Arlene Green

Arlene Green
Clearlake, California, USA
January 08
Geek girl, mother of more children than human beings should be allowed, owner of a snake named Plissken, several dogs, a plethora of cats, easily annoyed, easily overjoyed, will work for books.


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JULY 17, 2008 4:31PM

Family Outsourcing

Rate: 6 Flag

I should know better than to give my family tech advice. I really should. It all starts way back when I was the only person in the family that even had a computer and my dad asked me if he should get a Mac or a PC and I gave him several choices from both types that would work for what he wanted to do. I had one caveat:

Whatever he did, he should not buy a damn iMac.

So a couple of months later my dad is riding on an airplane and he meets, and apparently really hits it of with, Scott Hamilton. Scott Hamilton raved about the damn iMac. So what does my dad do? Does he take the advice of his daughter who actually went to school for and works in the field of computers? No. He takes the advice of an 80s figure skater. He buys the iMac.

Worse, he convinces my sister and brother in law to buy the iMac.

Who do they call when they get the inevitable flashing question mark of death? Scott Hamilton? Noooo. They call Arlene. So I am forced to learn more about iMacs than I ever wanted to know to get them up and running again. Repeatedly.

Stupid figure skater and his iMac love. I'm going to email him and chew him out for this some day.

This latest round is over upgrading to Vista. My dad called me in a dither because he had heard that Microsoft was going to discontinue Windows XP. Should he upgrade to Vista?

I told him no. For two reasons:

1) His computers were not powerful enough to run Vista properly without some serious upgrading of hardware.

2) A lot of the software he is used to using is going to be very different looking and have a different feel on Vista and for now it was better to stick with what he had just barely figured out how to use.

He seemed to think that the discontinuation of XP would mean his computers would implode or something. I assured him that they would not and that until Vista was a little older and more stable and there was a real need to upgrade his computers themselves there was no pressing need to switch to Vista.

The other thing that I did not tell him was that he'd finally gotten comfortable enough with the OS that he wasn't bugging me every 6 weeks to tell him what this or that message meant or should he allow this program through his firewall. I don't want to start all over again teaching him a new OS long distance. Not right now.

Did he listen to me? Oh, hell no. He went to some chain electronics store and took the advice of some pimply faced kid, that likely hasn't even had a real girlfriend yet and whose computing experience probably runs to level grinds on MMORPGs and how to make your 'puter look kewl, and bought Vista upgrades for everyone! He always drags my sister and her husband into these tech nightmares he creates. I love my sister but you'd think she would have learned after the iMac fiasco. She never could stand up to dad.

So, as of this afternoon my father has two computers that run very, very slowly and my sister has an $1,1000 dollar brick. Hers won't run at all. It just gets to some screen and shuts down.


My sister's I can drive down and take care of. I'll likely just downgrade her back to XP and tell her if she ever listens to dad again, no I will not fix her computer. My dad's are another story.

I'm either going to have to walk him through downgrading over the phone or how to do some hardware upgrading. I relish neither of these options. He tells me he "thinks" he has a backup of his data. That's one of the problems, the upgrade has lost a bunch of things. He thinks. He can't find them. Personally, I doubt they are lost but it is hard to be sure from thousands of miles away.

I'd tell him to go pay someone to fix it for him except I know that if history is any indicator he will find some twerp who sounds like he knows what he is doing who will really screw things up and will convince my dad to either keep the Vista or buy expensive new computers he doesn't need. Then I'll be getting daily phone calls asking for help.

Maybe I'll just have him mail them to me to fix. I do know one thing for certain, the next time my dad asks me for tech advice I'm going to either email Scott Hamilton or grab the most clueless pimple-faced electronics store flunky I can find and ask them what their advice is. Whatever it is it will be the exact opposite of what I'd tell my dad. Then I'll tell him what they say and with any luck he will instead do what I think he should.

It might work. You never know.


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I really identified with this. I get to hear my dad complain about Microsoft Windows when the problem is that he doesn't know a basic command in the word processing program.

My favorite question I've gotten several times from my mom who got a degree in computer science albeit in the '70s and was a computer programmer in the '80s!. It is that she can't edit her Excel document. Without any further info I find myself helping her out by suggesting that she gets out of the print preview screen.
Oh yeah. My favorite with my dad was a year's worth of "I can't find my email page."

Which meant that he had collapsed his folder tree and didn't see the folder he was looking for.

What is it about immediate blood family that this is so common? You and I share kindred spirits with a few people out there with similar rants to roll.

Oh well, at least my in-laws listen to me.
computers are like income taxes. they should be simpler. i don't have to know very much about how a car works to drive it across the country. why should a computer be more complicated?
I have finally managed to convince my mother and my father-in-law that I cannot fix a problem I cannot see, thereby saving some considerable time in descriptions that don't help. I'll preface this by saying that I have no connection to the company - in cases where they have been unable to proceed, I've had decent luck with Fog Creek's Copilot in helping me resolve basic problems on their computers.

What's your objection to an iMac? I'm just curious to know what I should be watching out for, because the wife's ancient PC finally bricked itself and I really really didn't feel like dealing with creating an XP box or dealing with Vista, so we bought a basic iMac.
The thing about Scott Hamilton:

Did you see "Blades of Glory"? Funny movie. About 2 wildly successful men's figure skater's who tie for the Olympic gold and get in a brawl on the podium and are ejected from the men's singles competition for life . The only way they can skate again is in the pairs competition - the first ever men's pairs couple. The key to the funniness is that everyone in it plays it straight - EXCEPT SCOTT HAMILTON. Scott is in the movie, playing himself - a super-earnest Olympic skating commentator with a penchant for hyperbolizing the mundane: "You can see they are really having fantastic fun with these amazing costumes!"

I read on the interwebs that they didn't tell Scott that the movie wasn't about real men's pairs figure skaters. It's true - he thought they were REAL. Everything he says about them, he MEANS "they are really winning the crowd over - this performance has the smell of gold!"

Scott Hamilton is also about 4'7". Tell your dad that, Arlene - You took computer advice from a grown man who is 4'7" and who thinks that Will Ferrell is actually a men's pairs figure skater. Way to go, dad.
My mother is the worst offender with this with my husband (sorry dear) a very distant second. After driving me balls to the wall crazy with her inane questions (I really do think she was the one who used the CD player as a cup holder) and having to go to her house and fix whatever she had screwed up now, I moved! It's almost worth putting up with the heat to not have to be her tech support agent (and I worked tech support for Peregrine, but our users were at least somewhat educated, used the support as part of their jobs (they needed our interface), and weren't my mother). She still calls me for help and I always claim I need to be there even though I don't. Now she upgraded to Vista. Ha! An even better excuse not to help her, that's what she gets for never getting up and making me breakfast in the mornings.

iMacs have improved considerably from when my dad decided to buy one. His was first generation and those little sealed pieces of crap were manufactured in hell. The new ones, other than some video card instability that seems to be tied to the Leopard OS, aren't bad machines.


That's hysterical. I can imagine, all too well.


I tend to avoid Will Ferrell movies. He's not funny and he reminds me of an evil Jerry Lewis. I think we have that one around here somewhere, though. I'll have to dig it out just so I can watch Scott Hamilton be a dork.

And Vista is pretty evil. I've gotten used to it at this point, though.


My husband can't even set up his own email software. Without me I think he'd probably be computer free since he'd just chuck the thing.


Yes, but when your car breaks you need to call someone who does know about cars. Plus, cars have computers in them now and God forbid the computer breaks down 'cuz then even if you do know something about cars you won't be able to fix the thing.

I don't think they will ever get simpler. Nothing else has.
Thanks Arlene, I just had visions of Windows-level tech support dancing through my head and I spent the extra money in the hopes that wouldn't be necessary... the PC's final gift to me (from a boot failure) was the time required to find a PATA enclosure in the hopes that it wasn't from HD failure, and then - having found that the drive was alive - the time spent converting something on the order of 19k archived Outlook messages to mbox in the off chance that one of my wife's former consulting gigs ever came back to haunt her.

What have we learned from all of this? Two things - backing that thang up isn't just for date night, and no more using proprietary email standards.
I saw "Blades of Glory" and found it funny in a silly, corny way. Here all this time I thought Scott Hamilton was having a grand time parodying himself and he thought it was real? Are you sure, Sandra? Anyway, Will Ferrell ebbs and flows with me- he seems to be playing the same character in different 70's era costumes over and over, but I think Will Arnett and Amy Poehler rocked. They are both smart and funny (and they love each other, awwww).

As far as the real Jerry Lewis goes Arlene, chickens are benevolent saints compared to him. He used to come into the restaurant I worked at, called ahead for dry roast poultry, no butter, no oil, no salt. He usually had a date and another couple with him and they ate whatever. He refused to allow a female to be his server and always had something nasty to complain about the restaurant, service, food, etc. even though he came back at least once a month. Evil, evil man. Some PR person back in the annals of time had to have devised the Jerry's kids thing and now he's stuck with it. That part of his persona confounds me because the rest of him is mean to the core. And that's what I have to say about that. So there.
Oh, ouch. Aren't those external enclosures the bomb though? It sure beats the hell out of having to crack open two chassis and installing the HD in another box to check. Cuz even with small agile hands that can be a pain. I always manage to cut myself on something.
Lauren, huh. Well, that doesn't surprise me.

Oh, as long as I have your attention, where is this Rachel Ray stuff going down? Speaking of celebrities that get on my nerves.
My next writing task, I'm fitting it in between mud removal tasks.
Lauren - actually, I was 'playing it straight' - Scott H IS in the movie and I'm pretty sure he knows it's a movie, but it is freakin' hilarious how he 'commentates' the phony skating EXACTLY as he commentates the real skating. If I were a real skater, I'd be scared what Scott H. must really think of me, b/c clearly the man can run his patter convincingly even when watching an ocelot skate.
I'm a macophile, but I don't begrudge others using what they want to use to get their work done--I'm not a cultist zealot evangelist.

Off topic...Lauren, did you ever see that rendition of RR as a perky demented food chipmunk? I got the image off the interwebs, but don't remember where nor can I find it again.

Found here.
Barry, you are a graphics/images guy. Most of you are Macheads. For a reason. If you weren't I'd advise you to switch. I'm neutral in the mac vs. pc war. I'm all about the right tool for the job, too.

That chipmunk still cracks me up. You posted it on my post about RR and Dunkin' Donuts.
gah, I have no memory. The NYT crossword and morning sudoku have not forestalled teh alzheimers.
Here is the original site with that picture and another one:

Rachel Ray: Perky Demented Food Chipmunk
I'll second that on the external enclosures - especially since I didn't have another desktop PC chassis in which to test the drive. There's an ancient HP laptop that I've been using to experiment with Linux, my work laptop, the iMac in replacement of the PC, and that's about it.
Ok, I'm late and I read through this really fast, but tell me why your family is even dealing with Windows issues if they bought iMacs.

iMacs are kind of actually the perfect, reasonably priced computer for people who don't know anything about computers and likely use them for surfing the internet, email and the occasional word processing task.
Lonnie I knew you'd be along and I'd have to explain this to you...

They bought the iMacs in 1998-99. The original, Bondi Blue, looked like it had been not so much constructed as laid by a blue alien, completely un-upgradable without magic powers, iMac. You know, the ones that the iPhone is more powerful than now.

They weren't a good choice for them then since both my father and brother in law own their own businesses and needed something with a little more umphhh than could be found in that particular Mac for various reasons. I gave them other Mac options but thanks to Scott the Ice Skater they ended up with the iMac which was quickly outgrown.

So, because they did what I told them not to, they have this idea that Macs are bad. So when the time came to get a different computer they all went with PCs.

This is not my fault.

And, frankly, give my family a sufficiently complex calculator and they would figure out a way to make it give them a blue screen of death. Or question mark of death. And me a headache
I feel for you Arlene. At least they didn't get Psystar Open Computers, eh?
Oh man. They didn't even have those then. They do something like that and I'll move with no forwarding address. I really will.
My parents are in their 70's and they are taking their first steps on "the Internets."

The Call usually goes like this:

Dad: Honey, you got a minute?

Me: Sure, Dad, what's up?

Dad: Well I'm sitting in front of the computer and....

At that point I settle in for at least an hour of frustration.

I sympathize.
Liz! You have name! I'm so glad. I always had the hardest time deciding between calling you Bagheera, which is the name of one of my cats, and E.M. which was just too impersonal sounding for me. I like Liz.

Does your dad make up his own terms for things? Mine does. I'm pretty good at translating him at this point but I'm sure he confuses the heck out of any real (read paid) tech support flunky he talks to.