Useless skill, defined

Another true tale of tech support.

B. and I were looking at a user’s computer, trying to find where the user had saved the picture that had been displayed as the desktop wallpaper. Had been, that is, up until I changed the picture to something else and tried to change it back – tried and failed, because for some unknown reason choosing the picture’s name from the list in the Display Properties control panel, “Desktop” tab, had resulted in an utterly blank black desktop, not the forest scene it was supposed to be.

The user had mentioned that her daughter had taken the picture, and emailed it to her, so B. and I were searching through the user’s email trying to find the original picture, so we could put it back. Scanning through the Inbox and Deleted Items folders, I didn’t see anything that looked like it came from a) outside the county, b) had a girl’s name, and c) had an attachment. It took me only a fraction of a second to scan each folder.

One more place to check. I’m not sure how well-known this feature is, but Outlook saves deleted items for a while, and even after something is deleted it can be recovered. The option is under the Tools menu, and is called “Recover Deleted Items…”, obviously enough. As I brought up the list, in less time than it takes for me to write this out, I had scanned the list and determined that the email we were looking for wasn’t in there, either – and it only went back a week. We didn’t know when the daughter had sent the picture but it must have been before that. Damn. I closed the window.

B. finally spoke up. “You could tell that quickly that it wasn’t in there?”

“Sure,” I said, and I opened up the window again. I pointed with the mouse as I rattled off what I saw. “These are obviously from other County folks, these are from outside the county but not female names, these don’t have attachments, and these three are obviously spam.”

She looked at the ones I thought were spam. All that could be seen was their names, “Alexina Esty”, “Prince England”, “Aniseed G. Ferrocious”, and a generic subject line, the same one for each email, FW: About thatt date. “Those are all spam?”

“Uh, yeah.” I looked at my co-worker. “You mean you can’t just look at those and tell that they’re spam? Between the names, and the fact that they all have the same subject line, misspelled in exactly the same way, they just stand out to me.”

I smiled. “But, then, maybe I just get a lot more spam than you do. My filter is better.”

PS: We couldn’t find the picture again. It was gone. But the user had her daughter send her another copy, so it turned out OK in the end.