Frequently, tech support workers and sysadmins find themselves needing to ask a user what sort of error message the user has received from a computer. Sometimes, users even report errors accurately and completely. Before taking my present job as a network security and Unix support technician for a heavily multiplatform institution, I had no idea that operating systems themselves could be characterized by the likelihood that their users tell tech support the truth about error messages or other things on their screens:
- SGI IRIX: The user is probably telling the truth, if he can read the error message at all in his strange font or color scheme
- Sun Solaris: The user is "interpreting" things creatively. A bit. Sometimes more. After all, she's a Solaris user; she knows what she's doing, right?
- HP/UX: The user is reading you the error message, and the entire remainder of the screen contents, beginning at the top left and proceeding methodically to the bottom right.
- Red Hat Linux: The user is repeating an error message that he read about once whilst reading a Web page describing the application he's using. It may or may not have anything to do with the actual error he is experiencing.
- Apple Mac OS: The user is attempting to describe some strange graphical anomaly, which may or may not be an error. ("The icons are slanted!") Alternately, the user is telling the precise truth, but the error makes no sense. ("The command could not be completed because the command could not be found.")
- Apple Mac OS X: "What's a kernel panic?" The user, who expected to be reading off a message from a dialog box, finds herself reciting a stack backtrace in a tone of sharply rising bafflement.
- DEC VMS: The user is spelling the error message out character by character, and providing accompaniment in hexadecimal.
- Microsoft Windows 95/98: The user is making something up that doesn't even sound like a real error message. If she's telling you she didn't spread that email virus, she's probably lying.
- Microsoft Windows NT/2000: Don't bother. He's lying. Especially if he's saying he did his Windows Update recently.