Friday, September 15, 2006

Free Family Tech Support

Doctors have this problem. The moment someone at the party finds out they're a doctor, they get the "Oh, it hurts when I do this..." request for free advice.

I get a little less of it than they do, since there aren't as many Mac owners, but would you believe my dentist did that to me? :) Did she think I was going to offer to come to her house to fix her ailing Mac for her? Or was she offering me to take the Mac home with me and keep it?

Macs are less popular than bodies, but I'm sure every PC tech at a party has this problem. It's never worse than when your family finds out that you do computer support, however. I don't, really DO computer support, not really. Certainly not for PCs. But the moment they hear geeky terminology, the relatives come out of the woodwork with stupid Windows questions that a Mac maven like myself can best answer with "Hrm. Sounds bad. Why don't you buy a Mac?" which of course leads to SOMEONE eventually actually getting a Mac. Now you're in business. Without getting paid.

My kids have Macs, because if I gave them PCs and they broke, got viruses, etc. I would just want to install Linux on them and be done with it, and the expensive games would then be worthless.

Considering the amount of time they spend with the games, maybe that's not such a bad thing, after all -- however, I digress...

Whenever there's a problem with the computers, the kids run in with panic, or determination to break any boundaries I assert in an attempt of procuring aid for their electronic addictions. Today my son's computer isn't on the network, so he has no Internet. Oh, what horror! I'm sorta happy. And exhausted. I certainly do NOT want to spend my wee-morning hours figuring out why his computer won't talk to our wireless device. My laptop is fine, he needs to be on a bus soon, so who cares? Obviously he does, but you get the point.

Somehow the computer has become a right rather than a privilege.

My mom got my old iBook. After her first 10 questions or so, she's been relatively quiet, until lately when it seems the modem may have died. That's a hardware issue I can't debug or fix since I'm 1000 miles away. So mom's pretty much been golden.

However, I see everyone from linux to PC techies running around fixing their family's computer issues. I'm not sure the doctors take care of family members in this way -- aside from the stupid party questions, how many family members want to take their clothes off in front of you and be touched, sometimes rather intimately, by their son/father/sister/cousin? So somehow, for the doctors, I think the buck stops at free advice.

There seems to be a law of the universe that for every geek there's at least one completely technically inept relative who has the lead touch and every computer or network they put their paws on breaks. Then there's the Internet un-savvy relative who blunders into adware and spyware, bad offers, identity theft, etc. And the mother -- usually it's the mother (mine's guilty too) who likes to pass along their spam, chain letters, petitions, jokes, etc. so they can share their inbox pain with you.

If you're the black geek of the family, you get the call, the email, the questions, and have to travel to the relative's house to do unpaid charity service in the name of family peace. After all, didn't you ask the person with the green thumb in the family to do your landscaping? You didn't? Didn't you ask the one most talented in the kitchen to come over and cook for your Thanksgiving meals? No? What about Aunt Martha? She's a neat freak and keeps a perfect house -- didn't you ask her to wash your kids' underwear and scrub your kitchen floor? You didn't do that either? Sheesh, what type of relative ARE you??

What is it that makes being a geek one of the few areas that people can trounce your personal, familial and professional boundaries? Doesn't Uncle James know that if you're fixing his computer, you're bound to find his porn folder?

I think it's one of the mysteries of the family moral and ethical system that I won't understand. I mean, my mom's a nurse, but I never asked her to take my blood pressure, administer an enema, draw blood, or give me chemo.

My family's pretty good on the scale of things, too. I watch others suffer under the burden of having done the family a "favor" and set up a computer network, which then they also must support when it's broken. It's true that people have much more respect when you set up a fee schedule. Suddenly they think twice about what they're breaking on the, computer or network, since they'll have to pay. Otherwise it's "what the heck, my nephew will fix it."

Maybe it's a good thing my family hasn't really realized that I do graphic and 3d design. All I need is for requests for unpaid or speculative work in the design area. Make my logo, do my website, I need a brochure...No one seems to think that time is limited, no one wants to take their work home with them, and we all need money.

[tags]family, rant, humor, life, interruptions, personal, prices, truth, spec work[/tags]


  1. About the expensive games on linux, you can have those with cedega now. :) I'm a user myself, it works fine.

  2. Cedega!! -- it's not free. I wouldn't be paying a monthly fee for my kids to play expensive computer games. They're only 8 and 11. When they're older, they can buy their own expensive games and pay monthly fees for Cedega! Heck, they can even run Windows if they want. But they'd best support it themselves.

    Now, *I* might be interested if cedega worked on PPC Linux (it doesn't) and would allow me to run Morrowind. Since the first half of the if statement fails, I never bother to check the second half. :) I'm not blowing cash on PC hardware just to play games. Which is back to that point in the article. :)

    Basically just because I'm a geek does not make me the family's personal tech support guru. Whenever I put a kid on a Mac, suddenly my Windows-loving geek partners would cop out with the "I don't support Mac." -- conversely, BECAUSE I put my kids on Macs, there's nowhere near as much tech support to be done. *phew*