“It’s just not goin’ through!” – A Tale from Userland

“It’s just not goin’ through!” said the Southern gentleman in a perplexed but gentle tone.

I was doing simple desktop support style work for a small organization that I’ve been acquainted with for several years. They’re a satellite of a larger, multi-million dollar organization, but are largely self contained. That includes finding their own IT support which, prior to me becoming acquainted with the leaders, consisted of nagging anyone’s sons or daughters who could glance at a computer and not immediately explode from hypertension.

“I dunno why your laptop is the only one that does this,” I said into my headset as I rubbed my forehead hard. This was a remote case. My home office is in Phoenix, Arizona and this organization was in another state, two time zones and 2,000 miles away. I had given up hopes that the day wouldn’t be totally consumed by this call. It was a simple matter of installing an online backup client and trying to track down some strange problems with Microsoft Office – but things kept going oddly awry.

I use CrossLoop at the moment as my go-to remote support tool. It’s a bit bare-bones and I’m not entirely happy with it, but it’s the best free tool I have at the moment before I commit my money to a fuller product. I’ve been deeply involved with comparing other remote support tools and am nearing a final decision (oh if only I could afford a Bomgar appliance). Until then, I deal with CrossLoop.

There it is! Took ten tries that time!” the elder gentleman drawled in victory. He was well past retirement age, but was far from retiring. He was no fool – having done many successful things for many people over many years. He was currently in an unusual two-week period of rest in-between world travels. He had just come back from galavanting around the US at sundry speaking engagements and was planning a trip to Africa to lead a small group. That would likely not be his only trip out of the USA for 2012.

I connected to his laptop and began my tasks. In the course of my support work for him I had to reboot the machine a few times. That required the user to launch the CrossLoop executable file after logging in and once again starting the mysteriously recalcitrant process of getting connected to me.

If anyone reading this is familiar with remote support tools, CrossLoop works no different than most do. The person who needs support launches the program and reads an access code to someone else. That other person then enters the user’s access code into their own instance of CrossLoop. The one requesting support must click a “Connect” button which then contacts CrossLoop’s mediation service. The one who will be connecting also clicks their “Connect” button and the connection is brokered by the mediation service. After clicking the connect button, the button immediately turns into a “Disconnect” button so that either party can instantly end the session.

All in all it works out pretty good. Except for this one laptop.

“Great! Only took four tries this time!” the man chuckled. As I worked on the issues that I was contacted to help with, I was also trying to decide how to tackle this mysterious CrossLoop problem. It seemed unlikely that it was a network issue. I never had problems with his internet connection while I was connected. No complaints about dropped downloads, or wireless signal or anything else had been lodged. It happened regardless of where the user was located, so it seemed like it wasn’t an ISP problem.

Some very strange issues with the laptop’s applications made me wonder if there was deeply hidden trouble with the OS itself. Perhaps some fundamental driver or DLL file was corrupted in such a way that caused lossy communication under certain circumstances? I just couldn’t figure it out.

“Okay, to finish this up, I’ll need to log you off of this current user and log back in as a different user.” Unfortunately, CrossLoop requires a user to be logged in before it can be launched and receive / sustain connections. Every logout / logon event caused the user to have to re-connect with me. Of course, as it had to happen, that day’s problem narrowed down to a corrupt Windows user profile. I had to log off and log on multiple times in the course of troubleshooting and ultimately migrating files.

“Here’s your new code.” The man recited a series of numbers to me. I entered them and clicked my connect button while waiting for his side to finally “go through.”

I stared at the connection screen. I like the “Disconnect” button that shows up immediately after you click “Connect.” Just look at it! Big, chunky and orange with a nice call to action printed on it. I’ve been a student of conversion rate optimization for a little while now and am getting more into doing eCommerce sites for clients. “That’s a nice orange button. It should be used as a checkout button…”

“Whew! Eleven times that time!” This was absurd. I had to figure out why this was happening.

After some more work, I had to reboot the laptop once again. Of course, the user had to once again open CrossLoop and initiate the connection to me.

“Oh! Hey, you know what? I think the times that I’ve connected right up to ya’ll has been when I only clicked the connect button once instead of double clicking.”

I inhaled sharply.

“Ayup! I click the “Connect” button just once and it hooks right up to you!”


  1. Justin Dearing

    February 10, 2012 at 7:52 am

    I remember back in the Windows 3.1 days when my dad remarked it was hard to know if you had to click or double click. Interesting.


    • Wesley David

      February 10, 2012 at 10:24 am

      I’ve always taken it for granted that I intuitively know when to double-click when using a GUI. I also take it for granted that many years of UI standards have been spent to make it so that I have that intuition.

      I hope I didn’t make this post sound like I was mocking him. To the contrary, I’m more mocking myself for always considering the most complex possibility first, and never looking at the simpler possibilities soon enough.


  2. Mr. Mike

    February 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    For those single instance uses, I’ve moved from CrossLoop to Join.me. This works for identifying which button the user is/is not pressing.

    For longer term clients or multiple reboots, I use the Join.me session to install LogMeIn free. The client can disable the logmein software when you are done or you can reconnect on join.me and remove it yourself.

    LogMeIn has better peformance than Join.me and I’ve been using for over 7 years


    • Wesley David

      February 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      I like LogMeIn for what I’ve seen of it. I might move over to the free tool (the license allows for commercial use?). I’d like the commercial features but the price is outrageous if you want to include mobile phones (which I do) and on top of that it’s an annual fee.

      At that point I’ll just save up and get my own Bomgar appliance.


  3. Eugene

    March 22, 2013 at 4:49 am

    This is also good.
    The software works well, Ammyy Admin doesn’t require installation or specific config, works behind gateways NAT as well as within one LAN.


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