Category Archives: Help

Save Your Sanity – Let Teach Parents Tech.Org Handle Those “Help Me Out” Calls

imageHigh level computer users are often seen as built in tech support by family, friends, neighbors, co-workers; the good looking chick you’re chatting up at a party – the list goes on.

So, a “help me out” call, during the Christmas Season, is not at all an uncommon occurrence – if, you’re a high level computer user. But, you know that – which is why you’re going to change your telephone number to “unlisted”, or move out of the country.

From a personal perspective, I’ve learned over the years, that a verbal “solve my computer problem” walkthrough is a non-starter – in most instances. It’s a virtual certainty that some/most/all of the instructions, will have to be repeated – any number of times.

If you’re the type of “helpful friend” who has extraordinary patience, you’ll probably buy into this awkward arrangement. But, you will need prodigious patience – and, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to test it.

Rather than trudge down this twisty winding path, you might be better off directing your “client” to a terrific free resource  “TeachParentsTech.org”; a site developed by a group of Google employees which is, as they put it “ designed to help “kids” teach their parents about computer basics.” The group has developed a series of 50 plus instructional videos, dealing with computer basics – the type of basic issues that often confuse new users.

The following screen captures will give you some idea of what’s available on the site, and just how easy it is to link up with the correct instructional video. Click on a graphic to expand it to its original size.

image

image

This graphic illustrates how easy it is to select a video, choose the email message and get it ready to go.

image

Note: Make it clear that you expect active participation. In fact, insist on it. Unless you do, I can assure you that you will be the one doing all the heavy lifting. And, it’s this heavy lifting that, over time, sours many tech savvy users on staying in the “I’m a helpful tech savvy kind of person” game.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you sometimes think that you have a sign painted on your back, that calls out to the world – “I’m the go-to guy for all your computer woes”, you might just find this site invaluable.

Check it out here: Teach Parents Tech.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Education, Help, Recommended Web Sites, Windows Tips and Tools

Support Your Friends Tech Needs The Right Way

imageLet’s assume for a moment, that you just got a call from ———– (fill in the blank), who wants you to walk him through transferring files from one computer to another. Not so difficult for you, but often difficult for typical users.

A “help me out” call such as this, is not at all an uncommon occurrence if you’re a high level user. But you know that – which is why you’re going to change your telephone number to “unlisted”, or move out of the country.   Smile

From a personal perspective, I’ve learned, over the years, that a verbal “solve my computer problem” walkthrough is a non-starter – in most instances. Here’s why.

It’s a virtual certainty that some/most/all of your instructions, will have to be repeated – any number of times. If you’re the type of “helpful friend” who has extraordinary patience, you’ll probably buy into this awkward arrangement. But, you will need prodigious patience – and, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to test it.

It would be more appropriate (but far from perfect), to take the time (lots of time!), to set out the needed instructions in an email. But, there’s not much point in reinventing the wheel when a Google search string (continuing with this illustration) – how to transfer a file from one computer to another – will pop up more than 8 Million references.

For example, the most complete article I could find using a Google search string – how to transfer a file from one computer to another – contained just under 500 words. It’s possible of course, that you might be able to transfer the same set of instructions verbally using fewer words – but, I doubt it. And, even if that was possible – you’re back to some/most/all of the instructions needing to be repeated.

image

Courtesy dilbert.com

And that brings me to that dreaded question which, it seems to me, many high level users – the default neighborhood tech support gurus – are too shy to ask the “you’ve just gotta help me” friend – have you Googled the problem? The most common answer is of course – no.

If you’re still of a mind to go into rescue mode, then you must be the person to find an article you feel should solve the problem. Then, after working together through this article with the not so tech savvy “friend”, hopefully the problem can be resolved.

Make it clear that you expect active participation. In fact, insist on it. Unless you do, I can assure you that you will be the one doing all the heavy lifting. And, it’s this heavy lifting that, over time, sours many tech savvy users on staying in the “I’m a helpful tech savvy kind of guy” game.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are many ways to provide tech support to family and friends – hard experience though, has taught me to rely on this one.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

8 Comments

Filed under computer repair, Help, Interconnectivity, Point of View, Windows Tips and Tools

Get Your Geek On With These Firefox Keyboard Shortcuts

imageThere are plenty of ways to identify a “geek”, but the one  that stands out strongest in my mind is – geeks generally use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible. Watch a geek at a word processor and you’re likely to see the magic of – Ctrl + C (copy) and Ctrl + V (paste). Pretty cool, no?

No doubt you’re familiar with that old standby used to launch Windows Task Manager (Control+Alt+Delete), but with a little practice, you can dazzle your friends with your newfound “geeky” ability to bypass your mouse by using one/more/all, of the following Firefox keyboard shortcuts.

Consider printing the shortcuts so that you have a handy reference until the key combinations become second nature. I’m in the process of learning these shortcuts myself, so I’ve done just that.

Method:

With the Control (Ctrl) key held down, press the additional key to complete the action.

Ctrl

+ s – Saves a webpage to your computer for offline viewing.

+ o – Opens a webpage.

+ t – Opens a new browser tab.

+ w – Closes the current (open) browser tab.

+ n – Open’s a new Browser window.

+ j – Opens the Download Manager to view and track downloaded files.

+ + (plus sign) – Zooms in a webpage.

+ – (minus sign) – Zooms out of a webpage.

+ l – Opens Bookmark search.

+ h – Opens up your web browsing History.

+ d – Adds the open webpage to your bookmarks.

+ b – Lets you organize your bookmarks.

+ Tab – Toggles forward between all open browser tabs.

+ Shift + Tab – Toggles backward through all open browser tabs.

+ Shift + p – Opens an InPrivate Browsing session.

+ Shift + Del – Opens your browsing history so you can delete history, cookies, passwords, ……..

You can gain the title of “Uber Geek” by using keyboard shortcuts to launch common Windows functions. Read Get to Know Your Windows Key – Get Geeky With Keyboard Shortcuts, on this site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

4 Comments

Filed under Firefox, Geek Software and Tools, Help, Timesaving Tips, Windows Tips and Tools

Link Not Working? Not Found (404 errors)? – Clear Your DNS Cache. Here’s How

In the past week or so, I’ve had five readers advise me that one or more of the links on this site weren’t working (this issue crops up occasionally). One reader pointed out, that on his desktop machine he had issues with a particular link – but on his laptop, the link worked fine.

Since I use CoolPreviews (a free application I highly recommend), to establish that article links are working before I post – as illustrated below – when I get this particular query, I’m reasonably sure that what we’ve got here is a “failure to communicate” (thank you Cool Hand Luke), caused by an issue with the reader’s DNS cache.

image

If you’ve encountered similar problems here, or elsewhere – or problems with an unusually high number of Not Found 404 error codes while surfing, it’s probable that you need to flush your DNS cache.

Here’s whyFrom LCN:

DNS caching is a double-edged sword. It speeds up resolution by storing recent answers, and short-circuiting the normal resolution process. However there is a down side. Because DNS servers cache answers, and don’t delete these answers until the time to live (ttl) expires, it can take hours or days for the entire Internet to recognize changes to DNS information for your domain name.

Clearing your DNS cache forces your machine to query DNS name servers for updated DNS information.

Here are two ways in which you can clear your DNS cache:

The Geek way:

Go to “Run” in the Start menu (“Search” for “Run” if you can’t see it).

In the Run box, type CMD (doesn’t need to be capitalized).

image

At the command prompt, (not in the Run box), type – ipconfig/flushdns.

image

Hit “Enter”, and that’s it. Your DNS cache has just been flushed.

The less Geeky way (the easy way):

Install and run CCleaner – it’s free, and it’s really a “must have” for all computer users.

CCleaner will allow you to flush your DNS cache by simply checking the appropriate box – as illustrated below.

image

My DNS cache is partially illustrated below before flushing with CCleaner. You can see what’s in your DNS cache by entering ipconfig/displaydns at the command prompt.

image

DNS cache after flushing with CCleaner.

image

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

12 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Browsers, downloads, Freeware, Help, Interconnectivity, Operating Systems, Registry Cleaners, Software, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Windows Problems? Get The Answer Straight From The “Horse’s Mouth” – Windows Help Files

imageIf you have a problem with your car, it seems obvious that you’d seek out answers from your mechanic friend, and not your friend the plumber, or your friend the carpenter. In other words, you’d get the answers to your questions straight from the “horse’s mouth” – meaning, from the highest authority.

In the real world it does seem to work that way – we do go to the highest authority. In the technology world on the other hand, there seems to be a bit of a reversal in this common sense approach.

Take an issue like “my computer won’t start”, for example. Surprisingly, there are over 42 Million search results on Google for this dreaded situation.

image

It’s not a scientific observation by any means, but this amazing number of search results is one indication that computer users are more prone to search out answers to technical issues, from sources other than Microsoft which, in many cases, is the highest authority for computer related issues.

It just seems practical to follow the advice on a Microsoft diagnostic page (as in the following example), which can often lead directly to a solution, rather than to search haphazardly and to trust that along the way a solution will present itself.

Screen capture from the Microsoft page.

image

The diagnostic page shown above, continues with additional suggestions and recommendations.

I’ll often get questions from friends on Windows related issues, or on a specific application issue, and I’ve made it a habit to ask – “Have you checked Windows help files” or, “Have you checked the application’s help files”. It’s not unusual that I get a blank look, followed by a – huh?

This type of interaction is really a perfect opportunity to teach that Microsoft provides very substantial help files, and, that many product developers provide not only help files – but often offer troubleshooting guides, and FAQ’s, on their websites.

Piriform’s CCleaner for example (click graphic to expand).

image

It’s been my experience that Microsoft help files are an underutilized resource; it shouldn’t be that way. While all Microsoft help files are not created equal, for the most part, this resource is a powerful problem solver. Likewise, specific application help files are often flush with problem resolutions.

From Microsoft – How to access Windows help.

Windows 7

On the Windows Taskbar click the Start menu (the Windows icon located on the left side).

Windows Start menu

Then select Help and Support.

Windows Start menu with Help and Support selected

The Windows Help and Support dialogue will open, providing you with additional options for solving your problem.

Windows help dialog

Windows Vista

On the Windows Taskbar click the Start menu (the Windows icon located on the left side).

Windows Start menu

Then select Help and Support.

Windows Start menu with Help and Support selected

The Windows Help and Support dialogue will open, providing you with additional options for solving your problem.

Windows help dialog

Windows Search 4.0 for Windows XP

Click in the Windows Deskbar to display the Windows Search Results window.

Windows Deskbar

Then click on the down arrow next to the Windows logo.

Windows Deskbar with down arrow selected

Point to Help, then click on Search Help to open the Help window.

Help menu with Windows Search Help selected

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

2 Comments

Filed under Computer Tools, Education, Help, Microsoft, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP