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Please Don't Ask Me About Windows On Christmas 559

Like many Slashdot users I spend a wee bit of my otherwise leisure time doing gratis tech support for people I may not even know. I usually don't mind too much but last Christmas I got more than one call from distant relatives that, along with wanting to spread holiday cheer, had me weigh in on whatever might be wrong with their new gadget. I was pleased as punch to see this article in the NYT (F.R.Y.Y.Y) about where I might be able to send the less techo hip. If you do *Windows* tech support for grandma after hours this article might also come in handy." Here are a couple of previous articles about the sorry state of conventional support options -- perhaps articles like this will spark some entrepreneurial ideas, too.
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Please Don't Ask Me About Windows On Christmas

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  • by inode_buddha ( 576844 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:51PM (#4741066) Journal
    Heh, I don't even have to wast for the holidays... ppl call me up anyhow, and the first thing that crosses my mind is
    dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda bs=512
    There now, that should fix it....

  • by ( 562495 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:51PM (#4741068) Homepage
    In my Unix Operator days, I used to get these calls. Actually they turned out to be beneficial (to the OS world).... I got some of the users to upgrade to StartOffice/OpenOffice or even Linux.
    • Great job, you gave them the answer to one question they could figure out, with 53,000 more questions they couldn't figure out.
  • Ah yes... (Score:5, Funny)

    by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:52PM (#4741073) Journal
    The age old problem of people asking you to help them out with their gadgets or begging you to fix their computer for them, either over the phone or in person. Over the years, I have discovered a twofold solution to this problem:
    1. Pretend like you don't know what the solution is and tell them you can't help them.
    2. Buy one of those handy t-shirts that read, "No, I will not fix your computer." Wear this shirt daily for best results.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As if any self-respecting geek would have more than one shirt...
    • by vga_init ( 589198 )
      Well, if you are like me and would want to both avoid the hastle of washing your shirt daily in order have better personal hygene and still be respected by your fellow geeks, you will find it very convenient to buy multiple copies of the same shirt. No one will ever know that it's not the same shirt. ;)
    • Re:Ah yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by distributed.karma ( 566687 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:08PM (#4741144)
      > Pretend like you don't know what the solution is and tell them you can't help them.

      Imagine I'm a Linux and BSD poweruser/sysadmin and the problem is related to Windoze or Mac. I honestly don't know that much about those systems (nor do I care to learn) so there's no 'pretend'.

      I should probably explain this attitude more generally. Since I don't have anything to do with Microsoft, there's no basis for me to bash(1) their products. Likewise I don't fancy buying an Xbox to be modded into a Linux box, because I don't want to be involved with M$ in any way.

      In many cases it's best just to ignore M$ quietly, and focus on doing your things with the best tools. I know there's the practical problem of getting a box (especially laptop) without Windows, but for many other things the quiet way should work.

      Think of it this way: M$ is the neighbourhood bully who gets his satisfaction from pissing you off. He will be powerless if you just ignore him.

      • Re:Ah yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Road ( 170213 ) <slashdot@clark s c a m p . n et> on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:30PM (#4741233)
        Since I don't have anything to do with Microsoft, there's no basis for me to bash(1) their products

        Well then, why the M$ crap?
      • Re:Ah yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shayne321 ( 106803 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:52PM (#4741315) Homepage Journal

        Imagine I'm a Linux and BSD poweruser/sysadmin and the problem is related to Windoze or Mac. I honestly don't know that much about those systems (nor do I care to learn) so there's no 'pretend'.

        I used to work with a guy who had this same attitude.. The guy was a super genius and could to anything with linux you'd ever want done, but had some secret hatred of microsoft and refused to go near their products. Problem is, in the Real World you can't just ignore them. Case in point, said co-worker was asked to setup a samba server on linux. He had no problems setting up the server, but even *mapping a drive* from windows to test the server took him hours since he knew so little about windows. Like it or not, Microsoft has a MAJOR foothold in the PC and server world (to say the least), and simply ignoring them will do much more harm to you than to them.

        In many cases it's best just to ignore M$ quietly, and focus on doing your things with the best tools.

        That's YOUR decision if you choose to ignore Microsoft just because they're microsoft - and I certainly won't bash you for it - but sometimes a microsoft product IS the best tool for the job.. Throwing it away just because it is made my microsoft seems a little short sighted.. To me, "best tools" should include ANY tool that helps me accomplish what I need to accomplish with my PC.

        Think of it this way: M$ is the neighbourhood bully who gets his satisfaction from pissing you off. He will be powerless if you just ignore him.

        Ugh, slashdot analogies are always horrible.. And since we've established that, let me make an equally horrible one... Think of Microsoft as your corner crack dealer. You may not approve of what he does, and yes, if you ignore him he probably won't try to sell you crack.. But hey, if you need some crack, he's the only place you're gonna find it.

        (Sheesh, did I just stick up for microsoft AND refer to them as a crack dealer in the same post? I need to leave the beer alone).


        • Re:Ah yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by archen ( 447353 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @12:28AM (#4741439)
          I used to work with a guy who had this same attitude..

          Some of us don't have an attitude; we're just doing our job. And you know how you become a super Linux guru knowing little about Windows? It's because you focus your efforts. It's better to do one thing well than do a shitty job knowing a little bit of everything. I don't hold it against a Linux guru if he does a very good job not knowing windows, nor do I hold it against a good (yes GOOD) MS guru if they also know their stuff and know little about Linux. Rather smart people may be able to master everything, but not so smart people like me might have to concentrate our efforts to do a better job in other areas. I spend most of my time as an admin on our Linux/NT servers, but is it really my fault because I don't know every single problem with Windows? You tell me. I really don't think so.

          user (on phone): Exel is giving me an error.
          me: okay
          user: something about not enough memory.
          me: ...
          user: But I just want to save the file but it won't let me. I don't even have anything else open.
          me: ... hmm... I donno

          Some of us have to pick our battles.
          • Re:Ah yes... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Austenite ( 21871 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @12:55AM (#4741533) Homepage
            I find the two prevailing attitudes in most of these posts really disturbing.

            Not doing unpleasant chores for your family, like Windows support - I mean, they are your family ferchrissakes.

            Second, the idea that you can be a programmer/linux/mainframe person and know nothing about PC's. The parent of the this post is the most reasonable attempt at explanation of the lot. However, with an education, a developed analytical reasoning ability, lack of fear about items technological and an understanding of the principles of operation, there shouldn't be many problems most of your family could have that you could not assist with.

            Yes, you SHOULD be able to find the networking configuration of any GUI OS, for example. You SHOULD be able to take in the available information, formulate a theory, test the hypothesis and observe the results. You SHOULD be able to use whatever experience you do have, even if the situation is one you have not previously encountered.

            Unless of course you're a reasonably bright kid who was into computers early and skipped a proper unversity education to catch the IT boom and are now looking down the barrel of 40 years in a mature industry with no qualifications and no learning skills with which to update your specific technical knowledge.

            And no family who feel the need to support you when you need help.
        • "the best tool" (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Idou ( 572394 )
          "That's YOUR decision if you choose to ignore Microsoft just because they're microsoft - and I certainly won't bash you for it - but sometimes a microsoft product IS 'the best tool' for the job.."

          I am not in IT, but I always find it amusing how efficient IT "professionals" are. Too efficient, I might add.

          I have been studying to become a CPA, and I can state from direct experience that the current set of accounting standards are by no means the "best way to do things." In this respect, accounting standards for CPAs are comparable to Laws for Lawyers. So if they are so inefficient, why do CPAs and Lawyers make much, much more $ than "IT Professionals?" Because CPAs and Lawyers are REAL Professionals (please hear me out on this).

          You see, REAL professionals need organisations, that are acting in the best interest of the profession, to have control over the standards of the profession. CPAs have the AICPA (and FASB). Lawyers have the BAR association. And IT workers have . . . Microsoft, who, like you said, control most of the industry, so they control the standards of the profession.

          However, MS doesn't care about the IT profession. They care about selling their software. Cheap IT workers = more software sales. So, Microsoft prints out MSCE certificates like its printing out money, turning IT workers into somewhere just above your average McDonald's employee.

          I know, in your effort to do your job "better," you pick the "best tool." However, while you are doing a great service to your company, you are doing a great disservice to your profession when that "tool" reinforces a closed standard.

          The lack of wider use of Open Standards and Open Source software (at least for Operating Systems, which set the standards for all applications, commercial and non-commerical) are the only things keeping IT workers from enjoying the security that other professions enjoy.
      • You claim that you ahve no basis to bash their products and then spend you whole post hurling silly insults. Riiiiight.
    • by Phroggy ( 441 )
      Wear this shirt daily for best results.

      Right. And don't wash it. Then they won't want your help.
    • Re:Ah yes... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by shepd ( 155729 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <gro.todhsals>> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @04:14AM (#4742160) Homepage Journal
      I like my solution:

      Charge $20 a hour. Turn your hobby into a business. Make money and enjoy it. Charge much more when you have the brick and mortar (Prices up to $60 an hour should be no problem). Lather, rinse, repeat.

      The best part is, if you're careful about it, you never have to advertise (all I do is pass my business cards to the right people). My "on the side" (but still reported to the tax-man) earnings have surpassed my part-time job, to the point where I have to be careful with my time so that I can squeeze that last few months of college in before I go full-time (I may need to quit my "real" job shortly). All you need to do is find something you can do that most others (including your fellow techs) can't do. One of my specialties is modchip installations. Once your specialty is known, you'll get jobs for it, and all the usual stuff will fall into place too (fixing DUN, virus/ad-software removal, building computers, building home networks, cabling, satellite installs, etc. for me).

      Nothing beats a self started business. And yes, I will work Christmas evening - that's when people want to pay me the most (I can already see the multi-digit tips -- thanks for that goodwill cheer!). I just can't "open" the store that day (stupid laws). :-)

      You know, for all the complaining I do about windows, it _does_ ensure I've got a steady job.

      Maybe I shouldn't be giving away the keys to growing your own home business to everyone on slashdot. I really don't need any more competition. ;-)
      • I did the exact same thing through college. But my rates didn't go up around holidays - they went down - no one was around, anyhow.

        My favorite story was my inevitable phone call at about 11pm night before my CS460 final. I was cramming for it, as usual, and wasn't even halfway done. I got a call from a guy about 35 miles away who demanded that I come get a CD out of a drive that his son had removed from his computer. Here's the conversation :

        me : Sorry, not tonight. After my final in the morning.
        him : You just HAVE to. It's not my CD, and it needs to go back in the morning to work.
        me : Not tonight, really. I can explain how over the phone, but I don't have the 1.5 hours to come do it. I have to study.
        him : You HAVE to. I'll pay ANYthing. I'm desperate!
        me : Really. I have to study. You couldn't afford it. I'll just explain it...
        him : I'll give you $300 cash. It's all I have in my wallet. I wasn't supposed to bring this CD home!!
        me : Be there in 20 minutes. Have the drive ready.

        So, I got there, he handed me the cash and the drive at his door, I asked him for a paperclip, took out the CD with the release hole, handed him the CD, the bent paperclip, and the drive.

        I got a B on the test.

  • by wuchang ( 524603 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:54PM (#4741082)
    if google made $1 everytime someone used them to find an answer to a tech support question, they would 0wn microsoft.
  • by GrimSean ( 545405 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:55PM (#4741086) Homepage
    RTFM before you call me
    • by MacAndrew ( 463832 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:03PM (#4741127) Homepage
      What comes with manuals any more?

      I remember my wife's friend having a long conversation with Dell wanting to know why her new box didn't come with any printed manuals. Of course, Macs come with 4-page instructions that look like those graphic pamphlets on airplanes explaining wordlessly how to use a western-style toilet.

      And when you have a manual, an upgrade obsoletes it. I've very glad to see them gone, but sympathize with novices missing them. I guess I would suggest going to the bookstore to get one of those cheery tip and how-to books -- some are pretty good by now. (e.g., Laporte's "TechTV Leo Laporte's 2003 Technology Almanac"? looked interesting in the bookstore)

      Actuallu -- any good all-purpose book suggestions out there?
      • Of course, Macs come with 4-page instructions that look like those graphic pamphlets on airplanes explaining wordlessly how to use a western-style toilet.

        Man, I know I'm burning karma here, but I just wanted to tell you that this sent me into a laughing fit wildly disproportionate to its face value. You crack me up, dude. Keep it up.
      • Dell and IBM and HP and Compaq and Sun and many, many others are dutifully cutting costs by shipping CD's with their products. Compaq actually places a one page PDF on their monitor CD that tells you the URL to visit to obtain the user guide. If you want a copy, you can print local.
        • It's just not the same (whimper).

          When this first started I was ordering a Sun SparcStation for my job around 1991. They wanted about $1000 for printed manuals, I kid you not, and like $300 for CD ones. A CD reader + CD's allowed us to save money and provided a more convenient format -- except when you couldn't get the think to boot and didn't have a spare computer nearby.

          Anyway, I approve of the trend on environmental and keyword searching grounds, but newbies really really want a book to sit down with, without blowing up their printer to do it. (Computer manuals are not known for being concise.) So ... that's why there are racks and racks of intro and app-specific computer books at mainstream bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble.

          I'm not faulting the manufacturers or your valid point, just noting if you say RTFM you may have to tell them which FM.

          BTW, Macs comes with electronic help, too -- which, like most OEM manuals, is pretty awful. The online "knowledgebase" is better, but not too helpful I suppose for new users. Fortunately the things tend not to need as much support, indeed that's one of their foremost selling points, as we all know.
      • you still have the option to get a printed manual from dell - you just have to select it while placing your order

        i support their decision, as they were no doubt blowing money to waste paper for 99.999% of their customer base. most people read manuals for specific issues/troubles, and those are available in updated form (along with forums, faqs, etc) online. the regular manual is available in electronic form with the pc, and it can be searched.

        honestly, next to nobody reads manuals cover to cover.
        • Yep, I sure never read the books, and haven't for years. Online is far superior, but requires a little savoir-faire. My point rather was that before you quip RTFM you might have to point them in the right direction, and I think that's usually going to be to third-party books. (I yacked about this more in another post in this sub-thread FWIW.)
  • by CottonCandyEater ( 574370 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:56PM (#4741091)
    will solve all those problems
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Oh, yeah, that's right. Then they CERTAINLY won't call asking for help, because Linux is SO much more user friendly than Windows. (Or, perhaps it WILL solve the problem because they'll get so frustrated they'll put the box in the garbage can.)
  • Great idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacAndrew ( 463832 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:57PM (#4741095) Homepage
    I'll offer to do support for Macs, since they're what I know best. Oh wait ... I'm done already. ;-)

    I feel ever so slightly guilty about it, but I have for years kept very quiet about knowing *anything* about computers. I used to do tech support (secondary to coding) and don't remember it fondly. If you couldn't fix the problem, you were possibly incompetent; if you could, the problem was maybe your fault, or easy. (OK, that's the mos cynical description.)

    Worst of all, people would ask me to work on their PC's (shudder) where I'm pretty ignorant, having tuned out around Windows 3.1. There's an idea out there that if you "know something about computers" that you can strike up a conversation with *any* computer. (You know, like the American theory that anyone anywhere can understand English if you just speak it slowly and loudly enough. ;-)

    But to help out is great, it's a shame to see $1000+ paperweights. Also, as a Mac fan and investor I have wanted people to enjoy their machine -- that evangelism thang.

    Gee, I had a point here. Just some observations I suppose, sitting here with my wireless iBook.... Works great.
    • Ugh. I'm in the same situation, but thankfully most of my family own Macs, and I have no problem throwing small suggestions their way, and giving people hints on where best to help themselves. They're my relatives, I know them well, and know what'll work well with them

      There's always exceptions however. My Aunt wanted to buy a computer, and could get a decent deal on a 2nd hand Mac. Her daughter uses a mac, her brother uses a mac, one of her sons uses a mac, her niece (me) uses several macs, her best friend has 2 iBooks and her neighbour is one of the local Mac service centre techs. We all advised her on which Mac to get, and how to expand it, as she'd never used a computer before and wanted to get into the graphical side of it.

      So she goes and buys a PC because the neighbour on the other side said Macs suck. Now she's stuck with no support, apart from the quite overpriced local PC dealership she bought the PC from. I stopped helping her when she asked "Why do you all own such incompatible computers?".
  • by BlackTriangle ( 581416 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:57PM (#4741098)

    Never let anyone know your job/schooling involves tweaking computers.


    Hot Blonde at Campus Bar : So what's your major?

    You : Computer Science

    Hot Blonde at Campus Bar : Ooh, can I get some help from you later? Here's my roommate's friend's number. They'll know how to get in touch with me.

    You : Cool!

    Later On, after spending 20 hours on some shitty HTML assignment for her:

    Hot Blonde previously at Campus Bar : Get the fuck out of the Computer Lab, loser.


    Let's try again.

    Hot Blonde at Campus Bar : So what's your major?

    You : Art History

    Hot Blonde at Campus Bar : My daddy bought me a cool Rembrandt painting for my 16th birthday. Well that, and the bimmer. Want to come up to my room and see it?


    This can be rough if the only people you know are coworkers and people in your Degree Major, but if you're that kind of person, you're fucked anyways.

    I had to learn this the hard way, being in Computer Science in a previous life. Although my answer to the problem was to change majors ; instead, I am a Liberal Arts Major. And *wink wink* my previous major was Mathematics.

    • by alanwj ( 242317 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @12:27AM (#4741437)
      I had to learn this the hard way, being in Computer Science in a previous life. Although my answer to the problem was to change majors ; instead, I am a Liberal Arts Major. And *wink wink* my previous major was Mathematics.

      How ironic. Now that you can get hot chicks, you won't be able to afford them.

    • by rynthetyn ( 618982 )
      What is really bad is when you are one of two female computer science majors, and the only female computer science major to live on campus, when on campus is non-coed dorms. Then, you get all the girls on your hall (and friends of the girls on your hall, and girls on your sister's hall, and their friends...) coming to you whenever Windows crashes, wanting to know why their computer got the blue screen of death, and wanting you to fix it so that it won't happen again. As if it is even possible to stop anything by microsoft from crashing.

      At least you guys can meet girls when they come and ask you for help, but no guy is going to come up to me for help with their computers.

      Oh well, the big upside of not being a history major any more is that when I graduate, I won't be asking people "do you want fries with that?"
  • by Clue4All ( 580842 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:58PM (#4741105) Homepage
    Call up Janie Porche and her PowerBook. She saved Christmas []! Who wants to spend Christmas afternoon downloading Windows drivers??
  • by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:59PM (#4741107) Journal
    People, I realize that support options for most software products are severely lacking, but you must jump down off your "high horse" so to speak and consider what kinds of support options exist for folks using the preferred software here at Slashdot, "Open Source" (or "Free").

    Users of free software are an interesting bunch. They knowingly accept and embrace and are even attracted to the fact that it's traditionally much harder to use than everyday Windows software. This is fine and good until 90% of them realize that they can't even get their freshly-downloaded project to configure/compile itself. Another 8% do manage to do so, but then they run into problems figuring out how to get it to work to do what they want it to do (e.g. "Hmm, was that tar -xfp or -xzfv tar?). Still the meager 2%, or the truly gifted gurus, actually manage to run the program.

    Now comes the tough part -- tech support.

    After using pico or more software to read the INSTALL and README files, a user is still baffled by certain run-time characteristics of the Free Software project. They then turn to (as indicated on the project website) to the appropriate IRC channel.

    You guys all know what happens next; after a series of RTFM j00 dumb n00bie!!1 and Wow your dumb comments, 99.1% of these folks who were initially awe-inspired by Open Source turn severely sour on it and give up. They then reinstall Windows and go along their merry way.

    This is all (mostly) truth, people, and the figures prove it. There are probably a couple million people who use Linux as their preferred desktop. Everyone else uses Windows or OS X because support options with these types of licensed proprietary products are paramount when compared to Linux-class code and support.

    Your parents run Windows for a reason, and trust me -- it's not because it looks that incredible. It's just easier to use, and easier to get support for. End of story.

    Sure, I use Linux and really respect myself and others who do the same. But even the most unexpected people [] turn to another platform after awhile because the support that we all give for our Linux projects just simply sucks. I know I personally don't have time to support apps I write, and you folks probably don't either.
    • ekrout is my new best friend [].
    • You guys all know what happens next; after a series of RTFM j00 dumb n00bie!!1 and Wow your dumb comments, 99.1% of these folks who were initially awe-inspired by Open Source turn severely sour on it and give up. They then reinstall Windows and go along their merry way.

      I was a moderator in #linux until recently. I never tolerated insulting the beginners. I banned more than one "elitist" for arrogant behavior towards someone who was (to put it nicely) very lost.

      BTW, I quit the channel a couple of weeks ago because of SOps arrogance. I was complaining that the topic was less than useful and very old. It referred to a solaris bug. My attitude was wtf does that have to do with Linux? Because they had the topic locked so that only SOps could change it, all I could do was repeat my complaint. When one of the SOps told me to stop complaining or he would kick me, my immediate response was, "works for me", and I quit. I haven't been back since.
    • With the few distros I've tried out (redhat, debian, gentoo), I've found their mailing-lists and online forums very helpful. Of course, it's rarely someone who works for that distro that responds (but can be), you still get good help from people who have been through what you have before; or you get 100 "me too's".
  • by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @10:59PM (#4741108) Homepage
    I only fix windows problems for people I know bootlegged the latest upgrade of Windows.

    If they paid for the current software I ask them to have the people that got the money fix the problem.

    This is a good lead in for putting Mozilla / OpenOffice etc on the windows box.

  • My answer (Score:4, Funny)

    by SILIZIUMM ( 241333 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:02PM (#4741120) Homepage
    Look, simple : this [] this [] or even this [] .
  • Yes, this is off-topic and yes, this confirms just how sad I am.

    One of the things I look forward to about the festive season is that Christmas Tree icon.

    Two things, therefore, that I'd be pretty pleased to find in my stocking on the 25th would be a) a copy of the software used to make the christmas tree and b) a big 1600x1200 desktop wallpaper-size copy of the image.

    In keeping with the Christams spirit, I'll say... "Mode me down and I will... not send you a card!" :P

  • PC Support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Andrewkov ( 140579 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:07PM (#4741139)
    As someone who did PC support for years, I can relate to this. Everyone and their brother wants help with their PC's, and expects it for free. They think you like nothing better than to sit around giving computer advice at family functions, parties, etc. You wouldn't expect your brother-in-law the mechanic to fix your car for free, would you? Or get a free root canal from a relative who's a dentist? Why is there this perception that IT people should work for free, and live to fix your Windows problems? Now I just tell them I only work on mainframes (or "BIG Computers" when they give you a blank look), and don't know Windows. Anyway, sorry for the rant, this is something that's been bugging me for years.
    • by Com2Kid ( 142006 ) <> on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:17PM (#4741180) Homepage Journal
      • You wouldn't expect your brother-in-law the mechanic to fix your car for free, would you?

      Well now that depends, if I fix his computer for free;

      uh, yah. :)

      (see, it is called exchange of labor. :) )
    • Well.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Generaly they just ask what might be wrong. And you probably wouldn't think it wrong to ask for free of your bother-in-law "My car's engine seems to be making a lot of noise, you know what might be wrong?" Anymore than somone asking an IT person "My computer doesn't seem to be able to access the internet, you know how I can fix that?"

      People are just generaly looking for advise of somone they consider an expert. Most often they think you just know the answer rather than having to look it up, find out what's going on, so they don't see it as a burden to you.

      It's not just somthing that happens to IT people. It's just that you happen to be one, so it's more evidnet.

    • Re:PC Support (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Peyna ( 14792 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:34PM (#4741248) Homepage
      I wouldn't "expect" a family member to do work for me for free; however, at least in my family, part of being family is that you take care of your family. So, if you can do something for them to help them out, and it isn't going to kill you, you do it!

      So while you should never expect gifts from family in this way, you should always give them.
    • Yeah I have to agree with this... my freshman year in college, word got out that I was a computer whiz, and everyone on my floor would ask me for help every time there was a problem. People would be coming by at all hours with all kinds of questions. It got so bad that I posted my hourly rate outside my door... suddenly everyone started to take a little initiative and try to fix things themselves. :-)
    • Isn't this part of the mantra of open source proponents? Maybe not exactly, but there are many people here who probably devote hundreds of hours per year to coding open source projects, from useful to useless. But if cousin Sam asks how to rip a disc to MP3 on WinXP? Suddenly the 'free' attitude stops?
    • Re:PC Support (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NotAnotherReboot ( 262125 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:39PM (#4741270)
      Actually, I used to help my friend with his family's PC a good deal, fixing problems when they came up. After awhile his mom came over to my house and offered to give me money for working on it, and you know what my mom did? Turned it down. For doing work. This perception is definitely widespread, but I must admit it can actually be fun to get praised for fixing pretty simple things.
  • Who to recommend? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:09PM (#4741146)
    I'm starting to get "Christmas requests" at work and frankly I don't want to do any of it, but people do ask who to buy from. I just tell them to goto Dell or even CDW as that's who I use for corporate, but they aren't necessarily the best deals nor the best option for the home buyer and I'd hate to point them to Best Buy or some other retail nightmare. By retail nightmare I mean a selection of only Compaqs starting at much more than what they're worth, $40 USB and parallel cables, pushy saleskids pushing worthless 'extended warranties', etc.

    So who to recommend? I'd like to point people towards a company or two who excel in price and service. It doesn't matter if they're a multi-national or some local/web only shop, but the latter would be nice. So what retailers would you recommend for technophobes in need of a windows machine that'll do the basics?
    • Gateway. No question. They always advertise their system prices including the monitor, and now if you get one you get a 18 inch lcd for the price of the 17 inch lcd. The 500XL is a nice one and it even comes with a DVD-RAM Drive (Yes it can make DVD-R's). You can also get a 3 year warantee for a decent price. In fact, I am probably going to get a new system there. I am getting tired of building them and I also want one under warantee not because I don't know how to fix it, but because I don't want to pay to fix it any more.
    • Depending on their income and technological proficiency, I'd either point them at Dell or [].
  • by citking ( 551907 ) <> on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:17PM (#4741178) Homepage
    Scrooge gets a visit from the ghost of hand-me-downs past...

    "Uncle Frank gave me his old PC with a 50 Mhz Pentium Processor, 4 meg RAM, ISA video card, and monochrome display. How can I get The Sims on here? I think we have like 900k free on the A drive..."

  • F.R.Y.Y.Y. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Old Wolf ( 56093 )
    Come on, someone ask what this means so I can reply and get karma!
  • How about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T-Kir ( 597145 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:22PM (#4741202) Homepage

    We're called Geeks and Nerds in general...

    ...but when 'they' (the populace who ridicule or look down on us) want us to do something for them, we're called 'friends'. That is until we've fixed it and gone home.

    Cynicism, don't you just love it, eh?

    • Re:How about... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by LL ( 20038 )
      Need to find that reference ...

      Not sure whether it is an urban legend or not but apparently some scientists were studying primate social patterns. They took the lowest social ranking individual (who was continually being beaten up by the alpha-males) and taught him how to operate a complex machine that produced food and reintroduced him back into the pack.

      Guess what? ... they stopped beating up on him ... but still treated him as low-monkey on the social totem pole .... :-(

      Any resemblance and extrapolation to human society is completely unsupported ... can anyone find the web link to this experiment?

  • SHHH!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Col. Panic ( 90528 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:22PM (#4741204) Homepage Journal
    Supporting Windows is making me rich! I am constantly receiving calls from clients who run NT, 2000 and even XP! A lack of support options means I am in demand! In this economy I can't afford for people to switch from Windows.

    Please, if you care about the IT support business; if you like spending every spare minute earning cash; or if you just want to see other peoples' systems crash and burn, JUST SAY WINDOWS!!

    And if you can get people to install those freaking HP print managers and logitech mouseman drivers, hey! More business for me :)
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:23PM (#4741205) Homepage Journal
    When you're down visiting for Christmas I need you to open up my CD drive and see what's making all that racket, because you're a programmer and know all about computers!
  • Altruism? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:24PM (#4741210)
    Perhaps I don't get it. If its friends or family, why would this be a problem? I've been asked for help plenty of times over the years and never thought twice about it. Why would I?

  • "They created the abortion of an OS, so let them support it." Those are the exact words I use.

    This is my thinking on the matter:

    If I go do the job that MS tech support is supposed to be doing, I am, in fact, donating to them. Why should I do that? They have money and resources and time. They are not paying me to answer questions. So, why should I spend my time and energy?

    Now, I am not talking about fixing stuff at work. I am talking about fixing other people's computers.

    I first took this stance a few years ago at a family get together. Suddenly it was "let's ask Randy all our Windows questions." On the way home it dawned on me what an entirely shitty evening I had because I got to solve everyone's problems for free. I fixed their problems and got nothing in return.

    What really took the cake though was this friend of a friend whose computer I got roped into fixing. While I am sitting there trying to fix a sound card problem and get the 10 different copies of Netscape off the machine (yes, she had 10 copies of Netscape) the lady says to me, "well, my son says there is nothing wrong with the sound card drivers." I looked her square in the eye and said "Who's your son?" Then I got up and promptly left. I wasn't charging the lady any money, but the last thing in the world I want is some car mechanic son of hers telling me how to do my job.

    I now provide support for only two people - my mom and my dad. That's it. If someone asks me for help I tell them I charge $100/hour billable in 15 minute increments. Unless they are running Linux, then I do it for free.

    One final story: I had this one chucklehead I used to work with call me up at work one day and ask some dumb Windows question - it was something like "Why do I get a blue screen?" My answer - "That's Windows!" He proceeds to tell me how Windows is really popular and that when he worked for some company on the help desk (like this guy could help anyone) he came to that conclusion because he got 100 calls for Windows support vs one call for Mac support. To which I replied, "Well, maybe that's because Windows is so shitty it needs that many support calls." He hung up pretty quick.
    • by ender81b ( 520454 ) <billd AT inebraska DOT com> on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:59PM (#4741347) Homepage Journal
      Here Here! While I have no problems supporting or helping my family with computers (hey, they ARE family) I get somewhat.. annoyed when friends/friends of friends want me to fix their computers. The worst part of it all is that if you fix it, and something breaks on it, it will forever be your fault. YOU broke it when you fixed it last time come and repair your damage, etc, etc. And of course if you work in an IT department of a company you always get those lovely people who decide they can stop you in the halls and ask computer questions about their home systems. My personal favorite.

      I have a friend who works at Best Buy in the 'tech' department. They have like a computer tune-up service for about 100$. I asked him what they do and it was pretty simple; defrag/scandisk and wipe out every piece of spywear on the computer/multiple installed programs, etc, etc. He said they never notice and 9 times out of 10 they say their computer runs so much faster. Heh, that's what I've started to do. Just wipe the darn thing as clean as you can make it - chances are they will never notice and, if they do, pull a BOFH and just make an excuse "your IDE hard drive driver was conflicting with your network interface card so I had to delete Bonzai Buddy. Just trust me"

      Argh. I also just started billing people, makes my life so much easier.
      • Amen. My Family gets free help. My neighbor used to until I had to go fix something 5 times in one week and then the next time he called/asked me I said my family comes frist, but I would help him out for 20 bucks an hour (Nothing like 100 bucks....I am easy and besides he is my neighbor and I do have to live next to him). As soon as I did that, he stopped calling me. My favorite one was when he asked me three times when someone e-mails him something where does it go when he saves the attachment somewhere. My discovery was....where ever the default dialog points and it looked like it went to My Documents Most common save dialog...noone EVER changes least the dumb ones never do. They just save everything in My Documents and have no clue on creating another directory and sorting things. My next favorite one was hey AOL or MSN made me download something and all of a sudden it doesn't work or look the same (usually version updates). Or The other one related to those types of things....I can't "connect" to msn 8 (yet they hae a cable modem) so I can't get on the internet. Yet I ask them to fire up a browser...a REAL browser and it works just fine. When ever I AOL or my MSN doesn't work my first answer is call them! I am not going to try and debug that abomination that is msn 8.
    • That's fine, however don't be supprised if others treat you the same way. IT's funny, but I provide free support ot all my friends (within reasonable limits) just because I'm a nice guy, but it comes back around. When I need help with something they can provide, they are more than happy to help me out. A direct, monitary example is I needed new shoes. A firend of mine who I had given some support to on occasion managed a shoe store, so I went there. Ended up getting around a 90% discount.

      If you value your time more than your connections, I can respect that but the old "goes around comes around" thing really is true. If you are a nice guy and try to help people out with what you ahve experience in, they will try and likewise help you when they can (well most of them).
      • I think that's fine, but if you've been putting yourself out for people for a while and they're not doing anything for you in return, it's good to let them know rather than keep on giving. Some people give and take in equal measure, while others never really learned the joy of the "giving" part. Let them know that they've overdrawn at the karma bank.
  • by DarkZero ( 516460 ) on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:37PM (#4741259)
    Here's the article, no registration, no fake registration, nothing. []

    90% of the NYT stories that Slashdot posts can be viewed without registration through a deal that the New York Times has with You can see the listing of stories here [].
  • Honestly. THIS from the crowd that chants "information wants to be free" and demands free MP3s, free software, free source, free speech, free beer, and even free Kevin.

    Most of us are doing fairly well for ourselves. Getting some good money in doing what we most love. I would do what I do for free if I didn't have any bills to worry about.

    Most considerate relatives give back of their own talents and abilities to those that give free support, and if they don't, your problem is you don't stand up for yourself.

    I swear I mean all of this, it isn't a troll. However, I expect the flames to start in 3...2...1...NOW

  • by parliboy ( 233658 ) <> on Saturday November 23, 2002 @11:41PM (#4741282) Homepage
    I find my 10 minutes of tech support is useful for cashing in free labor. The last time I purchased a major applicance, I called a person for whom I installed DSL and had free help for the installation in less than five minutes. When I needed to transport something by truck, I flagged the uncle whose system I upgraded. Another time, when my system crashed shortly before a major (freelance) project was due, I moved in with the tech-challenged neighbors for a few days, designing / scripting on their system from evening to late morning and sleeping during the rest of the day.

    Bottom line, don't lament your inevitable consultation requests. Help them as best you can, and then cash in the karma for appropriate favors from them. I think you'll find it comes in handy.

  • Reading this article reminds me of a .pdf [] I saw a while back at a parody site called

    Scary and so very true...
  • ...I stop feeling like I am using my skills to learn about and fix a good system. I feel like I am the poor guy stuck ironing out problems that shouldn't exist. This takes away that admiration and respect we have for a system that is essential to our interest in technology.
  • Lucky us we were the lead story!
    More Info [] if your curioious.
    Even though I cures Bill Gates nightly before bed Microsoft is who keeps us in business. I feel like those northern California pot growers with the DEA. And yes the real geeks here at 888 Geek Help [] run Linux but none of our customers do. If you can compile a kernel you can find answers yourself. With the Wal-Mart distro's [] we may yet see that change Also none of our customers read Slashdot as they can't reach a URL without "www" []
    BTW We are now hiring
  • by Avla ( 523352 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @12:14AM (#4741400)
    You can be helpful and keep your sanity, too, by setting up a desktop control program, like Netmeeting, so you can actually do something, or demonstrate something at a distance.

    (I don't mind helping out, but doing it blind via a phone call is really hard and very time consuming.)

  • Why not do it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @12:25AM (#4741429)

    I see a lot of griping about fixing computer problems here. Sure, I can understand politely saying "I'm sorry, its Xmas, I'll help you another day", but I don't understand saying "Go away, I'll never help you!"

    I will admit, I have fixed computers for family and friends. I have even given away low cost parts for cheap. In return, I have called on the same members of my family and friends for help moving, for advice on vehicle problems, to borrow items, or just to dig their brains for a specific kernel of knowledge.

    Help your family and friends. The only calls you should be turning down (or charging for) are from aquaintances that only contact you when they need computer help. Being friendly isn't an excuse to be walked on.

    Just my $.02

  • by electrick ( 579755 ) <> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:11AM (#4741585) Homepage

    You see, christmas ia no longer a joy for the teenager. Not only must the awkward youth spend time with family and endure endless comments about (lack of) boyfriends, (lack of) taste in clothes and finaly, (lack of) social life. We must now deal with the mind boggling queries of the adults about their new toys.

    Grandma got a new version of Windows. Joy. Although I am not a windows users and must give support *over the phone*, not able to play around and discover the problem, I am expected to be able to fix her installation woes, and quickly.

    Of course, I must also make AOL work in an efficent manner. I would comment that I am not Jesus Christ, but that kind of heathenism isn't allowed at the dinner table.

    Let's not get into the time I was asked to install an older version of Windows (95) over a newer version (ME) without distroying any of the information on the computer. (i.e., without formating.) When I asked why, I was told that Grandpa's Outlook Express wasn't printing files properly. My hand became firmly stapled to my forehead.

    *sigh* And they say my angst is unjustified.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:16AM (#4741605)
    The line is the same at all the holiday parties:

    Host: So what do yo do for a living?

    Me: I'm the Network Administrator at a small private school.

    Host: Really? Hey, you know something about computers! I've got this problem...can you help me out? I'm sure it will only take a second.

    Me: If you know it will only take a second, then why do you need me?

    Holiday parties would only be worse if I was a doctor...

  • by amemily ( 462019 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:42AM (#4741700)

    The only people I provide support on their personal machines are my parents.

    A while ago, one person decided to accuse me after fixing her laptop of locking her out of some silly ass program that she uses - it turned out that she was playing with the settings and set a password on her program and forgot the password.

    So fuck em. If they ask for computer advise from me, I tell them to go to Dell or Gateway. If they ask for me to fix their PCs, they get told depending on my mood one of the following:

    • I do Linux and Windows Server only, not Windows 9x
    • If I touch your machine, I will void the warrenty
    • If you bring your machine to me, I will stick one of my employer's inventory stickers on it and assign it to someone other than you
    • I'll do it for $150 an hour, minumin one hour
    • I'm sorry, I work on BIG computers, not little ones.
    • I'm sorry, I am a network admin, I don't know anything about $foo
  • Don't help them! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by opkool ( 231966 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @01:54AM (#4741735) Homepage
    See what could happen [].

    Don't be free tech support for Microsoft. If they want to use Windows, fine. It's their choice, their problem. Not yours. Let them pay... how much is now? $100 a call?

    Users must learn the cost of their decissions.
  • by berniecase ( 20853 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:05AM (#4741759) Homepage Journal
    ... and the only reason I do, is because I provided her a PowerMac two years ago as a X-mas present, complete with Internet access. I pre-configured it before I gave it to her, and I know exactly how everything is set up and what software needs to be updated and when.

    This computer's 7 years old now (it's a PowerMac 7600), and runs OS9, but it works, and it works damn well. She hasn't complained to me about speed (it's only a 255MHz G3), and recently commented on how much she'd like a laptop and printer for work (she's an RN). My girlfriend mentioned that she has an available iBook and my mom seemed quite interested.

    Yes, I'm unabashed Mac supporter, but for a reason. It worked great, for my mom, and it works great for me. I knew she was really using it when she started meeting guys online. Hoo boy.
  • My Mom (Score:3, Funny)

    by Triv ( 181010 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @02:10AM (#4741769) Journal
    My mom's hilarious. She calls me with problems on her Toshiba laptop, even though the last three cmputers I've owned have been macs and she bought me two of them. Sigh. :)

  • A christmas story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yuriwho ( 103805 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @03:19AM (#4741998)
    While I am not Jamie Porshe. I set up my folks with a wireless airport network that would automatically connect to their DSL whenever they accessed an app that required the "net". Six months later, my sister, who has the same ISP asked me how I was able to have my parents connect automatically...she always has to use Internet Connect when accessing the net. I told her that I had configured the Airport to connect automatically...She now is deciding whether it is worth buying an Airport to forgo having to connect each time.

    My folks are very happy with their set up.

    Think of the hours of wasted time saved by some software that does a routine task.

    I did my part last christmas, but this shit should not even be necessary. The OS should automatically configure things for people.

  • The Real Problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Local Loop ( 55555 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @04:39AM (#4742233)
    The real problem with fixing someone's PC is that they won't follow the two simple rules of a stable windows box:

    1. Install what you need, then never install anything else. Especially not games!

    2. Always shut down correctly before turning the power off.

    I help the people that follow the rules. They have very stable windows machines that work well for *years* and stay fast with no registry bloat.

    People who don't follow the rule quickly get crashy, unreliable systems - and frequently try to make me feel responsible for their problems, because I'm the last person who mucked with the settings.

    My uncle is a bit older and taught me this lesson early. See he's an electrical engineer and learned how to fix TV's in the sixties. When word got out that he could fix TV's, he spent all his time fixing TV's for friends, and then got blamed when they eventually died anyway.
  • by eggnogg ( 626735 ) <> on Sunday November 24, 2002 @09:39AM (#4742783) Homepage
    The Rules
    The Game of Christmas is a game for any number of players, but must include at least three who would much rather be watching The Guns of Navarone and two who would prefer a nice walk, after all "It's only a bit of drizzle and we could all do with some fresh air."

    One poorly decorated sitting-room; one television set; one remote control (confiscated); one complete boxed set of "Grievances", including Huffs, Chips, Grudges, Injuries and Insults; a disgruntlement of relations.

    Preparations may begin on Boxing Day of the previous year ("Never again"), but must begin no later than August or early September. Players should allow three months to manoeuvre into one of the four correct starting positions. These are:

    i) The Stand-off Position: "But we came to you last year: it's your turn to come to us."
    ii) The Feet-up Position: "Of course we'd love to have you; it's just that we're a shorter drive from you than you are from us."
    iii) The Hands-off Position: "Actually, we were thinking of going abroad this year. No, it's not that we didn't enjoy it last year".
    iv) The Hands-up Position: "Would you mind if we also brought her sister from Wales? The one with bulimia? You see, she's terribly depressed at the moment."

    Playing the Guilt card
    Early playing of the Guilt card, followed by the Huff, is essential. Any change to the Christmas schedule beyond mid-October may be opposed by the Home Captain by accompanying the Guilt Card with the exasperated sigh: "I suppose we'll have to make do, though as usual it's very last minute."

    To cause the maximum number of players to depart the room slamming the door before close of play. Each exit must be accompanied by the question: "Was it something I said?" To which the players left in the game must reply: "So what do you think?"

    How to play
    Each player of Christmas must invade another player's space by asking a series of Personal Questions. These are drawn from one of five categories:

    i) History: eg, "Was it in 1978 or 1979 that you forgot my birthday? No, it doesn't matter. I've forgotten all about it. It's just that I don't suppose I'll ever really get over it."
    ii) Sport: eg, "Who told your children they could play French cricket in the kitchen?"
    iii) Hobbies and Interests: eg, "But what makes you think I didn't like the shoeshine kit you gave me the year before last?"
    iv) Guess the Weight: eg, "Is it just me or have you put on weight?"
    v) Politics: eg, "How can you possibly say that when it comes to third-world debt they've only got themselves to blame? I can't believe I'm hearing this!"
    If the answer is either incorrect or unrepeatable, the Chip then passes to the original player, who now holds an all-important Grudge.

    If one of your ploys is sunk, you may add Insult to Injury to form a complete set of Grievances.

    How to start
    Players from the ages 8 to 80 sit around the table staring at one another. Players aged seven and under proceed to screech at one another either a) "Give it", or b) "But I had it first". Players aged 81 and over must now raise their eyebrows and mumble either: a) "In my day we were perfectly happy to make do with a cardboard box and a bit of string", or b) "They've lost all sense of respect".

    First move
    The Home Captain makes the first move by reading the following instructions in monotone: "The score is doubled when the square landed on is either less than the total number indicated by the spaces moved by the previous player or the route taken by the green player is indicated by the square landed on by the player with the highest score at the beginning of the round, but only if the sum of the aggregate is the same as or less than the score of all the remaining pieces combined (a challenge may not be called unless the challenger is at right angles to the player with the lowest number of cards)."

    Second move
    The second player then looks vexed and replies: "I'm sorry, but that's not how we've always played." Subsequent disputes about the rules then continue in a clockwise direction until that point when one or more players insist that the original rulebook states that the correct direction for disputes is anti-clockwise.

    The role of non-players
    At least once every five minutes each non-player must call out either, "But The Guns of Navarone is about to start", or, "If we don't go for that walk, it'll be dark in half an hour". Non-players over the age of 81 are allowed to repeat, "It's a time for the kiddies" over and over again. Extra points may be gained by leaning over a player's shoulder for three minutes and breathing noisily before exclaiming: "You shouldn't have done that!"

    The winner is the first player to find himself in a deserted room. On hearing one or more of the following sounds drifting through the slammed door, the winner may add these points to his total:

    i) Mutual recrimination (one point).
    ii) Indiscriminate sobbing (two).
    iii) Tyres screeching (four).
    An extra five points are awarded for each melted strawberry creme discovered beneath a cushion.

    The game of Christmas should be played no more than once a year.

  • disturbing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raisin ( 30710 ) on Sunday November 24, 2002 @04:12PM (#4744756)
    i'm completely disturbed by the posts that have been modded +5 on this one.

    this is your family. help them out. grow up. this is what people do for one another.

    you can't help your dad with his ridiculously old machine? how long has he put up with you and perhaps even encouraged whatever led you to being this computer savvy, to then have you turn around and claim your too busy or can't be bothered? give me a break.

    be thankful that all that crap in your head that you learned while pissing away hours to get something to work can be used to help someone else. how about some return on your own investment of all that time--now you can do something useful with it, where "useful" doesn't necessarily mean self-serving.

    say you have an uncle who's a mechanic. chances are, you're going to ask him if you want to know about something wrong with your car (you'd be stupid not to, unless you know more than he does already). the joke about "50 mhz processor, 4 mb ram, etc." and trying to install the sims? sure it's modded as funny, but it's just like you trying to get that uncle to repair your piece of crap that you drive. get over it. help them understand what's wrong with what they're trying to do. teach them something.

    and even if you'd never go to this hypothetical uncle, it works in all occasions, whether its their background or just about anything you might ask of anyone else (i need help moving! could someone drop me of at ...). don't kid yourself and think that you're an island and never need any help. the connection is still valid, because hopefully in your all-knowing little world, you can use some of that omnipotence to understand some of these other situations. that you're not the only persecuted soul who has to/ought to use some of their background to (gasp) help people.

    my brother is a builder, and does construction. if i want to get something built, or need to have it done, am i going to consult him? of course. if he can't get his 14.4 modem to work with his crappy old mac, is he going to call me? of course.

    welcome to the world, folks. you don't live in a vacuum. drop the self-importance and start interacting with people. be useful for a change. and i say for a change *only* because from the sounds of the majority of what's been modded up, there are a few too many people who live in this vacuum.

    think about the hell you've gone through with your machine, even when *you* supposedly know what you're doing. now imagine how much worse it is for the people asking for help, when they don't even know the first thing about what's going on with their $2500 desk ornament.
  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Monday November 25, 2002 @02:32AM (#4749129) Homepage

    Heck, I LOVE fixing my friends' Windows machines -- that's why I carry a burn of Mandrake v8.2 with me at all times.

    "Hey, Greg? What's the deal with the penguin?"

    That's about the only damn way to fix 'em anyways.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.