When the IT fix is hiding in plain sight

In these two tech stories, overlooked details yield solutions to users' IT problems

Users and tech pros alike can be guilty of overlooking minor but important details when solving technical problems, as shown in these two stories that took place when I worked as a first- and second-level IT tech at an office complex for a telecom hardware manufacturer.

Plugging up petty help desk calls

One memorable user was a VP's admin. She thought very highly of herself and her job at the company, which led to an above-average frequency of calls -- about six a month. She would call for such things as a dirty mouse pad, a blank screen (the screensaver kicked in!), and similar nonproblems that she felt were important.

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One Monday morning, we got a panicked "pri-one" service call from this admin, whose office had been relocated over the weekend.

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"My workstation won't start, and I have to print an org chart for an 8 a.m. meeting!" she said.

I asked her some questions over the phone, but she kept insisting she'd tried everything and someone needed to come in person. I finished gulping my tea, grabbed my toolkit, and headed upstairs to her cubicle.

We went through the usual question and answer routine, during which she said she had moved the computer (a Mac) herself on Saturday because she "didn't trust the moving company crew" to do it without damaging anything. I looked at all the cables on top of her desk, made sure everything was plugged in snugly, and confirmed that the machine, indeed, did not have power to it.

Next on the checklist was crawling under her desk to check the power cables. "You said you moved this yourself?" I asked her. "That's right, I don't trust the relocation crew," she answered.

I held up the power strip for her to see. She had plugged it into itself. Ten seconds later, the famous Mac startup chime announced a successful $150 emergency service visit.

We didn't hear from her for the next six months. I don't know if that's because her boss banned her from calling us or because she was too embarrassed to call again.

An easier fix than replacing hardware

A problem got punted my way one day, perhaps because it was deemed a low-priority issue and a repeat complaint that the higher-up techs were tired of dealing with.

I was sent to look at a monitor that was giving its user headaches from the flicker. The company was large enough that it had its own inventory of extra hardware ordered for easy and quick replacement; a phone call and a few hours was all it took to get a new part. We'd replaced two monitors and were ordering a third for her, so this was a courtesy visit.

Very shortly after my arrival, the monitor was "repaired," and the user was delighted. The fix: change the refresh rate on the CRT to anything faster than the minimum. We never could find out who had changed that to begin with.

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This story, "When the IT fix is hiding in plain sight," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.