moron had to solve his life before he could buy a computer.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A guy at our company asked to have Lotus Notes installed on his Mac. He said he'd be away for a couple days, and I could install it then. When I went to do it, there wasn't enough disk space, but there was about 96 megs in the trash. Ah, I thought, he's forgotten to empty it.

    When the user returned to work, he came straight to see me after switching on his machine.


    Him: "Where're all my files?"
    Me: "What files?"
    Him: "The ones I was keeping in the trash."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Recently, I had a guy from the local tech school come in for an interview for my computer assistant job opening. I was taking him around the office, trying my best to explain to him what my job entails and what he'd be doing if he worked for me. One of the very first things I showed him was our NT server, which runs Wincenter Pro, a third-party enhanced version of Windows NT Server which allows us to have multiple people logged into the same NT box and to start up a remote NT session from an X-Windows desktop. He was pretty impressed by that, having been trained in a vanilla NT environment. The next thing I showed him was one of our old DG 300 UNIX workstations. He scoffed along with me when I explained that the workstation used an old 16mhz Motorola processor, so it was not exactly fast. The interview seemed to be going well up to this point, with the guy seeming to understand most of the stuff I was throwing out (even the stuff I wasn't too sure about myself) until I happened to mention that the DG workstation, along with all the other workstations and servers in our office (save the NT server, of course) ran DG/UX 5.4R3.10:


    Me: "Yeah, and this thing runs DG/UX 5.4R3.10."
    Him: "What's that?"
    He stares blankly. My heart sinks.


    Him: "So does that run as a thread under NT?"
    Me: "No. It's an OS. It just runs by itself."
    Him: "Oh oh, so you start up NT, then--"
    Me: "No. UNIX. It's an operating system. It runs by itself, not under NT."
    He stares blankly. So much for this prospective employee.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Two girls walked into the University's Linux cluster one time. They were obviously unfamiliar with computers and chatted with each other trying to figure everything out. I was doing my own work and had tuned out a lot of the conversation, but at one point one of them turned to me and asked how to get into Windows. "Type startx," I replied, for the Linux machines booted to a shell prompt, and you had to type "startx" to get into X-Windows. I never did find out if that worked for them or not, but they spent quite some time trying to correlate the instructions they had on paper (presumably given out in one of their classes) with what they were seeing on the screen. A full hour and a half passed, and finally one of them turned to me again and asked if this was the Microsoft Windows cluster. "No," I replied, "that's downstairs." It was hard to stifle the laughter until they were gone. An hour and a half before they realized they weren't even using the right operating system. Wow.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A lab technician (legendary, where I work) deleted a large and seemingly useless file named /vmunix from a Sun workstation. (This file is the UNIX operating system image.) The machine worked fine until I tried to reboot it.

    ____________________________________________________
    I had a job at my local school board doing on-site technical support. We had just recently replaced all the Macintosh machines with Windows NT machines. While showing one of the secretaries the Windows environment, she asked where all of her icons were. I pointed to the two columns of icons on the left side of her screen.


    Her: "Yes, but on my Mac they were all over here on the right."
    Me: "Well, by default, Windows arranges the columns on the left side."
    Her: "But I'm right handed!"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I had a colleague who was very messy. Half of his cubicle was a pile of junk that reached to the top of the cubicle. Whenever he wanted something, he would rummage through all the stuff, throwing things aside until he found it. One day I asked him to find a computer file for me that I'd erased by mistake. It was taking him a while, so I went to look over his shoulder. His desktop was an exact duplicate of his cubicle. It had a massive pile of icons in one corner, and he was furiously rummaging through them to uncover the right file.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A while ago I was received a call from a woman who said that Eudora Pro was showing her password. I found this to be strange, because when you type it in your password in Eudora, it displays asterisks. So when I went over to her office and looked at her desktop. She had renamed the Eudora Pro icon with her password.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    A Friend: "There's an icon on my desktop that won't go away."
    Me: "Did you click on the icon once and hit 'delete'?"
    A Friend: "I haven't tried that yet."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    My Brother: "I tried to save the document, but I think I did something wrong. All my computer did was put an icon on the desktop."
    Me: "That's the document. Just double-click it and it will open in Word."
    My Brother: "But it's an icon! I wanted to save it as a file."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "Now click on the icon that--"
    Customer: "Oh, I know what an icon is! That's that thing that Sandra Bullock clicked on in The Net!"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "All right...now double-click on the File Manager icon."
    Customer: "That's why I hate this Windows -- because of the icons -- I'm a Protestant, and I don't believe in icons."
    Tech Support: "Well, that's just an industry term sir. I don't believe it was meant to --"
    Customer: "I don't care about any 'Industry Terms'. I don't believe in icons."
    Tech Support: "Well...why don't you click on the 'little picture' of a file cabinet...is 'little picture' ok?"
    Customer: [click]


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Before moving into network support, I did PC support for a large multinational utility company. We had bases all over the country and personnel moves were frequent. There was an software model in use consisting of applications delivered to the desktop using Novell Application Launcher. A user's ability to run or even see applications depended on membership of Netware groups.

    One user had moved sites and had his account moved to a different container. The next Monday, he logged a call to the help desk, saying that he couldn't see one of his applications any more. Obviously someone had just forgotten to add him to a group in his new location.

    My colleague received the following email from a help desk employee:


    Simon,
    This user has moved from Motherwell to Wrexham and has lost his Landmaster icon. Could it have fallen out of his PC when it was being moved?

    ___________________________________________________


    Customer: "Can I run Netscape 2.0 on my Apple ][c? I have the color monitor!"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Seen on a web page:


    "Need a Dial up for DOS. And also a INTERNET EXPLORER for DOS. Needs to run on a 286 with 4 mb ram."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "Is it possible to put Windows 95 on a Commodore 64?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "Do you have WordPerfect for Gameboy?"
    Tech Support: "No, but I'll call you when it comes in."
    Sometimes it's better to go along with the customer and not ask questions.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "It says here that I need a 2 times CD-ROM drive. Does this mean I have to get another CD-ROM drive?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I am not seeming to be connecting."
    Tech Support: "Ok, what kind of error message to you get?"
    Customer: "I do not know, just help me!"
    This is common. We have people who will tell us they saw the error message 10+ times but have absolutley no idea what it said. We are not psychics.
    Tech Support: "Oh, ok, well, what kind of computer do you have?"
    Customer: "It is being a Packard Bell."
    Tech Support: "Do you know how much memory you have?"
    Customer: "I have 4 megs of Random Memory."
    There's the problem -- the customer doesn't have the minimum requirements to run the software. You would think that once the person finds out he doesn't have the right equipment to run a piece of software, it would end the conversation...but, alas, the following dialogue is more representative of customer responses in such situations.
    Tech Support: "I'm sorry, but, you don't meet the minimum requirements, so we're really not of much use to you until you upgrade."
    Customer: "But, this is not explaining why I am not connecting! Why am I not connecting to your system!? What does memory have to do with me connecting!?!?"
    Tech Support: "Well, if you don't meet the requirements, there is no guarantee that the software will work at all, hence the system requirements. Because you don't meet them, there's really no reason to try and fix it, because it's not going to work."
    Customer: "BUT, I HAVE A 28.8!! What would you have done if I had said I had 8 Megs!?"
    Tech Support: "Well, when I found that you had four, after you told me that you surely had eight, I would be pretty mad."
    Customer: "This is not explaining why I am not connecting!! I HAVE A 28.8!!"
    Tech Support: "But you do NOT have the MEMORY requirements for the software. It WILL NOT work for you unless you upgrade to eight megs of RAM."
    Customer: "I am thinking that I must be cancelling my account."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Customer: "The printer has been acting up. Could that be the cause of our backups failing?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "What do you mean, other tape? When it said second volume, I just hit enter again."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "Have you made backups of your software and data?"
    Customer: "I didn't know it had a reverse."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I've just done a new Word document, saved it, then accidentally deleted it. Is there anything you can do to get it back?"
    Tech Support: "Sorry, no, the backup isn't run until night time."
    Customer: "Ohh, can we restore it tomorrow, then?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "Michaelangelo virus ate my hard disk, but I have a tape backup. Can you help me restore the system?"
    No problem. When I arrive, I find out that the last time she had run a backup was 18 months ago. Worse, she hadn't done it correctly:


    Customer: "I thought you just shoved in the tape, and it sucked up the data."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A customer called our technical support and explained that his system had crashed and for some reason the restored backup did not work as expected. After we had spent a few days of investigating his collection of backup tapes we were convinced that he had a good one year record of backups from the wrong directory.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the late 1980s in Finland, my mother was a system administrator for a company. In those times hard drives were small, and backups were made with PC Tools (version 4 or 5 at the time) which could be done using less than ten 3 1/2" disks for all the most important directories.

    One day my mother asked the president of the company if he had done his monthly backup of his computer data. He said he had, and he'd even been able to improve the backup process. He had discovered he didn't have to change disks if he just answered 'yes' to all the "Is it ok to overwrite this floppy disk?" prompts. He was overwriting backup disk #1 with the data for backup disk #2, then overwriting that with the data for backup disk #3, and so on. My mother was still laughing when she called to tell me the story.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I have MS Office, but whenever I try to make a backup of the disks, my machine says it's not able to. Can you give me Microsoft's telephone number so I can call them and complain?"
    Tech Support: (grinning ecstatically) "OF COURSE I CAN!!!!!!"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Customer: "I lost some of my files. I archived them, but when I went to retrieve them, they were gone!"
    Tech Support: "What program did you use to archive your files?"
    Customer: "I used DOS -- but now I can't find them!"
    Tech Support: "Ok, what program are you using to do this?"
    Customer: "I used 'undelete', but they aren't there."
    Tech Support: "Uh...what command did you use to archive your files?"
    Customer: "I used 'del' and the filename."
    It turned out that the guy had been deleting files, which would free up disk space (he liked that), and when he wanted a file again, he would undelete it. Apparently he actually got away with this for a while, until he discovered 'defrag', which overwrote his deleted files.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Tech Support: "Do you have a valid backup?"
    Customer: "Yes, of course."
    Tech Support: "When you came this morning, was anything printed out on the printer?"
    Customer: "Yes."
    Tech Support: "And what did it say?"
    Customer: "Just like it says every day"
    Tech Support: "Would you mind reading that off to me?"
    Customer: "Error XX: Backup Operation Failed."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    We have a customer with tons of data produced every day. They insisted on backing up the stuff themselves, though they had a maintenance contract with our company. Anyway, one of their administrators put a DAT tape into the drive every night and removed it the next morning, labelled it, and stored it in a closet. One day the disk crashed. They called us because they couldn't restore the data from tape for some reason. It turned out that although they did put a tape in every night, remove it every morning, label it, and store it, what they forgot to do was run the backup script. They had a year's supply of backup tapes, neatly dated, and all of them empty.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A friend at work had to visit a police station to work on a Clipper database recording parking fines. Before he started work he made sure to check that the staff had a backup of the database in case anything went wrong.

    "Oh yes, every evening we back it up onto a floppy disk and take it over to the other building and lock it in a fire-proof safe."

    "Very good," said my colleague, impressed at their security-consciousness -- if only all our customers could be so efficient! But then something they'd said made him pause. "Wait a minute - did you say a floppy disk? You mean you back up the whole database onto a single diskette?"

    "Yes, that's right. Just one."

    "But this diskette can only hold 1.44 Mb of data -- you've got over ten megabytes in this system. What exactly do you do to make the backup?"

    So they showed him. Every day they'd religiously inserted a fresh diskette into the drive, typed "FORMAT A:", and, "backup complete," they deposited the newly formatted, but quite empty, diskette in the safe.

    Before starting his work, my friend showed them how to really make a backup, which was fortunate for my friend, if not for the local parking offenders, as a week later the PC in question suffered a complete hard-drive failure.

    ____________________________________________________

    Him: "I can download games like Quake and play them during lunch, you know."
    Me: "We're only allowed 10 megs in our accounts, and the system administrators would notice you downloading a large file."
    Him: "Nah, I could hack it so he couldn't."
    Me: "Ah, so you are into hack1ng. By the way do you know any programming languages?"
    Him: "Yeah, of course."
    Me: "Which ones?"
    Him: "I can't tell you or else you'll use them."
    Me: "Just by mentioning C++ or Pascal or whatever will not instantly make me a genius with those languages."
    Him: "Oh sorry, I didn't understand you. Yeah, I know C++ and Pascal."
    Me: "What compiler do you use?"
    Him: "Well, Qbasic is my favorite."
    Me: "Nobody over the age of eight uses QBasic for serious purposes."
    Him: "But they made windows with QBasic."
    I almost cried laughing.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One day I was in a public park, reading "C++ For Dummies" when someone came up and asked me what I was reading. I told him I was reading a book about C++. He responded, "Oh, HTML kicks C++'s @$$."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    User: "Hey, can you help me? My program doesn't work."
    Consultant: "What is the problem? Are you using Turbo Pascal?"
    User: "Yes, the program just blocks the machine."
    Consultant: "Well, does it compile?"
    User: "I don't know -- it just doesn't run. You see? There's the EXE file. If you run it, it blocks the machine."
    Consultant: "And where is your source, the PAS file??"
    User: "I wrote it and renamed it to EXE so it could run."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One thing that many will run into in the computer industry, is employers who are rather clueless and yet don't necessarily realize this. In 1996, a friend told me about a boss he had that needed a C program written for him. After a week, the boss complained that the program wasn't done, and he asked my friend what was taking so long.


    Friend: "The program is written, and I'm debugging it."
    Boss: "What's wrong with you people? You make programming more difficult than it needs to be. I have Frontpage Express to write web pages with, and when I write code with it, I never need to debug it. If you were as good of a programmer as me, you'd never need to debug either."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was making my way through MSDN, looking at Win32 API console functions to make my own gotoxy() function in Visual C++ 6.0. My C++ programming teacher looked at my screen and asked:


    Teacher: "What are you doing?"
    Me: "I'm trying to find out how to make a gotoxy() in Visual C++. I'll have to use Win32 API functions."
    Teacher: "No you don't have to use API functions! Just take Borland C++ 3.1 headers and put them in Visual C++ 6.0 include directory."
    Me: "Heuh......."
    Unfortunately, Borland C++ 3.1 was designed for DOS and Win16. Visual C++ works on Win32. Worse, headers only contain types and class declarations, defines, and function prototypes. I don't know how my teacher thought this would work.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Programmer: "What do you mean, I can't initialize things in an assert()?"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    During a code review, when I asked why (besides the source control file headers) there was not a comment in 240,000 lines of code which was getting handed over to me for maintenance, the programmer replied, "I'm terse."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In college, I worked as a teaching assistant for an introductory programming language. For most of the people in the class, this was probably their first and only programming class.

    One day, I was doing program code reviews with a handful of students. This one girl gave me her code, and, after looking at it, I asked why she had repeated a certain line twice:


    let x = 7;
    let x = 7;
    She said, "Just in case it didn't get set right the first time."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When a computer professor asked his students to comment all their programs, he got remarks like:

    "This program is very nice."
    "This program is very difficult."
    "This program is very interesting."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I found this comment in some code I had to maintain:


    /* This function is BOOL but actually returns TRUE,
    FALSE and -2 because I've no time to change it
    to int */
    Didn't it take more time to write the comment?



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When I was studying programming, one of my classmates was having serious troubles with his program. When he asked me for help, I leaned over his screen and saw all of his code in comments. The reason: "Well, it compiles much faster that way."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In college I worked as a consultant. One day this grad student was having trouble with his Fortran program and brought the printout to me. He said he kept changing things but couldn't get it to run correctly. His analysis: "I get the feeling that the computer just skips over all the comments."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I tutored college students who were taking a computer programming course. A few of them didn't understand that computers are not sentient. More than one person used comments in their Pascal programs to put detailed explanations such as, "Now I need you to put these letters on the screen." I asked one of them what the deal was with those comments. The reply: "How else is the computer going to understand what I want it to do?" Apparently they would assume that since they couldn't make sense of Pascal, neither could the computer.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A colleague wrote the documentation for the return codes from a set of functions in one of his DLLs. Among the documentation was this:


    /* Return code=1: generic error condition
    Return code=2: all other error conditions */


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was taking a C programming class once, and the class was divided up into two programming teams. On my team we had a woman who was totally out of her league. What earned her legendary status was doing a global search and replace, swapping out asterisks for ampersands, because she felt the asterisks weren't "working."



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was just teaching an optional class on C programming; in the first class meeting, I asked, "Does anybody know anything about programming?"

    To which one of my students gleefully replied, "I know how to use a chat program!"



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Back in my first year of school in computer science, we were learning Turbo Pascal. I remember one day looking over the shoulder of a guy who was writing some unreadable code by removing all possible spaces and empty lines.


    Me: "Why are you writing like that -- it's unreadable."
    Him: "I want to keep the code compact, so I get maximum speed when I execute the program."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was asked to maintain a shell script that was taking too long to run and wasn't reliable. Among other horrors, the one that gave me the best mix of laughter and fear was a repeated construct like this:


    display=`env | grep DISPLAY | sed 's/[^=]*=//g'`
    DISPLAY=$display
    export DISPLAY
    This made me scratch my head for a moment, until I realized that this was a complete no-op. It's equal to DISPLAY=$DISPLAY (except when the grep command pulls out the wrong thing). This was repeated for something like a dozen environment variables. I still cannot fathom the logic of it. I ended up doing a complete rewrite.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was asked about taking on a contract to maintain a piece of software. Something about the way it was presented made me wary. I asked to look over it first. What a sight! I use it as an example of why not to use global variables. Among other things, there were files with suites of functions on the following order:


    adjust_alpha()
    {
    alpha = gamma + offset * 3;
    }
    adjust_beta()
    {
    beta = gamma + offset * 3;
    }


    Dozens of functions that differed only by the global variable they modified. Just picture it: a multi-thousand line program with a graphical interface and a database that never used function parameters.

    The original programmer painted himself into a corner with his variable names. Clearly if you need variables "up," "down," "left," and "right," you name them as such. When he found himself needing those direction names in different parts of his program but was stuck because global variable names had to be unique, his solution was to use names like:


    up, _up, up_, Up, uP, UP, _Up, _UP
    down, _down, down_, Down, dOWN, DOWN, _Down, _DOWN
    ...and so on. Even the densest of my students comprehended immediately why that was bad. Needless to say, I turned down the job.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This was found in code written by an ex-employee.


    strcpy(vl_name,"00000000000000000");
    strcpy(vl_volume,"000000");
    strncpy(temp1,vl_lud,4);
    temp1[4]='\0';

    strncpy(temp2,vl_name+4,13);

    temp2[13]='\0';
    strcat(temp1,temp2);

    strcpy(temp2,"");
    sprintf(temp2,"%d",vl_serial_num);
    temp1[7]='\0';
    strcat(temp1,temp2);
    strcat(temp1,"000000000");
    temp1[8]='.';
    strncpy(temp1,temp1,9);
    temp1[9]='\0';
    strcat(temp1,vl_data_set_name);
    temp1[17]='\0';
    strcpy(vl_name,temp1);
    strcpy(vl_volume,"1");



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Days ago I had to fix a bug into our software. The person that originally wrote the module quit, so I had total control of the source code. I totally rewrote half of the code when I found things like:


    int i;
    memset(&i, 0, sizeof(int));
    And:


    switch (k) {
    case 9: printf("9\n");
    case 8: if (k==8) printf("8\n");
    case 7: if (k==7) printf("7\n");
    // and so on...
    }
    I wondered why he put the "if" clauses, but then I noticed that none of the cases has its "break" statement, so if he found that if k was 9, the program printed 9, 8, 7, etc. So I think he added the "if" clauses to fix that behavior.

    The masterpiece, however, was the following, where two consecutive errors actually caused the program to work fine:


    char msg[40];
    unsigned char k,j;
    memset(msg, 0, 41); /* to set the terminator */
    j = k;
    ...

    Of course the "memset" was supposed to reset the msg variable, but it actually also reset k, for which no initialization was provided; could be a deliberate if hackish and unreliable solution, but that "set the terminator" comment gives it away. In fact, all over his code he managed to add one for the "terminator," one byte past the end of the character array he was working on.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    About four years ago, I was working on a project that, among other things, involved porting several million lines of code. While not technically real-time, the code needed to be reasonably fast. At one point, I found the following gem:


    unsigned long reverse(unsigned long theWord)
    {
    unsigned long result = 0;
    int i;
    for (i = 0; i < 32; ++i) {
    if (theWord & (unsigned long) pow(2.0, (double) i))
    result += (unsigned long) pow(2.0, (double) (31 - i));
    }

    return result;
    }

    Obviously, the purpose was to reverse the bits in a word. Naturally, I called all of my colleagues over to see this, and we all marvelled at how someone would think that a conversion to floating-point, a function call, and a conversion to integer could be faster than one shift operation. To say nothing of the possibility of rounding errors completely screwing up the, um, algorithm.

    Not wanting to leave an exercise for the reader, here's the replacement:


    unsigned long reverse(unsigned long theWord)
    {
    unsigned long result = 0;
    int i;
    for (i = 0; i < 32; ++i) {
    if (theWord & (1 << i))
    result += 1 << (31 - i);
    }

    return result;
    }



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    An introductory programming student once asked me to look at his program and figure out why it was always churning out zeroes as the result of a simple computation. I looked at the program, and it was pretty obvious:


    begin
    readln("Number of Apples", apples);
    readln("Number of Carrots", carrots);
    readln("Price for 1 Apple", a_price);
    readln("Price for 1 Carrot", c_price);
    writeln("Total for Apples", a_total);
    writeln("Total for Carrots", c_total);
    writeln("Total", total);
    total := a_total + c_total;
    a_total := apples * a_price;
    c_total := carrots + c_price;
    end;

    Me: "Well, your program can't print correct results before they're computed."
    Him: "Huh? It's logical what the right solution is, and the computer should reorder the instructions the right way."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    At my previous job, we were porting a UNIX system to Windows NT using Microsoft VC++. A colleague of mine, that was in the process of porting his portion of the code, came to me, looking really upset.


    Colleague: "Hey! I hate these Microsoft guys! What a rotten compiler! It only accepts 16,384 local variables in a function!"


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I ran across this gem while debugging someone else's old code once:


    if (value == 0)
    return value;
    else
    return 0;


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I found this buried in our code somewhere:


    if (a)
    {
    /* do something */
    return x;
    }
    else if (!a)
    {
    /* do something else */
    return y;
    }
    else
    {
    /* do something entirely different */
    return z;
    }


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Once I ran across code that did this to test the i-th bit in a byte-wide value:


    if (value && (int)pow(2,i))
    {
    ...
    }


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Digging in the code a colleague wrote years ago, I found the following:


    EndWhile = 0;
    while (EndWhile == 0)
    {
    ...
    if (index < MAX)
    EndWhile = 0;
    else
    EndWhile = 1;
    index = index + 1;
    }


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Years ago, I put a simple, fortune cookie style program out on an FTP site. It was too simplistic to look at environment variables or configuration files to look for the location of the fortune cookie database file; the path was compiled into the executable. I provided the source, so if you wanted to change the path it was installed in, you had to change it in the source file and recompile.

    Since I put it out, every so often I'll get an email message commenting on it. Recently, I received a message asking for help trying to get the thing to work. He couldn't get the executable to find the database file properly. I answered him, and he mailed back saying nothing helped. I mailed him again, saying that the readme file which was included in the archive should have very detailed instructions. He mailed me back saying the readme file didn't help him. So he mailed me the source code file, asked me to change it to the way it should be, then mail it back to him. I told him, but as I was typing in my final reply, a horrific thought occurred to me. So I asked:

    Me: "I assume you have a C compiler, right?"
    User: "What's a C compiler??????/ I've been editing it using the DOS editor."


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was working for a consulting firm that was called in to help another firm that was doing some fairly important UNIX work for a large Wall Street firm. They were all Mac programmers that had taken a week long course in UNIX, C programming, and UI programming for this particular workstation. I took a look at their C code and it was littered with the following code statement:


    strcat(string,"\0");
    I asked why they were doing this. The reply was, in a "don't you know?" tone of voice: "All strings in C must end in a null zero!"

    Trying to explain that strcat wouldn't work unless the null terminator was there already just got me blank stares.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I've seen this code excerpt in a lot of freeware gaming programs for UNIX:


    /*
    * Bit values.
    */
    #define BIT_0 1
    #define BIT_1 2
    #define BIT_2 4
    #define BIT_3 8
    #define BIT_4 16
    #define BIT_5 32
    #define BIT_6 64
    #define BIT_7 128
    #define BIT_8 256
    #define BIT_9 512
    #define BIT_10 1024
    #define BIT_11 2048
    #define BIT_12 4096
    #define BIT_13 8192
    #define BIT_14 16384
    #define BIT_15 32768
    #define BIT_16 65536
    #define BIT_17 131072
    #define BIT_18 262144
    #define BIT_19 524288
    #define BIT_20 1048576
    #define BIT_21 2097152
    #define BIT_22 4194304
    #define BIT_23 8388608
    #define BIT_24 16777216
    #define BIT_25 33554432
    #define BIT_26 67108864
    #define BIT_27 134217728
    #define BIT_28 268435456
    #define BIT_29 536870912
    #define BIT_30 1073741824
    #define BIT_31 2147483648

    A much easier way of achieving this is:


    #define BIT_0 0x00000001
    #define BIT_1 0x00000002
    #define BIT_2 0x00000004
    #define BIT_3 0x00000008
    #define BIT_4 0x00000010
    ...
    #define BIT_28 0x10000000
    #define BIT_29 0x20000000
    #define BIT_30 0x40000000
    #define BIT_31 0x80000000

    I wonder if guy who wrote it used a calculator or just computed it all out on paper.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    When I was still a student, I worked as an admin for the university CS dept. Part of this job involved time in the student labs. Our network was a conglomeration of Suns and SGIs and was generally confusing for novice users who don't understand the concept of multiuser, multitasking, networked computers.

    Around the room are large signs explaining how to log in, along with big warnings about not removing power unless you like the idea of having a grad student running a several million variable modeling project he's been working on for several years show up and beat you death with research papers.

    You would be amazed how many people try to type in a program at the "Login:" prompt, and then turn the machine off when they are done. The worst of the bunch then complain about not being able to find the program they just typed in at the login prompt.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I was looking through a shell script I had written recently, and I almost died when I saw some of the code. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but here's one thing I had done:


    if ($var = value) then
    # do something
    else
    # do the exact same thing as in the other code
    endif



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    While in college, I used to tutor in the school's math lab. A student came in because his BASIC program would not run. He was taking a beginner course, and his assignment was to write a program that would calculate the recipe for oatmeal cookies, depending upon the number of people you're baking for. I looked at his program, and it went something like this:


    10 Preheat oven to 350
    20 Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl
    30 Mix until smooth
    .
    .
    .


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A "software engineer" I used to work with once had a problem with his code that looked something like this:


    a_pointer->fn();

    It caused a General Protection error. He knew C, but not C++ -- I did, so he asked me for help. I told him to check to see if the pointer was NULL before making the call. A couple of hours later he came back; the problem was still happening.


    if (a_pointer == NULL)
    {
    LogError();
    }

    a_pointer->fn();

    I said, "You need a return statement after the LogError call."

    He said, thoughtfully, "Where does it return to?"



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A friend of mine wanted to keep track of the other users on the UNIX systems of our university. There is a nice command "last" on UNIX which will list the last users to have logged in. So he wrote a script that'd log in to all workstations of the department by remote shell and run the "last" command, with the results sent back to the originating host, to be collected in aggregate form.

    He called this little script "last" -- same name as the UNIX system command -- and put it in his home directory. His path was set up so his home directory had a higher precedence than the UNIX bin directories. So when he ran the "last" command, it would use his own script instead of the system command.

    So he ran the script. It logged in to all the other workstations just fine. Then it ran the "last" command -- the one in his home directory, of course, not the system command. You can guess what happened. It got in an infinite loop that tried to log into every workstation an infinite number of times. This very effectively nuked off the whole department, and all workstations had to be shut down for it to stop.

  2. #2
    DF Wh0re BigBadDog's Avatar
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    nice 1 , very funny

    i've got a m8 who thinks he's got a Geoforce grphics card , and that it fits into the agap slot , and once he even upgraded from a pentium 3 to a celeron , worse thing is that he's a qualified pc engineer.

  3. #3
    ABCMan
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    fook me that took some reading, funny though

  4. #4
    DF Jedi Cam's Avatar
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    yep read um all well most but i didnt understand sum of the programmin 1s had a m8 when u asked him how much memory he had he said 12gig

    (17:18:34) (+Cam) i need to mount my xbox hdd in linux
    (17:19:02) (+SpikeWork) youth of today, they'll mount anything

  5. #5
    DF Jedi Cam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid Tech Support Pt1 *Long*

    w00t was on df about 2 hours ago untill i found this (bottom of the page that threads related to it :/ )

    still found it all funny....

    still dont understand the programmin 1s

    and my m8 hasnt changed much :/




    (sorry for draggin an old thread up but its worth it
    unless ur a slow reader then you proberly just finished it)

    Cheers.

    Cam.

    (17:18:34) (+Cam) i need to mount my xbox hdd in linux
    (17:19:02) (+SpikeWork) youth of today, they'll mount anything

  6. #6
    DF Rookie paladan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid Tech Support Pt1 *Long*

    Classic... lol

  7. #7
    DF Jedi chubblies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid Tech Support Pt1 *Long*

    Quote Originally Posted by paladan View Post
    Classic... lol
    And 4 years old too

  8. #8
    DF Member klordy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid Tech Support Pt1 *Long*

    took ages to read that........................classic

  9. #9
    DF Jedi Lee Macro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid Tech Support Pt1 *Long*

    Me: "So, what's your ICQ number?"
    Girl: (staring) "Why do you need an icy cucumber?"

    Monitor had a nice coffee coat after reading that one!!!!!

  10. #10
    DF Rookie mudflap5's Avatar
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    Default Re: Stupid Tech Support Pt1 *Long*

    Sounds about right!

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