Why we love users, on-the-wrong-track edition

IT consultant pilot fish gets a message from a longtime client: An employee whose workplace is in the big downtown Amtrak-and-commuter-rail station has been having trouble with his email, and his manager wants fish to check it out.

"The user had a corporate laptop on the train station's network, and his email hadn't been working for two weeks," says fish. "I called him and asked, 'So why didn't you call me or the office earlier?'

"He told me, 'I thought I could take care of it.'"

Fish: Hmm. What did you do?

User: "I upgraded to Windows 10."

Fish: Ooooh. Why did you think that would work? And why did you think you could do that to a company machine?

User: "It works on my laptop. Why not?"

Fish: Um, because of company policies? OK, let's move on. We'll just downgrade to Windows 7 again, since there's no advantage to Windows 10 for you, and your machine is six years old.

But after the downgrade, email still isn't working. Fish spends a couple hours running anti-malware, resetting the TCP/IP stack and generally cleaning up, but the email client still can't contact to the mail server on port 25.

Fish is running out of ideas when the user mentions something. "It's funny," he tells fish, "it stopped working when the station IT came down and changed the connection from the wall to the new phone."

Fish: They put in VoIP phones?

User: "Yeah, that's what they called them."

Fish: And they changed your network connection.

User: "That's what I said."

Fish: And that's when your email stopped working? And you didn't think that was important to mention?

User: "Why? Why should it be?"

Fish sighs. OK, I'm going to send you a text explaining exactly what I think is wrong, he tells user. They changed your connection, and have the wrong firewall rules in place, so they're blocking you from getting to our mailserver.

"OK," user says, and fish sends the text.

A few days later, fish gets a text from the user: They say it's not their problem, it's our computer, and we have to fix it.

Fish sends a reply: I'll have to come in. Send me a text or call me with a good time.

But he hears nothing back from the user. After a week of silence, fish calls him.

"Oh, it started working last Tuesday," user says.

What happened? fish asks. Did you do anything?

"Well," replies user, "I didn't show them your text before. But on Tuesday I read it to them on the phone. My email started working a few minutes after they hung up."

Now that your email is working, send Sharky your story. Tell me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com, and you'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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