Monthly Archives: June 2007

Overhead signs

Anybody every wondered what those flashing signs on gantries over motorways mean? They certainly can’t have anything to do with speed limits.

A case in point. Last Thursday I was beetling down the M4 on my way home. The signs overhead started flashing “50”. So I slowed down a bit to around 65. All the other traffic was whizzing past. “Still, there must be a reason for this”, I thought to myself. The next lot of signs were flashing “40”. Not wanting to be rear-ended by approaching traffic, I stayed at 65. All the other traffic was still whizzing past. A few miles down the road the signs were once again flashing “50”. Still nobody took any notice. I sped up a bit. That was the end of the flashing speed limits (if that’s what they are – I think the Highway Code must have it wrong).

I think the controller in charge of the M4 traffic regulation switched them on the night before and went home.

The other fun thing that the traffic controllers do is set the signs flashing to, say, “50”. Everybody still drives at 70. A few miles down the road the signs will flash “40”. Everybody still drives at 70. Then you’ll see the sign flashing “END”. Everybody screeches to a halt.



I wonder if mechanics have a problem when they go to parties or other social gatherings?

“Ooh you’re a mechanic! Could you just have a quick look at my car, it’s outside and needs an oil change.” I don’t think so.

So what is it about working in IT that makes every Tom Deakon Harry want you to fix their laptop/home pc? They start off by describing in minute detail just what it is that doesn’t work. Listening carefully, you pick up little nuggets of information here and there which, although intriguing, don’t actually point out what the problem is. Carefully worded questions then reveal that they’ve tried to install a friends’ copy of an operating system on a pc which should be in a museum. This sort of thing has led me to classify people from an IT perspective.

The Opportunist

“Oh, you work in IT? Whilst you’re here, I’ve been having a problem with my laptop. It won’t switch on. Can you have a look at it?” (Sure, working with computers 8 hours a day is just not enough, I’d like nothing better)

The Sidler
Generally you bump into this person at work; they come up to you and say very quietly “I’ve got a problem with my computer.” “Have you logged it with the helpdesk?” I normally ask.

“No, my computer at home. Every time I switch it on it takes ages looking for a network boot. How do I fix it?” So you try telling them how to disable network boot in the bios. You can see their eyes glazing over. You carefully explain how to enter the bios settings, pointing out that most pc manufacturers have different ways of doing this; pressing F10 or the delete key being just two of them. Then over the next week or so you find yourself trying to avoid the person, because every time you meet they say things like “I pressed F10 but nothing happened.”

The Blunt
“I’ve got a problem with my network at home. I’ve got my pc’s connected to my router but I can’t see the files on my wife’s computer from mine. Can you come around and have a look? I’ll pay you for your time.” (Gee thanks, I really enjoy earning £40 for what turns out to be two weekends’ work. Never again.)

The Good Samaritan
“My friend’s laptop just stopped playing sounds, any idea what could be wrong with it?”
Thinks: “Hah! I’ll get away with this one.”
Aloud: “Gosh, could be anything. I’d really need to see the laptop to be able to troubleshoot the problem.”
“Great, I have it in my car, I’ll just get it.”
Thinks: “Bugger!”
Turns out the friend had decided to have a tidy-up and used Add/Remove programs to get rid of unnecessary stuff. Like the Realtek sound drivers. “Realtek, what’s that? I’ve never used that program, so it can’t be any good. I’ll get rid of it.”
(Tell your “friend” to stop messing with stuff they don’t understand. That will be £100 please. Kerching.)

The Guilt-Ridden
“How do you do (insert very easy question here)”
Repeat at random intervals over a week or so with different questions. Then donate a bottle of whiskey as a thank-you for all the help. And very nice it was too, many thanks.

Now I just try to sidestep this sort of situation. “I’m sorry, I’ve no idea. You’ll need to take it back where you bought it.”