No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer!

No, I will not fix your computer!

This NYT article does a decent job of describing my, and every other technophile's, frustration with technophobes..

I really like an analogy that I read over at Slashdot, in response to the article. People need to start thinking of their computers as less of an appliance, and more of a machine like a car. Automobiles require routine maintenance, and every driver needs to know a little bit about the basic operation of the car. If you're not a mechanic, and you run into a problem you can't fix, you go pay someone to help you out.

It's not that I mind helping out friends and family once in a while. It's just that when people find out you're a "computer person" your circle of friends asking for advice suddenly becomes a lot bigger. It's especially frustrating when people don't follow basic mantras, like never open unknown email attachments. Another common one is not updating virus definitions. Then there's people who ignore advice to try Mozilla, and still complain about pop-ups. This is why I started charging all but my family for work. I usually don't accept cash, but I'll do in return for them cooking me dinner, or for a batch of cookies. Just something so that I don't feel like I'm completely wasting my 2 hours.

In an effort to further reduce my role as tech-support guy, here's a basic toolkit and checklist that every computer user should use_

  • Antivirus software that is UPDATED. Just set them up to get updates automatically and forget about it - how hard is that??. I recommend AVG Antivirus for anyone who doesn't have a current version. It's free and reliable.
  • If you're using a legal version of Windows, go get the Windows Updates. As of XP, you can even set it up to retrieve and install them automatically. How hard is that?
  • Since we all know that most people don't read the licensing agreements on software you download, check out Ad-Aware and Spybot. Both let you run an antivirus-type search of your computer and remove malicious or privacy-invading products. If you're experiencing a large number of strange pop-up ads, odds are, you've got some adware problems. They also need to be updated like your AV program before running.
  • Mozilla Firebird. It's more reliable than IE, isn't full of security holes, and has built in pop-up blocking. Netscape is dead and IE is crappy. Make the switch and you'll never go back. Here's the installer.
  • Two email addresses. Until spam filters and email authentication systems catch up, you should keep at least two addresses. Use one for registration on sites, guestbooks, and any other activity that will result in your address being potentially harvestable for spam. Use the other for friends, family, and business. Viola! Your spam has been contained. Using an email program like Mozilla Thunderbird (never Outlook!) makes managing multiple accounts easy, too.

The beauty of all of these things is that, for the most part, you set them up once, and forget about them. Occasionally a newer version of Mozilla products are released, but all the others do auto-updates.

And if after all that, you still have problems, steak is fine. grin


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