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Family Tech Support

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the blood-is-thicker-than-water-cooling dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 860

Donald Scott sends in this short yet resonant tale about doing tech support... for your family.A couple weeks ago I got a package from my mother in Florida. It arrived by express mail, insured for four hundred dollars. In it was a surge suppressor. One of those big rectangular jobs that your monitor sits on and your computer sits under. I recognized it as the same one that, in the mid 90s, I personally placed under the monitor and over the computer that I bought for my mother.

This computer, from "Zeos", I think, had a catchy name which I've forgotten, and was marketed as an all-in-one, "zippetty-doo-da" fast, productivity-increasing, feature-packed system, from a company who'll be there tomorrow. It was, like most computers you'd buy for your mom, immediately obsolete, but great for email. It was also great for playing computerized bridge and pinochle which is as far as my mother wants to go in computer gaming. For a couple years this Pentium 75 zippety-doo-dahed along quite happily, raising my mother's productivity considerably before trying to retire early, by pretending its motherboard was fried. Unable to convince it otherwise, I buried the "fried" motherboard unceremoniously at the curb and replaced it with one scavenged from a derelict PC carcass which was camped in my office.

This "new" PC was even faster than the previous, which made it about as current as writing email on parchment with an ostrich feather dipped in India Ink, but bought me another year of not buying a new system. That was a little over a year ago. A few months ago, that computer died too. So, a new computer was ordered, with a place to plug a complete modern life right into the back. USB ports, Serial ports, Modem Ports, Mouse ports, Ethernet, Fishnet, Parallel ports, Perpendicular ports, car ports, Video out, Video back in, and PDA handheld-infrared-ultraviolet-see-in-the-dark-intradimensional wireless toaster ports, pipe anything and everything into a tiny beige box. This box is great for email, and for playing computer bridge and pinochle.

For a month, my mother became really productive (mom's productivity is measured in forwarded joke emails), and then, abruptly, stopped being productive at all. Concerned about the uncharacteristically empty "Mother" folder in Outlook Express (a subfolder of "Deleted Items"), I sent several emails which went unanswered. It occurred to me that she might have been sucked into some port on the back of the computer and was deadlocked in a virtual game of computerized cribbage with either Keanu Reeves or a rogue supercomputer from IBM, but I didn't follow up on this. The next time I heard from her was on my answering machine - "You can cancel my internet access, I've packed up the computer and put it in the closet. Bye."

My mother's messages often sound like epitaphs, but this sounded particularly dire. I knew that either Keanu had beaten her in cribbage or her computer had died. Despite being totally generic, the new computer was still new and still under warranty, a warranty that the computer gnomes in her closet were unlikely to honor, but which my local computer supplier probably would. I took drastic measures and called her. A frustrated woman answered, close to tears "Well, it stopped getting email two months ago and then one day I turned it on and no picture showed up and I didn't want to bother you because 'You're so busy' and I know it's my fault and..."

She was not particularly helpful in troubleshooting the problem. Furthermore, the computer's condition of being unplugged in a dark closet made successful diagnostics so grim a prospect that I patiently explained the whole "gnome-warranty" thing to her and asked that she send it back to me. Swayed by my logic, she agreed, and several days later a package arrived from her.

Understandably excited by the prospect of fixing a computer I bought because it wouldn't need much fixing, I tore open the package to reveal one unremarkable, heavily over-insured surge suppressor. Remember the surge suppressor? Confusion descended. I felt as though I'd ordered a latte and been handed a stapler. Was it the words I'd used? Did the gnome story scare her? Did I say "Please just send me any object and I'll use it to fix your computer from a thousand miles away." Again, I took emergency measures and called her. I pretended that I hadn't opened the box in case it was an early Christmas present. "Please tell me this is an early Christmas present" I said. "No, it's that damned computer" was the reply that I both feared and got. Because this surge suppressor is about as mistakable for a computer as an old leather boot, I had two painful options; one of making my mother feel like a total boob, and the other of configuring an email client on a mid 90s surge suppressor. Boob it would be. I said, as delicately as possible "Mother, this isn't a computer, it's an old boot!"

On my desk now sits the multi-port roadster of a computer that arrived today from Florida. Sure enough, there's the bridge and pinochle CD still in the drive and, sure enough, it doesn't work. I suspect that the huge dent in the case, indicating some sort of collision, trauma, impact, stampede or other violence might have something to do with that. Maybe the tech gnomes took a whack at it. Whatever. She's my mother. I love her. I'll just fix it.

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Hi, michael! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529874)

Have you behaved like an ignorant, FUD-spreading ass yet, today? If not, please mod me down post haste!

Your buddy,

Lack of Equipent (5, Insightful)

KosovoYankee (310988) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529882)

The trouble with doing tech support for your family, especially if they live in another city, is that I never have the right equipment or software with me to solve what would be a pretty simple issue if only I had a second pc with access to the internet....

WAR SUCKS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530006)


I refuse to discuss topics normally while there is war!

Re:WAR SUCKS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530055)

If you want to stop the War Fast File System, simply type:

Kill War

and hit the enter key.

Re:Lack of Equipent (2, Insightful)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530014)

I have started to assemble a "toolkit" with all my critical fixit software. I also am trying to get an equivalent hardward toolkit with a variety of cables, a spare HD, etc. I figure the family isn't going to go away, do I might as well do my duty.

Re:Lack of Equipent (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530048)

I think it's the new open source businessmodel!

1) Write free stuff.
2) ?
3) Sell tech support to your family.
4) Profit!

Re:Lack of Equipent (2, Interesting)

egreB (183751) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530075)

And furthermore, it seems that family always thinks that any computer related problem can be solved over the phone in a matter of minutes. "Hey, just call $YourName! He'll know what to do."

Granted, some problems can be solved per voice ("click the Start-button in the leftmost corner of your screen, choose Find, and Files and Folders. Type the name of the file you're looking for"), but the vast majority of the problems requires you to actually sit down at the computer.

(And, since this is Slashdot, the obligatory pro.-Linux/Mac disclaimer):
The (albeit few) family members (and others) that has a Linux distribution haven't got nearly as much troubles as the ones using That-Other system. People using Macs hardly ever has problems. Hm..

5th post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529887)

woot! Good to see that slashdork still sucks!

Re:5th post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529929)

What! Troll!?! That was totally on topic! You've just proved my point, Dude.

Mother fixation (5, Funny)

Sgs-Cruz (526085) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529894)

Did anyone else imagine this email read out loud in the Principal Skinner voice?

Seymour!! I want to send "e-mail"...!!

Re:Mother fixation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529919)

"Seymore, are you looking at naked ladies?"
"Nooo mother"
"You sissy!"

Re:Mother fixation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529975)

Woa! Too freaky! Seymour was resonating arround my head too!

Re:Mother fixation (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530098)

I think it's the new open source businessmodel!

1) Write free stuff.
2) ?
3) Sell tech support to your family.
4) Profit! ...

Hmm (4, Funny)

rickms (535706) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529910)

You have gnomes in your closet too? And here I thought it was just me.

(Before you mod offtopic, ask yoruself this question: Is there a topic here?)

Wait, I need closure on that anecdote! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529914)

What was the problem?

i hate doing tech support for family (2, Funny)

burninginside (631942) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529915)

nothing like being called at 3 in the morning cause granny can't connect to the internet to check her email....

Particularly slow day (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529921)

This is not news, it's not for nerds, it doens't matter. It's stuff, though, so it's 25% appropriate for /.

You beat me to it (5, Funny)

intermodal (534361) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529996)

Not only that but I suspect that more than 80% of those on this site also have stories that top this one by a fair margin. Welcome to Slashdot. Blogs from nerds, stuff that doesnt matter.

My tech story. (4, Funny)

RainbowSix (105550) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529924)

I was at a LAN party once, and my mom called me via telephone to tell me that she couldn't get the modem to disconnect from the Internet and that it was blocking the phone line. She told me over the phone that she needed the line to make a phone call.

I was speechless

Re:My tech story. (4, Funny)

mrpuffypants (444598) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530007)

pffft...that's nothing

At an ISP I used to work at we once got an email that said "I can't send email."

RE: Fixed!!!!!

What the fuck is this shit? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529928)

Seriously, guys? Don't post shit that a monkey could've squirted from its pink fleshy arsehole. Let's have some real NEWS for a change!

Tech support for your family?? (5, Insightful)

Chazmyrr (145612) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529931)

Short answer: Don't do it.

Long Answer: Don't do it. It isn't worth the aggravation. When something goes wrong, it's automatically your fault. It doesn't matter they dropped the box while they were moving and unseated the boards. It's still your fault. It doesn't matter that they tested the huge electro- magnet for the science fair project right next to the hard drive. They still expect you to fix it over the phone.

If they can't put it together themselves after you tell them what parts to get and install an OS on their own, just let them buy the Dell and deal with their tech support department.

Re:Tech support for your family?? (5, Insightful)

true_majik (588374) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530018)

Chazmyrr says: Long Answer: Don't do it. It isn't worth the aggravation. When something goes wrong, it's automatically your fault. It doesn't matter they dropped the box while they were moving and unseated the boards. It's still your fault. It doesn't matter that they tested the huge electro- magnet for the science fair project right next to the hard drive. They still expect you to fix it over the phone.

This is one reason I stay away from building custom PC's for relatives. If the PC breaks down, they expect me to fix it ASAP. It doesn't matter that they download and execute every file e-mailed to them, or that they click on YES for every Active-X control in websites, or as Bull999999 already mentioned (a.k.a. AOL, Real Player, Bonzi Buddy, Hot Bar, etc)...No, it's my fault. :(

Re:Tech support for your family?? (1)

spickus (513249) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530029)

Amen! If you build or repair (no matter how minor) a computer for family or friends, their computer becomes your "child" that YOU are responsible for all repairs/upkeep for the next eighteen years.

Re:Tech support for your family?? (5, Insightful)

Ballsy (104411) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530043)

...and then, if even for only a moment, remind yourself that they provided for you for at least the first dozen or so years of your life, and that this is really a small favour for them to ask in the grand scheme of things.

Re:Tech support for your family?? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530070)

Posted anonymously, just in case.

So I'm doing some work for my wife's aunt. Understand, this aunt teaches business in a high school so uses computers on a daily basis. I think she may even teach the kiddies how to use Office products. Don't know for sure.

Anywho, I stop a bunch of crap from loading, this speeding up her start time and making her computer run faster. This was the only thing "wrong" with it. They were your typical things, realplayer start center, aim, yahoo chat, aol quick start, none of which she actually used. I showed her how to click on an icon on her desktop if she wanted to start a program. Then there were a whole bunch of shortcuts on her desktop to programs she had installed. She thought it was too messy, so I made 1 folder and put the shortcuts in there.

Now whenever any thing goes wrong, it must be because of something I did.

At the last family reunion, it was all I could do to keep from replyng back, "And you actually teach people how to use a computer? My god, I pity them." We ended up driving around for 10 minutes to avoid her. Luckily my mother-in-law took my side in all of this since her sister is always trying to get free help and advice from other people.

The only other work I've done for them is put a hard drive in my in-laws computer. That went ok, but man, don't have engineers try to help you do something. They like to poke at everything. And before you ask why an engineer didn't fix it himself, I'll tell you. Nuc E.'s don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about how to jumper a slave/master setup. They worry about where the atoms are.

Re:Tech support for your family?? (1)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530085)

I do tech support for my family :]

They're actually much better than others I've had to do tech support, but then again both of my parents are technically inclined (programmer and CAD drafting), and are smart enough to know how computers work, and smart enough to know what they can't do.

don't confuse cause and effect (5, Funny)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529932)

The dent in the case might be an effect of its breakdown, rather than the cause.
John Sauter (J_Sauter@Empire.Net)

DENT? (2, Funny)

nlinecomputers (602059) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529936)

It sounds like if you can pry that info(the cause of the dent) out of her that will be a good laugh as well.

I have clients almost as bad.

At least... (4, Insightful)

Bull999999 (652264) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529942)

At least she admitted that it was her fault... Most people mess with the settings or download crapware (a.k.a. AOL, Real Player, Bonzi Buddy, Hot Bar, etc) and blame all their problems on the computer.

Thanks for the laugh (1)

dooguls (110485) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529948)

You've granted me the funniest thing I've seen all week. Granted today's been pretty crummy so far...

My family tech support problem... (2, Insightful)

aslagle (441969) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529949)

was with my father, who had a hard time following directions. For example: "Okay, dad. Type 'dir', then hit the enter key." I'd hear 'click...click...click...CLICK........ click click click click click click click click click....' "Uh...dad....what are you doing?" He would never do things one step at a time...he kept on wanting to do things without giving me the information to troubleshoot things properly.

Stuff that matters... really?? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529952)

"A couple weeks ago I got a package from my mother in Florida."

myself I got a package from my grandma from Arizona today!

Favorites (5, Funny)

dmorin (25609) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529953)

"Ok, what I do is when I sit at the computer, I start by clicking on the Microsoft."

"It just stopped working. I didn't change anything, I swear."

"The computer wasn't working, so I pushed the button."
-my wife

"I turned the computer off, unplugged all my devices, turned it back on, uninstalled everything, then reinstalled everything. Now it works. Huh. I guess I'll just have to do that every time."
-Dad again

"Why do you keep putting that : and ) at the end of your messages? It looks stupid."

Re:Favorites (1)

Jaguar777 (189036) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530082)

-Mother speaking to Father and I
"Why do you need to spend all that money on a 4-8-6? You already have a computer."

Yeah, a C-64 :)

Ok... where's the rest of the tale? (1)

delorean (245987) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529954)

I know that can't be it. Tell me how it ended? did she stick her pills in the USB port? Her coffee mug in the cd tray?

Come one... when it's all over you'll find that it was that surge suppressor and she was right to send you that in the first place. It's one of the those evil suppressors that doesn't kill spikes, it amplifies them and it was taking down all those other computers. You notice how it has been steadily improving? It's haughty mistake, though, was taking this 'puter out while under warranty. Doh!

I find myself being too honest (2, Funny)

Stubtify (610318) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529957)

When I do tech support for family and close friends I find myself being too honest. "Well you can go wireless, but it isn't *as* secure as wired" is what I tell them, "Wireless is secure" is what an outside tech would say. "There's a possibility this might not work," me. "This will work," them. So I feel like a schmuck when they always tell me 'the nice man from the cable company didn't say it might not work.' Even worse I have to explain why the "nice man" was pulling their chain to get out of the house as fast as possible so I could clean up the mess he made.

Plus it doesn't help that everyone has their own style of computing. Nothing bugs me more than seeing people use XP with the blue color theme and the taskbar on the left side of the monitor stretched out about 20% of the way across the screen so they can "read the names of the programs easier." Of course if you change that even to just feel comfortable while you work you've ruined the machine forever. Or I love questions that aren't questions, "my desktop is cluttered and I can feel it slowing down, look at all the icons."

But they are family, and they're there for you when no one else is so I guess I can't complain.

Not quite family but... (5, Funny)

xXunderdogXx (315464) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529958)

The night before I left on a plane to another province my girlfriend reminded me that I promised to install her CD-Burner that she got for Christmas. Now, realizing that when I'm away from home it will be much much more difficult to guide her through the process than it would be to stay up at 3 am and install her burner.

After successfully installing the burner and saying our goodbyes, I took off for a 4 month stint in a new province.

Well she got what she wanted and dumped me over the phone! I guess the reverse is true for dumping- it's easier to dump long distance than to deliver tech support.

Lesson: Never solve your girlfriends computer problems completely or she'll devalue your relationship.

Family Tree Tech support: Wood for the fire.... (5, Funny)

L0stb0Y (108220) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529959)

Ok, this has *long* been a pain for me: Family Tech Support...

Because you *can't* just tell them to go pound sand, or just tell them that they are stupid....

And you want so badly for them to understand...but walking them through things on the phone- no more, stop, please....

Ok, but the WORST part about family tech support is when they start telling their friends, neighbors, etc, that they have a son (or daughter) that can help them too...suddenly its like when you have a truck: you help everyone move- A tech family member: you fix every damn computer in their circle of friends. Hell, it's getting so bad with my family that I think before too long Kevin Bacon is going to call me and ask me to fix his computer....

Kill me now...

Fix it now, young man! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529960)

And stop wasting time posting on slashdot!

-- Your Mom

Mothers love to blame too!!! (-1)

notbob (73229) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529962)

My mom used to blame me for every little problem with the computer, and cuss and scream at me for doing something to it.

I used to bother caring...

Now I say call DELL make their lives suck, at least they get paid for it.

"Dude you've got a DELL!! Now your mom can fuck off so you can sleep"

Slow News Day? (1, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529963)

Come on. We've all lived this story, so why post it?
Do you want to hear how I taught my mom how to use email?

Front page slashdot material? Pshah!

Re:Slow News Day? (1)

Twirlip of the Mists (615030) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530060)

Slow news day? Hardly. Get thee over to the news site of your choice, flip on the tee vee, or check my journal. Big things are happening in the world, and Slashdot's main page is evidently not the place to learn about or discuss them.

Re:Slow News Day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530101)

Guess whose mum doesn't love him. :P

tech support for mom (1)

Gorbie (101704) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529965)

usually involves resetting her desktop to the current grandchild picture... ...which isn't in the right file format... ...which can't be changed on her machine because she doesn't have the app... ...which is on the local server, but can't be installed because first the keyserver software needs to go in... ...so the picture gets e-mailed to me so I can convert it...

and there goes 30-45 minutes because last week's picture wasn't good enough. oi.

Re:tech support for mom (1)

Martok7 (634005) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530077)

Geez, was I the only geek who couldn't wait to find out what happened to her computer? I kept wondering what the problem was and the damn story never paid up.

You know that website (1)

yatest5 (455123) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529966)

that sums up books for you so you don't need to bother reading the full story? I've done the same here, only I've managed to achieve 100% lossless compression.

"My mum meant to send me a computer, but she sent my something else."


Made My Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529967)

Thank you! Now I don't feel so alone...

Slow day for news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529968)

If this is the primary feature today, it's a pretty sad statement.

Me too (1)

doghouse41 (140537) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529970)

I do "in house" tech support for my wife. One of today's gems (bless her)

"How do I get a single quote?"
I point (patiently?) at the "/' key.
"I thought that was a comma!"
"What's this key?" (pointing #$*patiently$W%$# at the /, key.

Linux (1)

AlgUSF (238240) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529971)

All of my immediate family, folks, brother, etc. are running Linux, so I am basically their only tech support. Thank god for ssh, and VNC. :-) I've only had to remote login once though, most of the questions have been over the phone.

Son... (1)

Mainframer (530235) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529972)

Father: I received another one of those emails this morning that included an attachment that I tried to open again. As soon as I did, my computer screen went black with a yellow frame. I have tried to shut it down and restarting it but the black/yellow screen remains.....

Son: Sigh...

Another elitist treastie. (-1)

Real World Stuff (561780) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529974)

Rather than talking to her in his elitist geek speak, he should have been concise and precise in what he wanted from her. Fucking schmuck. Hey, here's an exercise for you. I'll keep it simple.

Get me a rock. Wrong rock, try again. Repeat xTimes. Ok, get me a palm sized grey rock. Clarity in your requirements will result in more effective communication.

Once again, mikey posting SHIT on a slow news day. What a fucking fag.

Thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529978)

Magic, this made my day. I can rest safe knowing its not just my family.

The inherent dangers of the job (3, Funny)

Ogrez (546269) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529979)

In my own personal experience, being a computer professional is like being a car mechanic... Your family and friends, and even people you dont know expect you to fix their computer problems all the time. Not a week goes by that I dont have 10 people at work telling me about their computer problems, another 5 at home (neighbors, ect) and family is the worst... At a certain point I became like the computer guy on SNL... Its parody, but true, most of the time the problem can only be fixed by saying "MOVE"...

Elusive power button (1)

kefoo (254567) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529980)

I regularly get calls from my mom asking me how to fix things the tech support gurus at the hospital she works at can't fix.

One time she called me asking where the power button was on the new notebook computer they had just bought. It stayed on for two weeks until I was in the area and stopped by. I entered her office to find the entire department standing around the computer looking for the power button. The truly confusing thing is, how did they turn it on without knowing where the button was?

ooh! while you're here... (2, Interesting)

HugoQuixote (32615) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529983)

Anyone who works in technical support will know, and most certainly dread this phrase and other similar sentences...

I know I get it all the time - friends, girlfriend, ex-girlfriends, parents, ex-girlfriend's parents, people who live down the road, colleague's friends and family even. Once someone knows that you work in a helpdesk or tech support environment - that's it, bub.

Doomed to be that guy who can "Have a look" and sort it out.

Sounds like my folks (5, Funny)

gwizah (236406) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529985)

My Dad, Greatest guy in the world he is, Somehow lost sound in his HP PC I got him 3 years ago.

I failed to notice until a few weeks ago while I was visiting. I saw that for some strange reason there was what appeared to be a tiny white cord dangling from beneath the front cover of the machine. I looked closely at it and realized it was a earbud. Not just any earbud. It was one of those tiny little white ones that still come with cheap AM/FM radios. You know? The one's you use when you listen to the radio in your bed and don't want to wake your wife. SO here sat this tiny little white earbud (actually yellowed since it was probably around the house since the 70's) sitting on his desk. I asked him why he needed it? (Perhaps silent viewing of video files or music?)

No, he didnt have sound. "The sound thingamajig is busted" he said. I take a look at the rear of the PC and notice the speaker wire is missing. SO I scrounge beehind the desk and plug it back in. The speakers are now functional again. I ask him when the sound stopped working and he says, "Oh about a year ago" but I didn't want to bother you.

Something funny about an Old man using a circa 1998 PC with Circa 1960's technology. :/

Drives me nuts.. (1)

Chicane-UK (455253) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529986)

I have to do the 'family tech support' for relatives in a neighbouring town.

I appreciate that its for family, but its a real ballache - especially when you have to take days off from your real job, spend money on fuel and drive over to them only for them to expect it as a freebie because you are family.

I think from now on, if I ever get asked if I can build a 'cheap PC' for family, i'll just point them at the Dell website or somethin :)

RTFM vs. CMFS (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529987)

The most hilarious story I have is when my dad called my about eight years ago at work. He was using Quicken and wanted to know how to make a "new Quicken for your aunt." I had never used it at the time, so I said, "Okay, look under the 'file' menu. Is there something there that looks like 'New' or 'Create new?'"
Yes, there was, and my dad selected it, and made a new account for dear Aunt Nan. Then I told him, "Dad, what we have here is your basic RTFM problem."
"RTFM? What's that?"
"That's 'Read The Fuckin' Manual', dad." (my dad is tough, he can take it)
My dad paused and said, "Well, I just decided to CMFS."
Which baffled me. "What's that?"
"Call My Fuckin' Son"


hehe (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5529988)

oh man, that was too funny.

Reminds me of the story of a mother who printed off and then snail-mailed her son a webpage she wanted him to look at.

PCAnywhere (5, Insightful)

fuzzybunny (112938) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529989)

Do not install Linux, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Put Windows 98 on the damn thing, install PCAnywhere and a reasonable personal firewall package that they can't break (ZoneAlarm works just fine) and tell them not to touch ANYTHING that's not on the desktop. In fact, put a piece of sticky tape with 'WHEN IN DOUBT, HIT CANCEL' across the top of the monitor.

I've managed to keep my girlfriend's parents' $100 P166 up and running for ages now like that. I got them a cable modem, they can check their email and play their card games and look at web sites, and they're happy campers. What more could I ask?

And on those occasions when I have to stop by and actually sit down in front of the thing, it usually takes me about 15 minutes (5 to fix and 10 to reboot) and I get a free home-cooked meal out of it...

Re:PCAnywhere (1)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530081)

Are you high?!?
Why would I want to pay $$ for a product that is in almost every way, inferior to a free one - RealVNC [realvnc.com] .
End Of Line

Old 486 (1)

kvn299 (472563) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529991)

My mom asked me what to do with her old 486 now that she had the "new" computer (my old P120). She sounded sad when I told her to just throw it away. "Are you sure?" she asked me.

I'm sure it's still sitting in her closet collecting dust.

Mothers and computers (-1, Offtopic)

chrisseaton (573490) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529995)

When I was small I remember sitting on my mother's lap writing GW Basic code with her. She got me a book out of the university library on programming because I wanted to make an Indiana Jones game, like the Last Crusade that we had for our 286.

I've been programming ever since...

my mother story (1, Funny)

Merlin42 (148225) | more than 11 years ago | (#5529997)

Many years ago I gave my old Cyrix 6x86-133 (iirc) to my parents after I upgraded to a Celeron 333. Well, I set it up and showed my mom how to send/recieve email w/ lookout express, type things in word and even make a simple web page! Everything was fine till one day she calls my oldest sister for help, didn't want to bother me since I was busy w/ school. Anyway she spends ~2 hours on the phone w/ my sister just trying to get word to open. Until finally it dawns on my sister that maybe my mom is not understanding all this newfangled computer terminology. The exchange goes something like this:

sis: Mom what do you do when I say double-click.
mom: I click the mouse twice.
sis: Explain that again in more detail.
mom: Well I click the left-button and then wait about a second and click it again, I want to make sure the computer can register both clicks.
sis: Uuuuuhhh ... mom ... The computer may be old but its still faster than you.

And now for a father story:
This happened to a friend of mine whose father is a recently retired electrical engineer. It seems that the father calls his son to complain that everytime he tries to run solitaire, word perfect comes up!?! So the son says ok lets try running word-perfect, well that works fine. So lets try running mine-sweeper, word-perfect comes up!?! So after an hour or so of trying different things, basically all of wich result in running word perfect, he realizes that somehow the father has associated .lnk file with word perfect!!

I feel better now. (2)

X (1235) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530009)

Thank you so much for this article. Tech support for family members is a source of great stress in my life, however, none of them have sent me a power bar in the mail. I never realized how easy I had it. ;-)

Left us hanging (1)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530011)

So what did his crazy mom do to the PC.. am I the only one that wants to know what was wrong with it. Was there a grilled cheese sandwich on the motherboard? .. bastard...

My solution (2, Insightful)

yamla (136560) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530012)

I ended up providing tech support to pretty much all of my family. And that's fine, it is a skill I have that I am happy to share.

But supporting hardware makes me frustrated. I am a computer programmer at heart and I can't stand working with hardware, though I am good at it.

So I have a strict policy. I will fix at most one hardware problem a day. That's it. If I already did some hardware work on my computer, you are out of luck for the day. You have two hardware problems? Well, pick which one you want fixed.

It works remarkably well. I can keep my sanity when fixing other people's hardware. I don't get angry. I don't spend entire days working on the stuff (because it never takes _that_ long to fix a single problem). And most of my family's hardware problems get resolved quickly.

WTF??? (-1, Insightful)

Dot.Com.CEO (624226) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530013)

I mean, I am sorry to be stating the obvious, but what the hell is this? A story about some guy troubleshooting his mother's Pentium 75? A boring story, at that???!!

I am not one to troll for the quality of articles (check my history), but what the hell is the interest of this "news"? That his mother sent him a surge suppressor instead of the cpu? Oh no, what a drama!!! Or that it was a well written chronicle of our geeky, nerdy daily lives? Well, it was not. Neither "normal", nor interesting nor well written.

I cannot believe I am saying this, but I'd rathen read dupes than blogger-wannabes...

Re:WTF??? (3, Insightful)

Ballsy (104411) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530102)

Or that it was a well written chronicle of our geeky, nerdy daily lives? Well, it was not. Neither "normal", nor interesting nor well written.

I enjoyed the read...it was a funny story to which I can relate and to me, was better than reading about some new video card that zitty teenagers like yourself will run out and buy so you can finally accumulate more "frags" than your friends on whatever the game-of-the-week is. This is called "subjective". You'll learn about it when you reach high school.
Furthermore, you don't speak for everyone here, so perhaps let the rest of us decide whether we felt it was "well written", "normal" or "interesting".

So this happened... (0, Flamebait)

seigniory (89942) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530020)

So basically, you told your mom to send you the computer so you could fix it. She sent the power supply instead. Ha ha FUNNY STUFF!

How is this worthy of a front page /. story again?

Re:So this happened... (0, Redundant)

seigniory (89942) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530040)

OK, so I meant to say power STRIP not power supply. My bad.

My original troll still stands, though.

great isnt it (1)

kfic (564783) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530030)

I feel for you, my parents havent managed to learn how to turn their computer off in the 8 years they have had one, the whole "push the button, no thats the reset button, the larger button" does not take hold. it will never stop. i only wish there were gnomes involved with this, it would make it more amusing, because let's face it, gnomes make anything better

Group sigh of "been there" - for everyone. (3, Informative)

Presence2 (240785) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530031)

Great read, the pains of pushing parents into the computer age has been one of my continuing traumas ever since I was old enough to dial a 2400 baud modem. Building and maintaining my own machine was always fine, but working on theirs always involved some sort of voodoo and stab in the dark diagnosis. I swear to god "disk image" technology was not created for replication of server setup and backup of critical business applications, but by some guy tired of fixing his parents computer.

I got smart about 4 years ago, after building and repairing (and being responsible for) about a half a dozen various models of pc for them.

I bought them a 800 number.

We all know a compaq and a dell and a gateway and a sony are all the same pentium chip, variations on a theme behind a mitsui cd-rom, sygate/quantum HD, etc etc etc. It's the tech support and the flashy brand name plastic case you buy. So buying one of these machines for a vastly overpriced sum is merely the cost of peace of mind when stamping in HUGE print on the top of the monitor a 800 support number for -anything- that they have questions about, and save those boxes kids, send it back to wherever if there's a problem for free.

Of course it doesn't reduce the flow of calls completely, (do I need to leave the cd in to play music once it's started?) but it cuts down on them significantly enough to make that 800 number worth any price.

Top Family Support Issues: (3, Funny)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530033)

1) How do I copy and paste again?
2) How do I open this email attachment?
3) How do I install this new program?
4) What did your nephew do to my computer?
5) Dad bought a new (?), how do I install it?

I do tech support for many family members. My mom actually started referring her friends to me. One thing I have learned is to not be too nice to the elderly. Unless you piss them off a little they won't remember the instructions.

Tech support for family (1)

seppyk (144583) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530037)

Providing tech support for family members always leaves me feeling empty. When I had my professional support job, I could always hold on to that warm disgruntlement I would have after applying my technical wizardry to solve a problem (read: rebooting, showing someone how to click their mouse, unconscious nodding of the head to show my understanding).

Not so with family though. I once mistakenly let out an irritated groan at my mother's request to help her with the family computer. There is no greater power on this world than a mother's ability to invoke guilt. It just takes the fun right out of the job.

My fav... (2, Funny)

somethingwicked (260651) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530045)

A particularly clueless user, who luckily no longer works here, I will call Eve.

Eve INSISTED on storing important HR documents on floppy disks. Tho I explained 20 different reasons why this was a bad idea and better, safer alternatives, she did it anyways.

This lead to "INVALID BOOT DISK" error messages on more than 10 times during a two month span.

As someone who once worked as a trainer, I am quick to politely explain how to fix an issue and many times even a layman's explanation of why.

"Eve, just take the floppy disk out..." etc.

I thought about disabling the option to boot from a floppy disk, but EVERY time she SEEMED to get it.

So finally one day it happened. She called me up:

Eve (stressed)- "I am getting an error message that says 'Invalid Boot Disk' and I did what you said, I took the floppy disk out"

Knowing that FOR ONCE just maybe the hard drive had died, I told her I would come right down.

Luckily, when I arrived Eve was on the phone.

She was right.

She was getting the error message.

She had taken the floppy disk out.

She had NOT, however, read the message that said "PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE"

I waited for a moment, decided that it wasn't worth the effort, and because she was leaned over the keyboard, I turned the comp off and back on and walked away.

She was terminated in next month...

Linux!!! (2, Interesting)

kruczkowski (160872) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530047)

I moved away from my parents that live in Germany to Tampa. What I made sure was working before I left was my linux box. When my mom want to send me a photo or something I just tell her, "leave it on the desktop", or when I want to send my mom a quicktime movie I upload it to my linux box then copy it over, so she never knows how it got there.

It's funny becouse I talk to my brother sometimes and tell him that he is low in HD space, 3000 miles away.

Sadly my mom said that they might have to move soon to a diffrent town. I hope my server comes back up!

Free support for the inlaws. (1)

jayayeem (247877) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530053)

Every time I work on a PC issue for any of my wife's family, I ask them where they keep their data files, so that I don't delete them. Each time the answer is 'I don't know.'

Obviously, everything is in the default directory. Not so bad, if that is the My Documents folder. But all they run is outdated software. "Personal Index to Bible Verses for windows 3.1", Old versions of Family Tree maker.

Of course, there's also all the active tasks. Dozens of active tasks, none of the firewall software or virus protection. They can't tell me what they are or what they do. I have to figure it out and tell them. They don't know why they are running them (they were part of the default install, of course).

grandma always treats me right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530061)

last week i went over to clear her computer of some clutter and i got a london broil dinner out of it plus i actully feel good hangin out with nani for a lil while :)

make them feed you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530071)

I have no problem doing tech support for family/friends, as long as it involves some sort of food and/or drink in return.

I'll gladly come over, but I'll be damned if I'm going out of my way for nothing...

Just curious (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5530079)

Who gives a rats ass about you or your stupid whore for a mother?

Sounds like neither of you know what you're doing if you cant get a P75 to recieve and send e-mail.

Remote assistance (2, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530083)

At least there are tools like Remote Assistance in WinXP that can help - I was able to use it a couple weeks ago to save myself a 45-minute drive. I was actually pretty impressed with the performance, considering my in-laws machine was just using dial-up access...

that is why (5, Interesting)

kraksmoka (561333) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530087)

my mother was the proud recipient of . . . . an iMac. the story is like this . . ..

about three years ago, i was in compUSA lookin around with some friends when i stumbled thru the floor models area and there were two, 333 mhz imacs, just sitting there. i got a price, $500 bucks, called home, and after goading them for six or so hours convinced them to get the machine.

they had been talking about getting a computer since i was in jr. high, and they really needed to get into the digital age. at that point i was long out of the house, and they kept bitching that they couldn't figure out why i thought the internet job i had was any good. so i figured, they needed the machine.

bottom line. my "mommy spam" folder has been flooded ever since. for a 50 year old woman who had never seen a computer before, it is her life, completely. she won't let anyone in the family touch the machine, me included. and it sure is a good thing that it has not had a single serious maintenance issue since they bought it. best of all, since it only has one plug, they figure out how to plug it back in after they clean around it.

What else can you do? (1)

palfreman (164768) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530092)

I've never had anyone im my family get quite so confused, but really, there isn't much else you can do but support them from time to time. If I made them buy commercial support it would about one hundredth of the quality of service they get from me, at a price that would be daylight robbery.

I've spent the last ten years or so gradually improving the systems they use, and it really takes very little of my time. Last month I showed their lodger how to plug her laptop into the network, and showed my mother how to use LaTeX (plus installed MikTeX/WinEdt) for her book [amazon.co.uk] . Sometime next month I will upgrade the firewall from Redhat 6.2 to FreeBSD 4.8, and sometime in the summer I'll upgrade the Internet connection from modem to ADSL. No big deal really.

Even worse... (1)

Xcruciate (261968) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530094)

My wife called me from her job because she needed some tech support for her computer at work. Funny thing is, her employer has their own IT department and Help desk and she knows that. I couldn't believe it. I love my wife and all that, but that was just plain stupid.

Story time, eh? (5, Funny)

lynx_user_abroad (323975) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530096)

A former senior manager once asked me (in a room which held a Windows support tech, a Linux zealot, and myself) what soft of computer he should buy for a relation of his. I answered the question with two of my own:

Who is going to be responsible for supporting this computer?

"Me, of course." he answered.

Are you going to be paid for the support you offer?

"Of course not." he replied, wondering why I even had to ask that question.

"Then," I replied, "Simple choice: Get a Macintosh. If things change, and you find you will no longer be required to support it, suggest Linux for the power, flexibility, and reduced cost. On the other hand, if things change and you will still be supporting it, but find you will be paid for the support, recommend Windows."

This Director soon became responsible for Information Technology Support at our site, and recommended a cutover to an all-Windows environment. Fortunately, he allowed some of us to run Linux, under "no support offered" terms.

Just a story, of course. ;-)

My Solution (1)

hrieke (126185) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530097)

I just replace the computer every few years.
Fresh install of OS, Applications and then I move the data over. Fairly painless way to keep them out of my hair.

Commonly heard answers to questions: (2, Funny)

Curialis (218588) | more than 11 years ago | (#5530100)

What does the screen say now?
Is there a window open on the screen?
What does the text say in the window?

(informative information from open window here)


Is your Modem plugged into your surge protector?

No, the modem stopped working after the last electrical storm so I unplugged in from the surge protector and plugged it into the wall. It starting working right away. Now it won't work at all!!


Did you reboot the machine?


So, you actually shut down the machine and rebooted?


Are you sure you didn't just log off and back in?



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