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  • A Guru's World #1 - A Day In The Life Of A PC Technician
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    My job is always interesting, and so are the wonderful people I meet. Most of the wonderful conversations I have with these wonderful people start with "I've been an MCSE for four years" or "I'm A+ certified" or "I've been working on computers for 30 years". I tingle all over with a sense of joy that this conversation COULD ONLY GET BETTER!

    Please realize that I am being INCREDIBLY sarcastic.

    First off, if this person was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO experienced at computers, why is he calling the lowly tech support representative at a retail store? To make himself feel better or smarter because he just had his pizza delivery boy tell him that he too had been an MCSE for four years? Whatever. I bite.

    "Wow. I'm impressed. I take it then that you just need an RMA number for a product that you have bought from our company that you have already determined as defective?"

    "No! I need to know what it takes to get this thing to boot! I've got three here and none of them boot." he says.

    "Hmm... Do they not boot or not post at all? Because boot and post are two different things in my book..." He immediately cuts me off: "I told you I've been doing this for thirty years! The boards don't do anything! Nothing comes up on screen or anything!"

    "Oh... OK. So the boards don't post." I get silence. "My records show that you've bought three of everything. I have to assume that you tried all three of everything and still no post?"

    "Yes! I've got all three of these built up and ready to go and none of them do anything at all. "

    The boards he has are a jumperless socket seven board that I am very familiar with. Despite being very familiar with them, I decide to whip out the manual so the customer does not think that I would ever imply that I know more than he does... After all, he is an MCSE.

    "OK... I'm looking in the manual for ideas here... Hmm.... Page one, two.... Take a look at page three for me."

    "Huh? What? I'm sorry. Let me go get a manual...." There's a long pause. It seems that he needs to fish the manual out of the box; "OK. Got one. Page three. What about it?"

    "Well. I'm looking at this diagram of JP3 at the bottom of this page and it seems to be a clear CMOS jumper. Can you check yours for me?"

    "Don't have to. I never touched that jumper so that can't be the problem."

    "You DIDN'T touch that jumper? That may be the problem. That board ships with the clear CMOS jumper on clear and I don't know many boards that function properly with the clear CMOS jumper in the clear position."

    "Uh... Mmm.... Yeah.... OK... Well... Thanks..." *click*

    jonnyGURU: MCSE? No. A+? No. RTFM! Can I get a hallelujah?

    RANT TWO (I is a compooter tecknishun)

    There was this nice lady at the counter asking me how she could use a PCI video card instead of the on board AGP video that her motherboard had. The first thing that she had asked was if she could completely disable the video. Keep in mind that there is a gentleman waiting at the counter for parts.

    "Well," I reply, "You really can't disable the video on that board, but...."

    The man at the counter interrupts, "Yes you can. It's in the BIOS."

    I acknowledge the gentleman with a friendly, "No sir. You're thinking of some other board that I am completely unfamiliar with. This board has no feature to disable the video." I turn back to the lady, "But, you can set the shared memory size to N/A so it doesn't rob any RAM from the system."

    "Oh. Well, we put a PCI card in and it sounds like it's booting, but we get nothing on the monitor when we plug it into the PCI card."

    I knew the answer to this one too. "Well, that on board video card is dual monitor capable, so if you stick another card in the PC, it'll just assume that the other card is just for a secondary monitor. So, you have to change the primary graphics card from AGP to PCI."

    Here comes Mr. Know-It-All: "You wouldn't change it FROM AGP. There is no AGP. It's on board video so it's also PCI. All on board video is PCI. Technically, you have two PCI video cards."

    At this point I'm giving this guy a look that I honed from years of growing up with my brother and having to communicate with him, without saying a word, to NOT touch my collection of 45s. I know this look is effective because it is the same look I get from my wife when I tell her I'm going to the junkyard to find some car parts and won't be going to church.

    "Sir, I have yet to see a motherboard, that was capable of doing a front side bus greater than 100 MHz, with on board video, NOT have it's on board video be AGP based."

    "Well, I have!" This is an obvious lie or a mistake based on an escapade that may have involved a beach ball, a tube of Ben-Gay and a fifth of Jameson.

    "Sir," This time more stern. "If the board did not have on board AGP and did not have an AGP slot, then why would it have an option of primary display adapter that toggled between AGP and PCI???"

    A moment of silence.

    A blink.

    A twitch.

    Then finally, he speaks...

    "I've been doing this for 20 years..."

    Aw crap! Not again!

    RANT THREE (A+ is a certification, not a rating)

    A woman called me today. She has three PCI modems and three PCI sound cards. She tried them in three VIA chipset-based motherboards. She claims that when she put both soundcards and both modems in at the same time on any of the PCs, the machine does not see either device (sounds like the old 6th grade math quiz, eh?).

    Knowing it's impossible for three of everything to be bad, I asked her if she installed the PCI IRQ routing patch for VIA chipsets on the three machines.

    She decides that this is a silly question for me to ask and decides that this is the perfect opportunity to tell me that she is an A+ certified technician.

    I put her on hold and announce to everyone in the room that I have an A+ certified technician on the phone and that everyone should show some respect and keep the noise level to a minimum.

    I get back on the phone with her; "Hmm... Interesting problem. Did you try moving the cards around from slot to slot to see if Windows would detect either or preferably both?

    She tells me that ever since she's been an A+ certified technician she had never heard of that.

    "Really?" Time to throw her under the bus. "Well, you have multiple PCI slots with multiple PCI controllers. Some PCI slots are on the same PCI controller as other PCI slots and some PCI slots are on different PCI controllers altogether. Some PCI controllers control some PCI devices that are on the board and they are treated as PCI devices the same way as the PCI slots as well as the ISA slots being controlled by PCI controllers thanks to the PCI bridge. Now the problem can rise from two cards creating a conflict that prevents the cards from working because they are in two different slots that are on the same PCI controller or one card is conflicting with a device that is on board that is on a similar PCI controller or both cards conflicting with two or more PCI devices controlled by the PCI controllers. Of course we are talking a hardware conflict and not a resource conflict because if we were only talking about a resource conflict then Windows would see the devices and you would have a situation that is easier to manage."

    There was a long pause.... and then she says, "Oh... OK. Thanks."

    I hope she got all that.

    RANT FOUR (Anything you can do, I can do better....)

    This guy bought a Biostar M7MKE motherboard from my workplace.

    He also bought a 700 MHz processor.

    He couldn't get it to boot up.

    He didn't call our tech support.

    He didn't look on the Internet.

    He didn't call his AA buddy.

    He stormed into my work place and stated, "This board is junk! I want my money back!"

    "This board is junk? Hmmm... Lot's of people like these boards. What kind of problems were you experiencing?" the counter person asked

    "It didn't boot. All that I got was fans spinning. I've never had a board not boot up for me!"

    "Strange. You've never had a board not boot? Ever?"

    "I'm an A+ Certified, Microsoft Recognized technician with 35 years experience! I know when a motherboard is dead!"

    As the counter person was checking the board out to see if it was still in a "returnable" condition (no pry marks, bubble gum stuck to the manual, no chocolate pudding stains, etc) I was walking by.

    "Dead board, eh?" I said while walking past.

    "Yes! You get these back a lot?"

    "Nope. I don't get these back a lot, but I would get more back if everyone tried to run their 700 MHz CPU at 931 like you." As I say this I point to the jumpers on the board and start to walk away.

    The counter person sees the error and laughs a little bit, which you can figure can be interpreted as rude, but it was really kind of funny considering the guy's attitude.

    Needless to say, he wasn't very happy and returned the board for a refund anyway.


    BTW: I tested the board and CPU later and it worked fine... AFTER I put the jumpers back to DEFAULT.

    RANT FIVE (a rant in reflection)

    Unfortunately, I can't just leave my work behind me when I go home. I'm on the web looking into new product and compatibility issues at home, and even when I go out drinking with the guys (when I'm not talking about putting a turbo on the Rabbit). Here's a sample of me reflecting on my day on the way home from work. There was this one RMA that I just couldn't shake:

    I've really got to overhaul the tranny in this Rabbit... A worn diff bearing can drive you nuts!

    There's this guy who buys all sorts of stuff from us. So much so that we didn't question the RMA request he had the other day.

    The RMA read as follows:

       Biostar M7MKA: No boot. Just beeps.
       FIC 503+: No boot. No beep.
       SOLO1 Sound Card: No sound. Not even a beep.
       LT Winmodem: Won't dial out. Tone dial does not beep beep.

    Levity in internal documents helps me through the day.

    Ahh!!! The 7-11. Time for a fuel up and a beer run!

    I received the package. It LOOKED very nicely packed. Large box, filled with foam peanuts. I began to unpack it.

    The first thing I pulled out was the Biostar. I opened it up and my jaw dropped. The board wasn't in a static bag and all of the accessories were just lying on top. The accessories are probably what broke off one of the goal posts and one of the VRs. Umm... This board's not only not going to post.... It's not going to beep either! That's going back to the customer.

    As I walk into the 7-11 there's a lady at the counter with something in her hand and a look on her face as if her grandmother was being slowly killed with a potato peeler. "It's a Pokemon ring-pop, lady. Take it or leave it."

    The next board I pull out is the 503+. It supposedly does nothing. Not even a post code beep. I look at the jumpers and it seems as if it is set up to run a K6-II 500 with an AT power supply. I stick a 500 in it and a stick of 128 MB SDRAM and fired it up. It posted and boot right into 98. Hmm....

    As I look at the beers, a guy grabs a loaf of bread. Who buys bread at a 7-11 for $3??? Look dude; I live three blocks from here and have a loaf of bread in the kitchen. Give me a dollar and it's yours.

    I go for the next box inside the RMA. I expect a sound card and modem but only see a modem box. I opened the modem box and there is a modem and TWO sound cards thrown into it RIGHT ON TOP OF EACH OTHER!! There was no static bags or any attempt to separate the cards. They were just stacked on top of each other. I felt like refusing to do the RMA right there on the spot, but calmed down and figured I'd go ahead and check them out. I install the modem and one of the sound cards in the FIC board.

    Damn... I'm not in the mood for Guinness and the Tequiza makes me want to puke. Last time I got the Apple cider I got heartburn and the pulp in the spiked Lemonade makes me gag. Looks like I'm getting Michelob.

    I boot into Windows and get the Windows sound. Hmm... Sound works. Let's try the modem. I dialed the local GTE ISP number and sure enough.... LOGIN and PASSWORD pops up. Hmmm... What's with this guy's RMA??? I shut down and switch sound cards and fire it up again.... Sound once again. There are not enough hours in the day to do a lot the things I need to do. I don't like wasting time. This doesn't make me very happy.

    As I stood at the counter, the cashier looks at me as if to find Waldo or the winning power ball numbers somewhere within the pattern of my shirt. "Dude. Just ask me for my ID and get it over with instead of looking at me like an idiot!"

    Needless to say, I sent the whole RMA back to the guy... I put a note on his account saying that all RMAs need to be approved by jonny in tech support and I emailed all members of management.

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