Have you considered someone with handcuffs?


Flashback to just a few years after Y2k, when this pilot fish is doing some side work providing IT support for a small heating and air conditioning business.

"One day I got a frantic call from the owner, saying he couldn't do some billing from his laptop, as it was acting strange. I arrived at the scene and found that, sure enough, when Excel was opened it immediately started creating spreadsheets one after another until it got to sheet 265, then came up with an out-of-memory error."

After a few troubleshooting questions -- when was it last working? was anything done to the laptop? -- fish learns that the owner tried to install WinFax 1.1, an ancient version that's more than a decade old even then.

Fish takes the laptop and instructs the owner to hold off doing any more installs.

Turns out the WinFax install put a macro in the XLSTART directory that's causing the trouble. Once fish removes that, Excel is back to normal. Problem solved -- right?

Not quite. "Just as I was shutting down the laptop, I got a call from the owner," fish says. "He told me the other desktops in the office were doing the same thing. I asked what happened, and he said he tried to perform the same installs on the other devices since all the others didn't install correctly."

OK, fish thinks, I just have to repeat the XLSTART cleanup with all the other PCs -- until the owner mentions "blue screen."

What else did you do? fish asks. It seems he tried to fix Excel himself using Add/Remove Programs. It's not clear what he selected, but the utility instructed the owner to insert the Office Install CD -- and since that wasn't handy, the owner used the Windows Install CD instead.

Now there are multiple PCs with blue screens, fish has no way of knowing exactly what's been done to them, and the owner is telling fish in no uncertain terms that he'd better not lose any locally stored data on his PCs.

"The final straw came as I was telling him that I would get the laptop back to him in a few minutes and get to the rest of the PCs as soon as I could," says fish.

"He said, 'Never mind, just get the laptop back to me -- I'll get someone who knows what they're doing.'"

Sharky knows what you should be doing -- sending me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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