Tales From the Trenches

In my years offering technical support to folks, I’ve seen some strange and odd things. Some qualify as 1D10T errors, also known as PEBKAC (Problem Exists between Keyboard And Chair), others are just strange issues with equally strange fixes. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty…

Mute button

Mute button

Mute button on keyboard: I had a customer who used his computer to record and edit audio. One day I got a panicky call, “I’ve got no sound!” Upon arriving, I saw the little “mute” icon by the clock, pressed the “mute” button on the keyboard, and the sound worked! That’ll be a hundred bucks!

A customer complained that when he was sitting at his computer playing audio, the audio would unexpectedly stop and start. This took some observation of how he was actually sitting at his desk. Many audio programs pause when you hit the space bar. Turns out he was pressing the space bar accidentally – with his stomach! Since he reacted badly to my weight-loss suggestion, I turned off that feature…

Here’s a real stumper: Customer complained that the computer shut down immediately during startup. I came in, pushed the power button, computer started normally.  No problem. A week later, I get another call; same problem. Again, computer starts fine when I push the button. A few days later, same problem again! Okay, I sez to myself, sez I, something strange here. Works fine for me, so I turn the computer off again and ask the customer to sit down and turn on the computer. She presses the power button and holds it down! Of course the computer shuts down within 10 seconds – All modern computers do that if you hold the button; that’s how you do an emergency shutdown. Why she started doing that, not even she knows…

Worst Virus I've ever seen...

Worst Virus I’ve ever seen…

A friend had a similar problem except he wasn’t holding down the button, and it didn’t always happen. My first theory was a bad power button, so I removed the (desktop) computer’s front panel. Turned out, the computer was very old, and had possibly not been cleaned in it’s lifetime, and there was so much dust behind the front panel, it was jamming the power button! Did I mention the fellow was a bachelor?

WiFi switch on laptop: Some laptops have a tiny little switch somewhere (usually on the side) that turns the Wi-Fi on and off. Some others have a “hotkey” on the keyboard that does the same thing. This can be really annoying when there’s an errant typo that turns the Wi-Fi  off, or the tiny switch gets bumped taking the laptop out of it’s bag. The cure? inspect the laptop very carefully for a switch, and check the top row of the keyboard for a little “Wi-Fi” symbol (usually looks like an antenna with waves coming out of it).

Sometimes, when troubleshooting audio systems, the problem is one of signal flow. Some folks, if they don’t have an audio input on a piece of equipment, will plug an output into another output, or vice-versa. This not only doesn’t work, but can cause damage. Outputs always need to go into inputs.

And finally, yes, it’s possible to put a CD or DVD in it’s player/reader upside down. No, it doesn’t work that way. The label side always faces up or toward you.

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