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PC survived lightning strike thanks to a good kicking

Plus: The strange case of the ghost keyboard that typed random rubbish

By Simon Sharwood, 31 Mar 2017

ON-CALL The sun came up, the world kept turning, another Friday rolled around and so, therefore, did another edition of On-Call, The Register's weekly recount of readers' reminiscences about odd jobs.

This week we'll start with “Frank”, who told us about the time a client called with news of a PC gone TITSUP* after a lightning strike in the vicinity.

Frank dispatched his assistant to sort things out. Said pimply-faced youth quickly found the PC in question had problems.

“The clock was wildly wrong and the hard disks were wrongly configured,” Frank tells us. The PFY was able to sort that out, reboot the PC and ponder why its clock was still awry.

Happily the PFY was savvy enough to figure out that the CMOS battery on the motherboard might have run out of juice. So he opened up the PC and found it had somehow popped out of its clip. A quick poke and reboot later and the PC is just fine.

But Frank's assistant then realised that if lightning were indeed the cause of the incident, it would have fried the motherboard rather than just jiggling the CMOS.

At which point the client confessed that during the storm “There was an almighty thunderclap. I jumped out of my skin and kicked the case of the PC under the desk!”

On-Call also received some funny stories this week from “Pete”, including one about repeatedly waking up a narcoleptic developer just as he was about to experience a real head-desk moment. That one was just a bit too cruel to run in full.

But Pete also had the tale of a ghost keyboard that a user complained would produce “spurious letters, random apps opening or closing” and other “strange stuff.”

Pete went to investigate the problem and found a tiny dongle in one the PC's USB ports.

“What's this for?” Pete asked?

“I used to have a wireless keyboard and mouse," the user replied, before explaining it was in a nearby filing cabinet. Pete peered inside and was greeted by the sight of the keyboard beneath a pile of heavy books. On-Call surmises that the keyboard still had live batteries and that the mere act of walking around the office could set the books jiggling, the keyboard working and … you get the rest.

Pete says once he figured that out he “smiled politely, tried not to condescend and got on with it.”

Which you're free to do now that you're at the end of this week's On-Call.

But don't feel you have to rush off ASAP. You could pause to send me your own stories of odd jobs in the hope they appear in a future edition of On-Call. ®

*That's a Total Inability To Support Usual Performance, rather than any anatomical reference.

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