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Top 10 System Administrator Truths

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the my-users-never-lie dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 561

Vo0k writes "What are your top ten system administrator truths? We all know them already, but it's still fun re-telling them. Stuff like "90% of all hardware-related problems come from loose connectors", even though you already know it's true, may save you from replacing the "faulty" motherboard if you recall it at the right time."

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95% of all problems.... (5, Funny)

seramar (655396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246914)

... are operator errors. But you can't tell the operator that.

Re:95% of all problems.... (4, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246941)

It's interesting that everybody seems to know these things, and yet they still get us. A couple months back, I went through three power supplies before I discovered the fact that I actually had a power cable that was going bad. You don't even think of things like how power cables can go bad, but they do.

Power cables don't really "go" bad. (5, Insightful)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247107)

from bending them around and whatnot, they develop breaks that can get pushed back together. This is what causes the problem to be intermittent. The cable 'is' bad, not going bad. People need to be more careful in wrapping their cords up. There should be a little bit of slack in the loops or else the slightest bit of pressure will cause them to develop a break.

Re:95% of all problems.... (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247343)

I had a similar issue with my ethernet cable once. The IT people checked the jack a half-dozen times, took the thing to another floor to get repaired, replaced the modem. It was a pretty sweet two days without any real work to do :)

Re:95% of all problems.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14246942)

"99% of all problems don't occur when the computer is off. That's why I always keep a pair of well-insulated pliers around."

Re:95% of all problems.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247088)

When troubleshooting SCSI devices, always remember to light the black candles at midnight, and run the silver knife up the goats abdomen.

Another one (4, Informative)

missing000 (602285) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247173)

90% of all quotes on slashdot are made up :)

Seriously, the "90% of all hardware-related problems come from loose connectors" bit is found nowhere in the article or on google for that matter...

Re:95% of all problems.... (5, Insightful)

mrn121 (673604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247232)

I know this was said as a joke, but I see this a lot amongst the geek community, the attitude that users just don't know what they are doing, and that is why they can't make anything work.

Doing some GUI consultant work and writing a few users manuals for some pretty complex software has taught me one thing: Most user error is the fault of crappy software. A good setup (hardware or software) should be easy to use given the users.

Now, obviously it is all about knowing the audience. If you are writing an application for use by other software engineers versus people living in an assisted living home, well, that makes a difference, and you certainly can't cater to all people (for example the guy who writes code for a living but can't setup his own email at home).

The bottom line is, as much as it displeases us, not everyone is a geek. Not everyone cares about the latest firmware for their router, the latest patch for Call of Duty 2, or how to make a projection TV from an old overhead projector and a laptop from eBay. Our job, as geeks, is not to show everyone why they SHOULD care, but rather to make it easy for those who don't care to still do what they need to do.

Just a few minutes ago I got an email forwarded to me from a "stupid" user who couldn't figure out how to perform what to me seems like a simple task in some software my team wrote. We emailed him the directions, even though they were very clearly stated in the manual that I wrote, but I took it one step further. I submitted a feature request in our bug-tracking database to put a message near where what he was trying to do to explain why that option is grayed out.

Anyone can write software or setup hardware that has tons of geek features that we all like, but it takes a lot more effort to make the setup actually usable to the target users.

In no particular order.... (5, Informative)

FalconZero (607567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246920)

Fixing Problems
  • Rebooting Solves 90% of Windows problems.
  • Users are the cause of the problem 90% of the time.
  • The weakest link(s) in your security is/are human.

Getting Help
  • Good manuals should be read before you do anything.
  • Bad manuals should not be read UNDER ANY CIRUMSTANCES.
  • Google is your best freind. ever. period.

Other People
  • Good managers ask for something in 5 days, but need it in 6.
  • Good developers/suppliers promise something in 5 days, but deliver it in 4.
  • "I don't know, but I'll find out" is always better than "I know" (when you don't).
  • Technical support hotlines will invariably tell you what you already know.

Unless.. (1)

Jotii (932365) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247020)

The weakest link(s) in your security is/are human.

Unless you're using Windows, that is, since then Windows is a giant weak link, which is in turn made up of lots of more weak links, e.g. the user and the programs.

Flamebait perhaps, but yet so true.

Re:In no particular order.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247059)

> Rebooting Solves 90% of Windows problems.

Rebooting Causes 90% of Unix problems.

Re:In no particular order.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247060)

" Google is your best freind. ever. period."

This one is funny. Did you read the BOFH about the manager and google?

Knowledge and experience are you best friend ever. I would quicker trust a coworker then google.

Re:In no particular order.... (5, Funny)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247070)

Good manuals should be read before you do anything.
Bad manuals should not be read UNDER ANY CIRUMSTANCES.
Fortunately all manuals come with stickers like "Super manual A+++++" or "Horrible manual, stole my wife, raped my dog F--------".

Re:In no particular order.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247114)

Deus Ex Machina.

Re:In no particular order.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247085)

  • Users are the cause of the problem 90% of the time.

    If a user can cause a problem, then the program is buggy.

Re:In no particular order.... (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247323)

It's almost impossible to make a program completely useproof...As soon as you idiot-proof it, they come up with a better idiot.

Re:In no particular order.... (3, Interesting)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247089)

Google is your best freind. ever. period.

This goes for admins, programmers, and just about every other profession, especially in IT.

Good managers ask for something in 5 days, but need it in 6.

Such a basic thing, but so so important. I always try to pad estimates for our department, but I should be sure to pad my requirements for my staff as well.

Re:In no particular order.... (0)

Tuffsnake (767507) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247151)

You forgot to add:

Good Project Managers hear from the developer 5 days, assume delivery in 4 days and promise it to the customers in 3 days.

But really, admin getting upset that users mess up when they know the users will is like construction workers getting upset when they have to hammer in a strut they know is going to come out or a fireman getting annoyed at fires occuring. It is part of the job, if you don't like it, don't take the job. And one more caveat (sp?), if there weren't use making mistakes there would be far less job openings for admins...

Re:In no particular order.... (1)

Hrodvitnir (101283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247284)

This article is very comforting. Over the past year+ maintaining an elementary school's computers, I've learned all of these things, but it's nice to know that they are not unique to my position. It gives me the feeling that, if this is what everyone in support puts up with, I can do it too.

Never.... (5, Funny)

citizenklaw (767566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246938)

Never post stupid top ten administrator lists on Slashdot, lest I have to spend my time restoring a web server from backup.

Re:Never.... (1)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247211)

Don't worry, the site was already farked 8 days ago.

Update 12/05/05 - I've been farked! Welcome everyone!

Truth... (5, Interesting)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246945)

... even though it's better than it used to be, registry corruption is still the number one cause of boot failures in Windows XP. And the contents ntbtlog.txt and the Recovery Console are still horribly inadequate tools for fixing it...

Truth... (0, Offtopic)

digus (736242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247072)

I read your email

Simple (5, Informative)

mysqlrocks (783488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246951)

The solution to the problem is almost always simpler than you think. You can often cause more problems trying to fix a problem then the original problem itself. When you try one thing and it doesn't work, reverse the changes before trying the next thing and document each change.

Re:Simple (1)

Beatbyte (163694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247120)

right. simple. like yesterday when i couldn't install a printer because the print spooler would crash, the drivers would claim the RPC server is unavailable, and after 2 hours of fiddling... the fix was: rename the computer. the rpc server was querying the wrong name. changing the name of the computer rewrote those settings (wherever they are in registryland) back to match the active settings.

Windows XP and HP LaserJet 1300. F u and all your little buddies.

Re:Simple (3, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247182)

And the corollary: never make an irreversible change unless all of the reversible changes have been tried and ruled out.

Re:Simple (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247282)

There is more that goes to that. Do not be afraid to tell upper management to get the hell out of the server room.

We had a problem, SQL was performing poorly a typical query on the machine that took 50 minutes was taking 2.5 hours and was sometimes failing. We instantly started looking at data and possible database corruption, the VP of Operations came down and started "directing us" we politely ignored and continued down our path. He then ordered us to rip the heart out of the SQL server, Remove 4 processors, remove 8 gig of ram, downgrade from Enterprise to standard and only 2 processors. over and over he kepts telling to do things that were insane because he usedto be a Ops manager in the company and knew what he was talking about.

4 days later and about 80 hours of wasted overtime we carefully rebuilt the server BACK to a last known good from a backup before the mess and then discoverd that Oh! there was a DATABASE DATA PROBLEM!

If someone start on a wild chase changing things wildly, I do not care who they are, tell them to piss off and please stand behind the glass, Or better yet, do that nicely by getting everyone inclusing the vendor to agree that what they want to do is not the right thing.... Ganging up on them typically works.

So the parent is 1000% correct. Not only is the solution typically simpler than you think but is usually the one that makes the most sense.

if your SQL server suddenly starts acting up after 2 years of good operation, there is almost no chance that ripping it's guts out will help anything.

an addition (1)

kevin.fowler (915964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246955)

Add this to the list: posting on Slashdot immensely reduces productivity

obligatory anchorman quote (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14246963)

Sex Panther... 60% of the time, it works every time.

You know it works, because it's made with real bits of panther...

#10 Reboot should be #1 (4, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246965)

When all else fails, reboot. If it still fails, blame the user.

Re:#10 Reboot should be #1 (1)

harris s newman (714436) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247051)

Only if you use windows. It should be #11 out of 10 if your using a non-microsoft OS. Reboots are for people who don't know what the problem is or how to fix it (ie: neophytes).

Re:#10 Reboot should be #1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247294)

Amen... I can't count the number of times that someone has done this to a non-windows system and it (a) hasn't fixed the problem, (b) has made the problem worse, or (c) has wiped out critical information by rebooting.

If it's not windows, rebooting is the *LAST* thing you want to do.

Example: we had a router, and one of the ports died. Unfortunately, it was the same port it was logging to. Clueless newbie rebooted it, which brought the port back to life. But guess what? we don't know what happened to cause it to fail.

Re:#10 Reboot should be #1 (5, Funny)

j-cloth (862412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247052)

The other benefit of a reboot is that, in the case of weird problems, even if it doesn't work it gives you two minutes to think about other possible causes without having the user nagging you.

Re:#10 Reboot should be #1 (1)

Jotii (932365) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247195)

If it was #1, you'd try it before everything else fails.

Obligatory (1, Offtopic)

kadathseeker (937789) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246970)

I for one welcome our new... wait... nevermind... All hail sysadmins!

Truth Number Uno (1)

n54 (807502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246972)

1. Never bother with Top 10 lists

Re:Truth Number Uno (1)

coaxeus (911103) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247003)

agreed. 'cause we all need some blog person to tell us that "printers suck"

They're great! (1)

Jotii (932365) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247234)

Top 10 lists are great. Is there any easier and faster way to write pseudo-quality content in order to draw traffic?

Re:They're great! (1)

n54 (807502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247267)

Lol I see we are in agreement :)

#6.5: (5, Funny)

Dirtside (91468) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246988)


Re:#6.5: (1)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247141)


hello slaschode coders. I know all caps is like yelling. that is what Im tring to acheive.

Lame (0)

Greatmoose (896405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14246994)

Sorry, but that list was pretty lame. It's like the writer couldn't decide whether to be funny, or actually helpful. Ah, whatever, at least it gave me something to do for 5 minutes.

listening skills... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247010)

Always engage the user when troubleshooting; helps locate problems faster and makes the job a bit more human.

All I got to say is... (5, Insightful)

mike77 (519751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247031)


Re:PEBKAC is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247230)


They missed one..... (1)

8127972 (73495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247032)

User passwords are easy to guess, but hard for users to remember.

(Christ. The article is Slashdotted already)

Top 3 (5, Interesting)

saphena (322272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247041)

1) Never believe anything anyone tells you: always test for yourself.
2) Always ask the dumb questions: is it switched on?
3) Reboot cures most things EXCEPT rm -r * when logged in as root

After that, things could get tricky.

Re:Top 3 (1)

Jotii (932365) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247272)

1) and 3) kind of contradict each other. What if someone said "Oh, rm -r * will never work"?

Re:Top 3 (2, Funny)

MORB (793798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247351)

1) Never believe anything anyone tells you: always test for yourself."

Falling from the last story of a building hurts.

Variation of #1 (2, Funny)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247042)

I had a boss once who didn't lie to me but at the same time wouldn't follow my instructions when I had to help him over the phone. I'd tell him to do one thing. He'd do something else and then ask me what to do next. I'd tell him to do what I told him to do in the first place. After 3 or 4 tries, he'd actually do what I told him to do and his problem was usually solved.

PEBKAC (4, Funny)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247058)

Most users should not being allowed to operate computers, let alone drive cars. Sysadmins need to learn who these people are and minimize the damage they cause. I suggest randomly changing their password every day until they quit in frustration.

Re:PEBKAC (3, Funny)

WTBF (893340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247224)

And you said you were qualified to operate a computer! You'd better have mine." I pass my computer card calendar over, flipping it to page one - "ENTROPY"....... ...I like it. "Now, you give the cretin an excuse then what do you do?"

"Kill them off?"

"YES!" (He certainly has a fixation) "Then what?"

"Hang up?"

"NO! Then they'll call you back when the problem recurs. Your job is to make them FEAR calling you. How can you work when people are calling? So, you make them pay for calling in the first place. What would you do?"

"Delete their files?"

"Yeah, it's a start, but then they may call back when they get new files. You want them NEVER to call back. What could you do?"

"Swear at them?"

"No. I can see we'll have to demonstrate. Have you got a metal ballpoint?"


"See that wallsocket over there. Take the refill out of the pen and poke in into the wallsocket."

"But it's live!"

"Would I really make you do it if it were live?"

"Oh" >fiddle< >fiddle< >BZZZZZZZEEEEERT!< >THUD!<

The Bastard System Manager from Hell #1 []

Number One is... (1)

igb (28052) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247063)

... being linked to from /. will wipe out your web server.


Additional truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247065)

There's two ends to every cable!

i can relate... (1)

CaptnCrud (938493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247071)

i once did a simple pc build for an office, put her together, got lights but no post screen, i was stumped for 2 hours onliey to relize it was gounding out becuase like an idoit i didnt put the plastic tops on the screws that held the mobo to the case.

Re:i can relate... (1)

barefootgenius (926803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247312)

My first comp teacher almost got fired for turning all the monitor dials (contrast, colour, etc...)in her office up on April fools day. The problem was that then she headed out and came back at the end of the day to find "Desktop Support" were still stumped as to why the computers wouldn't work.

My own list (5, Interesting)

vaceituno (665272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247082)

-You shall be very pessimistic
-Make sure you can leave exactly like it was before you touched it.
-Dont fix what aint broken.
-Start from a known state of the system (switch off - switch on).
-Even you are genius level techie, follow the manual, RTFM.
-Dont reinvent the wheel. Compare with something thats working.
-Cables are not perfect. If something doesnt connect, check lower levels first.
-If its there, ther must be a reason. Never ever delete anything. Rename instead.
-You memory is not infinite. Write what you do.

I only have one and it's a keeper (1)

Benanov (583592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247084)

Don't plug a keyboard-wedge barcode scanner into a mouse port. (Which can be extrapolated into: If something's not working, make sure it's plugged into the right port.)

From the user's side... (4, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247087)

Top System Administrator Truths
  • The best way to improve security is to give users more, longer, more complex, more frequently changed passwords. Eleven characters, including uppercase, lowercase, numbers and Unicode, changed every 30 days -- it's easy! The users should just keep making up new, easy to remember mnemonic phrases that, uh, include words begining with numbers and punctuation.
  • If users modify their system in any way, anything that happens is their fault. Smoke coming out of the power supply? It's because you added new applications to the Start toolbar!
  • If I've never heard of it, you obviously don't need it.

Re:From the user's side... (2, Interesting)

JWW (79176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247249)

You forgot the part about where they have to write the password down and stick it to their monitor with a post it note.

It would be really interesting to see a study to determine whether changing passwords frequently actually increases or decreases your vulnerability.

We have the three rules. (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247122)

Rule 1. They lie. End users often tell you what they think you want to hear. When asking a question you should use terms like. What does it say? vs Does it say this?
Rule 2. They don't know they are lying.
Rule 3. Sometimes they are telling the truth. Yes sometimes what you think is impossible really is happening or looks like it is happening.

all too common (1)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247129)

User: It doesn't work
Tech: Did you try?
User: No, but...
Tech: Try it!

Never make system config changes on Friday (5, Funny)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247131)

Unless you lack plans for the weekend.

Re:Never make system config changes on Friday (1)

ballsanya (596519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247329)

Unless you lack plans for the weekend. ...remember what website you're on...yeah

Re:Never make system config changes on Friday (1)

scottennis (225462) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247353)

My sysadmin rule:

Never make plans for the weekend.

My 2p (5, Insightful)

benbean (8595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247140)

Never put the screws back in the case until you've tested your new hardware is working.

Echos of the Past (1)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247162)

Is it just me or does anybody else read that and have flashbacks to old Chaos Manor articles? Back when Byte was a hefty, thick physical magazine.

It's interesting how certain things don't change despite decades of technology advancements.


Reboots, are you kidding? (2, Interesting)

un1xl0ser (575642) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247166)

Maybe for a PC, but never a server.

When I started working at my job, we had serveral servers that would reboot on a cron for the sole reason that someone was too lazy to figure out the problem. We eliminated all but one of these reboots, mainly because we don't care about the last one.

My holy grail would have to be strace/truss/tusk. I would take that tool over reboot any day. It doesn't always fix the problem, but at least you will know what it is, instead of rebooting like a coward. :-P

Not too bad (3, Insightful)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247170)

HPs Jetdirect cards have a pretty solid reputation of failing every few years

Is this really the case? We had several JetDirect enabled PCs at my former place of work and almost none of them had a card failure. We even had a few extra cards just in case. Several of the printers were actually quite old even. The biggest problem we had was with only HP-5P (I think that is the number). Some users departments did not have the money to replace those crappy old printers. On a bit of an aside, we had several JetDirect "boxes" (the external box that connected the printer port to ethernet) that were working great. I believe most everyone in the IT staff had one at home for their printers.

No One Ever Got Fired For Buying Microsoft.

Not really true. There are some shops so enamored with Novell (mostly because of bosses stuck in the stoneage) that the idea of purchasing Exchange or using a full out ActiveDirectory system with a Windows only network storage share were unheard of. I once again reference my previous job.

Not too bad of a list overall. Most of the items are right, and it is quite true. To be honest, the places I have worked there were really only a handful of problem employees, and most of them got handled directly by our SysAdmin or the head of IT because no wanted to worry about what lie they may come up with about the work we were doing.

Re:Not too bad (4, Funny)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247296)

No One Ever Got Fired For Buying Microsoft.

Microsoft has been BOUGHT!?!?

*Runs to Check the stock market*

Gunking up the works? (1)

connah0047 (850585) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247172)

#4: When you're completely stumped, make sure there isn't something inside gunking up the works.

Huh? Maybe I'm just inexperienced, but what can a computer full of dust do to make it not work? I have only seen one instance of this. A fan was clogged and stopped working and the chip under it overheated and died. Is there anything else besides this type of thing dust can cause? The only moving parts in a computer that aren't contained are fans.

Re:Gunking up the works? (5, Funny)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247263)

what can a computer full of dust do to make it not work?

Spontaneously combust

Trust me -- you do not want to get that call:

You know that machine in (room) that has a sign that says 'do not turn me off'?
Yes ... what about it?
There's smoke pouring out of it.

Re:Gunking up the works? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247303)

Layers of dust over components act as an insulator, inhibiting cooling.

Re:Gunking up the works? (1)

TelevisioSledgicus (530758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247305)

Dust is an insulator, as it builds up anywhere you can start to see heat issues.

Re:Gunking up the works? (1)

cazzazullu (645423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247306)

It can make things too hot inside because dust is a good isolator (works as a blanket) and it blocks airflow. This can cause strange errors. A too hot CPU will make calculation errors (which may crash programs), GPU's will start spewing out strange things on your screen (lines, triangles, ...), harddisks will lock up or take ages to find the data requested, ...

Re:Gunking up the works? (1)

42Penguins (861511) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247332)

That's usually what it causes, the fan choking and dying, or just slowing down to the point that it's ineffective. Dust bunnies also hurt airflow a bit, and they're a bit like putting thermal insulation in the one place you do NOT want thermal insulation.

Another thing, you don't want a case dusty when removing/replacing components. Ever try to reseat RAM with dust bunnies floating into the slots?

I'm not familiar with every problem dust causes, but I have worked on many computers that looked like the lint-catcher on a dryer. After vacuuming, many of them magically worked just fine.

Top Ten Sysadmin Truths (5, Funny)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247184)

Number One: You will die alone.

simple rules (1, Insightful)

hb253 (764272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247188)

  • Sounds corny, but troubleshoot by moving up the OSI layer
  • Try a reboot
  • If that doesn't work, troubleshoot for 10 minutes
  • If that doesn't work, reimage.
  • Users, no matter how well educated, are idiots

Work smatah. (5, Funny)

wheezl (63394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247190)

If your job requires you to wear a name tag, carry a gun, or administer a Windows system, you have made a serious vocational error.

4 Rules (5, Interesting)

semifamous (231316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247201)

In my Tech Support experience, I have found only three basic rules.

Rule number 1. People are stupid. This one is true of all people. Tech support, highways, shopping, whatever. This rule has been extended to cover just about any stupid thing that anyone does.
"Why did that guy just..."
"Rule number 1."

"Did she think she could get away with that?"
"Rule number 1."

Rule number 2. People lie.
Me: "Has the computer been restarted since the problem started?"
Them: "Yes..."
Me: "OK. Let's try restarting the computer now and see what happens."
Them: "What do you mean by restart?"

And when you add 1 and 2 together, you get 3. Sometimes, people are so stupid, they don't know that they're lying. You know these people. They're the ones who have "Windows 2000 XP" or "2000 ME." They're the people for whom "Nothing happens when I try to check my email. Nothing! Just this error message..." Not realizing that the error message is *exactly* what I was looking for. An error message is *not* nothing. Grr.

There is a fourth rule that also shows up from time to time:
Rule number 4. No good deed goes unpunished.
In the famous words of the leader of the Uruk Hai from his battle call at Helm's Deep in The Two Towers: "Grr."

My rule (4, Funny)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247206)

It doesn't matter whether I'm giving or requesting tech support, the number one rule is that the person on the other end of the telephone is an idiot.

Re:My rule (4, Funny)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247283)

Something to remember: the converse is true, too : p

First System Administration Truth (4, Funny)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247208)

Don't get linked to by Slashdot!

None of the other nine truths will save your server!

Number one (1)

cazzazullu (645423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247209)

Check the most obvious first!!!

If the screen doesn't work, is it plugged in? Is the power on?
If the laptop doesn't print, is it connected to the network or printer?
If your freshly installed HD is not detected, did you plug in the power cable? ...

I cannot imagine how much money is already wasted on transportation, man-hours, phone bills, ... because this rule got violated. When you think "They cannot be that stupid"... think again and check, because yes, they can be that stupid.

Acronyms (4, Funny)

d_54321 (446966) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247225)

If the acronym contains an F, don't ask what it stands for.

Users are bleedin' morons (1)

AssTard (684911) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247239)

But what's worse are people who make software without keeping this in mind.

Set Standards (3, Insightful)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247276)

One of my big truths, set standards!

I've worked in two kinds of places, ones where they set (and stick to) standards and ones that don't. Every place that doesn't use or doesn't stick to standards has always been an experience in wasted time, confusion, and lots of bugs. Those that do can seem like you're always being nagged but in the end you find things work as expected, code is far easier to manage (especially when it is someone else's), and you aren't always having to reinvent the wheel (i.e. figuring out how to fix a subtle bug again because the solution was never written down the first time).

It sounds simple but it takes discipline at all levels. Even something as documenting what you did afterwards and putting it in an orderly file system can make a huge difference but how many people bother to do it? Managers and fellow developers have to crack the whip and keep people from trying to cut corners.

Standards should be open to some change and can be bent but there has to be a very good defendable reason for it.

ME? (2, Funny)

Ragein (901507) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247277)

1. 90% of problems are user error.
2. The rest are us trying to fix the the first.
3. "Your mouse doesn't work because it has NO BALL!!" (I work in a school)
4. Q: What where you doing when the problem occured? A: Nothing, meaning organising the windows folder.
5. Q: Did you try to fix it yourself? A: No. Q: Why is the gaffa tape involved then?
6. Our server doesn't forget your password's you did.
7. If you save over 30gb onto your desktop don't ask me why your profile takes 10 min's to load.
8. Your mouse is moveing on its own because i have taken controll out of your silly hands.
9. Have you checked to see if your mouse/keyboard/screen/LAN/printer/Random piece of hardware is plugged in turned on.
10. Who said you could download all this crap?
11. No thats not what i said.
12. Thats not the question you asked the first time.
13. Asking my boss won't speed me/the LAN up.

Was it supposed to be 10?
And just remember that if we ran the networks for ourselves only they would probably have more problems due to tinkering. But at least everyone would be walking round the office with cordless headphones, mic chatting with gtalk.

One step at a time fool! (2, Interesting)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247295)

One of the most frustrating things is users who do what you ask, and then promptly do a bunch of things immediately afterwards that you don't ask. You try going step-by-step with them, and meanwhile they are opening menus and clicking away at things they don't understand, because somehow hearing your voice tell them what to do gives them all the control of a runaway horse.

A big thanks to CmdrTaco... (1)

amnesiaWind (613053) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247299)

... for continuing to prevent /. from ever being a serious news source with his constant and endless supply of pointless and stupid articles.

More rules (1)

myth24601 (893486) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247302)

1: Users can tell you exactly what is wrong and how to fix it.

1a:Don't listen to them.

1b:If for some reason they are right, make them do something else first and tell them that fixed it. Don't want them to become too cocky.

#1: porn in your network share (1)

cbreeze34 (713379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247307)

#1, "Users Lie"....great example: set up a workstation for a guy...fresh win 2K installation w/ all service packs, etc. later he complained about spyware being on it, and that he couldn't find some file amongst his documents. so while searching for the list item, i found porn in his network share...with him standing there watching. i just laughed, and being a nice guy, cleaned the spyware out for him. here's the kicker: he claimed the computer belonged to the president of the company before him, must've been him that got "that stuff" on there. in his network share. and he wasn't kidding.

Some Rules... (1)

MacDaffy (28231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247319)

- You're like an offensive lineman on a football teeam; no one knows who you are until something goes wrong.
- In an emergency, shut the door, turn off the phone, and work the problem. If your manager isn't answering user queries, that manager is doing a bad job.
- "If you don't know what to do, why do anything?"
- Be prepared.
- ALWAYS update and refer to the log book.
- There's no shame in saying "I don't know;" pretending that you do is a sin.
- Keep a spare.
- No development on production equipment.
- You're there to fulfill the user's needs--not dictate them.
- Listen!

Type twice, hit enter once (4, Funny)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247325)

Read what you typed before hitting enter.

Now let me just kill that last background process with the old 'kill %1'

[$researchgroupserver]: kill 1 enter


No Matter What.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247330)

No matter what you do or how many hours you spend you will NEVER be appreciated.

Treat users with respect (5, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247335)

Treat users with respect even if they are clearly in the wrong. Don't patronise somebody if they haven't got the first idea about computers: educate, don't insult. I'm not a buddhist but the old karma idea of "what goes around, comes around" seems to play out in the long term. Being patient with somebody who's royally screwed up their computer pays off in six months time when you need them to put your expenses claim through accounts at 5pm on a Friday evening/ notice you standing in the rain by your broken down car/..../

Covering for users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14247346)

Sometimes users just break things from being absentminded or a little careless. Like the time I was called in to replace a floppy drive and realized the secretary hadn't removed the tiny plastic sleeve at the front edge of the disk, jamming it in the drive.

Users will lie to cover their asses like the article says, but if it's an honest mistake, I smile knowingly, point it out, and tell them not to worry about it. I'm contract, so the company gets billed, I get paid, and the client's staff get to avoid unecessary embarrasment.

Statistics... (1)

geoffybiggins (160923) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247354)

%98 of statistics are made up on the spot

never never ever.. (1)

Suchetha (609968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14247355)

... partition your drives after midnight
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