My friend Farrell grew up in New Orleans. His mom, a widow, still lives there. Over the past few years she has begun to enjoy using a computer, and to celebrate that, Farrell got her a very nice Compaq laptop.
Of course, as is the case with so many computer users, when things began to spiral out-of-control and she had nowhere to turn. Being in Connecticut, I couldn’t drive over to help.
I had spoken to her over the phone, but it was difficult. She didn’t know where everything was and had a lack of confidence in her own ability to follow my instructions. There had to be a better way.
This afternoon I called her on the phone. Using Microsoft’s Remote Assistance, which is built in to XP, I was able to control her computer from my computer. It was my keyboard which sent the commands to her machine and my mouse which moved the cursor.
The experience wasn’t without problems. We disconnected twice, taking her back to a login screen. But, by and large it worked just fine.
I was able to install the Google toolbar, remove some icons from her desktop, resize her screen to the proper 1024×768 (from the 800×600 it had been set at), add a quick launch toolbar and desktop links to some newspapers she reads.
There is no possible way this could have been done without Remote Assistance. Because of its direct connect nature, it would not have worked had she been behind a firewall or router, as I am. One router is fine. Two is one too many!
There is another benefit as well. As I moved and manipulated things, I could show her what she would have to do when I was gone. Very valuable.
Microsoft hit a home run with this feature, though it’s probably underused.