My Tech Support Question

It was all scary to Stef because it’s written in an obtuse way with lots of questions and comments that relate to arcane computing concepts

Stef called me at work this evening. For those of you not fathers, I’ll clue you in. It meant she wanted something. That’s fine. That’s what dad’s do.

Her iPod was throwing strange error messages via both iTunes and Windows Vista itself. The gods were not happy. She didn’t know what to do?

We arranged for it to be waiting for me accompanied by a piece of paper with her user name and password for iTunes–should I need it.

It was all scary to Stef because the messages were written in an obtuse way with lots of questions and comments that relate to arcane computing concepts. This is my wheelhouse, but for most people it might as well be written in Farsi.

Because Stef’s tunes are also on her laptop I wasn’t worried and the full restore is underway now. Why it crashed and burned is unimportant. It just needs to be fixed.

I do this stuff for a lot of my friends and family.

What I want to know is, what do people do who don’t have a Geoff do? I don’t know what Stef or a myriad of others I’ve helped would have done on their own?

Do people throw out devices like this because they’re physically fine but no longer operational?

Please let me know.

7 thoughts on “My Tech Support Question”

  1. It’s funny, for me there’s usually a bit of structured hierarchy to this sort of thing-

    1) Is the problem listed in the device’s owners manual? (Probably not)

    2) Can an hour or so on Google figure out the problem and retrieve a potential solution?

    3) Can the device’s tech support people solve the problem? (Hardly ever, it seems)

    4) Is it worth attempting a repair vs. a new device? If so, at this point, I may bring it to say, PCW computers in Orange

    5) Can I use this occasion as a reason to get a shiny new model of this device?

    Usually, I stop at #2, because generally that solves the issue. However, when it escalates beyond that, I start trying to tell myself that a fancy new *whatever* wouldn’t be so bad, and I all too often find myself at #5, even when I probably don’t need to.

  2. There is a ‘Geoff’ in every family and circle of friends.

    I dont think Ive ever encountered a problem that a forum somewhere on the internet did not have insight into. This always makes me wonder if I should be contributing more to these sites but I never do.

    What I want to know is what people did before the WWW days. My dad used to troubleshoot computers all the time as an IT guy at a University. He did contribute and research Usenet forums.

    Gary, i cant remember the last time I peeked at a manufacturer’s manual.

  3. I often think to myself, “What would a normal person do?” when I troubleshoot a tech related problem for either myself or others. Most things are easy; either I know how to fix it or there’s always Google or Experts-Exchange. The really hard things take some time but eventually get resolved. I agree that there is a tech guy, guru, etc in every circle of friends and family. But if you don’t have access to someone like that are you destined to be stuck in tech support hell from India?

  4. I am that guy with my family as well. I recently had a similar issue but mine was with 2 ipod’s that were physically broken (one had a cracked LCD, the other a bad hard drive) I was able to Frankenstein the two together to make a working ipod =) fyi it is very easy to do.

    but as for what people do without the “Computer Person” xkcd summed it up pretty well.

  5. The answer is ‘suffer’. But those who are interested in iPods/smartphones/personal computers typically get better with time because the are actually naturally interested (and that’s a great thing!). It just takes some time, encouragement to figure it out, and maintained interest.

    People who can’t pick up technical skills just don’t want to and typically throw their hands up early on, shunning the wonders of an iPod, for example. They can handle cell phones and the TV remote and they stay about there.

    I used to have a few last straggling relatives who absolutely rejected email and web usage. They’ve finally all embraced these small things in the last few years and it’s changed their lives! Except for my 91 year old Gram, she was not happy about the DTV converter box…

    Being the ‘Geoff’ is not an easy lot- it finally resulted in me re-formating/reinstalling the operating system of every non-technical relative I have.

    The best practice is to encourage them to keep it simple and be skeptical (of downloading anything, clicking links in emails, SPAM, etc). Sooner or later, they’re just turning on their computer, looking at web pages, offloading photos, and attaching them to emails.

  6. I had a five year old laptop conk out on me a few years ago. Instead of bothering anyone (or paying anyone)- I donated it to a charity that took broken laptops as donations, repaired them, and gave them to high school students in need. I think the charity had aspirations to train students to fix them- not a bad idea- take some training, get a laptop. Then, you create an army of Geoffs with a marketable skill. (Plus, I took a $100 deduction.) Unfortunately, the organization folded.

  7. I went over to the Macintosh side of the Force a couple months ago. Now I am my 76-year-old mother’s resident Mac expert. Oy to the vey.

    That xkcd cartoon referenced above was my life on Monday. Until I was able to convince Mom to take advantage of her AppleCare (before it expires on Friday :}), I was on the phone all afternoon Googling like crazy. Sigh.

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