1586: "Keyboard Problems"

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1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby LordDragonfang » Mon Oct 05, 2015 7:23 am UTC

Image

Alt Text: "In the future, a group of resistance fighters send me back in time with instructions to find the Skynet prototype and try to upgrade it."

Ah, sound like a good old-fashioned case of gremlins

Edit: It would make my day to see a copy of this thread titled "Leopard Problems"

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Wee Red Bird » Mon Oct 05, 2015 7:59 am UTC

There was talk of being able to write a virus that spreads via USB devices, including keyboards and mice.
They demonstrated it by turning a standard USB memory drive into executing code (inserting keystrokes after a timeout for example) by overwriting the firmware on the device and explained that it could be done to just about anything that plugs in to USB. Such viruses would be virtually undetectable and next to impossible to scan for (as you'd need to compare the firmware on the device with a genuine copy of the firmware).

Or could it be your USB keyboard is broken and won't work on any OS?

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby CharonPDX » Mon Oct 05, 2015 8:04 am UTC

My aunt is that way - although she causes outright failures, not just things like keyboard problems. There was a time in the late 80s/early 90s when she was having to buy a new computer nearly every year, because hers were dying. Yet she had electricians check her house electrical, and used an expensive UPS (after the third or fourth computer.)

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby rhomboidal » Mon Oct 05, 2015 8:26 am UTC

Check if your mouse has chewed through your keyboard cable. Then run, run away.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby HES » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:39 am UTC

LordDragonfang wrote:Edit: It would make my day to see a copy of this thread titled "Leopard Problems"

There's a browser script for that.
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby kevsgrove » Mon Oct 05, 2015 10:52 am UTC

This weekend, my DNS broke on all my Windows box's browsers, but was fine via command line. After about half an hour, I ran sfc and it was fixed. Still can't fully explain what broke or why the system file checker fixed it. Gremlins indeed.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:05 pm UTC

LordDragonfang wrote:
Alt Text: "In the future, a group of resistance fighters send me back in time with instructions to find the Skynet prototype and try to upgrade it."


There we go: just a couple forced-push upgrades from Microsoft and Skynet will clog itself up and die. (Can you imagine the size of the Registry file needed to run the entire Skynet? :o )
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby jgould3141 » Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:13 pm UTC

With great irony, Windows decided to turn on "filter keys" on both of my computers today. One is Win8.1, one is Win10. I've already disabled the "turn on filter keys when right shift is pressed for 8 seconds" option. It just magically enabled this feature by itself. Both my keyboards appeared entirely nonfunctional and made strange clicking noises through the speaker, until I managed to figure out that this terrible feature was causing the problem.

Excellent timing, Randall.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby astrus » Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:37 pm UTC

For some reason, that's likely completely unrelated to having to remove them like twice a year from my father's keyboard, my first thought was "must be breadcrumbs" before even considering a more technical cause for the problem. I guess that's just me though.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby spriteless » Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:38 pm UTC

Mundane explanation is a different hardware failure: Cueball is developing neuropathy of the hands, and feels like he's pushing hard enough to the keys when he is not.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Whizbang » Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:45 pm UTC

PEBKAC

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby richP » Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:18 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:PEBKAC


yea, but... cueball is sitting on the floor.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Echo244 » Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:25 pm UTC

Keyboard and carpet, then.

Anyway, this feels a bit like Success to me, especially the alt text...
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby DarthStark » Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:50 pm UTC

This reminds me of the short story "Saving Humanity" by Asimov.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Hamsvlekiss » Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:51 pm UTC

For god's sake, type gently.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Jorpho » Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:52 pm UTC

"Give me a program large enough, and a computer on which to run it, and I will crash the Earth." --Not Archimedes.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Rombobjörn » Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:54 pm UTC

Some days it seems like everything breaks at the same time.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby cellocgw » Mon Oct 05, 2015 1:58 pm UTC

jgould3141 wrote:With great irony, Windows decided to turn on "filter keys" on both of my computers today. One is Win8.1, one is Win10. I've already disabled the "turn on filter keys when right shift is pressed for 8 seconds" option. It just magically enabled this feature by itself. Both my keyboards appeared entirely nonfunctional and made strange clicking noises through the speaker, until I managed to figure out that this terrible feature was causing the problem.

Excellent timing, Randall.


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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby orthogon » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:09 pm UTC

Keyboards and mice still seem to be bleeding-edge peripherals with only piecemeal support from most BIOSes and OSes. I plugged a Microsoft keyboard into a PC the other day, and it spent like 25 minutes searching Windows for a driver, before finally giving up. How can Google search the entire internet in 0.1s while Microsoft can't search for a driver for a specific device on their own site before the heat death of the universe? Linux is usually a bit better in this regard, but on the other hand it's highly likely to refuse to talk to your monitor, which again is kind of a basic thing you might want to connect to a computer.

And $DEITY help you if you're trying to use a KVM switch.
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Apeiron » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:14 pm UTC

Skynet would probably send robots, not drones.

It seems a bit daft to have a sapient computer steering a drone.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Shamino » Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:28 pm UTC

Wee Red Bird wrote:There was talk of being able to write a virus that spreads via USB devices, including keyboards and mice.
They demonstrated it by turning a standard USB memory drive into executing code (inserting keystrokes after a timeout for example) by overwriting the firmware on the device and explained that it could be done to just about anything that plugs in to USB. Such viruses would be virtually undetectable and next to impossible to scan for (as you'd need to compare the firmware on the device with a genuine copy of the firmware).
I think you're confusing two things.

There have been reports of USB storage devices spreading worms via the autorun.inf file. The easiest way to protect against this is to disable autorun on all your computers. Personally, I don't know why autorun was ever invented in the first place - it's not like it's such a great challenge to double-click the setup icon on a CD when inserting it. I haven't heard of a USB worm that could spread through arbitrary devices, like a keyboard.

You may, however, have been thinking about the Thunderstrike worm, which can exist on any Thunderbolt peripheral (storage device, Ethernet interface, video adapter, etc.) It is implemented using an EFI extension and takes advantage of the fact that a motherboard's EFI firmware is not yet locked down when it loads and runs. As far as I know, this worm has never evolved beyond a proof of concept used to demonstrate (mostly to Apple) that the danger is real.

Of course, to be a more proper worm, it would have to also spread from computer to peripheral. This is theoretically possible, but I think it would require the peripheral to have upgradable EFI firmware extensions. I don't know how common that is.

https://trmm.net/Thunderstrike2_details

If you know of a USB worm that can spread via arbitrary devices and not just mass storage (which would probably work just as well via floppy disks, if anybody was still using them today), please post a link to a description.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Shamino » Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:32 pm UTC

jgould3141 wrote:With great irony, Windows decided to turn on "filter keys" on both of my computers today. One is Win8.1, one is Win10. I've already disabled the "turn on filter keys when right shift is pressed for 8 seconds" option. It just magically enabled this feature by itself. Both my keyboards appeared entirely nonfunctional and made strange clicking noises through the speaker, until I managed to figure out that this terrible feature was causing the problem.
Filter keys, sticky keys, mouse keys and a host of related "features" are the bane of tech support. They are potentially useful features for people with disabilities, but the fact that there are magic keystrokes that can activate them, and that the user get no notice of this other than an audio cue means that most people can't figure out what happened or how to reverse the effect once it happens. They therefore end up calling tech support and require a 15 minute walk-though to turn these things off again.

For this reason, one of the first things I do after installing Windows is to go to the relevant control panels and disable the keyboard sequences that activate these features.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Whizbang » Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:35 pm UTC

I like the keyboard shortcut that turns your display upside down. That's always a fun one to play on coworkers.

I mean, *ahem*, it is really frustrating for users.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby yakkoTDI » Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:55 pm UTC

richP wrote:
Whizbang wrote:PEBKAC


yea, but... cueball is sitting on the floor.


PICNIC then? **

jgould3141 wrote:With great irony, Windows decided to turn on "filter keys" on both of my computers today. One is Win8.1, one is Win10. I've already disabled the "turn on filter keys when right shift is pressed for 8 seconds" option. It just magically enabled this feature by itself. Both my keyboards appeared entirely nonfunctional and made strange clicking noises through the speaker, until I managed to figure out that this terrible feature was causing the problem.

Excellent timing, Randall.


I have had Filter Keys randomly turn on for me. There is no sure way I know of to stop this besides not using Windows.




**PICNIC = Problem In Customer. Not In Computer.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby keithl » Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:19 pm UTC

Shamino wrote:
Wee Red Bird wrote:There was talk of being able to write a virus that spreads via USB devices, including keyboards and mice.
They demonstrated it by turning a standard USB memory drive into executing code (inserting keystrokes after a timeout for example) by overwriting the firmware on the device and explained that it could be done to just about anything that plugs in to USB. Such viruses would be virtually undetectable and next to impossible to scan for (as you'd need to compare the firmware on the device with a genuine copy of the firmware).
I think you're confusing two things.
There have been reports of USB storage devices spreading worms via the autorun.inf file. ...

Wee Red Bird is correct. Search for "BadUSB", here, for example. Common USB interface chips have a tiny computer in them, and firmware which can be altered through the USB interface itself. That saves a penny or two during manufacturing, compared to a separate programming interface like JTAG.

BTW, your hard drive loads its firmware off boot blocks on the platter itself. There is a LOT of room for boot block malware in the low-performance regions of the disk, which the firmware supposedly won't let you read or write - though the manufacturer can put vast quantities of malware in there.

But then, my parents and teachers stored a lot of malware in my own brain's boot blocks. And retroviruses have been putting malware in my DNA boot blocks for billions of years. Someday,cosmologists (working with theologians) may find malware in the universe's boot blocks. God hacking.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Oct 05, 2015 5:40 pm UTC

There are two types of people who, in my experience, have really weird tech issues - there are people who have a knack for breaking tech, and people who have a knack for fixing tech. The former just spawn really weird problems naturally; the latter fix anything that isn't a really weird problem before it registers as an issue...

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby tms » Mon Oct 05, 2015 5:51 pm UTC

My laptop keyboard (incl. touchpad) loves snoozing: works fine in the boot loader but only occasionally at the initial login prompt.
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Invertin » Mon Oct 05, 2015 7:15 pm UTC

No keyboard problems, but my hardware issues seem to range from "somehow thinks there is a videocard plugged into a slot that does not exist" to "stopped launching for about a week and then was suddenly fine for several years" all the way to "does not recognize any sound devices ever"... and also my brand-new videocard which seems to have been killed by my last PC... somehow.

I call it chaos magic and the only thing that seems to have broken the curse is my newest PC, or at least it's immune.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Oct 05, 2015 7:22 pm UTC

I have a friend who had a laptop with overheating problems that seemed to be inherited by her next. I had to e-mail her this strip.
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Oct 05, 2015 7:32 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:There are two types of people who, in my experience, have really weird tech issues - there are people who have a knack for breaking tech, and people who have a knack for fixing tech. The former just spawn really weird problems naturally; the latter fix anything that isn't a really weird problem before it registers as an issue...

This so much. I used to joke that "tech support hates me, because by the time I have to call someone else for support, you know it's a really hard problem".
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby commodorejohn » Mon Oct 05, 2015 8:20 pm UTC

Shamino wrote:Filter keys, sticky keys, mouse keys and a host of related "features" are the bane of tech support. They are potentially useful features for people with disabilities, but the fact that there are magic keystrokes that can activate them, and that the user get no notice of this other than an audio cue means that most people can't figure out what happened or how to reverse the effect once it happens. They therefore end up calling tech support and require a 15 minute walk-though to turn these things off again.

One that drove me absolutely bonkers for about half an afternoon was when I discovered that my laptop not only treated the Fn key as "sticky" (it stays "pressed" until you press a key to combine with it - this is an option in the BIOS on ThinkPads, but on my HP ThinkPad-wannabe the geniuses who built it decided that it should be the one true state of affairs,) but that the NumLock state should persist across reboots - so I unwittingly toggled myself into NumLock-on by tapping the Fn key, forgetting I'd done so, then tapping the key whose alternate function was NumLock, and then spent hours pulling out my hair trying to figure out why half my keyboard was suddenly producing digits and symbols instead of letters (no thanks to the fact that they built it entirely without indicator lights!) Oy.

But yes, gremlins really do exist. I have observed them in action around too many people to be convinced otherwise.
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby donbock » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:58 pm UTC

I remember a story from a few decades ago about a mysterious terminal bug. All worked fine if you sat down to use the terminal, but the text was garbled if you stood up while using it. Turned out that some of the keycaps were swapped. People sitting down were touch-typing, while people standing were hunt-and-pecking.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby The Moomin » Mon Oct 05, 2015 10:15 pm UTC

If there's some way in which he's using the keyboard that causes parts of it to fail, then surely it's not unreasonable to assume that using another keyboard in the same fashion would cause the same parts to fail?
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Heimhenge » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:16 pm UTC

yakkoTDI wrote:
I have had Filter Keys randomly turn on for me. There is no sure way I know of to stop this besides not using Windows.


Starting in Windows 7, you can disable that feature in Control Panel - Ease of Access Center. You have to dig a bit, but it's there. See:

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/windows-and-office/quick-tip-disable-the-sticky-and-filter-keys-in-windows/

I often work on my Mom's computer via the TeamViewer remote access app. She lives like 1700 miles from me. She has what's called "essential tremors" and often hits the wrong key or hits the right key multiple times. Filter Keys works well for her. For me, I turned the feature off as described above. Likewise Sticky Keys. And so far both have stayed off. Of course, next MS update might reset that.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Whizbang » Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:43 pm UTC

donbock wrote:I remember a story from a few decades ago about a mysterious terminal bug. All worked fine if you sat down to use the terminal, but the text was garbled if you stood up while using it. Turned out that some of the keycaps were swapped. People sitting down were touch-typing, while people standing were hunt-and-pecking.


I would think the distinction would be between people who have ever seen a keyboard before and those who haven't or are blind drunk.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Euphonium » Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:16 am UTC

Or it could just be that you're really clumsy with your drinks.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby RogueCynic » Tue Oct 06, 2015 3:16 am UTC

orthogon wrote:Keyboards and mice still seem to be bleeding-edge peripherals with only piecemeal support from most BIOSes and OSes. I plugged a Microsoft keyboard into a PC the other day, and it spent like 25 minutes searching Windows for a driver, before finally giving up. How can Google search the entire internet in 0.1s while Microsoft can't search for a driver for a specific device on their own site before the heat death of the universe? Linux is usually a bit better in this regard, but on the other hand it's highly likely to refuse to talk to your monitor, which again is kind of a basic thing you might want to connect to a computer.

And $DEITY help you if you're trying to use a KVM switch.
Let me see if I got this: a Windows OS could not find the drivers for a Microsoft keyboard? My notebook has been coughing up problems lately. Typically taskbar items will not launch until after I open task manager. Some applications will not close by pressing the "x" icon until I bring up task manager and on at least two occasions I could not log in after reboot, no keyboard response. I think I am do for a reinstall.
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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby Jorpho » Tue Oct 06, 2015 3:52 am UTC

Shamino wrote:Filter keys, sticky keys, mouse keys and a host of related "features" are the bane of tech support. They are potentially useful features for people with disabilities, but the fact that there are magic keystrokes that can activate them, and that the user get no notice of this other than an audio cue means that most people can't figure out what happened or how to reverse the effect once it happens. They therefore end up calling tech support and require a 15 minute walk-though to turn these things off again.

For this reason, one of the first things I do after installing Windows is to go to the relevant control panels and disable the keyboard sequences that activate these features.
At least the Accessibility features are usually configured to bring up a prompt the first time they're activated that clearly tells you what's going on.

In Canada, we have the "Canadian keyboard layout", which will switch between the standard layout and something weird with accented characters (i.e. French), and the default is the gloriously unintuitive combination of Ctrl+Shift.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby ManaUser » Tue Oct 06, 2015 5:04 am UTC

RogueCynic wrote:Let me see if I got this: a Windows OS could not find the drivers for a Microsoft keyboard?

That might seem strange on the face of it, but remember, Microsoft is the only company who has a disincentive to make hardware that works with older versions of Windows. So on unless orthogon was using Win10, this doesn't surprise me at all.

My weirdest tech problem was when a whole bunch of files in a certain folder became invisible. Not, "hidden" in the usual meaning of the term, but windows simply refused to list them. It's not too mysterious though, really, because the PC had suffered a virus attack shortly before, and although I got rid of the obvious parts, I figure it must have left a rootkit or something of the sort behind.

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Re: 1586: "Keyboard Problems"

Postby keithl » Tue Oct 06, 2015 7:06 am UTC

BTW, regards strange hardware problems: I'm a chip designer, and digital chip tests are almost always incomplete. Chips are tested with automatic testers, which throw millions of bit patterns at the inputs of a chip and compare the outputs to expectations. It is almost impossible to come up with patterns that test every single transistor to see whether it is working or shorted and opened. Even if such a test is designed (and it can take a lot of computation, skull sweat, and calendar time to do this), it is even more difficult to test every transistor and make sure it is fast enough - under all combinations of inputs. There's a lot of good academic and professional know-how for testing, but very few companies allow the practitioners of such arcana influence the design. Indeed, most managers consider test an unnecessary cost - spending money to turn potential revenue into trash. Trash which some crook might steal, relabel, and sell on the black market.

And as others have pointed out, even if everything perfectly matches the specification, the specifications are often wrong - some specifications are written by crazy people.

That is why it is good to participate in user groups, and have lots of friends to swap hardware (and horror stories) with. If a device (like a keyboard) fails on more than one machine - learn how to clean it and try it again. If the cleaned device fails again, label it "BAD" and recycle it. This stuff is way too cheap to waste your precious time on.

Failing USB keys (with data you neglected to back up, shame on you!) can sometimes be sorta-kinda-fixed by putting them in a waterproof bag then running them submerged in ice water, connected by a short USB cable, while you extract unique data. Hot transistors are a little slower and more leaky than cold transistors. For almost anything else, just get another device, from a different manufacturer if possible.


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