In last week's edition of On-Call, The Register's weekly column dedicated to readers' days being damaged by demands to deflect needless disaster, we wondered if the inevitabilities of death and taxes should be joined by meaningless managerial interventions. This week, we have a new candidate to join lists of iconic inevitabilities: users ignoring instructions and then complaining when their own actions create complications.
Let's explore this idea with the help of a reader we'll Regomize as "Ivan", who once looked after the IT fleet at a large energy company.
"The busiest section of the company was the retail arm with several hundred desktop PCs in call centres around the UK," Ivan explained.
Ivan's job was complicated by weekly rollouts of upgraded applications, for which he used "a well-known software giant's desktop management suite" to ensure and patches would flow to the PC fleet.
Customers tend to be grumpy with call centres at the best of times, but taking these ones offline for software upgrades was not an option. So Ivan was only allowed to run upgrades over the weekend so they would not disrupt service - and left enough time for debugging to ensure business could resume on Monday mornings.
"For one such rollout it was essential that the PC was not used while the installation was taking place so I wrote a batch script to disable the mouse and keyboard until the job had completed," Ivan recalled.
In case users were confused by unresponsive machines, Ivan made sure the software installation package "disabled the screen saver and replaced the desktop background with a big sign, white writing on a bright red screen, saying 'Software installation in progress. Do Not Attempt to Re-boot This System'."
And just to ram the message home, every Friday before a software upgrade, Ivan emailed local support staff and users to warn them not to mess with their PCs until the upgrade had concluded.
With all of that preparation complete Ivan headed off to enjoy weekend and made it all the way to Sunday night when he checked the progress of the upgrade.
"The majority of the PCs reported back that the job had completed successfully," Ivan recalled. The few machines that hadn't upgraded weren't a worry: someone always turned off their PC by mistake or did something else that needed intervention.
And so it was on Monday morning, when one of the tech support minions that Ivan had warned about the weekend's upgrade reported a user whose PC was displaying a strange message, and when she tried to do something about the mouse and keyboard would not work.
This user - who was looking at screen that said "Do Not Attempt to Re-boot This System" - then rebooted the machine by pulling out its power cord.
"I called her and asked her what the message said and her reply was simply 'Oh!'," Ivan recalled.
He then fixed the PC, which quickly worked as required, complete with upgraded software.
Ivan took a small victory from the mess: the user always read his Friday afternoon emails after the incident.
Have users ignored your instructions? If so, click here to email On-Call with your story. Get to it, people, the On-Call mailbag could use a boost. ®
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