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The Tech Support Generation 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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The Tech Support Generation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:14AM (#10873598)
    Firefox & Thunderbird. Saves you lots of trouble.
  • Surely? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sexy Bern ( 596779 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:14AM (#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? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Codename_V ( 813328 )
      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.
      • 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? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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
    • Bob! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @11:01AM (#10874472) Homepage
      I think I still have a copy of Microsoft Bob somewhere...believe it or not, it'll run on XP! :P
  • NOT service pack 2.
    • Re:hmm... (Score:2, Informative)

      by ukcb ( 829435 )
      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...
  • by jalet ( 36114 ) <> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:14AM (#10873603) Homepage
    > 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 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.

    • pffft Install OpenBSD and you'll never have to see your parents again.
  • they are slooow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by helfen ( 791121 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:15AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @08:10AM (#10873911)
      Is that all? How about this:

      "So, now you are all set. Just click ok and you're off!"

      ...excruciating pause while hapless parent/legal guardian/alien adoption mother/other supported entity stares at the screen without any external confirmation of possible ongoing thought processes...

      "Just... Click... Ok."

      ...another interminable pause...

      "Yes, but WHY do I have to click ok? Can't it just work? I don't understand why this is so complicated."

      Aarg! Or how about that situation where you are working with someone (doesn't have to be a parent, colleagues are great for this), and they keep repeating the same improbable method for doing something. For example, they are copying data from one Excel sheet to another, ONE BLOODY CELL AT A TIME, using the MOUSE AND MENU to select the copy and paste operations. But the worst of all is: for some reason between each copy and paste they let go of the mouse and reach over to the keyboard to switch between sheets. And all the cells they are copying are in the same column. And there are over 400 of them...

      • Re:they are slooow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zapman ( 2662 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @10:31AM (#10874337)
        One thing that I always have a problem with, when teaching my mom anything about the computer is to only show her one thing (or change) at a time. In your example, the FIRST thing to show them is that they can copy and paste more than one cell at a time. Tell them how to highlight all the cells, and let them copy with the menu option. Then have them paste them into the same sheet to prove to them it works. Give them several practice runs on this procedure, only letting them highlight multiple cells one way (either by click/drag, or control or shift which ever they're used to... don't show them the others)

        After this, show them that they can do multiple cells between sheets, still using menu copy/paste, and still highlighting the same way, and flipping sheets the same way. Let them practice this one change a few times.

        Then show them ctrl-c and ctrl-v, and let them practice several times.

        Then show them other ways to highlight, and let them practice.

        My problem is that I must resist taking the mouse from her. I must let her practice each thing several times so that SHE understands, and so that I don't have to do it for her every time.

        We all have learning curves, and if we have good teachers, they are easier. A good example is worth infinatly more than an RTFM.
  • by Insurgent2 ( 615836 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:15AM (#10873606)
    My parents are smarter than I am.

    They have Macs!
    • Re:None of the above (Score:3, Interesting)

      by selderrr ( 523988 )
      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.
    • My parents have Macs, too. I bought them for them on the theory that they would be easier to use and require less effort to support.

      Unfortunately, they still require a lot of work to support: printing has all sorts of problems, software tries to update itself and fails, Apple software tells you to buy the next version, etc. The Macintosh UI is remarkably unintuitive unless you are a Mac-head. Macs are a little better than Windows overall, but mostly just because they have bits and pieces of UNIX left in
  • by colonslashslash ( 762464 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:16AM (#10873609) Homepage
    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.

    • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:28AM (#10873814) Homepage
      I let my family members run Windows if they want, but I tell 'em that if they do, I can't help them with it. I haven't used Windows since '96 or '97, and even then, I only used it for games, and wouldn't allow it to install the modem drivers, much less connect to the internet. I have no idea how to make a Windows system safe and secure, nor do I have any interest in learning.

      So, instead, I have a standing offer. Anyone in my family who's sick of viruses and spyware and the other ills of Windows can get my help setting up and maintaining a Linux box. So far, only my completely-computer-illiterate aunt has taken me up on it (after a major fight with viruses), but she's been so happy with the results that I think some others may come around soon.
      • by Janek Kozicki ( 722688 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @09:05AM (#10874051) Journal
        I do the same - offer tech support, but only for linux boxes. my distro of choice is debian.

        my sister uses debian, and I visit her every 4 or 6 months, and everything is in the same good state as before: she writes documents in openoffice, prints then, downloads videos with mldonkey, watches them with mplayer, burns them with k3b.

        but she wants games for her son - so I allowed debian to dualboot with win95 (grub). and I don't touch win95 on her computer at all. She uses a husband of her friend for that. He reinstalls it every few months, to get the games running :>

        I don't have time to run wine with directx support on her box, heck I even didn't done that on my machine, let alone someone's else machine.

      • I tell my family that I won't help them with Windows. Sure, I could help, but I won't. I turn away people who offer to pay me for help with Windows - why on Earth would I do the same work, on a holiday, for free?

        Oh sure, they do the same to me. My brother refuses to help me maintain my nuclear reactor, even though I know he could do it with one hand tied behind his back.
  • Linux.

    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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ender81b ( 520454 ) <<moc.aksarbeni> <ta> <dllib>> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:19AM (#10873619) Homepage Journal
    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

  • 3 things (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArmenTanzarian ( 210418 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:19AM (#10873622) Homepage Journal
    That Gator thing I love so much
  • Not the toolbar! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mallardtheduck ( 760315 ) <.stuartbrockman. .at.> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:20AM (#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...)
  • by jim_v2000 ( 818799 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:23AM (#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.)
  • Then you no longer have to travel all the way there every time something needs fixing. Well... unless it's their net connection ;)
  • 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
  • by baryon351 ( 626717 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:25AM (#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.
    • by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 ( 812236 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:34AM (#10873669) Journal
      I'm with you....just as soon as I move out of my parent's house...
    • Same thing here... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:50AM (#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.
      • Not to sound pedantic here, but should computers just be like applicances? I personaly think there is a need for a computer platform, based on Linux or whatever, that it just handles things for you. I know there's always somethings that need attention, but should a OS be so easy to compromise as Windows is? Is Linux the right answer? Right now, I would say no because my parents expect to just go to the store and buy software and stick it in and it work. I think we need something like the following:

    • by lachlan76 ( 770870 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:52AM (#10873713)
      I feel for you. I'm 15, and I've gotten phone calls at school.

      Be grateful ;)
      • Ah, I remember those. The best was when I got called down to the office (I think it was grade 11) and my mom was on the phone. She told me she broke the computer. I calmly asked her "what does it say?" and she replied "I don't know, I just turned it on and it's never done this before". So I said, "well, can you read to me what it says?" so she does, and it turned out to be the Windows notification that the computer had adjusted the clock for daylight savings time. So I ask her "how many buttons do you
    • by scupper ( 687418 ) * on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:54AM (#10873722) Homepage
      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> (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jimicus ( 737525 )
        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.

    • 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

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @08:27AM (#10873953)
      From a newsgroup I read:-

      I stopped doing that stuff years ago. It just ain't worth the hassle.

      Typical genuine scenarios that have contributed to my attitude...

      - As you've mentioned, folks whining for help before even attempting to solve their own problem

      - When they stop offering any kind of token reward or payment (some never offer anything in the first place), regardless of whether you normally accept such gifts. It's not so bad if it's a two minute job, but some of these morons are so convinced of your passion for IT
      problem-solving that they think it's perfectly reasonable for you to spend half a day in their spare room without so much as a cup of tea and
      a biscuit

      - When they start recommending you to their friends and handing out your number

      - When they start with "my neighbour's brother is having trouble..."

      - When the "problem" is clearly a veiled request for you to obtain a pirated copy of AutoCAD for them

      - "My graphics card has gone faulty. You must have done something to it when you upgraded my hard drive in March" (i.e. they want you to buy and fit them a new card, cos it's your fault that it's busted)

      - Asking for advice and then ignoring it ("don't buy it at Dixons", "You'll need more memory than that", "D-Link sucks", "Ethernet is better
      than USB for networking", "You should really have some Antivirus", etc.)

      - "Selective memory" when, after ignoring your advice, they experience an expensive problem

      - When they call you at 21:30 on Christmas Eve with a computer problem

      - They decide to save money by building their own system, except that they want you to spec it up, price it up, order the bits (they'll pay you back once it's working), take delivery of the bits and, of course, build it

      - You get into the office and find that some ancient filthy hulk of a home PC has been deposited on your desk chair - with a note vaguely
      describing a problem, specifying the day that it needs to be fixed by, and warning you against losing any of their (unspecified) data. Lots of
      exclamation marks, and a smiley face at the bottom

      - When they happen to be a millionaire but they won't upgrade their Amstrad 1640 and dot matrix printer

      - They start forwarding every hoax virus warning to you, merely adding a "?" to the top

      - They want you to arrange for them to no longer receive any spam

      - They show up unannounced at the front door brandishing a laptop that they found at some car boot sale or something. They invite themselves in
      and won't leave until you take a look at it. It almost seems to be your fault when it turns out to be missing some vital part - you know, like
      the charger or the battery. They get mad at *you* when you tell them how much the replacement part is likely to cost for their lovely "new" £10

      - They haven't got a CD burner, but they know that you have

      - They *have* got a burner, but can't be arsed to learn how to work Nero

      - They have access to at least a dozen spotty little geeks who are capable of hooking their new Deskjet up, but they still come to you

      - They have a novel requirement - say ripping-off audio tapes to CD and scanning, resizing and printing the case inserts. You know that if you
      listen to them, it'll suddenly be up to you to do all the research on the hardware required, pirate the software, make it all work, write step-by-step instructions, and be available on the phone the first ten times they try to do it

      - Describing an apparently easy-to-fix problem in order to get you to visit, then revealing the true, massive, extent of the task once you're

      Yep. That's why I don't do that sh*t any longer
    • 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

      You just described parenthood.

  • by hagbard5235 ( 152810 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:25AM (#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.
  • 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.

  • by Jumbo Jimbo ( 828571 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:27AM (#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.

  • Solution that works (Score:3, Informative)

    by fegu ( 66137 ) * <<Finn> <at> <>> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:30AM (#10873654) Homepage
    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.
  • 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
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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 ? "

  • 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
    • Talking about digital photography - if you've got a family member who's got Windows and a digital camera but finds the included software overly slow and/or complicated, give Picasa [] a try. Standard disclaimer - I'm in no way affiliated with the company, just someone who was really impressed with how straightforward Picasa is to use.

      Non-patronising, doesn't spam the user with constant hand-holding, but incredibly simple - importing photos, organising them, printing and emailing them (even from Mozilla Thunde
  • Change the OS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ed Almos ( 584864 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:38AM (#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
    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:21AM (#10873799) Journal
      Getting a Mac is a huge advantage for two reasons:
      1. Other Mac users never bug you with questions, since they'd have to admit that their OS was less than 100% intuitive if they did) and,
      2. You can happily claim ignorance of every other platform. Saying `Hey, I use a Mac! I don't understand Windows/Linux. See how shiny my Mac is! Shiny!' gets me out of a lot of things (as long as people don't notice the headless FreeBSD box hidden behind my desk).
  • 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...
  • 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 tha
  • by Anthony Boyd ( 242971 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:49AM (#10873699) Homepage

    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)
  • 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 ext
  • 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 yo
  • Perhaps... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Durindana ( 442090 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @06:50AM (#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?"

    • Yes! The two minute delay between moving the mouse and the cursor moving will give them time to consider whether they really wanted to move the mouse!
  • 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.
  • Parents use Linux (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Krafty Koder ( 697396 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:01AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • Erm... do what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chman ( 746363 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:08AM (#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.
  • by Mikmorg ( 624030 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @07:11AM (#10873772) Homepage
    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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CdXiminez ( 807199 )
    So the only tech support I have to do is explain how to use applications. I don't need to repair or rescue anything.
  • I was one of those who opened up my big mouth last Thanksgiving and the hostess asked me to look at her computer. So while everyone else was having a good old drunken fest, I was the one hunkering over the machine, diagnosing that her 2nd hard drive was dead, trying to fix it, when after a while she came in asked how I was doing. I told her it was dead and she said: "Yeah, it keeps giving me an error on the E: drive and I never even use it!". I yanked out the dead drive and re-booted the machine and it w
  • A Useful Analogy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @08:00AM (#10873882) Homepage Journal
    My family has interesting misconceptions about my capabilities, and I assume this is true of a lot of people here. I have a degree in CS, I make my living programming computers, but I don't know jack about troubleshooting Windows. I run a Mac at home because it's simple to fix when it breaks. The skillsets of a good programmer and a good technician don't overlap nearly as much as people think. Yet, everybody thinks I should know how to fix all of their Windows problems.

    So, I tell them that I'm like an engineer. I do the computer equivalent of building bridges, designing cars, etc. What they're asking me to do is the computer equivalent of repairing their car after the engine compartment started smoking. They wouldn't expect a bridge designer to be able to fix their car engine, and so they shouldn't expect a programmer to be able to fix their computer. Once they get the idea that I might be able to do something, but it's really not the kind of thing I'm good at, everybody is a lot happier.
  • Solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Saturday November 20, 2004 @08:13AM (#10873918) Journal
    I got my Dad an eMac.

    The result?
    - No more support calls
    - The first computer my Dad's enjoyed using
    - No more rats nest of cables

    The other result is when it was time to get a laptop for myself - after using OS X, it had to be a PowerBook.
  • by prandal ( 87280 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @08:14AM (#10873919)
    You insensitive clod, not all people want NT 4 SP2 on their win 98 boxes.

    Seriously though, the first thing which goes on is the latest McAfee Stinger []. When that's wiped out most of the viruses, I uninstall their out-of-date Norton - so many people don't realise that the major antivirus vendors are on a rental model and just buy the product and expect it to last forever. Then Avast! Personal Edition [] goes on, and the PC is fully scanned. After that comes Spybot [] and Ad-Aware []. I use both because each product has its stregths and weaknesses. All of this is done form a CD burnt with the latest patterns so no internet connectivity happens until their PC has been cleaned. And then Sygate Personal Firewall [] completes the mix of security products.

    After that comes Thunderbird and Firefox, The GIMP [] and Audacity [] (if they are into that sort of thing. And of course we musn't forget IrfanView [].
  • by Kingpin ( 40003 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @08:32AM (#10873967) Homepage
    ..would people ask me to come hang up their pictures? Level their doors and floors? Build their shed?

    Would they do it without offering to pay me?
  • Sure, dad (Score:4, Funny)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @09:11AM (#10874070) Homepage
    I'll clean the virus and update your system. While I'm doing that you can change the oil in my car, rotate the tires, and hey, how about freshening up the wax job while you're at it? And don't forget to vacuum out the interior and rub on some armor-all.

  • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @09:25AM (#10874120) Homepage Journal
    from when people first got cars and the mechanically-inclined relative was expected to help keep it running. The price of knowing what to do is being asked to do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 20, 2004 @09:41AM (#10874167)
    and then they will not take your expertise for granted:). After hooking up my entire close and extended family with computers for free (I usually pass my old computers (+$100 for reasonale upgrades) to them when I buy new stuff) this is what I found out:

    0. Don't waste your time explainig to them what the problem is because they don't have the patience to listen to the entire explanation you are more than willing to give to them.

    1. After fixing a problem you are blamed for ALL the other problems that will happen following the origial problem.

    2. Unless a speed improvement is more than twice on a benchmark, people over 50 will not notice it, so don't waste time and money switching them from ATA66 to ATA133.

    3. Any CPU over 1.5Ghz + 512M is an overkill.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @10:02AM (#10874234) Journal
    Rather than asking what to put on to protect them, how about "What can I put on my family's computers so they won't notice when I change the OS to Linux"?

    I have my parents already running OO and Moz, and they don't really use their computer for much else.

    If not for that goddamned "Chip's Challenge", I could change them over to Linux today and they wouldn't even notice.

    Anyone know of a Linux port/clone of CC? A Flash or SW version would suffice...
  • by RebornData ( 25811 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @12:18PM (#10874799)
    This is a little off-topic, but allow me to rant. I do home computer support professionally, which means that these days I'm basically a professional spyware cleaner. I've come in numerous times after techie family members supposedly cleaned up a machine, only to find they didn't do a very good job.

    So please, if you are going to clean spyware up for your family, you should know the following:

    1. As good as Spybot and Ad-aware are, neither is comprehensive. Run both. And you're still probably going to be missing some things (see #3 below).

    2. After getting spybot and ad-aware installed with the latest updates, set a system restore point (if the OS supports it and system restore is working), and then *reboot into safe mode*. Running the cleaners in safe mode is much more effective than with all the junk running, and you won't end up rebooting and re-scanning to get open files. If you get warnings that there are files that can't be cleaned because of a running process, use a boot cd of some sort to delete it manually... much faster than running a re-scan.

    3. After Spybot and Adaware *think* the machine is clean, use the "advanced" tools in spybot to examine the BHO, ActiveX, Startup and LSP lists to be sure. Don't recognize something? Google it. Chances are, if it's not in google, it doesn't belong. If it's a startup item, be sure to delete the target file (or files). The Spybot ActiveX deletion feature doesn't work so well... delete those manually from the location referenced. This usually is necessary to get the trojans and viruses that Adaware and spybot won't warn about.

    4. Reboot, connect to the Internet, and then go back and check advanced tools in spybot to see if anything got added to the startup, BHO or other lists... changed entries are bolded, so it's easy to tell.

    Then, and only then, will you know that the machine is clean. Keeping it clean is another issue, but at least this will get it done.

  • My mom has a Mac (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Saturday November 20, 2004 @12:57PM (#10875014)
    I'm just there for the food.
  • by aristotle-dude ( 626586 ) on Saturday November 20, 2004 @02:53PM (#10875670)
    I spent years in technical support and I develop win32 applications for a living. I sure as hell am not going to be technical support for my mom with some PC running windows.

    Sorry but linux is not easy to use as a desktop.

    I'm going to set her up with my old eMac with Panther and 1GB Ram on it and load Office for Mac 2004. We can get a .MAC account for her to setup and share photos with relatives and use the Virex anti-virus software to protect the windows owning relatives for macro viruses in office documents she might send/receive.

    Oh and all this crap about software not updating. I call bullshit. I've only had that happen to me with the IM manager proteus because I had not kept up to date with it but that was only with the check for updates function. Installing an updated version is as simple as going to the website and downloading the dmg disk image and dragging the app package into the Applications directory.

    No problems with printers either, you don't need to have a desktop printer to print from applications.

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Monday November 22, 2004 @12:47PM (#10888922) Homepage
    Be glad you are indoors, where it is nice and warm this time of year, instead of cold, possibly wet/damp - shivering your ass off, scraping knuckles and getting greasy, etc while working on an automobile ("Oh, you know how to fix cars?" - after you tell them about the new brakes you installed on your car - "Well, our car is making this funny noise, and we thought...").

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson