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Journal yagu's Journal: true story

This one falls into the category of I'm not making this up..., really! It's my true story technical support call. (I'll probably have more of these, but wanted to get this one down while still thinking about it.)

First, small history: A friend of mine asked me to set up out-of-the-box two new laptops she bought for her daughters' Christmas presents. I spent part of an afternoon configuring wireless, downloading browsers, etc., and returned them ready-to-go to my friend.

Fast forward a few months... Christmas has passed, the daughters love their new computers, but one of the girls had used her laptop elsewhere, and the network (i.e., the "transparent wireless configuration" I'd set up) for her laptop stopped working.

Knowing my friend really had no technical understanding of solving the problem, but having little time to go over and fix the problem I agreed to troubleshoot and walk her through the fix by phone. Her litmus test, and known universe was AOL (yes, it seems many people cannot separate the need for connection to the internet from their old dialup accounts in AOL) so my goal was to have her "repair" the wireless and verify results in AOL (hopeful that it was just a computer "detect wireless" and not the dreaded "access method" in AOL).

I tried and tried to debug and fix the problem but "verifying" changes and new configurations for the network in AOL finally became too much for me to bear... I just couldn't trust that something wasn't happening in AOL unrelated to the laptop's ability to find a wireless network (especially knowing the other daughter's laptop continued to work on the wireless network just fine in the same room).

Exasperated I told my friend to exit AOL and go back to the desktop. She was momentarily confused by this as there was a pause in her compliance. I prompted her, and she told me she was "complying". Finally she was ready again.

We started anew with debugging. The first next thing we did, she complained that "this" computer was so much slower than the other one. "Aha", I thought, "a clue" to the problem... since the laptops were identical, one being way slower than the other could be a starting point. I asked my friend why that computer was so slow. She said, well it's so much "older". Whaaaaaah???

I pointed out they were bought at exactly the same time. She said, "No, I'm sitting at the old computer in my den!"

"I thought we were trying to fix the network for your laptop", I said.

She: "So did I!"

Me (exasperated): "The why are you at that computer?"

She: "Well, you told me to exit AOL and go to my desktop...."

(A compelling example of how broken the metaphors in computer land are. For the record, the problem turned out to be the AOL "location" or "access method"... i.e., someone had helpfully re-configured the laptop to dialup because she was somewhere out of range of a wireless lan.)

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"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982