What's wrong with this picture?

A seemingly typical help desk call uncovers the naked truth

Working in a help desk position supporting end-users can be a difficult, thankless job, and occasionally you might see some things you didn't want to.

As part of an IT department in a publicly traded company, my responsibilities included deployment and upkeep of the more than 300 desktops and laptops on the network.

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It was interesting that a significant part of the support calls were generated by a small group of remote users. As anybody with a help desk role on their resume might guess, this small group of users was the sales team.

While some of the questions that came in from sales were genuine, intelligent questions, many were not. A great example of a question was the response we got from a salesperson regarding our deployment of wireless cards (not aircards): "Does that mean I can work from the beach?" This was back in 2001, so perhaps this user was uncharacteristically ahead of the curve in predicting Wi-Fi, but probably not.

One of the biggest problem users we ever encountered was a particular salesperson.

He was constantly complaining about the applications, about e-mail box limits, and also, loudly, about the speed of his laptop.

After a few months of his complaints, I finally found some time and recalled the machine back to corporate for a look. While he used his machine's performance as an excuse to his boss about not completing tasks on time, it took him more than a week to send the machine back to me for repair, which I thought a little odd. I chalked it up to him being a salesguy who would rather "do lunch" than fill out his reports, and by looking at his machine, I might uncover that there were no performance issues. Boy, was I wrong.

The machine finally arrived, and I set it up on one of the tables in our open office. The machine was slow to boot and load the desktop, not unusual for a Windows box, but not characteristic of the stripped-down machines I sent into the field. A quick check of available disk space showed me the issue: There were only a couple hundred megabytes free on the 20GB hard drive.

Thinking I might have accidentally put extra copies of the install files on the root directory, something I did for remote troubleshooting, I opened up the folder structure under C: and saw a folder with the user's name (let's call him "Mort").

As I opened the folder, a female colleague happened to be walking behind me. Remember, this is on a table in our open office. Well, she saw what I did when that folder opened -- the reason for the massive consumption of hard drive space: porn. Gig after gig of pornographic pictures and movies, including several (very dated) photographs of Mort that he was apparently using on the online dating sites his browser history contained. I quickly slammed the lid of the laptop, lifted both hands, and said, "It's not mine!"

A couple of meetings with HR later, I was told that my female colleague was not going to sue the company and that Mort would not be receiving his laptop back as he had been terminated.

The lesson I learned from this was not to attempt to troubleshoot systems if at all possible, but instead create images and simply format and reinstall the systems.