Work in IT for any length of time, and it just happens. Whether you are a technician or an analyst, EVERYONE thinks that you want to or can fix their personal computer. And if by some chance they don’t want you to tinker with the family boat anchor, they desperately want advice on choosing the best piece of technology for the money.
It doesn’t matter who the person asking happens to be (friend, relative, acquaintance or stranger) the conversation starts off with one of the following:
“So, you work with computers? Cool, you see my computer is doing”¦” which usually ends up as a saga of how the ungrateful piece of technology happens to be behaving.
“Oh, you work in computers? Well, I am in the market for ____. What are your suggestions? You see, I do not have a ton of dough right now and I really don’t want to spend a lot of money on it.”
Most of the time I silently groan and play at being interested in what the person has to say. If nothing else, their story will be great fodder for laughter later on. Usually, I get a story about how the PC won’t go on the Internet, or how out of the blue it is horrendously slow. Or perhaps they got a Windows popup that said their little bundle of circuit boards was infected. Being a good tech care giver, they clicked the link provided in the popup and downloaded some software to clean the so-called infection. But the popup never goes away and they don’t know what to do.
Once the story has been told, I start asking questions. What kind of errors are you getting? Is your PC hooked up to the router/modem properly? When is the last time you ran a virus scan? Have you gone on any “bad” sites recently? Or, if they are looking for purchasing advice: “What are you looking to do with it?”
The questions normally bring out a blank stare. The expression on their face says it all:
“Why can’t you just make a house call and fix it?”
“Just tell me what to buy, don’t you know anything?”
Sure, I could, but I won’t. Just fixing the problem or giving recommendations teaches the other person nothing. Truthfully, I love technology and I think everyone else should be able to do a bit of troubleshooting/critical thinking without having their hand held by some techie person.
Computers run the world now, in many respects. It is time the masses start learning how to take care of their machines. I liken it to basic car maintenance, like knowing how to check your oil, add windshield washer fluid, and change your own tire. In my mind, you should be able to keep your computer relatively un-infected without too much technical savvy. Also, you should be able to figure out what you want without being fluent in tech-speak.
At a minimum, I believe that everyone should be able to do the following:
- Keep your virus protection up-to-date. Yes, that means in most cases BUY it, and keep it installed ““ run a virus scan at least once a week; more frequently if you do a lot of pirating of software, music, movies and go to “bad” sites.
- Stay away from “bad” sites (free porn, free downloads) ““ if it is free ““ it is usually infected with viruses and malware. If you need music, software, videos and porn; PAY for it.
- Secure your wireless network ““ it keeps “bad” people out. And by “bad,” I mean people who drive around and try to get into unsecured networks ““ usually to do illegal things.
- Don’t open something if you don’t know who it is from ““ usually it is a virus or malware.
- Don’t open anything you weren’t expecting from someone you know. Or, if the email subject doesn’t sound like the person. Refer to #4 for the why.
- Don’t install free software unless it comes from a reputable source. Why? Free software often either has malware or a virus embedded in it.
Or if you are in the market for a new piece of technology, you should be able to:
- Do your own research. Knowledge is power.
- Figure out what you are going to use it for. This helps the sales people point you in the right direction. Seriously, you don’t need a high-end gaming PC if all you are going to do is email and surf the web.
- Figure out what types of software you want to come with it.
- Be honest with yourself about how much you are willing to spend.
- Take into consideration any extras that would be “nice to have” if the price were right.
- Make sure it comes with security features, especially if it will be connected to the Internet.
- Virus protection
- Malware protection and removal software
- Note what software packages are trial-only versions versus a real subscription. Trial versions equal a lower price and are just what the name implies, a trial. It is going to stop working eventually and you will either need to buy a full version or do without.
- Acknowledge that decent technology costs money ““ if something is listed for an insanely low price, there is probably a catch.
- Buy from a reputable source.
- Lastly, remember not all computer people are created equal.
If you can take those things to heart, your computing experience will be safer and less frustrating. Knowledge is half the battle. Take it from a chick who has done more house calls and advising over the years than she cares to admit.