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Computer Genius
December 23, 2009 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Why it's better to pretend you know nothing about computers
posted by Artw (148 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Stolen from here.
posted by signalnine at 8:28 AM on December 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


They didn't show the classic bit where you arrive at a gathering, ready to get your mingle on, and are ushered into the computer room to "just fix one little thing real quick PLEASE" without even being handed a drink.
posted by autodidact at 8:29 AM on December 23, 2009 [12 favorites]


^Wow. When you say stolen, you mean STOLEN. How incredibly lame.
posted by autodidact at 8:29 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yikes. Self flagged - can we substitute the link or just nuke the post?
posted by Artw at 8:30 AM on December 23, 2009


Story of my life ... but it's what I do for a living. So, I can't claim not to know how to deal with this stuff.

Thankfully, we've established some ground rules now, and I live over two hours away from most of my family. I don't mind helping family for free with this stuff, but my time is not unlimited.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:31 AM on December 23, 2009


OK, guess this one's dead ...
posted by krinklyfig at 8:31 AM on December 23, 2009


well, they've given credit with a very small link at the very bottom of the page where we're least likely to find it, so there's that
posted by Think_Long at 8:34 AM on December 23, 2009


I thought you guys were good at computers...
posted by mazola at 8:36 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Never post before coffee.
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on December 23, 2009


I think I'm doubly cursed, because not only do I work in computers but I also tend to find the first fifteen or so minutes of the diagnostic part fun. Which is great if it's one of those things I can fix right off the bat but usually gets me trapped in a thankless slog.

Worse, a lot of problems have the casino-like tendency to pay out just enough progress to keep me playing the game. This has led to allnighters with nothing to show for it but a laptop that now plays sound badly rather than not at all.
posted by suetanvil at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2009 [15 favorites]


Wow, lame.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2009


some of us don't have to pretend....
posted by MajorDundee at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2009


"Yeah, I'm pretty good with computers, but... you use Windows, right? I haven't really looked at that since the 90s. Good luck, though."
posted by Wolfdog at 8:43 AM on December 23, 2009 [27 favorites]


I know nothing about pancakes.
posted by swift at 8:45 AM on December 23, 2009


At the end the FPP-linked post says "Source: theoatmeal" so the blatant theft becomes a weird case of "why did they feel the need to cut up the original comic and shrink it?"
posted by filthy light thief at 8:45 AM on December 23, 2009


OK, guess this one's dead ...

I doubt it's dead, the first friendly neighborhood Spider-Mod to swing in will assuredly just change the link to the original. Then we can continue laughing at our less technical family members and whining about how they use us for tech support.
posted by explosion at 8:46 AM on December 23, 2009


If it does die can i complain about My Goddamned Christmas Flu?


Hint: it sucks.
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 AM on December 23, 2009


Penny Arcade has the solution!
posted by Midnight Rambler at 8:48 AM on December 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


Why it's better to pretend you know nothing about computers

If the reason isn't obvious to you, I have no sympathy for you.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2009


I think I'm doubly cursed, because not only do I work in computers but I also tend to find the first fifteen or so minutes of the diagnostic part fun. Which is great if it's one of those things I can fix right off the bat but usually gets me trapped in a thankless slog.

My favorite is the "miracle cure," when you show up to diagnose a problem, and without even touching anything it just starts working right then. That happens often enough that I sometimes refer to myself as a faith healer.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:52 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I just tell people that I bill standard consultancy rates if they need any help. After getting burned a few times I don't mind appearing cold about things.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:52 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you wear a tee-shirt that says "Internet is neat" you deserve this type of treatment.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2009


Also from The Oatmeal:
The Zombie Bite Calculator

I'll last 1 hour and 28 minutes before turning. Just enough time to watch the Survivor finale on the DVR! Thanks The Oatmeal!
posted by Big_B at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2009


Another option is to admit knowing things about computers, but to not have any friends (and to kill your relatives).
posted by DU at 9:01 AM on December 23, 2009


I have altered the link.

Pray I do not alter it further.
posted by cortex at 9:02 AM on December 23, 2009 [105 favorites]


All's I'm sayin' is: Next job I find, I'm letting all of my coworkers know that I don't know the first thing about computers. Nevermind the fact that I'm a graphic designer. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
posted by kryptondog at 9:02 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just tell people that I bill standard consultancy rates if they need any help.

Amen. My brother had a great idea for a book, he said. Would I help? How, I asked? Well basically , he wanted me to ghostwrite it for him, and then manage the whole submission/marketing process since I had "connections" in publishing.

I told him sure, if he'd pay me $200/hour for writing it and give me 90% of the royalties. He looked hurt but never brought it up again. Nor has he gotten off his butt to write it himself, though I did email him a list of good books on getting published.

I don't understand family members who think that because you're related, all of your time and skills are at their disposal for free.
posted by emjaybee at 9:04 AM on December 23, 2009


I know a guy who will put forth a passionate argument for how computers were meant to use run open-source software via command-line interfaces. He has himself a bucketload of fun ranting about the evils of GUIs and the immorality of closed-source development while the user feebly protests his love of Youtube and Javascript-based sites like Facebook and then runs away before his virus-laden brick of a laptop becomes a twenex emulator.

Alas, I use a graphical browser, and therefore am not worthy of that excuse.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:05 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, Why I'd rather be punched in the testicles than call customer service.

"Oh heck, 'sup whores?"
posted by peep at 9:10 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


look, it's real easy - depending on the problem you just tell them

a) - you'll just have to reinstall windows - sorry

b) - you'll just have to get a new, faster computer - sorry

c) - my probation officer says i can't do that for you - sorry
posted by pyramid termite at 9:11 AM on December 23, 2009


ThinkGeek has been on this since just about the beginning of the site, which must have been about ten years now.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:20 AM on December 23, 2009


It's a bit difficult when you're the IT guy for your tiny company.

"Sure, I'd love to help you change your homepage in IE instead of working on the backend system apps that run this company..."

*barely contains urge to throw laptop through the floor to ceiling window*
posted by kmz at 9:21 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


This was pretty good. Everytime I visit my parents I can pretty much guarantee that I will spend a full day fixing things for them. This problem doubled with the advent of cheap laptops; now they bring their computers *to me.*

So finally, I just decided to buy them a MacBook [NOT MICROSOFT-IST] -- I just figured they'd be able to download and install less random stuff and not fuck shit up just as much. So what does my dad do? He immediately goes out and buys a fucking Vista box. And the questions started less than a week later. "How do you connect a camera to my new computer?" "Why can't I check my email on my new computer?" So now I just play the "I haven't touched Windows since 2001" card. But it hurts because I know with a little smart guy fiddling I could probably fix that printer problem that they'll *never* figure out on their own.

But that's the trap. There's always going to be one more little problem and it's not the little problems that need to be fixed, it's a mind set. Seriously, dad, "FW: FW: FW: FW: check this out! attch: 233 MB"?

This was a timely post. Their plane lands in Seattle in 3 hours. Here, dad, forward this to everyone in your address book. Does anyone know how I could convert this link to a 150 megabyte MPEG?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:23 AM on December 23, 2009 [12 favorites]


Also, don't let anybody know you can draw. No no really I don't mind at all, it's fun!
posted by Erasmouse at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


This is not just computers, this is endemic of skillsets and asshole/uncouth friends/family the world over. (and a pet peeve of mine)

"Hey, there's this thing that you do, and you normally get paid to do it, but can you do that exact same thing for free for me, because it's not like you don't like doing it, and we're friends, right?"

It sucks to be dependable, man. It really sucks.

and if you do that to me and are astonished/mad when I say no or ask for money, I am not the asshole here. You are. And i don't care if we're not friends anymore.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh I had Christmas very much in mind.

FWIW I've basically abandonned ship on my XP box, not because XP is bad or anything but it's basically ground zero for every malware app ever, and I've had to decrud it a few too many times, but the Vista desktop that we got more recently is much less trouble. Thusfar it seems pretty impervious, despite being used by every passing relative, so it's good on that score. The evil security stuff that people complained like hell about appears to be a strong component of that.

However experience has taught me not to expect Vista to work with old hardware, ever, unless you put in an amount of pain and effort equal to the value of just buying new hardware.
posted by Artw at 9:32 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


If only the person asking the favor had some sort of skill that could be offered in trade. That's called bartering!
Unfortunately, these people are usually useless.
posted by orme at 9:33 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew

Did you say you were a Doctor? I've got this thing on my leg, can you take a look at it.

It'll just take a sec.
posted by banshee at 9:37 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Heh. I've been in this situation more times than I can count. It's a bit like playing the lottery, because every once in a while the gratitude you get for pulling off a "miracle" repays you in spades.

Case in point: It was during Christmas break and a relative had been up for hours writing a research paper and then Word crashed and she hadn't saved forever. She freaked out because of all the lost time. I looked at her system and Word's autorecovery hadn't put the "recovered" file automatically up on the screen as it often does. Locating the temp file created wasn't too hard and I was able to bring up 95% of her work in less than 5 minutes.

She was so grateful that the next day after handing in the paper she insisted on taking our son and his friends out sledding the entire day, bought them hot cocoa etc. So in that case 5 minutes of my time = 6 hours of babysitting. However, I will admit in the global scheme of things it is like most lotteries and I am *not* ahead.
posted by jeremias at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


For the longest time, my wife and I came up with a system to keep ourselves sane over the holidays; I would fix her family's computer problems, and she would take care of mine. It seems silly, but for me, the biggest part of the problem was that dealing with my family in a tech-support capacity managed to push all my buttons in exactly the right way to make me psychotically violent super irritable, but fixing her family's was no problem because they didn't know the secrets of setting me off the way my own mother does (she does it for sport).

We've subsequently come up with a better system. Whenever possible, we stay home and just say "Hi" to the families over the phone.

We love them, we just do it from a technologically safe distance.
posted by quin at 9:42 AM on December 23, 2009 [20 favorites]


"Sure, I'd love to help you change your homepage in IE instead of working on the backend system apps that run this company..."

This was a pretty big issue for me when I worked at a different location and was the only IT guy there. I'd be ass deep in some Sharepoint/firewall/proxy/Exchange/etc configuration and some insensitive monkey would come right up with not so much as a "hello" (and it was an open-concept office with low walled cubicles--a fertile ground for mass murder) and break my concentration for their really important issue that they can't open the attachment their sister sent them. Their inane receptionist job doesn't require any level of concentration so they have no idea what it means to go and kill someone else's.

But, that was part of the job. Some CPA bringing their kid's laptop to me was not, and I would ask them point blank if they enjoy giving free tax advice. The only people that I've come across who already grok this point intuitively were the lawyers--they know the pain of being asked to provide technical expertise free of charge and how to deftly deflect them.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've got a tech-support script for solving the computer problems of people:

1) Have you rebooted the computer?

2) Have your re-installed Windows?

Repeat this script until the problem is solved.
posted by Xoc at 9:47 AM on December 23, 2009


LOOK, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT COMPUTER SCIENCE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH COMPUTERS?
posted by daniel_charms at 9:56 AM on December 23, 2009 [17 favorites]


Meh. I don't know how to do this shit anymore really. Dad, do you need some obscure XML-formatted data translated between two different, incompatible quasi-standards using Python and a bunch of proprietary internal libraries? I can do that. I have no goddamn clue about printer drivers.
posted by GuyZero at 9:56 AM on December 23, 2009 [25 favorites]


I live in silicon valley thus my relatives do wacky things like send me floppy disks(!) in the mail(!!) to take to Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara to get a new bios for them (!!! wtf? It's not like the receptionist is handing them out at the front desk, Dad). I can only imagine that he envisions Intel having like a walk-up service & parts desk a la appliance stores circa 1965, you know, with the tube tester machine and all.
posted by jamaro at 9:56 AM on December 23, 2009 [27 favorites]


I had the reputation of being a computer genius in my family (the bar is set very, very low, however). How low? My brother took over my old little white iBook and in the process of trying to update the OS with a pirated disk messed it up beyond belief, and also managed to reset the keyboard settings so that it was typing gibberish on the screen. I looked at it for the greater part of a playthrough of The Dark Knight and could do nothing with it.

It was still more fun than the movie, though.
posted by jokeefe at 9:57 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I live in silicon valley thus my relatives do wacky things like send me floppy disks(!) in the mail(!!) to take to Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara to get a new bios for them

Drop me memail because, holy shit, I want to be there when you go do that.
posted by GuyZero at 9:58 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


GuyZero, only if you promise to make bail for me after their security guards tackle me in the lobby.
posted by jamaro at 10:00 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also from Penny Arcade: One Day In The Future.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:02 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have double the fun, not only am I an IT guy, but I make T-shirts as a side business/hobby. I've become downright rude when people come at me like "omg if i gave you a design for a shirt could you make it for me?"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2009


I do tattoos and run into the exact same thing...

"I was thinking of getting me riding a Harley down a desert road on my lower back, and in the sky is a wolf, and a bear, and an Indian chick with big titties, and a biplane cause my dad used to fly one and my mom water skiing on a lake behind the whole thing. I'm not sure how this would look though so can you draw it up for me when you have time? Then I'll know if I want to get it."

Actual request, not even kidding.

So I usually send them something like this with and it seems to work pretty well.
posted by chronkite at 10:06 AM on December 23, 2009 [48 favorites]


I must be the only person on earth who doesn't really mind dealing with this kind of thing. I'm certain, though, that that is because 1. I don't work with computers, and 2. the people who ask me to help only do so because I was born in the 1970s and thus grew up taking computers seriously, which puts me a bit ahead of them in the whole "operating drop-down menus" and "avoiding malware" games. Plus, I tell them ahead of time that I probably can't fix it, but "I'll see what I can do." That way it's like a pleasant surprise when it works.

Also, I have only ever seen that "NO I WILL NOT FIX YOUR COMPUTER" shirt stretched out in a crescent over an expanding chest, beneath a satisfied, smiling bloatee. It inclines me to try and be helpful.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:06 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, this.
via xkcd
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 10:09 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, I have only ever seen that "NO I WILL NOT FIX YOUR COMPUTER" shirt stretched out in a crescent over an expanding chest, beneath a satisfied, smiling bloatee. It inclines me to try and be helpful.

All techies are fat, smug nerds, huh? That's an odd thing to say. I've come across some obese IT people, but the majority are in good shape, articulate, and pleasant.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:12 AM on December 23, 2009


My solution to this was to marry someone who knows more about computers than I do.
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on December 23, 2009


I'm a public librarian, and even though I don't know anything about computers by any objective standard I still get to feel like a h4xx0r wizard almost every day:

ME: "What's that, you're having trouble logging into your Yahoo account? Hmm, let's have a look. The computer seems to have frozen up. Try clicking on refresh. The page still isn't loading properly? Let's try closing the window and restarting the browser. Still not working? Let's try rebooting. There, that seems to have done it!"

Elderly Library Patron: "Mr. Librarian, you're a genius!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:13 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have altered the link.

Mr Computer Genius himself. Looks like I'll be calling Cortex for all my computer problems going forward, now. Thanks in advance!
posted by inigo2 at 10:14 AM on December 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


I love fixing people's computers.

No, seriously. Right now in my office I have one of my user's home PCs that's just completely FUBAR'ed with every conceivable piece of malware you can imagine. It's entertaining as hell for me to hack away at it like a jungle explorer with a machete. Very satisfying.

I may be sick, though. I may be.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:19 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


My two least favourite phrases to hear from someone else are
"I know you're really busy, but..." and "Oh, and while you're here..." as they invariably involve people wanting something that they think is trivial but the description of the problem is so convoluted and using the wrong words it often takes me way longer to figure out what the hell they actually want rather than doing it. That, or their incomprehension of what is actually involved is so insane it makes me want to well, shoot someone."

As in: "I know you're really busy, but my CPU is making a funny noise after I put it on the internet, and now I can't send email" translates to "You've just got your hands in that big server case, so it can't be more important than my problem, and my speakers have stopped working and I can't play this youtube video of a baby laughing that my uncle emailed to my work address"

Or "While you're here, could you reformat my computer like the other guy said he would, and speed it up? He promised it he'd come by and do it last week, but it's really slow and I need it fixed for this meeting. You've got an hour before then, so that's plenty of time, right?"

Or "You know that website we talked about last month? (The one where we talked in vague terms about the requirements, and they said they'd "get back to me" when I asked any detail questions) Well, we sent out the new brochure to the printers last week, and it's got a feature about the new site in it with a link to the sitename we talked about. I don't want to rush you, but I've just loaded up the site and it's still not working. Will you have it fixed by the end of today?"

"Oh sure. You mean that site we haven't even ordered the servers for yet, as you haven't given me the content, the photos, the design or even a coherent f****** concept of what it's supposed to do? And you've decided on the name out of 6 you wanted without telling me? And you want it all up and running by the end of today? Um, it might take a little longer than that I'm afraid."
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:29 AM on December 23, 2009


GuyZero, only if you promise to make bail for me after their security guards tackle me in the lobby.

That could totally be the best meetup EVAR.
posted by GuyZero at 10:32 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


This year I was studying for my statistics final. I had put a message on my voice mail that said no one should leave me a message unless it was an absolute emergency. I even helpfully indicated that emergencies were things like people's arms falling off, or invading alien armies, or my house being on fire.

So what did my mom do? She sent me an email telling me to call her because it was important. The emergency? She couldn't get some game on facebook to work. So I spent two hours remotely correcting her Firefox settings so she could play some farm game.

But I know what mr crash davis is talking about. There is something so satisfying about fixing something. It's the nicest feeling in the world. HURRAH IT IS SHAKE AND BAKE AND I HELPED sort of describes it. Perhaps I have a low bar for self esteem.
posted by winna at 10:33 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


The only thing worse than being the geek of the family is owning the only pick-up truck in the family.

"Hey, I just bought a new couch. Could you drive to Sears in E. Bumfuck with me and help me bring it home so I can save the $50.00 delivery charge? And as long as you're at my house I have some lightbulbs that need changing and since you went to electronics school I thought maybe..."
posted by bondcliff at 10:42 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really don't mind being family tech support, or even tech support for friends of the family who've dropped by and happen to know that I work in IT. Possibly something of a power trip, as I like feeling useful, but hey, whatever works.

That said, situations like the one in this comic do really make me wonder why a lot of people don't just go with something like "OK, I'll take a look at it, but you know I don't have a lot of free time, right?" The "make a website for me" crowd could probably be discouraged with "yeah, of course! I'm happy to give up to a 15% discount for friends".
posted by ZsigE at 10:43 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have gone to taking advantage of this. I got our bathroom painted for a few hours of Windows support and spyware removal.
posted by empty vessel at 10:45 AM on December 23, 2009


My Friend: "You make websites or something, right?"

Me: "That's right."

My Friend: "That's great! Do you think you could build me a computer?"

Me: "..."
posted by brundlefly at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2009


Also, this.
via xkcd


Yeah my script is a shortcut version of that. Throw in a "download updates for any relevant software bits, reboot and try again" at the beginning and skip the "pick one at random" step and jump straight to the googling.
posted by juv3nal at 10:51 AM on December 23, 2009


I didn't mind helping people with their computers... at first. But then it can become a cycle of dependency, or worse, outright entitlement!

One semi-relative kept asking me to do things, and was "willing to pay," but I kept telling her it wasn't about money, it was about time. I already have a job and a freelance business, and I didn't need another one. I gave her the name and number of a trusted person who did that kind of thing for a living, and after a couple months she called me back, saying she never hired the other person because they wanted to charge her over $150 to install her printer and add some memory. I told her that was about right, and that's what I would have to charge if I was charging. The deal breaker was when she asked if "for that price" he could install a copy of Photoshop on her machine as well while he was there. No, not her copy, his copy.
posted by The Deej at 10:52 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


#if ($asker.isFriend() || $asker.isFamily())
 #if ($asker.system.uname.matches('.*Darwin.*'))
  <say>Since you bought a mac and applecare of course I'll fix it like I promised. </say>
 #else
  <say>So, when you asked me what you should get, and I said "get a mac and I'll take care of it, otherwise you're on your own" what did you think I meant? </say>
#else
 <say>I'm not an expert at $asker.system.uname. I'll give it a look but if it's not something obvious you'll just have to use the restore partition|reformat|buy a mac. </say>
#end
##fuck you vtl

posted by Skorgu at 10:53 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


And now I think about it, I'm on 12 hours family tech support so far this xmas and counting; I've sorted out installing my dad's printer on the network, getting his webcam working, and cleaned up some malware. I've also done a clean install of windows 7 plus apps and drivers on my sister-in-law's laptop, a remote install of nxmachine and gnome and vmware server on her boyfriend's linux server and when I get back home my neighbour is wanting a hand in getting her printer working again. And probably cleaning up a bunch of crap again. Not that I mind so much, but sometimes it does take the mickey a touch. "Sure, I'll fix your computer. Mind if I take my coat off first?"

And it's certainly true that once you touch someone else's computer, they expect free 24/7 phone support for the rest of their lives, even when they go and buy a new computer from someone else entirely.

The solution is clearly to do such a botched job of fixing their computer they never ask you again. One day I'll have to try it. Damn my perfectionism!
posted by ArkhanJG at 10:54 AM on December 23, 2009


> Also, Why I'd rather be punched in the testicles than call customer service.

For God's sake, don't actually type the up up down down left right left right B A keys when reading that page.
posted by ardgedee at 10:58 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Although if you must, be sure to view source.
posted by ardgedee at 11:00 AM on December 23, 2009


I like helping people out with their computer. It makes me feel useful in a world where usually I feel like a pointless shambles of a man.
posted by dng at 11:01 AM on December 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


1. Swap IT support for your family with a friend
2. Don't do Windows IT support, just Mac
3. Get them to do something else for you first.

~Matt
posted by mdoar at 11:03 AM on December 23, 2009


Actually I'm looking forward to fiddling with my 80 yr old dads computer with him. Reminds me of peeking and poking together at the Commodore 64.
posted by joost de vries at 11:09 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Giant Bat Farts!
posted by Burhanistan at 11:10 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


As both the resident geek in the family and a personal trainer, I have to say that I much prefer the tech questions to the medical ones.

Asking "Did you try rebooting?" after a relative encounters a random Windows problem is so much easier than having to find a more delicate way of saying "because you're fat and never exercise" after your aunt asks you why her knees hurt.
posted by rbellon at 11:16 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


If only the person asking the favor had some sort of skill that could be offered in trade. That's called bartering!

The one time this worked out for me was when my downstairs neighbor happened to be a hairdresser. I traded roughly an hour of getting her laptop to work for a really good haircut.

Everything else has been goodwill and brownies.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:16 AM on December 23, 2009


#if ($asker.isFriend() || $asker.isFamily())
#if ($asker.system.uname.matches('.*Darwin.*'))
Since you bought a mac and applecare of course I'll fix it like I promised.
#else
So, when you asked me what you should get, and I said "get a mac and I'll take care of it, otherwise you're on your own" what did you think I meant?
#else
I'm not an expert at $asker.system.uname. I'll give it a look but if it's not something obvious you'll just have to use the restore partition|reformat|buy a mac.
#end
##fuck you vtl


Completely. Just last night I helped someone set up a 27" iMac. That's a fucking big screen, let me tell you.

That shit's a joy to set up. Especially when it's an iMac, a new printer, a new 1TB time machine and all of the software in the same box. It's awesome when, one hour later, they have a completely new computer, new router, completely automatic backups, new e-mail without spam, all contacts from AOL automatically pouring into GMail, and can print wirelessly from every computer in the house now. What, you're done already? Yep. That's it.

An hour on a Windows system? I'd barely be getting finished running ComboFix.
posted by odinsdream at 11:20 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. I do not fix computers, I'm not going to build your stupid website, and I don't even want to hear your "genius business idea" for fear that you'll expect me to get excited about it.

Learn something damnit, or pay someone else who has.

Oh yeah, and I'm not going to help you move, either. Fuck expecting your friends to move your shit for you. Your offer of "beer and pizza" does nothing for me.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:22 AM on December 23, 2009


Thanks for reminding me I have to hook up my mom's new printer on Christmas.

And then she'll say, "Why isn't my internet working? How do I make an e-mail address? What about my mouse? Why doesn't my mouse work? Can you tell me why my mouse doesn't work? And where did this extra cord come from? Can I send a fax from this printer? I need to send a fax. Maybe I can do it with a computer program? Will you get the program? Can you make it work in Korean?" ... and all this on freakin' Windows Vista.

Also? I know nothing about computers. Seriously, I have never so much as set up a wireless router, okay? How would I know about fax programs for Windows Vista???
posted by brina at 11:25 AM on December 23, 2009


"genius business idea"

Try writing or making art for a living. I just tell people I work at bar in Queens - shuts em right up.
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jeez, now I feel bad for asking my friends for computer help. If I were good at anything, I like to think I'd appreciate being asked for help on something.

But then again, try being an actor. It's endless fun at work when it's simply assumed that of course I wouldn't mind hosting the company fundraising auction because I "can talk in front of people," or being asked to "come up with a skit" for some awful office party.
posted by Skot at 11:29 AM on December 23, 2009


When I was 2, my grandmother was using her company's TRS-80 for data entry for accounting's year-end reports. She had me on her lap and had just finished entering the data when I gleefully pressed the. big. red. button.

This entitles her to free tech support from me for the rest of my life. (My life, not hers, as it is possible that I will be expected to convert DOS DACEasy to Win 3.11 Peachtree to WinXP QuickBooks after she has passed.)
posted by infinitewindow at 11:32 AM on December 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


> I just tell people I work at bar in Queens

You have pretty good friends if they're not willing to go all the way out to Queens to sponge extra-stiff drinks off their bartender buddy.
posted by ardgedee at 11:59 AM on December 23, 2009


Try writing or making art for a living.

Heh. I'll admit to something vague to do with computers, but not the web stuff, because it can lead to requests for building things, and I am cagey about mentioning the comics writing to the point of almost being secretive, because it can lead to some very boring conversations.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on December 23, 2009


Jeez, now I feel bad for asking my friends for computer help. If I were good at anything, I like to think I'd appreciate being asked for help on something.

Nah, just give them something in return.

At work, "Hey, my hard drive won't boot. Can you help. I'll fix you food!" "Of course!"
"Hey, I need some computers networked at home. I'll pay you x money." "Bring it on!"
"Hey, I need some RAM installed..." [to self: Nothing else?] "Sorry, I don't do tech support outside of work."

Maybe it makes me a cheap bastard, but I fell into the "trap" when I first started in IT of fixing stuff for free, which many people have pointed out, turns into tech support for life. I also try to keep my support to people who are computer literate or at least know basic troubleshooting.

But my parents? Yea, they invested thousands of dollars into my life. Free tech support for life.
posted by jmd82 at 12:00 PM on December 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


But then again, try being an actor.

Hey, if I can get your printer to work, will you recite that "to be or not be" part from that one Shakespeare movie?
posted by marxchivist at 12:03 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Try being the professional chef amongst your group of friends or family at the holidays.

Immediately out of the car and just barely in from the snow:
"Oh, thank Gawd you're here, I could use a little help with dinner."

"Ok, what do you need help with?"

"well, I'm not sure when I should start this 22 pound turkey, now that I've followed all of Alton Brown's instructions for stuffing it."

"You should have started about five hours before you did."

Or, my personal favorite:

"I just don't know how you do that and make it look so easy!"

Try doing it at least fourteen hours a day, six days a week for ten years, then get back to me.

Also, there are NO secret ingredients.
posted by kaiseki at 12:03 PM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]



You have pretty good friends if they're not willing to go all the way out to Queens to sponge extra-stiff drinks off their bartender buddy.


No one wants to go to Queens.
posted by The Whelk at 12:04 PM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


If only the person asking the favor had some sort of skill that could be offered in trade. That's called bartering!

Yep, that's how I deal with it: almost all of my tech support requests come from women who are very good at baking things, so I happily exchange tech support for homemade foodstuff (mmm, molasses cookies.) I personally think I'm on the better end of that deal, because when I'm stumped by a computer problem I can always say "sorry, I can't fix it", but they can't really claim the same thing about cookies.

The last bit of tech support I do is for my children's public school, and I can't think of anything barter-wise I wouldn't do to help the underpaid, underappreciated people who teach my children, so you'll get no complaint from me (hell, for them, I spend my own money on hard drives and such.)
posted by davejay at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Card Cheat:

I'm a public librarian too.
I kid you not, I have shown people where the backspace key is at least three times.

Once I got a "Thank you Jesus" for my trouble.
posted by Jeanne at 12:18 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If anyone in the thread is a glutton for punishment, I'd recommend LogMeIn as a great way to fix 99% of people's problems without having to leave your chair. I know that remote administration is not exactly a new thing, but this is completely free and works rather marvelously. I have it on my iPhone (where it's $30). I currently have everyone in my immediate family on it. I can defrag their drives, remove malware, update their AV keys, etc. all from right here.
posted by autodidact at 12:19 PM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nah, just give them something in return.

I typically thank said friends with a couple rounds of drinks, so I guess I'm doing it somewhat right.

Hey, if I can get your printer to work, will you recite that "to be or not be" part from that one Shakespeare movie?

Let me get some untalented co-workers gathered and we'll totally make it into a skit for you!
posted by Skot at 12:20 PM on December 23, 2009


I like logmein as well. If I need to do a rebuild I just get the hardware and OS setup. Install logmein, AV and spyware tools and give them the PC back and tell them to pug it in when they get home (or I do it if they can't).

Then I do the rest from home. This allows me to multi task so I don't resent the time I am spending on it.
posted by empty vessel at 12:41 PM on December 23, 2009


LogMeIn looks cool...too bad it doesn't seem to work natively with Linux.
posted by Telpethoron at 12:45 PM on December 23, 2009


Free for friends if you leave me alone to do it.
Regular consulting rates if you want to watch.
Double fee if you want an explanation as I do it.

Free advice to all... Never install Norton anything. It is a virus you pay for and knowingly install. Once Norton gets on a computer you have to go in elbow deep to rescue it.
posted by Babblesort at 12:50 PM on December 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Never install Norton anything.

A-men! I swear half of Windows' bad rep is due to Norton pre-installs.
posted by autodidact at 12:55 PM on December 23, 2009


What is it with printers? I've never owned one (even though I've had a computer of some kind for about 25 years). But I'll be spending Christmas Day trying to get my father's printer working :/

Yes, I spent the first year of my career working in a print shop, but that was 20 years ago, and it was 30 foot long hardware, connected by under-floor copper cables to mainframes. If anything went too wrong, we'd call a Xerox engineer in. That doesn't mean I know how to make your $100 Lexmark USB fax/printer/scanner thing work.

I also have the friend who just a couple of weeks ago asked "Can you come over this afternoon? I need to setup a website."

Err... no.
posted by Diag at 12:56 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


This Christmas I get to migrate my parents ailing XP machine onto new hardware. I'm especially looking forward to the software used to run the gate entry system at their business, which was written for DOS, uses a hardware dongle for copy protection, and was made by a company that doesn't exist anymore.

I've decided to point blank refuse to install AOL this time.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:26 PM on December 23, 2009


So am I the only one who says they can help, takes the computer home, then calls them up a few hours later saying "Holy Shit! You were so infected it was like imminent doom ... yeah yeah, lucky you got it to me in time, I was able to incinerate just before they got to your personal data ... sorry to let you know but good luck with your next one!" then installs Ubuntu on it and lives happily ever after?

also - Metafilter : We love them, we just do it from a technologically safe distance.
posted by mannequito at 1:50 PM on December 23, 2009


If only the person asking the favor had some sort of skill that could be offered in trade. That's called bartering!
Unfortunately, these people are usually useless.


Well, I have a client now who is willing to teach T'ai Chi in exchange for my consultation, and I will take her up on that one day. So far, she pays with money, and no problems there. I've also traded work for prescription toothpaste at the dentist (more expensive than you might think, so it was a good deal for me), plumbing work, food, and various other things I'm forgetting now. I also make soap from goat milk and trade it for my friend's eggs and other stuff from the farm, including the goat milk I use to make the soap. Where I live now is very open to barter, so that helps.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:56 PM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


So am I the only one who says they can help, takes the computer home, then calls them up a few hours later saying "Holy Shit! You were so infected it was like imminent doom ... yeah yeah, lucky you got it to me in time, I was able to incinerate just before they got to your personal data ... sorry to let you know but good luck with your next one!" then installs Ubuntu on it and lives happily ever after?

I like Ubuntu as much as the next Linux geek (though I prefer BSD), but I wish this were the case. If people don't try to do much, or if they can figure it out on their own, Linux is fine. But it's a problem when they start using, say, Evolution, and they want you to walk them through the setup, which you're supposed to do, right? Because you installed it, so you'll support the user forever, right? Because there are a lot of techs who know Linux now, but a lot more who don't, so if you're not going to be their support, they're probably up the creek when a real problem comes up.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:59 PM on December 23, 2009


krinklyfig, I think the process mannequito described ends with the computer staying with mannequito.
posted by johnnybeggs at 2:11 PM on December 23, 2009


Not sure why people think Macs will insulate them from this --- people who are clueless about computers are clueless about Macs too. I get random questions from friends/family about Mac stuff, but I do prefer those since I can honestly answer that I know very very little about them and thus am probably not helpful.

(In reality, of course, most people's Windows and Mac problems can be solved in a few minutes even if you DONT know anything about the system -- just a matter of looking around some menus or something --- people are scared to try things)
posted by wildcrdj at 2:15 PM on December 23, 2009


A-men! I swear half of Windows' bad rep is due to Norton pre-installs.

The sad part is, Norton software used to be great--small, fast utilities that did things people needed, and did them well.

Then Symantec bought them out and everything went to shit.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:23 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thankfully they still have SymNRT which can exorcise most systems.
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:31 PM on December 23, 2009


I'm glad it is not just me who hates Symantec Norton more than cockroaches.
posted by bearwife at 2:54 PM on December 23, 2009


The sad part is, Norton software used to be great

Hah! Sounds like someone else remembers DOS 5.

Too bad MS made all of Norton's most useful tools part of the OS, forcing Symantec to find some other way to "add value."
posted by Afroblanco at 3:01 PM on December 23, 2009


I fix computers for coworkers all the time. I usually don't even bother booting the machine. Pull the drive, extract data, reinstall windows.

Done.

Fifty bucks please.
posted by davey_darling at 3:47 PM on December 23, 2009


Roughly half of my friends are actors or playwrights, and roughly half are working scientists. When I am hanging around with the first group, I have sometimes acted as the Computer Genius. When I am hanging around with the second group, I am generally the retarded cousin.

I kind of figure that by giving help to one group and getting it from the other, I'm just continuing the great chain of life.
posted by kyrademon at 3:51 PM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


my 72 year old father is my hero. in the past week my laptop was DoA and then the trusty desktop died two days after i got home from HEL. He was thrilled with the chance to fix the desktop again - its a Dell 2004 model bought in the USA with 110V power supply that he's managed to jigger into working with Singapore's 220V supply for the monitor, the CPU and the surge protecter itself.

he's an old skool electrical engineer who graduated in 1960 and couldn't afford gramaphones or transistors in Calcutta so he would offer to repair stuff for free, with the caveat that the device be loaned to him for a month after it was fixed ;p so he always had music

he bought our first IBM PC in 1982 within weeks of my starting Computer 1 (with DOS 1 & Basic) in senior year and basically taught himself everything and has managed to stay current up until now

my first driving lesson started with both us crawling under the car for the "this thing is connected to that thing and does this" lecture BEFORE i ever got to turn the key in the ignition

what little geekiness I possess is all due to him, whether it was helping me with negative numbers in algebra at 11 or supporting my wish to study engineering, followed by industrial design (mom wanted me to study 'home science' if I must study science)

/thanks Papa
posted by infini at 3:52 PM on December 23, 2009 [20 favorites]


I do technical support for my whole family.
I also charge them 20 bucks an hour + a 2 drink minimum.
Works great.
posted by tehloki at 4:00 PM on December 23, 2009


Ok, just got back from the airport picking up the 'rents. I started the clock when we walked through the front door. 21 minutes, seriously.

"Have you ever heard about a CD drive not working after installing a windows update?"

The thing is, I don't have any real computer experience. I'm just a guy who uses them and is smart and empowered enough to figure out how to deal with things when they go wrong.

"Dad, I'd be happy to take a look at it when I get a chance," (fortunately, I am working most days this Christmas) "but the first thing I would do is type into that box that says 'Google': 'windows vista make and model of computer update cd rom not working'."

Then my mom starts immediately: "I love that MacBook you got me but why can't I get any of my sewing machine software to work on it?"

*smacks forehead*
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:21 PM on December 23, 2009


No one wants to go to Queens.

*glares*
posted by jonmc at 4:55 PM on December 23, 2009


I did (and still do) tech support for the family

When I got laid off in 2002, I kind of started a business doing upgrades, small office networks, etc.
I was pretty stupid about it. I charged $35 an hour. The local CompUSA was charging $100.
That fancy skin place (ladies facials and hair removal) got my name by word of mouth. When I told them it was $35 they balked... of course they were getting $60 per half hour for slapping mud on some woman's face. They grudgingly called me when they moved the business across the street and wanted me to take care of the network move. I sat there all afternoon waiting for their AT&T guy to hook up the DSL. They kept asking me to wait, so I did. When it came time to pay up, they complained that the work only took a few minutes.

Of course, this was the same place that called me because their backups "were not working."
When I got to the location, I talked to the receptionist that put in the service call. She said that the thumb drive she used did not make the same "bzzz, bzzz" noise that the floppy disk made, so it must be defective.
posted by Drasher at 5:03 PM on December 23, 2009


I don't even have to pretend I don't know anything about computers, despite working in IT (at least, I used to.) I just have to be my female self.

*builds an HTPC*
*bakes some cookies and eats them all herself*
posted by zinfandel at 5:07 PM on December 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


When it came time to pay up, they complained that the work only took a few minutes.

I get that now and again. I generally respond with a variation of, "You're not paying me because I turned a screw, you're paying me because I knew which screw to turn."
posted by Cyrano at 5:08 PM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not sure why people think Macs will insulate them from this

Mainly because most tech support calls from family members involve cleaning their Windows boxes of malware, spyware etc., infections which Macs are simply not prone to despite all protestations otherwise. Macs also have better hardware reliability, on the whole.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:10 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not sure why people think Macs will insulate them from this

What blazecock pileon said about malware, spyware etc. It's night and day when it comes to that stuff. Glaring difference.

If you wear a tee-shirt that says "Internet is neat" you deserve this type of treatment.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza


You'll have to forgive me if I find style advice from someone calling themselves BozoBurgerBonnanza a little iffy. And that shirt is awesome.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 5:24 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mac vs PC troll: GO!
posted by Burhanistan at 5:27 PM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Not sure why people think Macs will insulate them from this --- people who are clueless about computers are clueless about Macs too."

So true. I have a co-worker who reinstalls OSX every two-three months because of "problems". I once watched her install a printer driver, get distracted, then forget she hadn't finished the installation, then rant that there was a bug in 10.6 that broke her printing. She was ready to reinstall from a backup when I showed her the dialogue box waiting for the install button to be clicked.

Then there was the friend who offered me a six pack of an import beer if I would come out (45 minute drive) and fix her printer. I came in, took off my coat, and plugged the power cord back into the wall. Best beer I ever had.
posted by Mcable at 5:45 PM on December 23, 2009


Oh, and this
posted by Mcable at 5:54 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Me (a few years ago): "Yes, I'm an engineer at Texas Instruments. I'm currently working on miniaturizing ring laser gyros to the size of a pencil eraser."

Neighbor's uncle: "Texas Instruments, huh? Can you fix the on-off switch on my calculator?"

My family tech support policy is simple. I buy them the stuff I'm willing to support. If they want anything else ("The kid who bags my groceries told me to get a Dell."), they are on their own.

People outside my family can receive free tech support on two conditions:
1) If the problem is new and interesting, I'll take a look at it.
2) I decide what's new and interesting.
posted by joaquim at 6:21 PM on December 23, 2009


Also, this.
via xkcd


Silly as it may seem, that thing has been super useful! I sent it along as a joke to a few people who usually call me for help, and the number of requests from them have gone WAY down! I even gave it to my boss, who has taken the advice to heart and is now doing a bunch of troubleshooting for programs like iTunes on his own. It kicks ass!

My worst one of these ever was my uncle's neighbor calling me in the US from Sweden to do tech support on his wireless network, forgetting about the 6 hour time difference and waking me up at 4am... But hey, all it took was about 10 minutes of my time, and now I am the golden girl in that neighborhood. :)
posted by gemmy at 6:55 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about when people call up and then want to argue with you about everything you suggest? This is what my mom does. If I tell her to reboot, there'll be some insane reason she's afraid to. When I assuage her fears, she simply repeats her concern. So I assuage more forcefully and tell her to just follow my instructions. Then comes her condescencion and the clear communication that she never expects me to do anything correctly or ever know what I'm talking about. Meanwhile she's about as cogent as an alcoholic having a stroke.

FUCK!!
posted by autodidact at 7:12 PM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


"But my parents? Yea, they invested thousands of dollars into my life. Free tech support for life."

I don't mind family tech support, all my family have skills I can call on even if it's just a strong back from time to time. But ya, grudging a few hours a month giving free support to your parents seems like complaining about having to pay taxes. Even if you just figure in time spent changing diapers and the whole womb thing parents are owed months of tech support.
posted by Mitheral at 7:50 PM on December 23, 2009


I don't even have to pretend I don't know anything about computers, despite working in IT (at least, I used to.) I just have to be my female self.

For whatever reason, this comment made me realize that since my father passed, all requests I get come from women. I think perhaps it's a guy thing; guys don't want to admit they don't know and need help. I get the same reaction when it comes to car repairs; women ask me (and get fixed cars), men don't (and don't know how to fix it themselves either.)
posted by davejay at 7:55 PM on December 23, 2009


I don't mind doing IT work for my folks because they have the same sort of dislike of slow computers as I do. What kills me is when I would go to someone's computer and it spends upwards of 10 minutes loading an infinite number of tray apps and various doodads and here's an animated background and desktop stock apps and OH GOD PLEASE MAKE THE HURT STOP. Know when to say when, people! There's an upper limit that needs to be available on a moment's notice, honestly. If you really need that much data available at a moment's notice, please pony up for something more modern than 2001's latest and greatest.
posted by Kyol at 8:23 PM on December 23, 2009


Have you tried turning it off and on again?
posted by subbes at 8:43 PM on December 23, 2009


They kept asking me to wait, so I did. When it came time to pay up, they complained that the work only took a few minutes.

Yeah, this is what really gets me. If I were a plumber, electrician, efficiency expert, etc., typically no big arguments about the bill, but since I do something that the "kid down the street" can do (of course, not really), people want to nickel and dime you, and your relatives and friends feel even more justified asking you to work for free. I have to occasionally remind people that I charge for my time, because time spent sitting and waiting for something before I can start working costs me the opportunity to work with another customer. Time is money, though I have to make it sound nice.

What usually works in this situation is to go upscale with your customer base - this works best if you have enough experience to justify the price, though a lot of people have no idea how to identify experience. Charge a bit higher than the going rate, and the customers who want quality over cost will pick you first. Oddly enough, the more you charge (to a point) the better the clients get, about money anyway. And once you get to a certain point where you can do this, you will start making more money, and you can feel more justified in turning down free jobs. I do think in most cases it comes down to the tech's personal boundaries (or lack thereof), though it's difficult to draw a line in the sand with people you care about.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:14 PM on December 23, 2009


How about when people call up and then want to argue with you about everything you suggest?

WELCOME TO MY LIFE! ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE!

"OK, you don't agree with my suggestions. I'm trying to help you ... no, really. Please let me help you. OK, I guess you feel strongly about why things ended up this way. Nothing I'm telling you seems to be more worthy of consideration in your mind than your own diagnosis. So, why did you call me again?"

That conversation never happens. Usually I end up telling such a person that I can help them if they don't jump ahead of me, if they follow my instructions carefully. You have to talk to them like they're children, and you know right when you get them quiet and listening attentively. It's a change of posture on the part of the tech and the customer, and when you really assert your authority (without being petty about it), you can feel it. Then - but only then - the work can start. We're really counselors a lot of the time. I hate doing this, but when you get a typical A-type personality who loathes asking for help, this is always how it has to go.

OK, enough shop talk for me. I have to go back to the trenches tomorrow ...
posted by krinklyfig at 9:25 PM on December 23, 2009


Yeah man I feel this. Like I never ever tell anyone I'm really good at bleaching stains out of underpants anymore.
posted by Ouisch at 9:49 PM on December 23, 2009


I never do tech support for free anymore, on the grounds that I'm tired of getting blamed for every unrelated problem that occurs after my intervention. Free work does not come with a lifetime warranty.

"The internet was working fine until you fixed my printer!"
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 11:16 PM on December 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Not sure why people think Macs will insulate them from this
While, Macs do tend to have fewer hardware problems (unless your among the unlucky), and are less prone to viruses, adware, and the like, the actual reason having a Mac insulates those of us who are stuck doing tech support is very simple. When the other person owns a Mac, your fallback answer is always "Get a Genius Bar appointment."
posted by thebestsophist at 12:00 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I really hate is when I'm bugged about a trivial problem. "Oh, can you help me, I want to watch this internet video / play this internet game / do something else lame like make customized greeting cards which went out of style like ten years ago." And, assuming it isn't some trivial problem that can be fixed with a one-line answer, I'm usually left thinking "You know, even if I personally wanted to do that with my computer, I couldn't be bothered to seek a solution for this error. It looks hard and it totally isn't worth the effort." Of course, they're never willing to accept the answer 'You don't really need to do that and it isn't worth my effort, so if you really must, figure it out yourself.' It is to them the most important thing in the world at that point, and MUST BE FIXED. Even if you know it will take an hour of both of your time for something they'll use for like ten minutes.

Also bad are the people who are convinced you must help them attain their laughably insurmountable goals (like programming a good 3d game by themselves, with no prior experience or training, or designing and maintaining a large website with no training, no computer ability, and no budget.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:01 AM on December 24, 2009


If you think this is bad, try knowing something about US federal income taxes.

(Although I usually get a case of beer or a lunch out of it.)
posted by Jacqueline at 1:41 AM on December 24, 2009


Can I just say I fucking hate MS Outlook down to the very core of my soul?

Let me ask you this, computer experts: If I'm typing an e-mail and my signature's not there, what's the quickest way to get my signature into the message?

PS bah humbug. Can we get this over with already? For reals.
posted by autodidact at 3:30 AM on December 24, 2009


Oh, yeah, and the friend that I have been helping for years sometimes just does not get it.
I have been telling him for years: "it's 'D'-'I'-'R'-SPACE... always put a space after the 'DIR'!"

Of course, times have changed...
There is no DOS prompt showing now... OK, "It's 'P'-'I'-'N'-'G'-SPACE!"
posted by Drasher at 6:01 AM on December 24, 2009


I don't mind doing tech support for my parents or my grandparents. I won't do it for my sister because she's paranoid that I will see what's on her computer (porn stash, based on filenames -- it's impossible not to see them because they're in her start menu, and her home page is somethng I can't see either), so she passwords half the shit, then forgets them, creates a new login and expects me to recreate it, or one of a million things, but when I sit there and fix it, she insists on sitting behind me and telling me I'm not allowed to do certain things. So I now refuse to touch her computer at all.

My father is the most frustrating becauuse he refuses to do even basic searching for solutions before he asks me. It's easy enough to do a google search, but it's so irritating to read him directions. The worst is when he troubleshoots his friends' computers, gets stuck, then calls me for help. I do help him do this also, though sometimes I make his friends call me personally, and sometimes I let him claim the credit. The xkcd comic did not suggest to him ways to fix his own problems.
posted by jeather at 7:35 AM on December 24, 2009


Let me ask you this, computer experts: If I'm typing an e-mail and my signature's not there, what's the quickest way to get my signature into the message?

At work I keep my signature in a Word document, and copy and paste as necessary. You're welcome.
posted by jokeefe at 8:22 AM on December 24, 2009


Ok, Dad now has his lap top plugged in and charging in the bathroom. On the floor. Under the sink.

"Son, have you ever heard of a computer not booting up after water getting splashed all over it? Can you take a look at this when you get a chance?"
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:25 AM on December 24, 2009


"At work I keep my signature in a Word document, and copy and paste as necessary. You're welcome."

Word seems like a lot of overhead to access a sig block. How about notepad or TextPad instead?
posted by Mitheral at 11:42 AM on December 24, 2009


Let me ask you this, computer experts: If I'm typing an e-mail and my signature's not there, what's the quickest way to get my signature into the message?

Make sure you are using Outlook as your email editor, not Word. Create a signature in Outlook and call it something descriptive. Then in your email, hit "insert" and "signature", pick the one you want.
Alternatively, if you want to use Word as your email editor, create an auto text entry for your signature in Word, then assign a keyboard shortcut to it, and use the keyboard shortcut to insert your signature in the email.
posted by gemmy at 2:12 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not a personal attack on anybody involved, but, this thread in four lines:

[ post about how to avoid providing technical support ]

[ >100 comments about ways the commenters avoid it ]

[ request for technical support ]

[ technical support ]

I'm glad we're not all as hard-bitten as we like to claim.

By the way, I used to wonder how people "accidentally" turn on Caps Lock, and now I've discovered one method:

0. Use vim frequently
1. Remap Escape to Caps Lock
2. Go home for the holidays and use your parents' computer
posted by d. z. wang at 3:55 PM on December 24, 2009


Meh. One of the first things I do when I set up my PC: Find a CAPS LOCK disable script for the registry.
posted by Drasher at 5:13 PM on December 24, 2009


Word seems like a lot of overhead to access a sig block. How about notepad or TextPad instead?

Then how would I include my word art?
Sheesh. Trying to make me look like an email amateur...
posted by inigo2 at 9:29 AM on December 25, 2009


I always have Word open anyway, so it's no big deal to click over for the second it takes. But I make no claims to knowing anything beyond the basics and how to slap together a webpage using basic CSS, so there you go.
posted by jokeefe at 11:33 AM on December 25, 2009


I found a loophole a few years ago:

- Get everyone in the family to switch to Mac
- Continue using a PC
- If any problems arise, say you don't know anything about Macs

Worked wonders for me. I'm just terrified of the day I finally get that Macbook.
posted by kepano at 1:16 PM on December 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


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