Text Files Are Mysterious

Sigh… This is going to be a short post, because something just died inside of me and I need to go bang my head against the brick wall to relieve the pain. It’s also vaguely related to my post from Tuesday. Related in topic matter, but not circumstances.

Here is the story… Or rather, the short version. I really don’t have the heart for it right now. I could probably turn this into a 5 page epic, but I just… Well, you will understand once I finish this. The gist is that a guy at work caught a virus of some sort. The standard operating procedure in these circumstances is apparently to:

  1. Ignore it
  2. Hope it will go away
  3. Talk to the supervisor and tell them that your computer is slow that you need a new one
  4. Never, ever, under any circumstances attempt to contact the IT department and tell them about this problem

I was pleasantly surprised when this dude violated this long standing tradition, and actually called me with the problem. The infection turned out to be relatively minor, considering that his Norton AV Suite was able to clean it out on the first scan. To be on the safe side, I had him run a scan with malwarebytes. If you have ever used this tool (it’s great BTW – I highly recommend it) you know that at the end of the scan it generates a log file and automatically opens it in notepad so you can review it. Sometimes it contains useful information – for example, files that were not possible to be cleaned and/or deleted during the scan.

I asked the guy to save this log file, and email it to me. This is what I got in my inbox:


You can click on that image to enlarge it. And yes, he took a screenshot of his whole desktop, pasted it into word and sent it to me. My reaction:

Facepalm.jpgfacepalm.jpg on flickr

Apparently, God hates me. It could be worse though… At least he managed to skip the wooden table step. I guess I should consider myself lucky…

Moral of this story is: regular users do not understand plain text. I should keep it in mind when I teach my class and talk about ASCII code. When I say “plain text” some students probably think “word doc with no formatting”. Lesson learned.

Also, if you didn’t get this, I am not going to explain it.

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14 Responses to Text Files Are Mysterious

  1. Garrick UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Your pain is felt by all of us.
    It’s not always text either. I have an employee here who didn’t know how to right click and image on her browser to save it, so she would just take a screen shot and send that to me.

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  2. Zack UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    seen this too many times…but for some reason when I read this, i just starting laughing my ass off! Musta been the way you phrased it! :) Thanks for the laugh! :)

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  3. mcai8sh4 UNITED KINGDOM Opera Linux Terminalist says:

    Give the guy some credit – I’ve had people who couldn’t even take a screen shot – let alone email it me after.

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  4. jambarama UNITED STATES K-Meleon Windows Terminalist says:

    Not as bad as that, but still irritating, I find a lot of users just attach everything. I ask for the fstab and I get it as an attachment. Or I ask for the dmesg tail, and they send it in a word file. When did copy/paste become so hard?

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  5. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’ve had minor success with the people who use gigantic bitmaps (paraphrased):

    “use .png for your screenshots, it doesn’t take so much space. Important when you’re doing hundreds of these”

    -blank stare-

    “it makes it easier for the IT guys to manage your email if you help them out a bit”

    -blank stare with a hint of sneer-

    “you know how sometimes your emails are blocked because your attachments are too big? If you use .png instead of .bmp you’ll never have that happen again”

    -instant convert-

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  6. Rob UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’m surprised he knew how to take a screen shot. Made me laugh anyhow, thanks!

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  7. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:


    How is a person savvy enough to take a screenshot and paste it in word, not know that text is also copy-paste-able?

    Anyway, thanks for malwarebytes. Will check that out.

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  8. Hector SPAIN Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    But I think I’ve seen it worse. Well, not really worse, exactly the same, but in a lab asignment delivery… from a third year student of an IT career.
    He was supposed to deliver me the output of several commands issued on a terminal window (I won’t tell you how hard it was to get some of the students to grab the concept of a ssh session). At first I was surprised on the size of the attachment… how can a few text files make a compressed file this big?? Then I unpacked it to find a collection of screenshots. At least he didn’t use .bmp.

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  9. freelancer SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    “You can click on that image to enlarge it.”

    Actually, you can’t :P


    Also, WordPress would let me post this comment (hopefully it’ll work when I add this though). I briefly considered taking a screenshot of the error, but I’ll just paste it here instead:

    Sorry, there was an error. Please enable JavaScript and Cookies in your browser and try again.


    * JavaScript is enabled.
    * PHP detects that cookies appear to be enabled.

    This message was generated by WP-SpamFree.

    If you feel you have received this message in error (for example if both statuses above indicate that JavaScript and Cookies are in fact enabled and you have tried to post several times), please alert the author of this blog, and let them know they need to view the Technical Support information.


    Ok, it still wouldn’t work. Let’s try updating the page, hopefully that’ll fix it.

    Reply  |  Quote
  10. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Same problem here.

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  11. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @mcai8sh4: I think that is part of the irony here.

    @jambarama: Back when I was an undergrad, I was working on some class project with a guy who sent me his java code as a Word document. Naturally it did not compile. I asked him if he even tried compiling it, and he said “no, I don’t have java on my computer”.

    This was in an advanced 400 level programming course.

    @vacri: Good one! I shall try it next time. :)

    @Hector: Classic! This used to happen all the time back in school. Before every assignment and/or exercise our instructors had to remind people how to use the script command on unix.

    Half the people still did not get it.

    @freelancer: Ooops! I fixed it.

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  12. allan PHILIPPINES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I feel your pain

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  13. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I experienced my first paste-screenshot-into-word email recently at work. In a software company. By an engineer no less.

    Facepalm indeed… :P

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  14. Oh it seems to be normal. Once i faced the situation where the student took the pic from his cellphone camera(didn’t know how to take screenshot, or i don’t know what was the reason) and mailed it to me. Anyways, such incidents are normal.

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