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The Tech Support Generation

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the no-grumbling dept.

Technology 574

prostoalex writes "Newsweek technology columnist Brad Stone is looking forward to the Thanksgiving dinner with his family next week, spending time in candle-lit rooms, preparing holiday shopping lists and... let's admit it - fixing the folks' computer. 'We are the Tech-Support Generation. Our job is to troubleshoot the complex but imperfect technology that befuddle mom and dad, veterans of the rotary phone, the record player and the black-and-white cabinet television set. Next week, on our annual pilgrimage home, we'll turn our Web-trained minds and joystick-conditioned fingers to the task of rescuing our parents from bleeding-edge technology on the blink', Brad Stone writes. In related news, what other products besides Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines?"

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Firefox & Thunderbird (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873598)

Firefox & Thunderbird. Saves you lots of trouble.

Re:Firefox & Thunderbird (3, Insightful)

iezhy (623955) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873684)

Simply installing those two doesnt help much. You should also remove IE ant Outlook express shortcuts from desktop, quick launch bar and start menu. :-)

Re:Firefox & Thunderbird (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873760)

That is exactly what I call "installing". *grin*

Re:Firefox & Thunderbird (2, Informative)

BlueJay465 (216717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873779)

Been there done that. Caused more problems than it created. Not that my parents aren't able to do everything they need to do currently, they are quite proficient. But there are other common programs that are still IE dependent. For example, Turbo Lister [] .

I installed Firefox on my Mom's machine after Homeland Security's announcement [] recommending switching to alternative browsers from IE. She had major problems getting Turbo Lister to run correctly and apparently it was a known incompatibility. So I uninstalled Firefox and then Turbo Lister has worked fine since.

Re:Firefox & Thunderbird (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873732)

My parents were initially resistant to Firefox until I installed the Weather Fox extension. It dazzled them!

Actually, it's one of the few reasons I switched.

Canadians, we're obsessed with the weather.

Re:Firefox & Thunderbird (1)

DenDave (700621) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873754)

Yep, and I love to help my loved ones really I do.. just I don't do windows...

Surely? (5, Funny)

Sexy Bern (596779) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873599)

what other products besides Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines


Re:Surely? (2, Insightful)

Codename_V (813328) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873623)

I went with Xandros. It's like Debian with a Windows front end. And I gotta say, my mom loves it. She can even run Quicken. And I love it because months later everything still works exactly the way I set it up to work.

Re:Surely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873681)

Xandros is a great Linux-based desktop OS. I try to install alot of the mainstream Linux OS' atleast once just for the purpose of refering to someone I know who is asking for recommendations, and I have found Xandros to be one of the best for people looking to move from Windows. It is even able to join Windows AD domains without any trouble.

Re:Surely? (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873700)

My experience with Xandros left me with two broken knuckles and a crack in the wall.

You have no idea how quickly I moved to RH8. Gentoo now though.

Re:Surely? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873724)

Laugh it up but my grandmother runs debian. It was the first computer she had ever used so windows bullshit didnt get in her way

Re:Surely? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873727)

I'm switching my grandparents to Ubuntu. They're sick and tired of the firewall that blocks their outgoing email, the virusscanner that needs to be updated all the time keeping the phone busy (they're on 56k), the popups, the HP OfficeJet that doesn't work anymore under XP (HP doesn't support it and MS botched the scanner driver), and the fact that every time I'm there I spend all my time fixing their computers. So they asked me for an alternative. They'll get it.


Re:Surely? (1)

pkarlos_76 (751116) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873739)

_ _ 0 o + (---) Service Pack 2, you gotta be kidding right?

hmm... (2)

dj_paulgibbs (619622) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873602)

NOT service pack 2.

Re:hmm... (2, Informative)

ukcb (829435) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873628)

Why not? If they're not using XP, fair enough, but I insisted on installing SP2 on my father's machine as soon as I could get hold of it. Sure, it took him a few weeks to get used to the new "features", but it beats being dragged home from uni to spend a weekend cleaning up spyware...

Your a idiot if you don't install SP2 on WinXP. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873698)

Basicly, that.

You HAVE to install SP2. You have no choice. Over the years WinXP has exposed serious flaws in it's design and implimentation and SP2 is a partial fix.

But a partial fix is better then a no-fix.

Your better off trying to install SP2 and blowing your system away, then not installing SP2.

There are several very serious exploits that can be used on IE and WinXP that require no user intervention. If somebody trusts you to keep them safe and you refuse to install SP2 for them, then your screwing them over potentially.

I don't like it, but then again I don't use crappy software either.

What other products... (5, Funny)

jalet (36114) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873603)

> In related news, what other products besides
> Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy,
> Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters
> installing on their parents' Windows machines?"


Re:What other products... (1)

Kludge (13653) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873677)

I had set my parents up w/ a Linux box, which worked fine, then my Dad wanted a faster computer and has too much disposable income, so he bought one. Of course it came with Windows, so they started using that. Now it's so virus & spy-ware infested that they can't even use it (It won't even display images). I'm not going back for the holidays, but if I were, I'd clean house.


Re:What other products... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873780)

"Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines?"

GNU/Linux sshd and webmin

they are slooow (3, Interesting)

helfen (791121) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873605)

When I'm showing something to my parents, I always notice that they are very slow in using mouse, clicking icons, etc, it frustrates me most.

Re:they are slooow (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873618)

hey ya young whiper snaper.

just watch me dial that rotary phone.

None of the above (5, Funny)

Insurgent2 (615836) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873606)

My parents are smarter than I am.

They have Macs!

Re:None of the above (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873629)

are they also gay?

Re:None of the above (2, Interesting)

selderrr (523988) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873663)

My folks have macs too, but they still require quite some help. Printing for instance is a pain (the printer icon gets lost every few weeks), and sharing also loses it occasionally. They also tend to fill up their desktop with a gazillion icons that I re-order into the proper folder/thrash every few weeks.

Ack, don't remind me. (5, Interesting)

colonslashslash (762464) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873609)

My father still tries to control his PC with the stereo remote.

I won't let them use Windows purely because it would get trashed with spyware, adware and trojans, instead, they get a Slack 10 / KDE install and a nice low UID user with SSHd setup so I can log in as root remotely and fix anything if needed, and easily upgrade and install applications and the kernel.

Re:Ack, don't remind me. (1)

venomix (87217) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873625)

I actually control my PC with my stereo remote =) (with lirc ofcource)

Re:Ack, don't remind me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873708)

This isn't a penis measuring contest. We are talking about providing tech support.

Firefox... (1)

ukcb (829435) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873612)

...of course!

what will I be installing? (2, Informative)

jellocat (605820) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873614)


Suse 9.1 on my parents hp.

Also on my friend's computer i built for him a couple years ago.

They use office/internet. That's it.

Why use windows? A few pros. Many, many cons.

Work for an ISP (4, Interesting)

ender81b (520454) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873619)

And here is our General Fix-all-our-customers-problems cd we send out

IE6sp1 full
IE55 full
IE517 full
IE_Reinstall_bat (batch file that reinstalls ie using run dll)
IE secure site fix

winxp winsock fix (rebuilds winsock using registry)
winxp individual critical fixes

Ad-aware/spybot definitions
Coolweb killer? removal? Shredder? Can't remember offhand

AVG anti-virus (highly recommended)
McAfee AVERT stinger (even more highly recommended)
norton's varius virus removal tools (fix sobig, fix blaster, etc)

Win2k Sp4


volunteer work for ma and pa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873621)

diebold's central tabulator

and MS access in case they need practice changing votes

3 things (4, Funny)

ArmenTanzarian (210418) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873622)

That Gator thing I love so much

FireFox and Thunderbird (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873624)

Less attacks, less hassles,less viruses.

Not the toolbar! (3, Insightful)

mallardtheduck (760315) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873627)

Google Toolbar
I dont install that on anything. Not because there is anything bad about it, but because then you can't disable "Third party browser enhancements" in IE... Which means that it's even easier for spyware to get in. (Yes I know this doesn't disable BHOs...)

Firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873631)

Mozilla Firefox, without a doubt. Banish IE.

Nothing (0, Redundant)

pesc (147035) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873632)

what other products besides Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines?

Nothing. I tell them that I haven't used Windows stuff for several years and have forgotten so much about it that they are better off if they turn to (and pay) a professional that still do Windows.

If they decided to upgrade to a Linux system, I'd be glad to help them though.

Re:Nothing (1)

hdparm (575302) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873768)

Why don't you spend some time explaining why should they use one of Linux distros instead? Burn Knoppix CD and let them try it? Install FC3? I can't imagine under what circumstances would they decide on their own to switch OS?

Why bother with a windows machine? (3, Interesting)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873633)

Thats what I thought to myself when I bought my parents a used original style imac (the second generation ones with the slot loading tray to break). It's perfect for them. Not only does my mother like the blue color, but it's also fast enough for what they want to do, like surfing the net, email, and typing. The only thing I needed to do was install Mozilla. After that, no adware to worry about, no virus to protect from, no hackers getting in, no complex problems...if the thing craps out, you pop the imac recovery cd in and in 10 min or less your up and running again. And for the low cost of $300 bucks.

Show your parents you love them. Buy them an iMac. (And get it used..they're cheap and reliable and all they need.)

PC Anywhere, of course. (1)

Ghostgate (800445) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873634)

Then you no longer have to travel all the way there every time something needs fixing. Well... unless it's their net connection ;)

windows? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873639)

Why would I let my parents run a Windows machine? I'd get so spyware/spambot infested that they hardly could get any work done.

Freeware (1)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873640)

I'm cheap and so are my parents, but they're comfy with Windows...

AVG Antivirus (

IrfanView ( for viewing .jpegs of their soon-to-be-born grandson

Firefox 1.0 ( since it's more secure than IE and they won't know the difference

Other faves I use but couldn't palm off on them...

Pegasus Mail (

Shortkeys ( - text macro utility (*great* when I'm doing helpdesk queues at work)

- G

I usually get flamed for this (5, Insightful)

baryon351 (626717) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873642)

I usually get flamed for this, but I just do NOT do family tech support any more. The appreciation doesn't always exist for the work put in, the expectations are as high as any job I've had, and it just...never...stops... I've been through the worst of it, not having a free weekend with my friends for weeks at a time, having weeknights with my partner disturbed constantly, and feeling like I'm moving from 9 to 5 work just to come 'home' and face more of the same.

Maybe it comes from having a really large extended family of people who just don't want to know how computers should/shouldn't work, but it's just too much sometimes. Strictly my mother and sister now, nobody else.

Re:I usually get flamed for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873653)

Tell anyone who flames you for that to shove it.
I know exactly what you mean. It would take a hell of a lot of incentive (money) to continute doing that kind of soul-destroying work.

Re:I usually get flamed for this (5, Funny)

0x461FAB0BD7D2 (812236) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873669)

I'm with you....just as soon as I move out of my parent's house...

Re:I usually get flamed for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873689)

I wish I was one of your family members.

Then when you start having car trouble and bring it to some mechanic who I know is going to shaft you, I can sit by with a smile on my face while you bring it in to get "fixed".

Same thing here... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873709)

My mother's computer is a constant source of disputes. As soon as I've started helping her, she decided she could entirely rely on me and I started to waste my week-ends fixing her computer.

Usually, people think a computer is like a wash machine. They refuse to learn, they just want to push the button and it should work; if it breaks, call the mech. My mother lost several times files because she didn't take the pain to save them on a floppy disk or on a CD-ROM.

Well, after a few weeks like that, I finally told her that in order to drive a car, you need a licence, you don't ask others to come over and drive your car each time you want to go to the supermarket.

On the bright side, my 90 year-old grandfather has bought a computer last summer, and I spent a week during holidays teaching him how to use the basics of mail, wordprocessing, saving, printing and net surfing. We wrote together a complete 12 pages course together (with screen prints), and I'm proud to say that he can use these tools alone now.

Re:I usually get flamed for this (4, Funny)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873713)

I feel for you. I'm 15, and I've gotten phone calls at school.

Be grateful ;)

Re:I usually get flamed for this (4, Interesting)

scupper (687418) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873722)

Hey, I sympathize with your ordeal. I don't have a large family, but the clan I do have are the same way. I had to go cold turkey on them, and they learned the hard way why I was so draconian about how I set up their systems. The bitched and moaned about using zone alarm, and strict IE "Internet Zone" settings, as they flat refused to switch to FF in June '04.

Since then, the beautiful internet has taught them lessons I could never have taught. My sis got a ton of browser hijacks and adware on her system, so bad that she contemplated getting a new system, until I finally gave in and cleaned it up for her, along with installing Firefox.

My Mom refused to use webmail for "problem" email recipients who spam her with dumb jokes, and finally got stung with 4 days of unreleating virus alerts generated by emails coming in on her POP account from a distant family member who is both a prolific joke spammer, and a really careless web user.

The person got a couple of email viruses and all hell broke loose with family across the country. I had to set up a new pop account for her, and set forwarding of her old pop to her Yahoo account. Second email addy she's had to bail on because of spam and knuckle head family members.

<AOL> (2, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873777)

Back before the Internet became popular, I used to preach about backups, about how the "easy" way was to listen to me; the "hard" way was to lose something vital.

All smiles, nods, agreement. Not a single person acted on this though.

I gave up when I realised that most people simply Do Not Learn the "easy" way.

Re:I usually get flamed for this (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873784)

I still do tech support for my mother on two strict conditions:
  1. She does exactly what I tell her to do. If she doesn't think something I've said makes sense, then she should tell me and I'll explain it more clearly.
  2. She doesn't install or run anything from the Internet without first asking me (usually by email with link to the download site).
With these two rules, I rarely have to do any recovery work. Most of what I now do is teaching. Oh, and I told her not to use IE or Outlook under any circumstances. I installed both Firefox/Thunderbird and Opera, and let her pick the one she preferred (Opera).

Ignorance of Windows is the Best Defense :) (5, Insightful)

hagbard5235 (152810) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873643)

I've found that near complete ignorance of Windows is my best defense. I've not been a serious Windows user since 1994. So when someone asks me for assistance with their Windows problem I can quite truthfully say:

"I'm sorry, I don't know how that works."

Don't get me wrong, I make my living in tech. I code in between 8 and 12 languages (depending on how good my memory is that day), can play a medium grade Linux/Solaris guru when necessary, write web apps, architect large distributed systems, operate a wide variety of service provider and enterprise networking equipment, etc. I also like helping people who are having technical problems. But there's a big difference between being the IM of last resort for various Linux/Python,etc problems and having to deal with Windows users.

Re:Ignorance of Windows is the Best Defense :) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873687)

French, Urdu, Swahili?

Re:Ignorance of Windows is the Best Defense :) (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873762)

Man, you're smart, you're really really smart. 8 to 12 languages, that's something! No wonder I can't get a job when there are people like you. I wish I knew how to architect large distributed systems as well.

Nuke the ragheads, camel humpers, pali pigs (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873645)

Islam is a gutter religion for swine and pigs.

Nuke 'em all, and let Allah sort it out.

Duh (1)

cloudkj (685320) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873646)

No brainer: anti-virus software and virus definition updates.

Give them Ad-aware (1)

grappo666 (798306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873647)

My parents were amazed at the amount of crap they had on their machine, now they run Ad-aware daily.

Re:Give them Ad-aware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873655)

maybe if your perv parents weren't porn-mongering sex-addicts, they wouldn't have to.

Re:Give them Ad-aware (1)

Mikmorg (624030) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873782)

Also, maybe if they weren't "porn-mongering sex-addicts," you wouldn't be born... That way you'd never have to troubleshoot.

FireFox! (1)

Viceice (462967) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873648)

Dang it, how on earth did you forget FireFox? It's basicly the magic bullet that will remove most spyware related issues.

I will have your geek card back now.

Security vrs Familiarity (5, Interesting)

Jumbo Jimbo (828571) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873650)

My parents have a very old PC which chugs along with a lack of RAM / pocessor / everything. I'm going to be giving them a reconditioned Pentium 3 which should meet their (limited) computing needs, even if they make more use of it than they do now.

However, whereas I'd like to give them a Linux box, they are used to using PCs with a WIndows 95 / XP interface from their PC and the local library. As they, especially my dad, have trouble getting to grips with new tools, I think I will have to compromise and install Windows for them.

I know that even after making it as secure as I can and giving them a quick list of don'ts (open attachements, etc) that it won't be as secure, but as they're both retired there is no business critical data there. I think that their ease of use will be more important than trying to move them away from Windows.

They're computer's a bit old, so... (1)

DJ Haruko (798333) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873652)

Extended Basic, Hunt the Wumpus, and Tombstone City.

Re:They're computer's a bit old, so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873742)

Ahhhh, the good old TI-99/ first computer way back when. I still have that emulator around here somewhere...

Re:They're computer's a bit old, so... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873766)

Your parents are computers?

Solution that works (3, Informative)

fegu (66137) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873654)

We are indeed the techsupport generation, but it doesn't have to be that way. We recently got "No I will not fix your computer" T-shirts ( / [] ) at work as a fun gift. It has proved really useful. You don't have to say no, pople just stops asking you. Works great. The only tech support I've had to do after getting (and wearing) this T-shirt, was for a really desperate aquaintaince with a wifi setup problem. I got two full-size fresh lobsters for fixing that, and I didn't even ask for anything. I do make an exception for my own folks though, but now they are the only ones.

Mozilla (1)

yodaj007 (775974) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873658)

I make my parents use Mozilla instead of IE and Thunderbird instead of Outlook.

Firefox and Yahoo messenger (1)

lga (172042) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873661)

This christmas I'm installing Mozilla Firefox on my wifes parents computer. I tried telling them to before, but they didn't bother because they said they didn't have time to learn it. This time I will be there for 3 days, so I can move all their bookmarks and settings across, make them use it for a few days and then tell them they get no more help with problems caused by internet explorer.

I will also be installing Yahoo messenger, because they are always complaining that we never answer emails - now they can see when we are at the computer. Perhaps I shouldn't do that one...

Re:Firefox and Yahoo messenger (1)

Xaviar21 (790883) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873719)

Firefox's installer handily moves bookmarks and most settings over all by its self. The wonders of technology.

Cut the lead off (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873662)

The easist way to avoid support calls is to simply buy a pair of good quality scissors and then offer to fix all their problems. Note: a knife may also work but may be a bit dangerous.

Proceed to go round to the users house and cut the plug off anything more comlicated than a spoon. If you feel like trying to change the world mail the plugs to your favourite manufacturer to difficult to use electronic equipment with a note telling them why they are recieving plugs.

I suspect that should fix the problem

While it's good to help family out... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873665)

It's still a bit embarrassing to see multiple spyware entries of pron sites on your grandpa's rig...

"So, what sites you've been surfing lately, gramps ? "

Upgrade to XP Pro, adding flash card reader w/usb (1)

scupper (687418) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873668)

I'm going to upgrade my Mom's system to XP Pro, from XP Home, and get her used to running as a limnted user, vs running as Admin. She's already got everything she needs for apps. I've tried to get her into using PGP and OpenSSH, but she refuses to "fuss" with so much, as she says dealing with the firewall and IE Zones in the past is enough of a headache.

I just got her into using Firefox a couple of weeks ago, after installing an earlier version months ago, only to see it was not being used. She must have read about the release, and finally bought into what I'd told her about IE becuase I started to get little help question emails about 'How do I.....", and "Can this...". She up and installed 1.0 herself and, in addition to all the IE>FF Q & As, she started to ask me about 'Extensions". I was blown away.

She's also become a digital camera shutterbug and loves to share her photos of vacations with friends and family. I hooked her up with TV set-top Flash Card reader w/remote a while back that runs slide shows of photos on her TV.

She now wants a multi-platform flash card reader and USB port card added to her system, one of the units that you can install in a 5 1/4 bay "she specified" as she emailed me a cyberguys catalog entry. I guess the only other thing she's bugged me about is having a RDP connection to her den pc from the kitchen where she has her old music computer. I wish I'd never taught her about all this. I'm sure she'll figure it ut eventually. ;)

Ad-Aware (1)

crull (221987) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873674)

Ad-Aware instead of Spybot.

Re:Ad-Aware (3, Informative)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873721)

From my experience Ad-Aware misses some stuff that Spybot will catch. Better to use both, to avoid problems.

Change the OS (4, Interesting)

Ed Almos (584864) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873675)

My girlfriend runs a Mac, my parents run an old P2 machine with Fedora installed and locked down and when asked to support friends computers I tell them "sorry, but I don't work on MS Windows machines".

I will (for free) wipe MS Windows and install Linux on any friends machine but my days of providing free support for Bill G are over.

I find this cuts down on the support calls and I can then enjoy Thanksgiving.

Ed Almos
Budapest, Hungary

What I install (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873676)

Here's what I install on my friends machines who are having trouble with spyware/adware. First, install and update Ad-Aware and show them how to run it. Then I install a nifty little program called Spyware Blaster which, from what I can tell, is supposed to block active x controls with certain strings from running. It works pretty good. You can grab a copy from []

Stupid family (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873682)

Actually all the members of my family think they are the best at computers while they think I'm the most stupid guy ever (it's true!).

- What are you doing? (said with a condescending tone)
- I'm writing some assembly language on Linux.
- Pff, this sux, I can do better with my WindowsXP. Look, I'm clicking on the mouse!
- Thanks, leave me alone now!
- Look I installed Gator, I'M THE BEST! I don't need to go to college like you!!

A new hard drive (1)

ChrisPaget (229422) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873685)

My dad spent 3 days emailing and calling to find out why ABC wasn't downloading anything after a power cut. I talked him through uninstalling and reinstalling it, trying another client, re-checking his ADSL settings, all sorts of stuff. All international, all without remote access. Eventually, he emailed me to tell me he'd solved the problem - ABC wasn't downloading because he'd run out of disk space. He saved stuff to a different drive and now it works perfectly...

Tech Support Generation? (1)

Harker (96598) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873691)

I thought that was people like me who worked the holidays, not spend them with family.

Firefox (1)

CHiRd (114839) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873693)

In related news, what other products besides Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines?

Firefox of course!

I believe we should stop providing free support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873694)

You know, there are countries where coding and manufacturing are cheaper than in the USA and most of Europe, yet we still reduce the tech industry to these repetitive tasks by removing all incentives to provide user friendly products. As long as we keep patching up the broken designs for free, why would a company invest in making a product that can be operated by a non-techie? It's cheaper not to and the customers don't care because there's always the techie next door who will keep the ensemble of lowest price hard- and software running. Stopping or at least reducing free tech support would also help with educating users about the minimal amount of willingness to learn new things that is required to operate a modern consumer electronics device. Right now it's too damn convenient to have us repair things that should not be broken in the first place.

It doesn't stop with windows (1)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873697)

I'm sure this Thanksgiving I'll be asked about the broken CD player. While I'm sure it's remotely possible to fix such things my canned response is, "You know you can buy a DVD player for under $50." This is almost always followed by, "You know you can put CDs in a DVD player, it's not a problem". I'm sure I'll be asked about the broken DVD player, which again the canned response of, "You know you can buy a DVD player for under $50." I guess it may be different if they already have a cheep-o model that takes standard atapi drives.

When asked about people considering a Bose Wave CD/Radio my canned response is, "You know you can put CDs in a DVD player, it's not a problem." This is best for people with existing surround sound DVD players.

When telling the children I feel like a broken record, they ask, "What's that?"

What are we installing? (2, Funny)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873699)

Here is what I'm installing.

  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • AdAware
  • Spybot Search & Destroy
  • AVG
  • Open Office
  • Nvu
  • Zonealarm (might go by the wayside in favor of SP2, but I won't have tested SP2 enough by the holidays, I don't think)
  • Gaim (the idea that one app will log them into 3+ services kind of boggles their minds)
  • iTunes (maybe)

hmmm ! (1)

etherspin (728814) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873701)

at least if you fix their computers they are less likely to make you mow the lawn!!

what i do... (1)

xirtam_work (560625) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873702)

Firstly I don't do work on a Windows machine for free. If it's for friends I let them buy me a meal or treat me to something nice. If it's for family I tend to do some quick cleaning for free but then arrange to sort out the rest of the mess at a more convienient time at a set block of time in the near future. I recommend getting a Mac to everyone I deal with, as when i show them my 17"PB and tell them I've never had a virus, trojan, worm, spyware or anything resembling the 100+ pieces of crap I've just extracted from their machines they become more receptive to the idea. for windows users I install firefox, spybot, XP SP2 (if on XP) and all the other bits and pieces required. It's got to the point that I have all this (and some product key tools) on my usb pen-drive on me all the time.

I've given up Windows support except for my parent (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873704)

At least my parents listen ;-)

I've given up supporting anyone using Windows except for my parents, whose machine I have remote control over via UltraVNC and SSH (and only when I ask them to load it up - ZoneAlarm has to be given explicit permission to allow it through).

These days, working on a Windows problem is a bit like doing emergency heart surgery in a disease ridden hospital: you know you don't have a choice, but you know there will be more problems to come. And the patient may still die despite your best efforts (with costs like private healthcare ;-), and guess who gets the blame then.

I have better things to do with my time. I've converted a few people to Linux by letting them play with Knoppix for a while. When they felt comfortable enough I've switched them over, and the only ones that have ever had a problem with that were gamers. Fix that and there's no real reason to run MS anymore. It's unsafe, unstable and /way/ too expensive.

You definitely *need* a monopoly to sell it..

Re:I've given up Windows support except for my par (2, Funny)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873770)

I wish my parents listened, they just said I'm paranoid, bought a new computer, and won't give me the password.

Perhaps... (2, Funny)

Durindana (442090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873707)

what other products besides Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines?"


Just wait a full generation (1)

ukoda (537183) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873717)

Once the whole PC thing is a generation old the problem should go away. In my case this happened this year when my son got a car. Now when my parents call with a PC problem I call my son and tell him it's time to pay his grandparents a visit ;-)

Remote accessing software anyone? (1)

sllim (95682) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873728)

Seriously. This isn't that hard people.

I use GoToMyPC. If I am at my parents house on Thanksgiving and they start griping and asking me to fix it I will go to there machine, log onto , log into my account, download the java app that it runs on (I forget the size but it is small, 15 minutes on a 56k connection), install it and turn it on.

I will then go back to them and tell them to call me some evening next week and I will log on and fix it. This is Thanksgiving and I am not interested.

Ditto for the rest of the family. I have talked numerous people through the installing the app phase over the phone.

Of course if you have a family that fights (I am blessed that my family gets along) then maybe fixing the PC is a good thing.

Take away their rights. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873735)

Create a new admin-account, and make your parents restricted users. Too bad there's a lot of software that cannot function unless you are running with administrative rights.

Holiday Fixins (1)

hardburlyboogerman (161244) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873737)

Try Firefox,Thunderbird,Ad-aware SE & XP Anti-spy for starters.
After that,of course ,games.My daughters wants Unreal Tournament(she was #2 in the country at 1 time) and others.
What else? Latest versions of Nero,Decss and Peerguardian,along with Winmx 3.54 beta.
Now,I will also be busy with the Computers for kids project( I have a 30 Ft. tandem truckload of older donated machines to check out.)
The holidays are busy for the Booger Man.
What do I get in return?Plenty. The smiles of the kids that benefit from the volunteer work,some of Jennifer's home made turkey stuffing(My mother's reciepe) and being able to forget,for a short time,the criminal idiot the occupies the white house that the non-thinking public reelected.
Happy Holidays!

Parents use Linux (3, Interesting)

Krafty Koder (697396) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873744)

"In related news, what other products besides Google Desktop Search, Spybot Search & Destroy, Google Toolbar and Service Pack 2 are Slashdotters installing on their parents' Windows machines?"

I'll be upgrading them to Mandrake 10.1 official - they are already on Mandrake 10 and are extremely happy with it. Mother in law is on Mandrake 9.2 ,uncle in law Mdk 10, and my aunt is on - yes, Mandrake 10.

Just wondering - if lots of other Slashdotters are doing this kind of thing, are we now seeing the growth of the Linux desktop amongst non-tech users, which just isnt covered by Gartner style estimates.

family tech support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873745)

My mom doesn't have a computer and probably never will (she's 80).

My in-laws have a Windows box, but they don't bug me about it because my father-in-law has this very corporate mindset about service contracts, etc. They have a subscription-type agreement with a one-man "geeks-to-your-door" outfit where this guy comes to their house periodically and "checks on the computer". I would assume he runs anti-spyware and anti-virus programs, checks for Windows updates, etc., but for all I or my in-laws know he could be installing a key stroke logger or Back Orifice. Fortunately, they hardly use the computer for anything other than email. Specifically, they are afraid to shop online and don't use Quicken or anything of the sort.

One Word. (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873759)

Macintosh. Seriously. I got my mom an iMac to replace her ailing / failing Toshiba laptop last Christmas & other than installing Firefox (Safari wasn't rendering some sites correctly) I haven't had to touch it since I set it up.


Getting rid of my parents windows machines...... (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873761)

With all the problems, patches, spyware, spam and all around complexities with PCs - I shudder everytime I think about having to add anything to my own computers, let alone my parent's computer. Instead, I look for products that make their (and my) lives simpler. For example, instead of buying them a photo printer last that hooks up to the computer and uses some half-assed complicated software and drivers - I bought a stand alone model with a small LCD screen that prints photos directly from their camera. Life made simpler. For all parties concerned. 2nd Example. Web-based email. Specifically Yahoo. Lots less problems. Any other examples that tend to bypass the PC and their Programs?

Buy them an iMac or eMac - and enjoy life. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10873763)

After giving them an Apple for Christmas,
you can enjoy your family time without interruptions of tech support-itis.

No more rebuilding virus flattened computers
No more uninstalling 30 spyware apps
No more fighting BSODs.

You still might have to call 'dibs!' on the turkey leg!

Erm... do what? (3, Insightful)

chman (746363) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873764)

I know there's all the Windows hating going on here, and I think it's adorable sometimes, but there's a lot going for Windows that means I won't be giving my parents some flavour of Linux for a while. I know, I know, "an unpatched Winblows box will be hax0red in 30 seconds!!!111", but the fact is it won't be unpatched because of the auto-updates. I stuck it behind a Netgear Router/ADSL modem/WAP/Firewall and put some AV software on there. There's been no problems. They don't even get spam, and I don't mean they don't get it after going through Bayesian-Freudian-Pseudomatronic filtering, I mean they just don't get it. Unless the occasional monkey-drinking-own-urine email from an acquaintance is considered spam, and I like to think it is.
Even if they need to do something really difficult, like install new drivers, it's just a double click on the setup file. I tried installing ATI drivers in Mandrake a few months ago. I'll let you all know how it went when I figure out how to get X working again. I can't even get my parents off IE and onto something much better, like Firefox, because it's still not quite there. Example: My Mum had to fill in this great big form to submit an offer to a potential client, and Firefox couldn't do it because of the javascript involved. Okay, that's probably shoddy coding on the form's part and nothing to do with Firefox, but my Mum doesn't care about who's in the wrong when she's got to do something vital for her business and it won't work. My dad has been working for what was ICL in the 70s and he's still got limited, at best, technical ability. But when he gets into Excel or Visio he knows how to do all the graphs and charts, so who am I to take that away from him? How's he going to figure out how to do an organisational chart in calm pastel management colours in something else? I know I could use Crossover Office or something, but why go to all the hassle of setting up Linux to emulate Windows, when I can just use Windows without a problem.
I don't like MS all that much, and they get up to some pretty dodgy stuff sometimes, but there's a reason why everyone keeps buying their stuff aside from the fact that they bought up all the competition. Some of it is actually fairly good.

Re:Erm... do what? (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873778)

In case you haven't already known, ATI cards are well known for their shitty Linux support. I have a friend who uses a GFX5200 over an X800 over this alone.

TightVNC windows service (3, Interesting)

Mikmorg (624030) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873772)

Best free software out there, if you ask me. Just make sure you set it up to never die (windows service options: on fail, reset..)

No more running home to fix anything... even printer diagnostics can usually be fixed via phone (unless its some weird HW anomaly..)

I won't set up a dependant (on me) user without it.

Oh, and don't forget cygwin & sshd... helpful for when you don't have crazy bandwidth, and its a simple fix, checkup, whatever..

Got mum to buy a Mac (2, Interesting)

CdXiminez (807199) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873776)

So the only tech support I have to do is explain how to use applications. I don't need to repair or rescue anything.

Linux... (1)

Zero_Dogg (629500) | more than 9 years ago | (#10873781)

Both my parents run Mandrakelinux so I don't have to install any of that junk:)
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