Thursday, April 28, 2011

PEBKAC Errors?

Not sure what a PEBKAC error is?  Well, if you have ever heard of tech support saying your have such an error you should take offence at it!  It is however, in my opinion all too true, although some would argue that a computer is designed to generate PEBKAC errors and there may be some truth to that point!

So what does PEBKAC stand for?  PEBKAC is an acronym for Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.  PEBKAC is the humorous term applied to a user error similar to saying a car has a “faulty steering actuator” or there is a “loose nut between the steering wheel and seat.”  There are a few other user error descriptions as well.  PICNIC – Problem In Chair Not In Computer and ID-10-T (pounced separately as ID  Ten  T) – do I need to explain what this stands for?

Except for hardware faults, basically all computer problems are caused by human error (or misunderstanding), either from the user or from the person that wrote the program.  The goal of this blog is to hopefully reduce some of the user error; sorry cannot do much about the programming errors!

Now of course this post is not complete without a few “funny” stories!

Taskbar Problems:

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.

Deleting Files:

Back in the early nineties, when I was doing PC/LAN support, I was approached by a nervous salesman. He was very concerned because Excel did not work on his computer anymore. I asked when it had stopped working and what he had done. He explained that he had tried to speed Excel up by deleting some spreadsheet files that he did not need, hoping that that would boost performance.

Now, whenever a user gets into trouble after deleting something, this usually needs immediate attention. So I asked him to tell me exactly what he deleted. The horrifying answer was that he had used the File Manager to delete all Excel files he found -- you know, files of type EXE (for those who may not know, Excel’s file extension is .xls).

I went pale. He said, "That was bad, huh?"

Fan’s got a Virus:

A guy came into my office, in a real panic. He kept saying something about how his computer screen was shaking violently, and he thought it had a virus! Going down to the computer, I found that the picture on the screen was indeed shaking a lot, but I also noticed something else...a desk fan was placed right next to the monitor, which was plugged into the same power strip. I switched the fan off, and the picture stopped shaking. I told him to move the fan away from the monitor in future, to avoid that problem.

Later on I heard him telling a colleague that his desk fan had a virus, and he had to keep it away from the screen to stop it from infecting his computer.

Virus Problem:

Back in the early 90s the programming staff in our office were still using dumb terminals to do mainframe programming. The department installed a dedicated PC to share files over a modem with other departments off site. People in the office began to use the machine for 'unofficial' purposes such as playing games after hours. Management saw this and, afraid of someone introducing a virus, installed password protection software on the machine (which also prevented the machine from being booted from a floppy disk to bypass the security). Shortly afterwards the machine began performing erratically and occasionally lost files. Our technical support group examined the machine and found a virus. Puzzled as to how a virus could have been introduced into a protected machine, they examined the various pieces of software in the office. It was found that the virus had come from the disk that had been used to install the password protection software onto the machine (in an attempt to protect the machine from viruses). Unfortunately, the anti-virus software they had on hand needed to be loaded from a bootable floppy disk to prevent infection of the diskette. However, as previously mentioned, the security software had disabled the boot function of the floppy disk drive. They finally ended up reformatting the entire drive to get rid of the virus.

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