I bent down to look at the power strip and felt intense heat. I asked her to move over for a second, and I saw a 1970s-era exposed coil space heater glowing bright red. It was plugged into the same power strip as the printer and the PC. In addition to causing brownouts, the space heater also posed a serious fire hazard, especially with all the papers she had piled everywhere.
I asked Mary about the setup. She said she got really hot, so she kept the air conditioning in the office turned on, but then her feet got cold, hence the space heater.
Working with the facilities department, we managed to persuade Mary that the temperature controls in her office could be adjusted rather than running the air conditioning at meat locker levels, then using a space heater set to high. I guess facilities is much like IT in that users would rather come up with their own solutions than simply call and ask for help. It was very much against university policy for her to use a space heater with red-hot exposed coils, so she was asked to take the item home.
I walked out laughing because her description of the problem was surprisingly accurate. Printing was indeed powering off her machine, just not in the way I would have expected.
This story, "Press Ctrl-P for power outage," 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.