Tech

The curse of knowing a bit about IT: ‘Could you just…?’ and ‘No I haven’t changed anything’

12BoC On the sixth day of Christmas, the bork gods sent to me: Fix the printer, nerds, Scottish parking whi-i-i-i-nge, one dead DB, petty angry user, flightless Windows signage, and a server they said had ceased to be.

Welcome to the Twelve Borks of Christmas (12BoC): a collection of Register reader stories of amusing and frustrating tech sightings over the festive period.

Fixing the kit of friends and family is a fixture for many of us over the festive period. Today’s story comes from Register reader “Remy” and describes a situation all too familiar.

Cast your mind back to when Windows XP was the latest and greatest, and people around the world were waking up to a belated realisation that the Internet was perhaps not the safest of places, with miscreants lurking around every virtual corner.

Remy was visiting a friend and, being knowledgeable in the dark arts of IT, was asked by the friend’s father to work out why his desktop computer had mysteriously stopped being able to access the home printer.

Said printer was attached to the mother’s PC and shared on a home LAN.

Of course, as is always the case from a user’s perspective, nothing had changed and the printer had stopped working all by itself. Those cursed config fairies were clearly up to their old tricks.

Remy dutifully checked the mother’s PC and found no problems. It was connected, the printer was online and shared, nothing was amiss. “The problem must lay with Daddy’s box,” he mused.

Again, the PC was connected. Network discovery was enabled. Everything appeared to be working correctly, but for some reason the printer was nowhere to be seen.

“After a bit of head scratching,” he told us, “I noticed a (if I remember well) black-and-yellow nuclear icon in the system tray.”

It transpired that the father had indeed made a change to his PC and, in a fit of paranoia, sprayed the poor thing with third-party anti-malware software. The software included a firewall.

So worried about the threats lurking beyond his PC’s network port, the father had inadvertently turned up the fear dial to 11 and inadvertently blocked everything. Including what was needed to see the printer next door.

Remy has our sympathies. Even though our story takes place over a decade ago, a well-meant attempt at DIY protection can still leave a PC struggling to even boot, let alone access network resources.

Fixing things was blessedly simple, certainly compared to the pain encountered by many when trying to make one Windows PC “see” another on a home network. Remy gently explained that the DSL router had a firewall that would deal with most threats and sticking another one on the PC with everything cranked up to maximum was not a guaranteed protection from malware anyway.

Firewall dealt with, “the mystery was solved and he could enjoy his printer again (as well as the paper jams.)”

“And I,” said Remy modestly, “was the hero of the day.”

As well as being cursed with a subsequent decade of those lovely freebie support calls, we’d wager. ®


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