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IT Ghost Busting

May 26, 2016

Working as desktop support for Food Service personnel takes patience.

Many of the frontline staff can’t read English, some can’t even read in their native (spoken) language – which makes using a computer a process of memorizing abstract shapes and motions, like a magic spell.

Even the Managers, at times, lack language skills and end up taking the “mystical” approach to Computing – i.e. rather than reading prompts on their screen, they just blindly click buttons and hope for the best.

One Chef Manager in particular who I support is probably the most computer-illiterate person I have dealt with in four years. He’s a phenomenal chef, of course, so I have total respect for him as a professional in his field – but assisting him with basic computer tasks is a harrowing trial of patience, communication, and carefully restraining my demeanor and tone.

This morning, he called me because he noticed that all of his emails were being deleted before he could read them – never appearing in his inbox. As he works at a remote campus 45 minutes away, I asked him to set up a screen-share so I could assist him. So begins my Tribulation.

Setting up a screen-share for remote-assistance is something I walk users through every day – but after about 20 minutes, I despaired, gave up and asked this user to find someone else in the building who could work with me.

He called back 5 minutes later and said that he figured it out and had the access code for me to join his screen-share session. I joined his session and discovered this delightful and somewhat frightening vision:


It appeared that this user had indeed managed to start a screen-share session – He then also joined his *own* session, creating an infinite-regression of computer screens, like a digital House of Mirrors, before providing me with his access code so I could become trapped in his terrifying but beautiful remote-session of infinite recursion.

This tale does not end here, my friends.

After dispelling the user’s unwitting infinity-mirror, we got to work on the primary issue: emails being mysteriously deleted.

I quickly discovered that there were three inbox rules which had been created on this user’s Outlook – all titled “delete it” and all set to delete all incoming emails…

Not able to conceive of a way that the user could have possibly, accidentally, created three inbox rules to delete all his own emails, I mused aloud that perhaps someone was playing a prank on him and created the rules…No, the truth was more amusing.

After some questioning and investigation, I determined that the user himself was both the culprit and the victim and had indeed, against all odds, managed to accidentally use the advanced inbox rule feature against himself, creating malicious rules that delete all his own emails upon arrival. He managed to do this three separate times, like he was possessed by some malignant spirit that guided his hand to ill-purpose and then went on to haunt his email inbox. He then woke from this possession to bewilderment by the misfortunes befalling his inbox, and with no memory of the dark incantations that he had woven to bring about this state of affairs.

This is what actually happened, ON THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS:

  1. User wanted to delete an email
  2. He right clicks, with the intention of clicking “Delete” from the context menu which appears
  3. He misses, and instead clicks the option above the “Delete” option: “Create Rule”
  4. Confused at the “New Rule” dialogue window which appeared, the user decides to forge on with courage
  5. He types “delete it” as the name of the rule
  6. He then scans the rule options and doesn’t see one with the word “delete” in it – so clicks the “Advanced Options” button, revealing the “delete” rule, which he selects
  7. He clicks Save
  8. At this point, a warning popup appears, to the effect of “This rule will delete all messages in your inbox and all messages that arrive in the future.” to which the user clicks “OK”

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