Posts Tagged ‘tech tips’

Tech Tips… kinda

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Here’s another edition of Tech Tips! Although in this case, it’s not so much tips as warnings.  About a few things… read between the lines.  Or not.

Tip #1: Never let cybr have free time with a razor knife and spare junk laying about.

This, you would think, would just be common sense.  However time and time again I find myself with a box cutter or retractable razor knife and idle time while software is installing.  It seems somethings never change.

Tip #2: If cybr has a knife, don’t let him sort through CDs.  At least not unsupervised.

Again, this should just be common sense, but I have an office and it was an unusually quiet morning.  I was sorting through all the old CDs and DVDs laying about the office and throwing out all the discs that have never and will never be used.  Of course, I don’t want people fishing them out of the trash and using them illegally.  Because I’m against illegal software and stuff.  Yeah.  So I was using the retractable knife to cut grooves into each disc I was trashing.  But then I started to get bored with that and started making curvey lines instead of straight and then making the discs look like an eyeball or the CBS logo.

Then at random I picked the next CD: A standard MSDN disc

Nothing strange there, just another uneeded CD.  So I started cutting it to make it unusable.
Here’s what I ended up with:
carved CD

Tip #3: If you let the scenario in Tip #2 go on for two long, cybr starts getting even more creative.

So cutting the bottom of the discs is effective but quite a strain on the blade and edge.  So I wondered what would happen if I sliced the top/label side instead.  Wow! That was even more effective!  Even the slightest slice made the label and reflective surface pull away from the plastic disc making the disc completely unrecoverable.  Then… I noticed that the label could come off.

The slicing kind of got out of hand on the third disc I damaged in this method:
Oops, the label came off

Here’s what a CD looks like without the label and the reflective surface underneath of the label:
I don\'t think this one is going to read anymore

As you can see the reflective material you see when looking at the bottom of a CD is actually part of the label.  But you can still see where the data written to the CD starts and stops on the clear plastic.  The data is actually written in the plastic and is completely see through!  Pretty cool, huh?

The reflective layer of the label only exists to give the laser in the CD drive to bounce it’s light beam off of to be able to read the data in the plastic.  With out the mirror layer, the beam of light would just pass through the data and never be able to be understood by the computer.  So with that in mind…

Tech Tip #4: CDs and DVDs will play with scratches in the bottom surface, but if the top label is damaged, the disc is probably not recoverable.

Hey, that was a real Tech Tip!  I wasn’t really wasting your time after all!

Tech Tips: Clues for the Clueless

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Are you a computer user?  If so, today’s post is aimed squarely at that bullseye on your forehead.  Tech people already know the list below by heart, but the common user seems to be oblivious to the following 10 tips on how to get better tech support.  This list was put together by me based on my own experiences in tech support of corporate clients.  If you re-use this, please link back to this site.

Here’s my Top Ten list of things to consider when you need tech support:

  1. If you want our help, please get up from the chair and let us get access to the PC.  This is an immediate clue as to the intelligence level of a given user if they ask for help but don’t think to get up and let us work.  If you really want to piss us off when we ask to see your PC, just swivel the keyboard around and stay seated that way we have to balance on one foot to keep from touching the unholiness that is your presence which is dumb enough to think that this actually helps.  We don’t want to catch whatever you have.
  2. Hovering over our shoulders while we work is not only irritating but often times distracting.  Unless we specifically need your input or are trying to show you how to do something… give us space.  We don’t need you to constantly take the mouse out of our hands to show us things that are completely irrelevant to the problem at hand.  Also, unless we are really close friends, we don’t need to hear all about your family and where you went on vacation while we are trying to fix your PC.  Hearing about your fantasy vacation to an elite resort on a private island could cause something unexpected.  Like your hard drive being mysteriously formatted.  I’m just saying….
  3. Sitting in a chair across the desk from where we are working and continually whining about your deadline or lost data or missed appointment will not speed things up.  Crying will also not help.  It kinda freaks us out.  Just because you need your PC to be working right now does not alter the fact that it’s not working.
  4. Please don’t call us for help with a problem and give us no information to go on.  This is especially annoying when you tell us that your PC is down when in fact, you just have Internet Explorer set to Work Offline and nothing more.  Better yet, call me in the middle of the night and tell me that the network is down because you can’t get your e-mail from home.  There are about 8,326,287,491 possible causes of this problem and only one of those is the network being completely down.  OMG.
  5. If you are getting error messages on your PC, please please please take a screen-shot of that message or at least write it down.  Don’t be that user that just automatically clicks OK on every pop-up no matter what it was and then wonder why nothing is working.  Those error messages are sometimes clues as to the problems you are having.  They are important.  At least read them.
  6. If you’re going to drop your PC off on our desks, leave something that will give us a clue as to what we are looking at.  I’ve found unlabeled notebook PCs sitting on my desk or chair before with no note, no name, no contact number, no indication of a problem… nothing.  Then at the end of the day So-and-So will call asking if their PC is fixed.  The answer is always going to be NO.  At least leave a Post-It note with your name or number so we know who to call to find out why we have an orphan in our office.  Even a snapshot of you with your dog would be more desirable than nothing if you can’t be bothered to write even your own name.
  7. If you know that you will be getting a new PC setup at your desk take a minute or two to clean up around the hardware that will be replaced.  If you aren’t sure what will be replaced, then just clean it all up.  That includes removing all the Post-It notes, toys, pictures, shwag, stickers, make-up, food, mobile phone adapters, USB aquariums, etc. that are obviously going to be in the way of us helping you change your equipment.  Or if that’s too much trouble, then don’t complain when you find all your precious “stuff” swept off to the edge of your desk in a ball of clutter that would make the King of the Cosmos weep with pride.
  8. If your PC is having a problem and we ask you if you installed anything on the PC – don’t lie.  We are not that stupid.  You’re only making yourself look bad when you lie about things like that.  More than likely we, or someone on our team, built that PC you are now using.  So when we look at the problem computer and see that Yahoo Instant Messenger, Ask Toolbar, 1001 Smileys, Free Animal ScreenSaver, Bejeweled, Nokia Mobile Connect, etc. are installed on your PC we not only know that you lied but you have given us proof.  Everything installed on a PC can potentially change how the whole system works.  We don’t just ask this for fun.  If you lie it’s not going to change the reality of what you did.  Just be honest.  We may think you are ignorant for not knowing better but at least you can look us in the eye with some sense of dignity.
  9. If you don’t like an answer you’ve received to your PC questions, then by all means ask for explanations or clarifications.  Not all tech people are as open and friendly as I am.  Many techs have the social skills of a badger suffering from crack withdrawals.  Sometimes you may need more info.  But whatever you do, DO NOT get angry with us if we have worked on your problems and given you an honest answer that you just don’t like.  The best way to ensure that you will never receive quality tech support again is to yell and scream at the servicing technician because there is no way for them to recover your files off a crashed hard drive or a failed USB thumb drive.  Threatening our jobs because you don’t think we’ve done our jobs right, even though we’ve told you that what you are asking for is impossible, will also not get you very far.  Even if you succeeded in getting that particular tech fired, you will quickly run out of IT people when they all give you the same answer.  Attend some anger management classes but do not take out your problems on the tech.
  10. You don’t need us to do or see every single thing that happens on your PC.  If you got a message in Internet Explorer that said it will be showing you both secure and unsecure items, yeah OK, no problem.  That’s normal.  If your screen flickered once and never again… probably a fluke or you kicked the power cord under your desk.  And if you get an error or warning message on your PC that comes complete with an explanation of the problem you are having and instructions on how to fix that problem then by all means please try it out.  Not only does it save time and gives you a certain sense of pride that you were able to fix your own computer problem but it also keeps you from wasting our time.  Many programs do offer fixes for the problems that can arise.  Most developers also make these message “dummy-proof” so even the most computer illiterate person can understand and follow the instructions.  We are not here to hold your hand every time the computer beeps.  It’s not scary.  It will be OK.

There you go.  That ended up being a lot longer than I had thought it would be.  I think the next Tech Tips will cover the opposite angle and focus on the techs themselves.  Users are always to blame but we have to share some of the burden sometimes.  Sometimes.

Thursday Tech Tips

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I had a user setting up his notebook at the last second in a conference room full of expectant visitors.  When his notebook wouldn’t connect to the room’s built-in projector it seems that he went and grabbed our nice Dell portable projector.  When that didn’t work and the meeting was two minutes overdue to start, they finally came running to me.

Unfortunately, this left me with no time to help him with the problem he was having with connecting to external displays.  The only thing I could do was grab a spare Dell notebook on the way out of my office and have him copy his presentations to it so he could continue on with the meeting.  Problem not solved but crisis averted.

Today he tells me that he’s leaving on the weekend for a week and he needs that functionality to work and he won’t be able to let Dell have the laptop before then to fix it.  Uhh….  So I dredged through my rusty databank of a mind and remembered that I kept seeing a little graphic pop-up each time he hit Fn+F8 and it said “Presentation Mode: OFF.”  I remember thinking that that wasn’t right but couldn’t troubleshoot it at the time.

I contacted Dell Support and of course they can’t do much without me having the PC in front of me, but they did give me a hint that I thought might work.  There’s a Dell QuickSet application that runs in the background and gives some control over certain system settings and functions.  So I got the PC for a few minutes and checked QuickSet and sure enough, there’s a Display setting that, if unchecked, will not allow you to use external displays.  Presentation Mode was indeed turned off.

So I checked the box to enable Presentation Mode and tested it with an external LCD monitor and a HD Plasma TV in the conference room.  Imagine that…   it works now.  Not so hard of a fix after all.  But how did it get set like that in the first place?  That I can’t answer… yet.  I have two new D630s sitting here in my office though and I intend to see what their default settings are on this.

So that’s the first tech tip for today.  The second one is more of a common sense tip that should be obvious after reading the above.  If you need help with your PC, please… for the love of all that’s silicon, give us technical people a little time to fix your problem.  Asking for help at the last possible second is the worst time to do so.  Especially when you knew the problem existed previously.