Speaking of Tech Support for Friends and Family…

I just received an entertaining plea for computer help from a friend. The subject? “Bill Gates sucks wet farts out of dead pigeons.” Alrighty then.

Now, this is a great guy, tops at what he does, but sometimes surprising when it comes to computers, given how long he’s been using them. His first paragraph:

I can’t access the internet. My IE (windows?) is corrupt, the DNS doesn’t work. The only reason I can get mail is the nice (and smart) guy at verizon diagnosed my problem and walked me through typing my numerical address into OE.

So far so good, except my answer to the IE part was that he’s crazy not to be using Firefox and to start ASAP, because he is susceptible to malware (adware/spyware), almost definitely has malware, and possibly can blame either that or an attempted removal of that on the problem.

I centered my advice around the possibility of malware corrupting networking on the machine, though there’s also the standard thought of trying a different DNS address or two.

The next three paragraphs:

None of the stores sells browsers because you can download them so easily from the net (you can’t get there from here).

Talked to a guy at circuit city who told me how to do a system restore, got the “I’m sorry Dave” response from windows.

He also gave me a AOL disc and told me how to bypass the AOL crap and try to install netscape from it but it didn’t work or I couldn’t work it.

The browser observation is amusing. That’s when you have a friend download and burn one for you. Or you have someone obtain the IP address of a site where you want to download a browser. All of which is moot, because the chances of it being solved by a different browser are vanishingly remote. That’s like saying “my car can’t back out of the driveway because there’s a concrete barrier between the driveway and the road, so give me another car in my driveway so I can back that out instead.”

Last time I had a similar problem, system restore was a wonderful thing. I think that was a fine approach, assuming there were saved checkpoints and he went back far enough. Chances are something is corrupted in regard to network components, and a restore would set things back. I also suggested safe mode with networking support, or running msconfig and disabling all startup items as a test.

Finally, the OS rant:

I always hated XP, but this takes the cake. Do I have to buy a new computer? If I do, will it have something better than XP in it? As far as I can see, microsoft gets it right every other time. I loved 3.1. I hated 95. I loved 98. I hate hate hate XP. At least on my machine its less stable than 95 dreamed of being.

I love XP. More XP Pro than Home edition, and more on a workstation than a laptop, but I have had fine luck with it. I just hate hate hate product activation. Yet even that hasn’t been as painful or tragic as it could have been. You can use XP into the ground like any other OS. You can fail to have a firewall, keep using IE, surf in bad neighborhoods, fail to check for malware, and so forth, until you think your OS sucks dead pigeons out of Bill Gates or something.

Windows 3.1 better than 95? In sheer usability there was no contest, and I am still supporting an install of original 95 that is absurdly stable dating back to 1996. On a crappy quality computer, no less.

I will grant that I hate the new Start menu and some other details in XP, so the first thing I do is change back to the old style menu and so forth. I hate that everything in XP and 2003 is wizardy and wants to treat you like a novice even if you’ve been doing it forever. Some of the things I’ve seen wizards for are absurd and simply cause tasks to take more time. However, ordinary usage it’s fine, and XP Pro is rock stable in every install I have encountered on a reasonably quality machine.

Is my experience unusual, would you say?

I believe what the situation includes is a computer of questionable quality, probably with Home rather than Pro edition of XP. It includes being loaded with tons of stuff that loads at startup, mostly superfluous, bogging the machine down. It may or may not be checked in a cursory way periodically and cleaned up at all. Surfing is with IE and unconstrained. A firewall doesn’t exist on a DSL connection. There is probably virus scanning taking place. Something like that. Take away quality ingredients, crud it up, minimize servicing, and you are bound to have problems after a while.