On call The week may be over, but users' ability to put things where they shouldn't is far from exhausted. Welcome to another edition of On Call.
Today's story takes us back to when we worked in offices and the concept of “hot desking” was a fashionable thing that didn't require the attention of hazardous material workers between sessions.
“Ben”, because that's not his name, traveled regularly from town to town as part of his job and, as a conscientious guy, stopped by company offices to deal with any inquiries. He and a colleague arrived early in the morning to diagnose complaints and deal with employees' IT problems.
There is hardly anything better than the joy of arriving at your desk and discovering that the good IT fairy has already come around and dealt with this broken printer. Unlike the nasty IT fairy, who insists on occasionally shoveling Microsoft's sensitive updates into the Ethernet.
“The workers,” said Ben, “were mobile and the laptops were all the same model, which made it convenient for them to pop into one of our office branches and plug them into a docking station to work.
“The docking station was connected to a large monitor along with the keyboard and mouse.”
Everything very familiar. This hack is well reminiscent of a large company that invested heavily in docking stations from a certain manufacturer so employees can hop from desk to desk. Everything went a little wrong when the laptop fleet was upgraded and it was discovered that the manufacturer had abandoned the original dock connector in favor of USB. A handy trough was soon filled with expensive, superfluous plates made of metal and plastic.
Ben was preparing for his next epic road trip when he received the inevitable call. One of the docking stations did not work. The keyboard and mouse were dead. The monitor received no signal. The light on the docking station was dark.
Ben tried the obvious – was the dock actually plugged in? The answer came quickly: Of course it was. Then he had the user plug the monitor directly into the laptop and the screen obediently lit up. The clerk was able to continue working more or less as usual, but the dead dock was a little mysterious and Ben decided to take care of it personally the next morning.
Upon arriving at the damaged device, Ben discovered the problem. Yes, it was actually plugged into an outlet, and yes, electricity was actually flowing ….
Unless it flowed into the cable lock. Someone had managed to clip the power cord into the hole made to secure the laptop dock from light-footed users.
Ben plugged the power cord into the correct socket – you know, the one labeled “Power” – and everything started normally.
He did not tell us how the user reacted to the magical solution, but had the training documents updated discreetly “with pictures and instructions for correctly plugging the power cord into a docking station”.
We knew an accident and emergency worker who loved to tell stories about all sorts of things being put into all sorts of openings. Plugging a power cord into a security slot was, we hope, on the more innocent end of the scale.
Have you ever been asked to sort something that's stuck somewhere that it shouldn't? Share your story with an email to On Call. ®