Are you the family “computer person”? The one summoned when a parent’s/uncle’s/aunt’s/elder relatives’ PC has problems or “set up”? I found myself in this role without realising it. Fact is you don’t have much choice.
My parents’ generation has adapted surprising well to personal computers-for people who lived in the low tech third world for most of their lives. During the whole time they have endured the endless hassle inflicted upon them by Microsoft. Despite this they have become reasonably comfortable in the world of email, word-processing, powerpoint, and digital cameras. But when it comes to arcane world of installing hardware, dealing with “complicated” stuff like malfunctioning windows, they feel understandably lost. Who wouldn’t be?
An offspring unit like Cerno is the natural solution for the problem. It began when I was living abroad with long futile (expensive) attempts at telephone tech support. In Sri Lanka this moved into setting up Skype for elderly parents to talk with their exiled children and grand children. This remains the most frequent type “service call” I make.
A lot of the computers I encounter are museum pieces, creaking under the weight of a worn out Window installations. Antivirus and firewalls are outdated or non existent.
All these things make a simple 10 minute software/hardware install drag on into the afternoon. A few times it means a bit of major surgery since it is pointless installing anything on an unstable computer. Usually involving removing spyware, cleaning the registry, and ripping out dead applications.
The worst culprits are shady computer shops that sell cheap underpowered PCs running cracked copies windows. A widowed elderly aunt thinks that the “this is not a genuine licence of Windows” warning is just another indecipherable box the computer throws up. She can just manage to access her yahoo email after painfully entering a password written in an out dated diary. Against all my instincts I set her up with an auto login while increasing the default font size.
A more esoteric type of service call involves doing “fancier” Powerpoint presentations for parents when they have to give some sort of talk or lecture. When academic parent tends to write books as a single rickety Microsoft Word file with billions of ad-hoc styles. Naturally yours truly volunteers to clean the mess. I eventually created a master document based system with a style template that worked better. Then I hear about the mess created by somebody else’s blotched MS Office upgrade. Then its back to square one.
At this point it would be easy to launch into a Microsoft bashing tirade. But that’s draining, unproductive and ultimately benefits no one. I don’t try to make a run from my “tech support” commitments for family members. The calls are thankfully not too frequent. Admittedly I enjoy it though I’m not sure why. It is certainly not the part spent crawling under dusty tables to check to check cables on a weekend afternoon. There is a definite a nerd factor. My weakness for home made ice coffee certainly plays a part. I do confess to mysterious sense of satisfaction in helping people out. Something I don’t admit vocally or elaborate further in writing (I’m not that good with words to describe it accurately).