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End users' computers rant

I am branching out into computer support. Yesterday I picked up a PC from a home user that wouldn't start. (It was XP, and would only get to a blue screen with an UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME message.) It was a damned Compaq with the usual !@^* dumbed down absolutely unhelpful recovery disk crap.

Once I got it to boot, I checked it out with Spybot, Ad-Aware, Bazooka, and AVG Anti-Virus. Yee GOD. The damned box was absolutely *crawling* with bots, trojans, adware, viruses, etc. It took about 8-10 reboots and repeated scans with these tools to nail everything. My guess is that the spyware or some virus trashed some system files or even the file structure or caused a catastrophic shutdown with files still open and being written.

I am just getting started doing this type of support (previous focus was the more desirable but dwindling SW development market).  I guess I've lived a sheltered life, keeping my computers behind NAT and firewalls, running Mozilla, and never trusting any popups that manage to get through. Any system that I control is orderly, sane, and well oiled.

But... these people must have clicked on every, I mean every, single, friggin' popup, ad, online coupon, banner, offer, and must have insisted on opening up every single email attachment. They must have read some article on end user internet security and deliberately set out to do everything that is not recommended.

Of course, I will leave the best for last: this family shares a Road Runner connection with a hub, not a firewall, they do not even *know* about firewalls, and they had no anti-virus (they do now.)

Their C: drives are probably just hanging out on their neighborhood's network segment, absolutely begging PLEASE, **PLEASE** MAP ME AND SHOVE SHIT INTO MY STARTUP FOLDER, MY OWNER HAS NO CLUE.

My actual opinion: users should be required to be licensed in order to connect a computer to the public internet.

Of course, because this kind of mess seems to be very common (the couple told me they had a *bunch* of friends who have similar problems) I am not above making a buck off it it....

There is NO way I would do this type of work for less than a consultant's rate.... the idea of facilitating someone's ignorance for less than a commercial rate seems obscene, as though you're facilitating wife-beating or drug trafficing.

I now know why corporate tech support people are so pissed off and bitter.

Freelance tech support guy
Sunday, June 06, 2004

Welcome to users with adminitrator's rights!

Full name:
Sunday, June 06, 2004

--"I now know why corporate tech support people are so pissed off and bitter"---

Probably because they've got to work with people like you. Or because they're the typical generation X born losers that gripe on fuckedupcoder.whine.

By the time the local doctor, personal trainer, aromatherapist, house hygiene consultant, feng shui expert, car mechanic and home finance consultant had been looking into different aspects of your, as far as they are concerned, hopelessly inadequate personal life, you would be feeling like the quivering mass of jelly you think your customers are.

Face it, your customers are losers, but only because they have to pay a snivelling piece of sub-humanity like you.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, June 06, 2004

I agree that computer fix it guys should charge adequate rates.  All the people in the not-so-nice above posting get paid handsomely for their services...so should you!  Also, charging peanuts just encourages people to do stupid things to their computer (someone else will fix it!)

However, we can't really blame them for their ignorance.  I'm sure my car is begging for about a thousand things to be done to it, but hell if I know anything about it ;) 

FYI, tech support is all about the soft skills.  If you're gonna do it for a while, better work on seeing things from the other point of view, or else you'll go mad.

Joe
Sunday, June 06, 2004

Mr Jones, are you serious with that tone?

Arnie
Sunday, June 06, 2004

>> Face it, your customers are losers, but only because they have to pay a snivelling piece of sub-humanity like you.
>> Stephen Jones

LOL! I love a good ad hominem flame. I am glad that internet distance makes you so brave, Stephen... and that you have ascended bodily into heaven and never experience exasperation.

BTW, my discourse was regarding my work to avoid having to reformat their hard drive and lose their data and reinstall all their stuff... that is if I did the usual hamhanded "simian IT support at the retail level" thing they would have a fresh copy of Win XP with no applications.

Anyway. Don't get me wrong. I am respectful and courteous to prospects and customers. And I see some underlying factors at work. The main problem is that the PC market is filled with disinformation, that PCs are like toasters, no brain required, plug it in and use it and so what. My forte' is to deal with the people that are the casualties of this corporate irresponsibility.

I do see the main problem: it's sort of a collusion between manufacturers of PCs who fail to provide decent user recovery resources beyond "format the entire HD and lose all your work  - IE, I had to use my own W2K Pro CD to use recovery console, which was absolutely not available in the Compaq dreck; Microsoft, with its head in the clouds marketing attitude that mundane user problems are not worth discussing; and utterly irresponsible broadband ISPs who do not attempt to educate their lusers on the importance of base firewall protection.

I have a friend 3000 mi away with similar PC problems to these people. I would help him gratis if he were local. He tries to deal with retail stores and gets lied to and bullshitted continually. All the stupid f*ckwit kids working at Compusa and the like want to do is replace motherboards and bone the customer. My friend has NO trusted resource to use to solve stuff like this.

I think I can make a living at this. But the level of chaos that vendors of PCs seem to thrive on to push their shit really apalls me. And they seem to prosper on an uneducated public.

Freelance tech support guy
Sunday, June 06, 2004

"The main problem is that the PC market is filled with disinformation, that PCs are like toasters, no brain required, plug it in and use it and so what."

I disagree.  I think the problem is that PC's *should* be like toasters, but aren't.  Normal people don't want to play sysadmin.  They want to write emails, surf the web, and send birthday cards to grandma.  And we as technically educated people shouldn't expect any different of them.

Now of course the utopia of problem free computing is a long ways off, and there are far too many individuals and entities out there preying on the PC user's incompetence, or simply ignoring their pleas for help.  But be thankful for that, because when those things cease to be true, you'll be looking for a new career again ;-)

Joe
Sunday, June 06, 2004

I think you should charge double the going corporate rate to fix home users machines for a few reasons.

1.  Get that silly ass thought about lower TCO out of peoples minds.  Maybe they won't pay big bucks.  Well then have a S L O W pc and maybe try a mac cause you heard this doesn't happen to them.

2.  You have to listen to them natter on about how their nephew could fix it in 10 minutes.

Mike
Sunday, June 06, 2004

Unhappy during your boomtime, Freelance guy? Things are as they should be. The net is still in early-adopter stage, and the machines haven't yet caught up to the human admins for providing endusers with a good experience.

I understand your point, but if you look at history, you are likely to see this state of affairs is correct. If you are not independently wealthy, make your clients happy and press your advantage while you still can. Let the internet suffer from these viruses and make itself stronger.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Sunday, June 06, 2004

So a customer's computer is a spyware fest, and you get paid to fix it, even though it's just running some automated spyware removal software and doing a few reboots. You should be laughing all the way to the bank ;)

Matthew Lock
Monday, June 07, 2004


I agree with Matthew.

In fact, I do this quite regularly...  there have been times where I had multiple boxes all running various anti-virii stuff at the same time.  Then it would beep when it was done.  I would pause my game, switch my kvm over and start the next tool.

All in all, a great pasttime.

KC
Monday, June 07, 2004

I'm finding what others who have posted here have found. The need is definitely there, but getting the customer base is pretty difficult.

Well, if the IT and tech world wasn't so dysfunctional, I'd have a continued career programming rather than chasing unnecessary computer problems. The same ego, lies and misplaced cheapness feed both.

It's the computer and software industry's commitment to bullshit, poor quality, and consumer deception that both allows me to do "malware removal" as well as that which keeps the quality of technical jobs very low and their quantity almost non existent.

Freelance tech support guy
Monday, June 07, 2004

Dear Freelance guy

I often get exasperated, particulary with tech support people who make snide comments about their lusers.

Actually my favourite story about people complaining about losers comes from Bridge. Even now there are plenty of Bridge clubs where a professional can make enough money at high-stake rubber bridge to scape by in a bedsit and not have to work.

In order for this to happen there must be sufficient people around prepared to lose enough money to pay the rent for the professionals. At one London club there was one such gentleman who had his own furniture factory and would go along to the local club three or four evenings a week, and put down the $50,000 or so he lost every year as personal expenses - a small price to pay for an interesting hobby.

One day three of the pros were walking to the bus stop on a wet and rainy night when the guy passed them in his Bentley. As he took his Havana cigat out of his mouth to wave to them, one of the guys walking remarked to the others "There goes the loser!".

Your users may know little about computers but they probably know a lot about other things you don't. More importantly they are right to expect the computers to work like everything else in their life. You con't have to configure a firewall on your toaster, stereo, home movie setup, fuse box, plumbing, car ignition system, microwave oven or anything else but a PC. And of course three years ago even most power users and techies ran without a firewall.

You have a certain field of expertise, as does a dental hygienist or a mechanic or a fitness trainer. Moaning about the lack of expertise of others is only going to make you feel miserable; moaning about it in public is going to get you shot down by those who don't share your feelings of superiority in this regard.

Treat it as a useful way of helping people and making a few bucks at the same time. And don't stop looking for something else because in a couple of years the manufacturers will have caught up, and you might find your source of work dries up, just like installing hardware upgrades and assembling computers is an occupation in terminal decline.

Stephen Jones
Monday, June 07, 2004

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