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The plight of the PC-savvy friend.

Being a PC-savvy friend (PCSV) can be somewhat challenging.  Mind you, this isn't a "whah, boo hoo" kind of thing, it's merely a reflection on some of the behaviors I see as a PCSV.

Computers have really become omni-present nowadays.  With easy to use and relatively robust operating systems such as Windows XP, a general level of maturity in the PC space in both hardware and software, really inexpensive offerings in the hardware space, and the proliferation of fast internet connections, it's pretty easy for anyone to grab and own a computer.

This means that everyone has them.  I mean literally for a couple hundred dollars you can have a used decent machine, and just a couple hundred more gets you a new one.  That's just staggering given that even just a few years back they were $600-1000, and a few years before that they were essentially double.

The problem is that despite their appearance of simplicity, computers are just as complicated (and arguably far more complicated) as they ever were.  

Also because of this seemingly friendly exterior, people are very comfortable simply grabbing whatever programs they see on the internet or in stores and just installing them as easily as they might stick a piece of fruit in the refrigerator.  Why not?  It looks about the same and its available, so it must work, right?

What's more is that because they appear to be simple, fewer people really need to understand how they work and how to fix them in order to have and use them.  This means that when these machines do break, these people are pretty much helpless.

All of this is creates this super-heated pot of doom, just waiting for the right moment to froth over and splash all over the face of the user.  When it does, who do they call?  Well, me, of course... their PCSF!  (obviously figuratively here... not everyone knows me but almost everyone has their own PCSF.)

Now generally speaking the nature of a PCSF is to help people.  We love it.  We like fixing the machines, and we enjoy strutting our technical godlike powers in front of our friends (esp. the ones who make fun of us, or even better the exceptionally hot ones who are required by law to have sex with us afterwards.)  Lately, however, despite the lure of accolades and freaky charisma-tier-skipping-sex, there has been a sharp drop off of PCSF who are willing to put their god-like powers out on the shingle.  Why?

Simply stated, you non PCSFs have been thrashing us and we're getting kind of tired of the whole affair.

Some examples of what I see happening:

1. Non-PCSFs tend to treat their PCSFs as hired hands.  It's kind of surprising, but it's true.  We get treated as though we're some dumb kid with no experience behind the PC service desk at the local Best Buy.  People get angry with us easily, are absolutely aghast if there is something else that we need to attend to other than their machine, and thrash us like tempermental mules if we happen to make an error.  Just recently I had someone get angry with me because I couldn't come over to see them... I had to get home to spend time with my friends and family... for my birthday!  How dare I?  There also seems to be no appreciation for the fact that we're giving up our free time, usually have travelled to your house to help, etc.

2. Non-PCSFs are totally unaware or unwilling to accept their own responsibility for the problems.  Due to the seeming ease and user-friendliness of computers, people generate a lot of their own problems, and yet rather than be aware of those or be open to PCSFs trying to explain to them why it's an issue so they can avoid it next time, they turn their ire directly on their PCSF... blaming them for their problems and treating them shabbily for it. 

3. You touched it, it's your fault... forever.  Once we have touched the machine for a Non-PCSF, we are forever bound to it, and anything that happens to it is our fault forever and ever, amen.  It could be two years down the road and someone could have plugged a blender into the serial port, but I'll get a call "You know that thing you did to my computer?  Well, yeah, it just burst into flames!!!"

4. Non-PCSFs are totally unaware or unwilling to accept that they must change their ways.  Since you're already going to blame us for everything anyway, we'd like to try to advise you a bit on how to avoid the problem.  That may include you not doing some things like downloading random programs from various websites, not reading all your html-enabled spam mail from Africa, not turning off various protections such as antivirus or spyware protection.  However, Non-PCSFs get all bristly if we suggest that they take these precautions because it's "not as nice" or "ruins their pretty desktop" or "isn't as much fun", etc.  They then either yell at PCSFs, or ignore them, or more often both.  Then when it breaks again 2 months later... well, see point 3.

5. Non-PCSFs expect perfection.  As I mentioned before, these things appear to be pretty simple, but they are not.  There are a lot of little snarly variables, especially when you factor in the various major household appliances that people plug into serial ports and absolutely must have operational.  This means that there will be issues as we go through the process of fixing it, and it won't be right the first time every time.  In fact, especially considering that we really should be getting home to our birthday parties, us PCSFs do occasionally need to run and leave something undone to come back later and resume.  Unacceptable!  Or at least that clearly seems to be the concern from the non-PCSF crowd.

6. Non-hands on experiences are similar.  Even if you ask a PCSF for their advice and thoughts, all of these behaviors still seem to apply forever and ever, amen.  This usually takes more of a substantive form of just acting like we're idiots.  It's as if you asked the auto mechanic how to replace a tire and then told him he's crazy and clearly that's not the way to do it.  Bizarre.

There's probably more, but that's a good sample.

So for me, it's too late. I have this one last person I'm helping, and then aside from helping my father-in-law (who amazingly does none of these things... possibly because he has some experiences with fixing his own machine and knows the complexity), I'm officially done.  No more help for any of you non-PCSFs again.

If, however, you happen to have a PCSF who is stupid enough to offer to assist you, here are some things you can do to help make the experience a positive one for both of you:

1. Bend over backwards to make it easy for your PCSF.  Find a time when is good for him or her.  Ideally working on your machine in your home can be best to ensure all your peripherals and whatnot work, but consider that it may be easier for them if you bring your computer and its various parts to them.  If they do come to your house, try to have a comfortable and quiet environment for them to work in.  Be sensitive to their preferences about screaming kids and pet allergies, etc.

2. Do not plan to do anything other than sit next to your PCSF and be available for them if they need you during the repair process.  The second you get up from your chair and go do something else, your PCSF has suddenly become the hired help.  Certainly anwer the phone and whatnot as you would, but make every point to get right back to your PCSF asap.  Don't leave them alone for more than a few minutes, and if you must, offer to your PCSF to let them go and apologize to them for wasting their time. 

3. Try to have everything you are hoping to have done ready when your PCSF gets there.  Have all of your manuals and software in a nice, neat pile.  Have a printed checklist of problems you have been encountering.  Write down exactly what happens when you perform exactly these steps.  Literally write down the text from error messages on the screen, and if you know how take some screen shots and print them out.  Your PCSF can also tell you how to do this.

4. Prepare yourself for the fact that your PCSF may actually break more than he fixes initially.  PC repair can be an ugly business and there can be a lot of collateral damage.  It's like swinging a chainsaw around in the dark sometimes.  Further prepare yourself for the possibility that your PCSF may have to leave with not everything repaired.  As long as you are nice to them, they will come back.  If there is something that is particularly sensitive and you absolutely must have working before your PCSF leaves, be sure to let him know that before he even comes over to start working.  That may alter when he decides to schedule time to start so that he has more time to be sure that part works.  Even so, understand that computers are a complex unknown, and even that bit that you said has to work, may not.  Again, just prepare yourself. 

5. Do not get visibly angry at your PCSF, ever.  If you genuinely feel everything is gone awry, well... you accept the risk of that the minute you bring your PCSF in.  If you wanted someone you could bark at, bring your PC to Best Buy and leave your friends out of it.  You can ruin a relationship really quickly by barking at the guy who is taking his personal time to help you out.  I guess the general theme here is to try to respect what they are trying to do for you, and treat them within that framework.

6. Cookies never hurt, and sex is even better.  Generally your PCSF won't be asking for any kind of payment.  They're just there to give you a hand and be a good friend, but it never hurts to have some nice cookies or some kind of food around for during or after the process, and a good bout of freaky sex afterwards is an absolutely compelling cake-topper for your PCSF.  You can be sure they'll be happy to be on-call at any time if such is the reward.  Well, unless you're hideous or of a sex that does not interest your PCSF, in which case arranged sex with a hot appropriately sex-ed friend is also very acceptable.  Manage-a-trois for bonus points.

7. Accept advice given.  If your PCSF tells you to (or not to) do something, follow their lead.  Follow it to the letter.  Even if it sucks and makes your environment less fun.  Keep in mind that some of that advice may include potential upgrades.  If you can't afford upgrades, that's fine, but then understand that whatever you want to do, you may not be able to.  That's ok too, just don't get mad at your PCSF because he can't make it work with what you have right now.

I think that may be it.  I hope it helps.  Not that anyone reads this, of course.  :)

Good luck.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 2nd, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)
OMG, this has been your best post about technology and people. I agree with the post 100%!
May. 3rd, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
hehe, thanks. :)
May. 3rd, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
Good show
I would send this to my non-PCSV's that bug me all day but I doubt they would understand a word of it, or they would get spyware just opening it.
Jul. 14th, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)


IT support doesn't get respect, nor pay with the time and effort involved. We're just dogs and people expect you to work for free. Even on weekends, or late nights. Just bend over backwards please!! What!??

Most comnpanies nowadays "do more with less", unlike in the past when it was better specialized. We're forced to wear many hats, and assume many responsibilities. All while working under stress, constant haggling, deadlines, antiquated computing environments, antiquated software and limited budget.

And of course you have no say in the kind of hardware/software that comnes in. Got a new Iphone? Guess what bud you're now bound to support that new fang thingy. After all, we're supposed to know this stuff already right?
We get them before non pcsv's right?

Dec. 29th, 2007 12:22 am (UTC)
Kudos for verbalizing my experiences with my friends and family. One friend brought the SAME computer to me FOUR times. Each time it was totally inundated with virii and spyware because she couldn't "afford" anti-virus. What??? I finally told her that getting online, especially to all the porn sites her kids were viewing, was like being a local street hooker with a great business and NOT wearing a condom. Seems to have worked. Haven't had to work on her computer since. I also make sure the free anti-virus program I installed couldn't be changed or removed (except for definition updates). Life is good.
Jul. 29th, 2008 08:46 am (UTC)
I've been there, too. I used to fix computers for people who made sure that I have all conditions, offered cookies/ ice cream, and payed me what I asked.
At work, my colleagues loved me because I always responded fast and solved everything. It was nice, because I'm a guy and my colleagues were mostly women.

Anyway, I moved on to be a database admin/developer, it's so much better without being called anytime for any stupid problem.
Mar. 3rd, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
Excellent Post
Found your post through a comment you made to another blog = LifeReBoot. Thanks for the tips on being good to my "computer guy" friend. I do give him world=famous (they should be) cinnamon buns. I also know what a huge favor it is. Thanks again.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )



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