Posted by: Nick | Wednesday 1 July 2009

Becoming The Family Tech Support Guru

by Dale Tudge

The Dangers Of Falling Into The Role Of The Family Tech Support Guru

You’ll be the family’s F1 key if they find out that you know everything about computers.
This is how it starts. You’re visiting a relative (cousin, brother-in-law, whatever), and they invite you to have a look at their home computer system, which is filled to the neck with spyware, adware, malware, and more viruses than you would find on a downtown hooker.
The system is bloated with hundreds of pointless programs, irrelevant icons, and feckless folders, the hard drives have never been optimized, and the temporary cache hasn’t been emptied since the Reagan years. You offer to clean up all the digital flotsam, and voila, the computer is running faster than a white man at the L.A. riots.
But then, after you’ve performed a miracle more amazing than a John Edwards vision, you instantly regret the tiny bit of technical support you’ve freely given to your relative, because now you’re being worshipped like a Star Trek officer on a primitive alien world.
And once you’ve started helping your kin with their simple computer woes, there will be no end to it. You see, you’ve already established yourself as the family computer specialist. Pretty soon you’ll be doing memory upgrades, network installations, and graphic designs. Before you know it, you’ll be the webmaster of the new family website, photoshopping out grandma’s age spots on all the family pictures. You’ll be on 24-hour pager duty, at the beckon call of remote cousins, aunts, and in-laws.
In the old days, you could always preach the old saying: "Read The ***ing Manual." But that kind of wise-cracking will likely earn you a mouthful of soap from your mother. And no family member wants to read instructions when you are just a phone call away. And forget getting paid. The best you can ever hope for is a slice of your Auntie Jennie’s pumpkin carrot pie, and a basket of dry cornbread muffins.
Now, you’re not going to be able to get around fixing grandma’s Internet connection when she’s got that online canasta tournament, and you pretty much need to reinstall Windows for your sister, especially if you ever expect her to set you up with her cute college friend. But although you are willing to provide driver disks, patches, and upgrades to your close relatives, it doesn’t mean that you should have to walk your great-uncle through a forty-five minute install of bargain bin poker software.
It’s dangerous enough when you offer free counsel to friends who want to buy new laptops. But when you start making house-calls to little-known in-laws because they don’t know the difference between drag-and-drop and dragon droppings, you’re pretty much throwing away your personal freedom. You’ll be branded a guru, and the only way to lose your credibility as the 24-hour family tech supporter is to (accidentally) delete your brother-in-law’s collection of nude women on ponies. Once you’ve established fallibility, your value as a computer specialist will deflate faster than a five-dollar blow-up doll.
You’ll probably find that the easiest way to prevent yourself from falling into a permanent tech support role, is to tell your family that you "only know Linux". This way it preserves your computer-savvy reputation, and puts you out of the league of most relatives. Of course, this ruse will only work until your Uncle Fred decides to tinker with that new release of Red Hat.



  1. I hear you. I used to be in the same boat but then I bought a mac and now, all I recommend people to do is buy a Mac. The people who have taken this up have now found that their problems have all somehow disappeared.

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