Who Is Your Tech Support?

A few years ago, my friend Kevin gave me a bumper sticker, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Tech Support.” Yet that’s what home computing today is built on.

Try getting support from someone who sold you hardware or software and you’ll find you’re the last person they want to hear from. Have you ever tried to get in touch with Microsoft?

To much of my family and many of my friends, I am tech support. Don’t understand what’s wrong, call Geoff. That’s good and I enjoy it… though it seems a shame that the company’s responsible aren’t carrying their own weight in this regard.

Who do I go to? For Linux and OS related problems, it’s my friend Bob in Florida. For Windows and hardware related problems (and, thankfully, I seldom have software problems I can’t solve on my own), I go to my friend Kevin.

I saw Kevin tonight.

This afternoon, as I was attempting to print 25 sheets of something for Helaine, the Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX connected to Steffie’s computer (but which I print to through our home network) decided to ingest about 25 sheets at once. As the paper jammed into a space much smaller than it could be compressed, the printer started to whine. Gears meshed. It wouldn’t stop. I swear the printer was crying.

I unplugged the it and removed the paper without much problem. But, when I turned the printer back on, I got a paper jam error message. Uh oh. I absolutely knew there was no paper there because the sheets that had been caught had come out whole, though somewhat creased.

After scouting around the net, I realized it was probably the paper jam sensor, not a jam itself. Three choices, new printer, printer service (at most of the cost of a new printer) or do it myself. I didn’t have much choice but the latter.

Being technically inept when it comes to mechanics, I called Kevin on the phone and asked real nice. There was never a question, because Kevin’s the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back and because he really enjoys the challenge of fixing something that’s not really built to be fixed.

I am so upset I didn’t bring the camera, because this printer is a mechanical work of art. As you peel away the layers of a mechanical system, you can quickly see how much thought went into doing it right. The cable runs were neatly held in place by guides. Most terminated in nicely keyed plugs. A few didn’t have plugs but seemed to end with exposed connectors and were stiff enough to insert cleanly in sockets.

The cover came off fairly easily. That didn’t get us to the problem. Next, a rear assembly which drives the paper as it is pushed into the path. Kevin saw this mechanical marvel intuitively and was immediately able to know how it worked and why everything was where it was. There were a few times when I pointed the way, but mostly it was Kevin.

The ability to see how something works is a gift. I think I have it as far as software is concerned. I can look at a program or even look at its code and understand what the programmer was trying to do. Kevin can do that too, and take it one step further by understanding hardware.

The problem was a tiny lever which was supposed to be held taught with a smaller spring. The lever blocked a light sensor from seeing an LED. That’s how it knew if the path was blocked by a paper jam. But, the spring, held by tension alone, had disconnected from the lever.

It required removing three separate assemblies and then, putting them back together. On the first try a cam wasn’t set right. The printer powered up to the sound of plastic gears gnashing. Kevin and I looked at each other. This could be the end of the repair.

We quickly figured out what the cam was supposed to do and where it should be on power up. Bingo! The printer fired up quietly and the indicator for a printer jam stayed dark.

Because we didn’t have the drivers for the printer, that’s as far as testing has gone until right now.

I’m going to plug it into the computer.

The computer has recognized it and is loading the drivers. Success. Now, to print.

Wow. No smoke and a perfectly executed print job.

Kevin would be a great friend even if he couldn’t fix anything. But, he can.