Sharky

Testing, testing

February 01, 2013 6:00 AM EST

This pilot fish is supervising the people who use public PCs at a large urban library -- which isn't as simple as it could be.

"The library administration did not think it was worth anyone's while to install login software," says fish. "So what we had was a sheet of paper that people could scrawl anything they wanted on, and computers where getting the time assigned to you could, and sometimes did, involve a shouting match or even threats of violence. I wish I was making that up."

The library's IT group has also locked the CD trays and configured each PC with a BIOS password, so if library patrons turn off a computer for some reason -- and that happens regularly, for a variety of incomprehensible reasons -- they either sit staring at a BIOS sign-in screen for an hour or storm up to the desk complaining that the computer doesn't work.

Thus one day an indignant young man storms up to the desk and tells fish that on his PC "the CD is broken."

Fish explains that the computers are all like that, and none of them has a working CD drive.

The young man insists furiously that he has to have a CD drive. Why? asks fish. "I need to test the system!"

Um...test the system? Fish decides to go look at the computer.

Not surprisingly, it has been turned off and back on, so it's sitting at the BIOS screen.

Why did you turn it off? fish asks. Patron repeats again that it's to test the system.

"This went on for a while until I finally thought to ask him what he wanted to test," fish says.

"That's when he shoved an Earthlink disk in my face and told me he needed to install it. That was his test..."

Sharky's test is a simple one: Is your tale true, and about IT life? Then send it to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

The Best of Shark Tank includes more than 70 tales of IT woe submitted by you, our readers, since 1999. Which all goes to prove, conclusively, that hapless users and idiotic bosses are indeed worldwide phenomena. Free registration is all that's needed to download The Best of Shark Tank (PDF).