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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Family help desk then and now

I have been doing family help desk support for a long time. Once people in the family know you have any sort of computer expertise you become the help desk. That role has changed a lot over the years.

It used to be about installing printers. Every printer did something weird and had to have special drivers. Now they pretty much install by themselves. Everything is USB making it so much easier.

Occasional someone would branch out to a scanner. Again USB could save the day but there was generally a driver to find, testing to do and configuration to be done so they did not scan at a super high DPI making for massive images.

You got to install a new version of Windows every so often. Plus you had to manually install updates to drivers - sound, printer, video and other hardware. You also had to install updates to software manually too.

Now no one changes Windows versions unless they upgrade their machine. When I say they I mean you as they call your for a recommendation on a new machine usually when they are standing in Best Buy, Sams Club, Costco or someplace you would never by a machine from. You would generally do some research and find the proper machine but today it is a "hey, this one is on sale, should we get it moment?" and you know you can't talk them out of it.

I have noticed people don't even ask about new versions of Windows. Not a single family member has asked about Windows 8. None of them care. What they have for hardware runs just fine. They hardly ever install a new program but instead spend most of their time on the web. Instead of installing something they open a new tab. They use Word and Excel but really the web browser has become the only piece of software they need with the requirement of an occasional plug-in to support something.

In the past a newly purchased machine was pretty clean. You got their existing hardware to work and it was done. Now you need a couple of hours to get past the first boot and to kill all the stupid crap that loads on the box eating up all the RAM just starting up. Man I hate this process. Really HP, Dell, ASUS and others - just screw you. You are not adding value, you are adding pain. Your machines take forever to boot. You are not adding to the user experience you are ruining it. After I dump all that crap that machine it not too bad. Then I have to go about updating Windows and updating all the software they actually use. I keep a list of things to install like a PDF reader, Flash, Shockwave, QuickTime, 7Zip, Java, Notepad++, Picasa and Paint.NET to name a few. Just saves me the time of waiting for them to visit a web site that needs one of these and confuses them.

Speaking of allowing a family member the gift of installing a required web program themselves - NEVER DO THIS. They will always click through everything and get 10,000 toolbars installed. If you are a programmer who codes this up or the person who originally thought of this I F'ING HATE YOU! Look everyone does this, you are all scum, with 20 toolbars running they don't use ANY OF THEM. The battle is over, STOP IT NOW. You can't be getting hits off this crap. But I hate ever last one of you and refuse to use any of your crap and tell every family member how much I hate your guts any chance I get. Great marketing on your part isn't it? This is a total failure. Every time I visit a family member I have to clean up more of this crap. They hate it but are too stupid to avoid it no matter how hard I try to train them. Burn in hell the lot of you.

Everyone and their pet cow has a smartphone now. Guess who is the new help desk for that? Yep it is you again. To add to the fun there is a new group of people to hate. The bloatware that is installed by Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint to every phone. Unlike the PC you can't uninstall this junk. Seems the same set of a-holes are in charge here. I don't want nor will never use any of this crap. It clutters every phone out there. Just to add insult to injury the stupid crap wants to update all the time too.

Just when you thought you were done learning all sorts of weirdness about about PCs you get to learn all sorts of weirdness about smart phones. iOS does it this way, Android that way, Blackberry some other way that makes no sense at all.

When it all came to a head I got to learn how to root a phone. Since Android phone manufactures don't update to the latest from Google because the bastardized it so bad. They refuse to atone for their shoddy skills and let you suffer. Guess what you get for doing this to me T-Mobile and Samsung? You get to lose every single piece of that bloatware. And you lose it from now and into the future. Once you forced me to root I phone that means I will keep doing it forever. I see no need to stick with your crap.

This came up when my niece was unable to run her banking software because Samsung and T-Mobile did not support updating her phone. I rooted it and went from Eclair (shudder) to JellyBean. She can now run everything and does not have stupid junk on her phone. I rooted and updated my son's phone and my wife's phone too. I got to kill tons of stupid programs and the movie Avatar off the phone. Not a one of us ever watched that movie on the phone. Who thought that was a good tie in? A 3D movie on a phone? Thanks for wasting space on my device for a couple of years.

Everyone is very happy with the rooted phone. It is like a new device. Tons of new features to explore and it runs faster. Now they brag up the Samsung again. Not that Samsung deserves this as they blocked me from improving their hardware until I rooted things.

Now we get back to help desk support. Family installs Gmail, Calendars, FaceBook, Words with Friends, Hanging with Friends and all sorts of programs that want to notify you every second of every day that there is an update. They all want to light up the LED, vibrate and play a sound. You never get a moments rest. All of this is enabled by default. I have to go in and shut off half this crap just so the battery is not eaten in 3 seconds after a recharge. Some apps suck so bad you can't control individual notifications - sound, vibrate, LED - but it is all or nothing. They want to be notified but by vibration only. So I get no real solution to these very popular but poorly written applications. If you are a developer that cheats and does the all or nothing setting then get the hell back in there and fix it!

A PC has your attention while you are sitting at it. The cell phone is on you at all time. Now all these crazy bastards want our attention all the time 24x7. This is getting crazy.  I have a life, I don't want to be uninterrupted by my phone all the time. I don't have a Facebook account nor do I play any of the games associated to it. I have a couple of email accounts and a calendar. I try to reply to text messages because they generally have a short answer. Only my immediate family contacts me that way so those don't happen very often. I don't know how some of these people live with the constant be-boop and vibration of the phone. Most hate it so I help them disable what I can.

Everything is enabled by default of course. They want you on their site all the time. It is getting to the point you overwhelmed them and now they hate you and want to kill and your alerts. These vendors have gone too far and there is a backlash against it. Just means they will find some other way to annoy us, they don't stop, they just get worse. People get fired because they don't do their real job. If some one does not have a job they can't have a phone and wont have your stupid apps. You are destroying your user base for short term attention. These games are free so you are getting false profits from ad viewing. This can't keep going.

Some of the apps don't even use the standard menu buttons to show an options menu allowing you to kill this. Instead they hide it somewhere in their interface. Screw you bastards. If you want to be on the Android then be a good Android citizen. I have had to find all kinds of bizarre ways to get to settings menus. Thanks for wasting my time!

Yep, I am pissed off at all of this crap and I have the right to be. I get hauled into long sessions of fixing things because some marketing jerk off decided all of this was a good idea. It is not, you are pissing off your clients and you are pissing me off so I find ways to totally kill everything about your app.

Being the family help desk is getting harder. I have to support the PC and the smartphone. I have to clean up tons of stupid crap instead of solving real problems. I have to make things work faster by killing programs that do nothing. None of us own anything anymore. Everyone tries to get a piece of the pie by installing something that just annoys us. I am rarely installing something that helps out a family member, I just spend time removing crap. Computers were meant to make our life easier but that is not happening. Instead they are getting in the way and eating up time for non-useful activities.