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Jumping to Conclusions

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Hi everyone! Leo Notenboom for It’s interesting – over the years that I’ve been doing Ask Leo! you might expect I see what I’ll call “patterns’ in the questions and the comments that I get every day. Today I want to talk about a couple of those patterns, because I find them kind of interesting.

So, let’s say that a key on your keyboard stops working. What do you think is wrong? What comes to mind? For a surprising number of folks, what comes to mind is some kind of software misconfiguration. They’re looking for a setting that they may have tweaked in Windows or some kind of corruption, perhaps, in the registry that may cause their keyboard to misbehave.

Now, could it be that? Sure. It’s absolutely possible. I mean many different things can go wrong. Is it likely? Probably not. What’s more likely, in a case that I just described where a couple of keys on your keyboard stop working or maybe stop giving you the keys of the characters that you expect, is that the keyboard itself is broken. That the keys, perhaps, that you’re pressing have something physically wrong with them, or that the keyboard itself has somehow been damaged.

It can happen. Now, as it turns out, it’s fairly simple to perform a quick test to find out if it is, in fact, the keyboard. Find another one; borrow if you need to. Plug in a USB keyboard to your computer, be it a desktop or even a laptop, and see if it exhibits the same behavior. If it does, well then, yes, you have, in fact, a software problem. Something’s going on with Windows or a setting or whatever.

But if it’s not, well you’ve just identified the fact that that original keyboard that was displaying the problem, there’s something wrong with it. There’s probably a hardware failure. Something that many people don’t think of. Let’s face it. We’re used to hearing about software failures and bugs and misconfigurations and all that kind of stuff. It’s actually pretty easy to overlook or not count the fact that hardware can fail even come to mind.

But the problem, of course, is that there’s no hidden Windows setting; there’s no magical configuration change; there’s no thing you can do with the software that will fix a hardware problem. If there’s a motherboard problem, you need to fix the motherboard. If there’s a keyboard problem, you need to fix the keyboard.

The software, doing something to the software, there’s no tool, there’s no setting, there’s no nothing that you can run that’s going to cause software change to fix hardware. That’s just the way of the world. And unfortunately, like I said, hardware is not the first thing that comes to people’s minds.

Now I totally, totally get that it’s not always easy to tell. The line can be very, very blurry between hardware and software. But I chose that keyboard example on purpose, because it is in fact the most common example I see.

I regularly hear from folks who are having some kind of a problem with their keyboard, and they’re looking for a way to fix it in software when, in fact, the problem that they really experiencing is a hardware problem. A simple test with a replacement or auxiliary keyboard will tell them that it’s not the thing that they think of.

They come to me looking for, like I said, a registry setting or maybe a utility they can run or some kind of configuration change they can make. Sometimes I get it; sometimes in fact it can be that – language settings for example, on keyboards can cause odd behavior, but when keys fundamentally don’t work, it’s probably the hardware, and yet, it’s not what people are thinking of.

I find that an interesting pattern, and it applies to more than just keyboards, although keyboards are, at least from what I’m seeing, the most common. Keyboards, mice, video displays, they all have this same fundamental characteristic of a) their hardware can break and b) it’s relatively easy to tell by simply getting, borrowing if you have to, a replacement piece of hardware to see if it behaves the same way.

So, hardware can break. Imagine that! All of that is based on what I’ll call just jumping to conclusions. People jump to a conclusion that there’s a software setting that they can change to fix a broken keyboard, for example.

Another conclusion that I see people jumping to frequently is malware. Their computer misbehaves somehow, be it something small and simple, like maybe, in fact, a keystroke that isn’t behaving correctly, a broken keyboard key to all sorts of odd behavior in an application or their email or whatever, and the first thing that comes to mind is malware, and it’s not uncommon for me to get a fairly lengthy question outlining the details of the specific problem that someone is having and to have that then all get wrapped up with the question, “Am I infected?”

“Probably not” is the common response. Probably, there’s something else going on; probably, there’s something simple or simpler than malware causing the problems you’re seeing. Can malware do it? Absolutely. Malware can, in fact, cause a whole raft of different problems. It really can. Malware can be kind of nasty that way. It’s one of the ways that, one of the reasons, I should say, we really don’t like malware, is because it can do so many different things once it’s on your computer.

But, just because malware can do anything, doesn’t necessarily imply that when anything happens, it’s because of malware. More often than not, the problems we experience are earlier, hardware problems (they happen), misconfigurations or misunderstandings of how the software is actually working.

Nine times out of ten the software’s actually working exactly the way it was designed. We just don’t quite understand or perhaps made a mistype of a command or just did something that we don’t understand or didn’t expect and see some results that suddenly cause us to go, “Oh my gosh! Something’s wrong; am I infected?” Probably not.

To quote the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic.” Absolutely, keep security in mind. It is important; it really is. And if you’re not sure what I mean by “security” check out my article on Internet Security or check out my book on ways to stay safe on the internet.

They cover important topics for keeping your computer safe, your data safe, your accounts safe, when you’re connected to and using the internet but don’t assume that everything is a security related issue. More often than not, it isn’t. More often than not, the issue that you’re facing is way more mundane and boring.

And believe me when it comes to malware, the things that malware can do, finding out that it’s something that is way more boring than malware is a really, really good thing because boring is often much easier to treat, much easier to fix, much easier to learn about than dealing with a malware infection.

So, are you prone to jumping to conclusions? What’s the conclusion you jump to? Do you know people that jump to conclusions that basically always assume the worst when they encounter a problem on their computer? What do you tell them? How do you educate them to, maybe, take a step back?

Don’t panic. I’d love to hear those stories. I really would. I think we can all learn from understanding what kinds of things scare people. What kind of assumptions people end up making and then what the reality of those kinds of situations turns out to be.

As always, if you’re watching this anywhere but on Ask Leo! go here, go to this URL. I’ll have this video and my moderated comments will be there. I’d love to hear your story, What kinds of things do you hear about? What kinds of things do you experience, and what kinds of things do you tell people when they’re jumping to the wrong conclusion? Anyway, that’s it for this week. I’ll see you again next week. Thanks for watching. Take care, everyone!

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45 comments on “Jumping to Conclusions”

  1. As my Dad use to say in our Automotive Repair business when a customer had ongoing “fictitious” problems that just could not be found or repeated, “The problem was traced to a loose NUT behind the wheel”…. We almost wrote that diagnosis on a couple of work-orders…. -lol-

    Could apply to any number of “Strange” Computer errors…

  2. Hi Leo, There is one more thing to check … most gaming hardware has special drivers. The first thing I do is uninstall the driver and let Windows install/reinstall a generic driver then see if the problem goes away. This happened on a gaming keyboard I have and am using now. The driver was bad when I got it and caused some problems. I used another keyboard for a few months then tried this one again and the new driver fixed the problems. My point is if you swap the component to see if it is bad and the new one works fine, it could be the driver not the hardware. Thanks for all your help.

    • Of course. As I said in the video, it absolutely could be the software. My point, however is that in most cases people don’t think of hardware failures when hardware failures actually do happen. (And most people aren’t using gaming hardware :-) ).

  3. One of the best examples of “jumping to conclusions” that I have come across happened where I was working. One day when the office opened and everyone turned on their computers not a single one of them was working. That was about 30 computers that were inoperative.

    We immediately called the IT department and they sent a team over to the office and they started running tests all of which showed no problem. The power to the computers was tested and that passed. They were all scratching their heads wondering what kind of gremlin had taken over. Suddenly, one of the staff called out that their computer was working! During the time of not having a computer, she was tidying up her desk, even though it didn’t need it, and wiped under the monitor and she hit the control under the monitor which was a thumb wheel to adjust the brightness of the monitor. Evidently the cleaner who cleaned the office the night before decided to clean the monitors too and wiped the bottom of every monitor in the same direction thereby turning the brightness to zero!

    About 40 hours of labour were lost and the problem was just the brightness adjustment of all the monitors.

    • Ha! Yup, it’s certainly easy to overlook the obvious sometimes. A couple of years ago, we moved our home office to the other end of the house. I disconnected the modem, router, computers, IP phone and NAS and then reconnected them all in the new location. I then discovered we had no internet connection. I checked that all the connections were seated properly – they were. I phoned a neighbour to see whether, by some bizarre coincidence, our internet service had gone down while I was moving stuff – it hadn’t. I used an Ethernet cable to connect my computer directly to the router – no internet access. I used an Ethernet cable to connect my computer directly to the modem and – BINGO – we had internet access.

      At this point, I decided that the router must have failed – maybe it had taken a knock during the move – so went out, picked up a replacement and brought it home to install. However, when I started to disconnecting the old router I realized what the problem had been – and it wasn’t that the old router had failed. Instead of connecting the NAS to the router, I’d connected it to the modem. And I’d actually connected the router to itself, simply connecting the cable from the internet port to one of the spare Ethernet ports. Duh!

      My wife still likes to remind me about this unfortunate event.

  4. I think another reason behind the looking for a software solution is wishful thinking. People are hoping for a solution which doesn’t involve having to spend money to buy something. Being the go to person for a few friends, I often get a panicked phone call which more often than not is “Oh my god, I think I have a virus.” I jump to my own conclusion that it’s a PEBCAK (Problem exists between chair and keyboard.) I usually groan inside and fight the urge to give a snarky response (a fight I often lose :-). Believe it or not, it’s never been malware.

    An irrational conclusion I’ve come to is that not only are some people allergic to computers, but computers are allergic to some people. I’ll sit down at someone’s computer who’s been struggling a long time trying to do something basic, and I follow their exact steps and it works the first time for me.

    • I refer to the second part as “The Proximity Effect”. The closer the professional / technician / expert is to the machine the less likely the problem is to occur.

    • I have a friend who, as tech support, goes to the aid of a coworker or a friend/client outside of work and he will growl at the computer before sitting down at the desk. The other person usually comments, puzzled, “why did you do that?” He explains that it intimidates the computer and he then proceeds to use the computer without the problem they’ve been having. He’s had several people over the years actually believe that this “voodoo” fixed the problem. I can only imagine them trying it themselves behind closed doors. :-P

    • Long before GPSs were invented, cars knew when they were at a mechanic’s shop and would hide all the problems until you took it away from the shop.

  5. I put Windows 10 on my computer I did not realize I could wait and do it later but I am trying to put on my computer Dell 942 All In One printer and it will not accept it and it says it needs USB CONNECTION I do have the USB connected and I tried all the different ports it just keeps coming up no USB connection can I buy a different USB to convert it to windows 10

    • Go to the control panel and type device manager in the search box, and then look for any devices you don’t recognize some may have a yellow exclamation point select and delete them. Press the refresh at the top(you can restart the PC, too. Or the cable may be defective.

  6. My niece was bemoaning the fact that she needed to buy a new computer that she couldn’t really afford. I asked her what was wrong with her old one and she said that it was just old and wouldn’t work anymore, it would power up but fail to complete tasks. When I asked how old was old , she said about three years. I got her to bring the computer to me and it was indeed very sluggish and almost unusable. I reinstalled Windows ( I didn’t even attempt to remove the layer upon layer of malware that a quick scan was starting to reveal) and hey presto, a defunct PC became a very zippy one indeed with years of service left in it.
    What never ceases to amaze me is that not only do most youngsters show little interest in acquainting themselves with the basics of looking after their computers but nor do our schools here in Britain have any interest in teaching them. I have at least shown her how to back her machine up and how to be a little safer on the internet.

    • Unfortunately your complaint about youngsters in Britain seems to describe half of the “computer owning” population (or more) of America. For that matter I’m not aware of any basic academic schools that teach looking after your computers as a requirement here either, though there may be some. I believe most folks’ approach to computers is the same as with their cars; start it and go and when it’s not operating properly call a mechanic (or your uncle).

  7. Leo, I agree with your points here, but in my experience, your ratios may be off. As an IT consultant, I’ve found that the probability of a problem being caused by malware has gone up significantly in the last year or two. Somewhere on the order of a third to half the time, my clients issues are caused by PUP’s (Potentially Unwanted Programs) or PUS as I prefer to call them (Positively Unwanted Software).

    • Love your PUS abbreviation! Infections in our bodies lead to pus, and in the case of computers, PUS is as bad as an infection, especially if left untreated. Like you, I’m an IT tech consultant, and it’s almost unbelievable how much garbage people let get in their computer. And quite a few just want me to back up their data to load it on a new PC (where they can repeat the process). Like Leo, I do my best to educate them and give them tools to clean up after themselves.

    • For generalized “issues” you’re probably right. But when people complain that their hardware is misbehaving a majority still don’t think of the hardware as being at fault.

  8. As a 81 year old CE (customer Engineer ), I enjoyed your blog on ” hardware ” problems. I was a “hardware” repairman on the old mainframe systems. The keyboard problem you describe is often a dirty keyboard. If you turn the KB over end tap it on the desk a few times you might be surprised at the dirt that falls out. Also tap on the front to let the dirt slid out from under the keys. This is the first thing I when I have a problem. Might help some people. I’m weak on software though. So your type of articles help me keep up with. As best I can. Thanks for the help. It IS appreciated.

  9. Ironically, this article shows up literally minutes after I figured out what was wrong with my machine….I originally THOUGHT that my machine not even being able to post, was a software issue but as it turns out….it was a HARDWARE FAILURE. Ironically, I never really thought about the hardware failing as the only hardware related failures I’ve had since I got my first MAC (back in 1985?) has been 2 hard drives that failed. Luckily, I have multiple back ups of all my systems and I was able to recover and be back up in short order both times.

    Sorry for the long post. I have an old Dell XPS 630i. It has worked flawlessly since I purchased it back in 2008. Last Christmas I decided to get a new computer with an i-7 processor so I could run my 8 HD IP cameras, (using Blue Iris) as the old 630i could not run any more than 2 hd camera’s without putting the CPU over 90% . Since then I’ve been I’ve using the old XPS 630i as an experimental (play) machine. It came with Windows 7 (32 bit) which I upgraded to Win7 64 bit with a clean install about a month ago, (so I could use all 8mb of memory).

    I had four different hard drives in it (mostly for storage) but I decided to install a different operating system on each drive. I am multi-booting Win7, Win 8.1, Win10 Pro. All was going well until I decided to I wanted to install (play with) Ubuntu. However, when I installed Linux Mint it did something screwy with the boot menu. Even though I still had four listings in the boot menu I was having issues accessing the other Windows installations. I finally managed to get into Win7 and I used EASYBCD to edit the boot menu and “I thought” I had done so successfully. I tried booting into each system one at a time. All seemed to be going well until the last time I booted to Linux, (final test that failed). When it rebooted the screen was black and my machine was emitting a single beep which repeated every 1-2 seconds. I assumed this happened because of me messing with the boot menu, (software related), but for the life of me I could not figure out why I could not at least get my system to post…only a black screen with the single (repeating) beep. In my 30 years of computing this was the first time I had a machine that I could not even get to POST, let alone boot to an operating system. While I’ve had many issues over the years, most of which was caused by me fiddling with things that were above my pay grade, I learn the hard way sometimes….grin.

    After many hours of searching it appeared that a single repeated beep indicated a BIOS check sum error and/or a failed motherboard but in the back of my mind I was wondering if it was actually me messing with the boot menu (software issue) because this happened literally RIGHT AFTER I messed with the boot menu. Even though this machine is really old, I love it so I began the task of trying to find a replacement motherboard. Many hours later I had come the conclusion that it was not worth the money or time to “fix it”, it was time for me to (reluctantly) retire the machine.

    When I woke up this morning I thought since my wife had an identical machine (hardware wise), I would try swapping out parts just to make sure it wasn’t something other than the boot menu issue or the motherboard failure. I started with the memory. I installed the memory from my machine in my wife’s and it booted right up. I then installed my video card into her machine and to my surprise, I got the same black screen with the repeated single beep, (ah ha he says). According to what I found online I really thought it was anything but the video card, but apparently it wasn’t the motherboard, it was merely coincidental that the video card failed right when I was messing with the boot menu although, that really never made any sense to me as to why the boot menu issue would not let me at least POST and get into the BIOS.

    I installed her video card into my machine and everything works as it always has although the boot menu issue was still there but at least I could see all my hard drives. Not sure if I can boot into all them yet but, I will investigate that issue further after my new video card gets here tomorrow. I hope my 630i will be good for another few years or until I make it a door stop by messing around with it. I love taking things apart to see what makes them work.

    Thanks for all the hard work you put into Ask Leo.

    Kind regards,

  10. While I agree that with key problems most of the time it is the keyboard, and often just crumbs or other debris, that can be removed by slamming the keyboard upside down onto a newspaper, there ARE frequent cases of system malfunction.
    When seniors or people with vision challenges use large key keyboards, they use a special driver for them. All is fine for two – three weeks, then suddenly Windows decides to change back to the standard driver, for no reason at all. Then of course the keys are jumbled and the users can’t even get their password in. They have to plug a standard keyboard into a USB port, type their password in on that, and then can mouse around and get the large keyboard drivers selected.

    Luckily many of them eventually get familiar with the silly rigmarole and don’t require a house call for that recurring problem.

    It’s something to keep in mind when somebody uses a non-standard keyboard. Windows does tend to fall back to default.
    Have FUN!

  11. When I was just a kid – at 15 1/2 – I joined the Royal Air Force as an “Under Training” U/T Air Radar Mechanic. The RAF, God bless ’em gave us rigorous training, not only on how the systems worked (thermionic valves – know what happens as electrons pass through) but also on fault-finding. Start by sending a signal through and see where it stops passing. Test the area by substitution (your change the keyboard) and identify and eliminate the fault.

    It works every time – I only fear that people are not taught today, the logical approach to fault-finding – assumption, often wrong, seems to be the order of the day.

    If your example helps just one person take the logical approach to fault-finding, you’ll have done your job.

    For that, like most commentators, at 71 years old, I’m eternally grateful. Keep up the good work and thank you.

  12. Ahh…Jumping to Conclusions. Reminds me of one of the great classic movies…

    Michael Bolton: You think the pet rock was a really great idea?
    Tom Smykowski: Sure it was. The guy made a million dollars. You know, I had an idea like that once. A long time ago.
    Peter Gibbons: Really, what was it, Tom?
    Tom Smykowski: Well, all right. It was a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor, and it would have different conclusions written on it that you could jump to.

  13. I think that the software is suspected more than the hardware for five reasons.
    1.) Computer hardware is incredibly reliable. Manufacturers have to pass many national regulatory compliance requirements to get to market, and once in the market, they dread a massive product recall. Software has no similar 3rd party validation, and while there are no physical recalls, how many “updates and patches” does a typical software product need over its lifetime? We have been conditioned to assume software is always in need of a fix. Every Tuesday, MS alone dumps megabytes of fixes into my machine, and Adobe seems to have a new version twice a month. When was the last time Western Digital sent you a new hard drive spindle bearing?
    2.) The consumer has no way to get at most hardware, it is made difficult by security fasteners and sealed assemblies. OTOH, software is much easier for the consumer to “access” and flip a bit somewhere. Indeed, we run software that regularly rearranges all the data in our hard drives and the registry. About the only hardware maintenance you can do is open the case and clean the fans/heatsinks, tighten the screws and re-seat the connectors (and most people never do even that).
    3.) The hardware is generally protected from improper interfacing by ensuring that connectors can only fit where they are supposed to go, so this prevents you from attaching totally “alien” devices to your hardware. Software has multiple pathways (every IO port, including RF) that all allow external devices to talk to your software at a low level. Your software has to protect itself while allowing itself to be modified.
    4.) Thankfully, computer hardware hasn’t engendered much of a “tuner and tweaker” market; that is, you don’t see offers of bizarre gadgets like “an ultrasonic transducer that can be attached to the side of your hard drive to keep the bearing lubricants at peak efficiency, thus allowing faster data transfer.” (Hmm, maybe I should patent that!) However, there are any number of software gadgets from faceless vendors that purport to do all sorts of beneficial things for your system.
    5.) I can’t think of any instance of hardware malware. (In the early 80’s, somebody made very poor kazoo-like music on Commodore machines by varying the repetition rate of slamming the floppy disc drive head carriage into the physical stop, but that’s more like “misuseware.” That was so insane that it was funny.) Hmm, the technique of inducing jitter into the system clock to achieve lower apparent levels of EMI during compliance testing, at the expense of timing accuracy, could be something like “design malware.” Software malware (creation, distribution, prevention and destruction) is a huge financial presence, and just try to turn on your computer without thoughts of virii, Trojans and worms in the back of your mind.

    • Hi Ed,
      What you say here used to be true. Over 95% of computer problems were software related, usually driver issues and irq conflicts. Hardware can indeed be brought down by malware if it is introduced into the firmware of a motherboard, or other component. Over the years I have seen a big increase in hardware issues, starting with the bad capacitors that were prevalent on motherboards in the early 2000s. Now I see the rate of hardware failures nearing 50%, usually hard drives, but also PSUs, video cards, and case/CPU fan failures. Some of these primary failures can cause other components to fail. For example, I have seen PSUs blow up and backfire into the motherboard taking the BIOS with it, and I have seen where a CPU or hard drive overheats and fails due to a fan failure. The faulty hardware usually comes from other countries where labor is super cheap like China. Sometimes it is user error that causes hardware to fail, as when tinkerers who know enough to be a danger to themselves and others, start messing with hardware upgrades and forget or ignore good ESD practices, or forget to add the proper amount of thermal paste to a new or reset CPU. Then they wonder why their nearly new components failed.

  14. One tool that can help one avoid jumping to contusions (pun intended) is a medical term/concept. I learned from my ex: the concept of a ‘differential diagnosis’.

    Sometimes you can think of four or five possible causes for the current symptoms (say keyboard not working)
    1. Something left pressing on the keyboard (mis-aligned keyboard tray, paper stacks)
    2. Stuck keys due to soda / coffee / paperclips / staples / food crumbs / jam
    3. incorrectly programmed shortcut keys
    4. failed keyboard
    5. dead battery on wireless keyboard
    6. malware

    With a ‘differential diagnosis’ one can look to eliminate causes by most probable, and possible causes that have easy tests to verify/eliminate. (The scientific method!)

    In this example, replacing the keyboard with known working keyboard, would test for most of the above possible causes, except 3 and 6.

  15. A few years ago, when the ‘f” stopped working, I popped it up and tapped it back in place. I don’t know if that works for most keyboards, (or any these days), but after days of agonizing over the problem, it was fixed in 10 seconds.

  16. Last weekend I turned on my computer that I only use once a week on Saturdays, and got a black screen say something like… error boot disk, please insert the correct CD. I looked in the CD bay to remove a CD (that I did not remember putting in there) and to my shock there was no CD there… it was empty.

    I thought, oh noooooo, no boot = clapped computer. I rebooted 2 more times and the same thing. Went to my laptop and googled it and got heaps of fixes and I tried a few things without success. Panic set in. I sat staring at my computer trying to think what could it possibly be and after a while I happened to see the yellow cap off my usb drive sitting on the desk right beside the box. Suddenly it hit me… where us is the other half? You guessed it… was in my usb hub. Pulled it out and rebooted to desktop successfully.

    So yup… Leo is right as usual… sometimes the obvious is right there staring you in the face, but panic blocks your view of it.

  17. Not totally true. often I do not have the @ working and is replaced with ” when I press on its key. It happens because of something that I do not know yet that happened before. When I Restart it disappears and all keys exhibit what is on them.
    What combination of activities cause that and what other solution instead of teh time consuming restart, I hope you eplain…

    • The US English and UK English keyboards have the ” symbol and @ symbol transposed. Sounds like you have the wrong language setting. To change this, go to Control Panel – Clock, Language & Region – Region & Language – Keyboards & Languages – Change Keyboards, and make sure the keyboard selected is the correct one for your country. if not, you can change the default input language. if your language is not shown, click “Add” and scroll up/down till you find it. Click the “plus” box, then the “keyboard” box, then click in the empty box and when that shows a tick click “OK”. Now highlight the new language and click “move up”. Highlight the old language and click “Remove”. Reboot and your problem should have gone away for good.

  18. In the 30+ years I worked in electronics (GS856) for the DoD, the best definition for troubleshooting came from TI (Texas Instruments).

    “Isolation and Elimination.
    using Precision Measurement
    and Applied Logic”


  19. Keyboards are a good example of “assume hardware good”. Another handy trick is to simply turn the keyboard over, and run you hand over the keys. Best done outside or over a bathtub, to avoid the shower of carp from under keys.

    Another example “assumed good hardware” are cables. How many times have you found that jiggling a cable and/or unplugging and replugging it has fixed “dead computer”, “dead network”, “dead monitor”, “dead printer” issues.

  20. it’s generally those who are afraid; the same ones many times who will pay hundreds of dollars for advice which I can & do offer for free.

  21. I do ‘jump to conclusion’ when I encounter a problem that I have seen before and fixed. For instance, in the problem cited, I would first automatically get some compressed air and try to blow it out because in my experience the problem is most likely breadcrumbs. However, sometimes that air does not fix the problem. And what I want to do then is try to lift the cap off the key that is not working. But almost wholly unsuccessful because I end up breaking the key.

    So, where you can be most helpful is telling me how to get the cap off without breaking the key. Is there a correct procedure?

    • Unfortunately that varies – rather dramatically – from keyboard to keyboard. Some cannot be removed (or rather, should not be), others pop right off. I recall some as needing a special tool. All I can say is check w/ the manufacturer.

  22. Much of it may also be due to people just being lazy. It’s a lot easier to blame something than to work to find out what the problem actually is. Then there’s the ignorance factor. Just like those who accept pretty much anything that’s on the Internet as “truth” simply because it sounds good, (just ask Abraham Lincoln, a prolific Internet user!) many people fail to acquaint themselves with the hardware or software they’re using even on the most basic levels. Then if something untoward does occur, rather than taking a deep breath and using common sense, they allow the Chicken Little Syndrome to kick in and suddenly the sky is falling.

  23. When I use a certain program (Navmii) on my android phone, using the search function sometimes the keyboard shows up sometimes it does not. It is there but at second layer. I jump to the conclusion that it is a program bug, but certainly it might be caused by the operating system.

  24. I’m loving these stories and would like to share a couple. Many versions of Windows ago, (probably 95. 98, or NT), I stopped in at my daughter’s school and the secretary was going nuts because her keyboard was producing non-English characters. First thing I did was check the setting in control panel and found it was set to a foreign keyboard, so I switched it back to English and all was well again. I advised her that one of the students may have done it to play a trick on her and that she should ensure her computer is secure by logging out every time she left her desk. Sometimes it can be software when a keyboard appears to malfunction. Years later when working for a company that was too cheap to put battery backup systems on the computers, every time a power failure occurred some of the surge suppressors would trip and need to be reset resulting in a few calls to me complaining the computer would not start. So, to have some fun, I would walk up to the CRT monitor and give it a slap on the side while telling the user not to try this at home. Then I would get down on bended knee appearing to pray to the computer gods, reach under the desk and secretly press the reset button, and then tell the user to try turning it on again. Voila! They thought it was magic, and I was a wizard…LOL

    • I was getting blue screens on my older laptop. The error code was frequently memory.

      I thought, “What the heck? It only has 4 RAM on 2 sticks. I got a new 4 mb stick and inserted it solo.
      No more blue screen. Then I got an add’l 4 mb stick and still no blue screens.

      I was staying away from home.
      A clueless guy went by lamenting that when he logged on today, he had problems. Nothing was changed he said.
      I bit my tongue and kept quiet. A good Samaritan next to me went on to assist him. Don’t know what really happened since I did not ask her.


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