The Slow Lane on the Information Superhighway

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Tech-support people, we feel your pain (even if we cause a little of it ourselves sometimes). That’s why we have the Help Desk & Support community on — to give the newly or long-suffering tech-support person a place to turn.

A thread titled “The help desk’s greatest hits” on our forum discussion boards has provided chicken soup for the tech-support soul for a while now, and it recently saw a new posting.

New forum member retrogeek42 tells this story:

I had been on the job just a couple of weeks and had only been handling phones solo for a short time when a call came from one of our area hotels. The caller said he could not access the Internet, so I made sure he was in front of the computer, then asked him to open a browser window.

“A WHAT?!?”

“Open Internet Explorer” (a little more specific this time).

(Long pause) “What’s that?”

“OK, sir. Look to the bottom of your screen. See where the word ‘Start’ is?”


“OK, click … err, move your mouse cursor over there and press on the left mouse button once.”


“All right. Now, near the top you should see a blue ‘E.’ Do you see that?”

“Yeah. It says In-ter-net-ex-plor-er.”

“Good. Move your mouse cursor over there and press down twice quickly.”

“OK. Something’s coming up.”

“Good. Do you see a Web page.”’

“Yeah, I see Yahoo.”’

(Cross talk to make sure he was connected.)

The guy who couldn’t find the browser, though, is going to be replaced by a woman who called me back and yelled at me for 10 minutes because I was unable to psychically detect that she had shut off the power strip that feeds the power to her equipment. But I’m too mad to find that one funny at the moment.

General Discussion
Over in our General Discussion community forums, junior member Atheria describes problems preparing for the MCSE certification exam in a thread titled, “Is anybody out there?”

“I have been trying to study for my MCSE and have been in a class for several months. The promises made by its Web site are not the reality, [and I have not seen] a test-worthy experience so far. I am more than a little confused and am still trying to figure out the 70-290 information, which seems to be very skewed by many people and Web sites.

“The [study guide I’m using] is confusing without some outside explanation, and I am actively looking for a boot camp-type experience that will help me understand and do a hands-on prep for all of the tests. The school I am in now told me I would be doing hands-on, but to date (almost six months later) it has not [presented] anything that helps me to understand the concepts, and I’ve been put off continually by the teacher.

“Any help finding a good place to train that doesn’t cost a fortune is most appreciated …”

Retrogeek42 stepped in to offer some advice.

“I am halfway through my second semester and have my A+. I am waiting until I can afford to pay for the test and then will be pursuing my MCDST, MCP, Network+ and beyond. I have also been gainfully employed the past five months as tech support with a local ISP.

“In passing my A+, I found that it was a mix of knowledge I had when I entered the class; hands-on experience through work, classroom lectures and discussions; and study aids. I’d have to say I couldn’t have done it without any one of those four. So, in my experience, the books help — you just can’t rely on them entirely.

“If you are studying for your A+, I’d suggest you run through some yard sales and/or ask friends for older computers to rip apart and put back together for the learning experience. There’s lots of usable older equipment out there, so set up the hands-on yourself and use the classroom for things you won’t get from hands-on experience. Do the same thing for other certifications — go through the exercises and labs and familiarize yourself with the material that way.”

Last month, we heard from a new member named NJBob who was seeing abnormally high system usage (90 percent to 100 percent) on his W2K server and wasn’t sure why. He was sure his system didn’t have a virus, as it’s behind a Cisco firewall. CertMag forum stalwart wagnerk came through with a response.

“It could be any number of reasons. You said that you looked in your task manager, and overall system usage was 90 percent to 100 percent. To find out what is causing this, you will have to be more specific in your search. Any number of things can have a knock-on effect on other subsystems and make it look like it’s that when it’s something else. See below for some reasons/advice:

“Did you look at the processes tab to see if it’s an application causing the problem?

“1. It may be that your server doesn’t have enough RAM to cope with what it’s doing now. Maybe you’ve added more and more services to the server, and now it’s having problems coping.

“2. It could be that the hard drives are too slow for what the server is supposed to do, or if it’s a RAID 5 array, one of the HDD is faulty.

“3. How do you know that your server doesn’t have a virus or malware/spyware on it? Just because it sits behind a Cisco router, that may mean nothing.

“4. Have you checked the anti-virus on your server? Sometimes if an anti-virus is not configured properly, it could end up scanning everything all the time.

“5. It could also be a Windows update/patch/service pack that had an adverse effect on your server.

“6. If push comes to shove, one long-winded way to find out if it’s a hardware or software problem is to ghost your server to an image, then do a software rebuild on the server hardware. If it happens again, as soon as you install the Win2k server, then you know it’s a hardware problem. If not, then you know it’s a software problem.”

Systems & Networks
Back in 2005, we posed a simple question in our Systems & Networks community forum: “LANs, WANs, MANs, WLANs — what is your company using?”

New member Cherper recently offered an admittedly delayed response.

“Little late to the conversation, but we are running a bit of all three. We have a number of WAN links to remote sites, each running their own LAN. We just installed a MAN about a month ago. We have a few WLANs and actually have a microwave system also.”

Prolific member masterssullivan responded, as well.

“We’re running LANs here. We’ve got about 12 computers hooked up to it and occasionally more laptops tapped into it, as well. That works pretty well for us. We don’t worry about the insecurity of wireless. Sometimes, it’s nice just knowing you’ve got a secure wire running from one thing to the other, and that’s that. No outside interference. Although I run wireless at home, so I guess there’s that blade I gotta dance on to properly make my point.”

Anyone with a comment to add to this or any of our discussion boards should head over to our forums at

–Daniel Margolis,

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