Doing Tech Support For Your Parents

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This comic is too real. TOO REAL!ย I am baring WAY TOO MUCH of my actual true soul pain with this one. I spent the better part of the first decade of the 21st century trying to build computers faster than my mom could destroy them. It’d beย neck and neck for awhile, but she always pulled out ahead eventually. She went through at least a half dozen computers (I count 50% internal component replacement as a “New Computer”) in under 10 years. Things got simpler when we finally bought a new in the box laptop, instead of me constantly building and rebuilding various Frankenstein’d desktop machines, but not by much. As of early this year she has a decent Macbook Pro, and the tech support needs have dwindled to all but naught.

Technology woes also decrease exponentially (not just for her, but for everyone) when you realize that no one has ever developed a usable and fully functional desktop printer. It’s just a thing that doesn’t exist. A myth. The Great North America Wood Ape, or Sasquatch of PC accessories. Nothing but blurry pictures and folklore. “Ol’ Jeb says he saw a inkjet printer what didn’t jam and had no trouble connectin’ to any computer ya threw at it. USB or wireless, so says Ol’ Jeb. ‘Course Ol’ Jeb’s blinder ‘an a stack of butts and twice as dumb, so…” Just admit defeat before you even join the battle and only have your photos, reports and various paper whats-its printed at copy shops. Their $150,000 laser printers make nicer prints and work better (which is to say they are only down about %40 of the time) than any paper ruining contraption you have access to. If you factor in the cost of the home printer, and the CONSTANT influx of replacement ink that somehow costs MORE than the actual printer, thus negating the logic of buying the ink instead of throwing the printer away and buying a new one… where was I? Oh yeah. FUCK printers. Don’t use them. They are poison garbage.

SHARKSPLODERS: Please relate your “tech support for the family” nightmares. Were raccoons involved? I bet raccoons were involved.

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  1. My parents go completely the other way and won’t install ANYTHING without asking me first, even though I tell them it’s safe to install updates. They also don’t like to search for anything themselves, you know, just in case they accidentally get on one of those “bad” sites. So they ask me to do it…

    • HAH! I’ve had the same experience. I spent so many years convincing my mom NOT TO EVER CLICK on ANYTHING, that she became terrified of clicking on… well ANYTHING. “It says Windows needs to install critical updates… WHAT DO I DO!?”

  2. Not really a tech support issue, but my mom paid AOL for a browser until 2007-8.

    I don’t have the slightest idea why.

    • A friend of my parents was up until a few years ago still paying AT&T $15 a month to rent a telephone. Not a cell phone, a regular old land-line black rotary-dial telephone from the 1960’s. They haven’t even offered that service in decades, but they’re still happy to take money from any old people that have been living in the same place long enough and don’t know any better.

        • Yeah, she was quite shocked when we explained it to her. Do the math on that: $15 x 12 months x 40+ years = over 7 grand. For a phone that probably cost $5 (in 60’s currency) to make. We bought her a new one that cost $20 and has easily 10 times as many features.

          Still, gotta be at least slightly impressed that old thing still worked after all that time. They built things to last back then…

  3. Trying to get some network printers to work is quite possibly the most frustrating experience known to human kind. Only two days ago I wasted hours trying to get something out of my wife’s Brother multi-function printer after I reinstalled Win8.1 on her laptop. Heaven knows why but it refuses to work when the laptop – the laptop – is connected to WiFi via an ASUS ac wifi dongle, but prints out fine when the laptop – the laptop – is connected to Wifi by its internal adapter. I can think of no reason why this should be happening (but then I only have the one undergrad degree in computing).

    • I know from experience how pointless trying to get a Brother on a wireless network can be. I eventually bought an Apple Airport express to plug it into (that cost half as much as the printer) just to get it on the network easily.

      • My solution to networking printers has always been to hook them up to a desktop computer and use the desktop to share the printer to the rest of the network. This is almost universally easier than connecting it directly to the network, but of course it means you need a constantly-running desktop computer. I use mine as a media server/downloading machine/file server/gaming rig so it’s pretty much always on minus the occasional restart. Without that, though, it’s a huge pain in the ass.

        • This is definitely always the easiest way, but it just seems like giving up. If the printer is SUPPOSED to just jump on your network, then you’d appreciate it if it would just do that. Of course it refuses to cooperate, so you just acquiesce and hook it up to a computer that is usually always on.

    • I actually have an answer on that one: different network adapter means different MAC address and a different IP lease from the DHCP server – and so anything that depends on this, like the drivers for network-based hardware, could have issues if you don’t have a version installed for the different adapters.

  4. I, sadly, relate more to the parent in this comic. Even though I’m a 30 year old who’s been forced to use computers my whole life, I have the troubleshooting skills of a newborn fetus. I LITERALLY once used a clothespin to keep a loose cable in my computer (thus I really related to the dangling router). Before my old laptop finally died of exhaustion, I stopped doing virus checks because they depressed me. I don’t even know what I did that was so damaging up to that point. I don’t think this is uniquely an age thing, but you captured me good.

  5. Dude, I use a $100 compact laser that does 99% of my printing. Never have to buy ink, just a replacement cartridge every couple of YEARS. Yes it’s only black and white, so what? How much stuff do you really need printed in color? That’s when you go down to the copy place.

    • I actually have the same thing. A Brother. The wireless setup is completely impossible. Like Ive spent over a dozen hours trying to get it on our network, but it requires 3 drivers, 2 applications and a windows machine which I don’t have. Other than that, yes, it produces reliable black and white prints for months at a time on a single toner cartridge. Laser is the only way to go, but home laser full color printing just isn’t affordable or practical.

      • I bought a new Brother multi-function printer because I couldn’t get toner for the old one any more, and the new one was supposed to do double-sided printing, but once I installed the drivers it was “You don’t use Windows, YOU’RE not allowed to print double-sided!”

  6. Im not particularly tech savy myself but I can atleast manage to set up and use my computers without destroying them, but my brother is absolutely hopeless with that crap. He’s the type who just clicks on every download request that pops up because he’s too impatient to read what they say.

  7. I have an HP Deskjet 5440 printer that is… I ran out of fingers here one second… 12 years old at this point I think. Somehow the thing still produces the best color prints I have ever seen outside of the above mentioned copy shops. I spent all of high school whoring the thing out to classmates who needed decent quality printouts and used that money to but ink and computer parts. Only downside is that you have to get out and crank it to start the blasted thing up, electric ignitions weren’t invented yet

  8. My in-laws are hopeless with computers, but of course have one anyway. My wife’s cousin, who reportedly graduated from some sort of tech course (I’m guessing playground-equipment repair, based on these results) “fixed” their last big snafu and charged them $200 for it. As they’re on the far side of the continent, we had to walk them through the basic steps to repair his “fix” by telephone; my wife’s going to be going to visit them around Thanksgiving, and will get it straightened out the rest of the way then.

    I just don’t get how the people who taught her never to talk to strangers as a child are so very credulous when it comes to popups that tell them to “click here”.

    • My wife’s grandparents are the types that STILL talk about the time I magically fixed their years long problem with their flat screen tv with my magical tech skills every time I see them. I went into the menu and changed the aspect ratio so it actually fit their television.

      Yet they still have other kids and relatives that convince them to buy everything new that comes out. They have a desktop PC, an iPad, a digital camera, etc. All of which NEVER get any use. Grandma still pulls out a film camera at Xmas. I don’t even know where you get film developed now.

      • Wow, film at Christmas. I haven’t shot a frame of film since 2010, and that was just because I found an eight-year-old roll of unexposed film and decided to use it in a ten-year-old completely-manual Bell & Howell camera I’d gotten for renewing a magazine subscription. About eight of the twelve pictures actually came out.
        The last guy I talked to who was using film at a car show–only three weeks ago–said he does his own processing, but apparently there are still labs you can send film to.

  9. I have found myself extraordinarily lucky with my parents… they can figure most stuff out on their own, and once I show them how to do something, they never ever need to ask again. It’s made my life much easier than that of some of my friends…

  10. Non-Mac PC’s need to remain out of the hands of the elderly. I gave my Mom an Etch-a-Sketch that I put a DYMO label proclaiming it an “iPad” and she’s still managed to get it full of Viruses….

  11. Ah printers. I have a perfectly good laser printer that is older (2002-2003 I think). The only problem? HP doesn’t make a driver for Windows 7 or 8. So I have to keep a shitty old XP laptop around just to print from. Printing needs to be planned in advance, as the laptop takes at least 5 minutes to get going most of the time.

    • Doesn’t HP have some sort of universal driver now that works with a variety of printers? It may work for you.

  12. Is three months even enough time to accumulate every virus?
    That is the best part.
    But the bees… There should be more bees. Definitely more bees.

    That second panel might be the best thing I have ever seen.

    I did tech support for friends AND family. When I was underage, I also used the desktop the parental unit did, so I kept it on point. But, man, my friend let his friend use his computer, who downloaded a virus trying to get pornography. Bastard. Because I had to fix the damn thing.

    Then there was his “old” computer that had not updated in x amount of years. Service Pack 1 and so fragmented, running programs was a joke. I remember trying to update and it needing hundreds of security updates.

    And then I set it on fire.

    Even my mother knew drives needed defragging, but my much-younger-than-a-parent friend was two steps away from feeding ice cream to the CD drives.

  13. I was in a big meeting at work this week when a Director was trying to do a presentation, and was getting very frustrated by the computer. When they moved the mouse to the left, it would go to the right on screen. Up was down, etc. “It’s all reversed or something!”

    After several seconds of her getting increasingly confused and angry at the computer, I pointed out that it may work better if she wasn’t holding the mouse upside down.

    But yeah parents. So many computer stories. Too depressing to list.

  14. Personally I think three months is a little overly genrous in the timeline, more like 3 days…I feel for my mom who’s slightly more tech savvy than my pop…he had a habit of dragging any file he didn’t recognize into the recycling bin and emptying it, he also used to do this with open windows when he wanted to close them he’d just drag them into the handy recyling bin…”that’s what it’s there for, to put stuff away, right?” then freaking out when stuff stops working or he can’t find something he wants later…that may be how he once accidentally deleted their entire operating system.nt

    I helped a great aunt with her computer a few weeks ago, never in my life did I see so many browser on “toolbars” as I did on her computer. It took over 20 minutes to fully load her browser just so I could start removing them and get her on Chrome.

  15. While the computer being all bees might mean a decrease in emailing the faced book, it should result in a huge increase of free honey. The bees practically pay for themselves!

  16. I lived with my grandparents for a few years, so I was their go-to tech support during this time. This benefited me greatly one particular April 1st when I unplugged my grandmother’s laptop before she booted it up in the morning. Two hours later, of course, the battery ran out, and she couldn’t for the life of her understand why the computer spontaneously shut off.

  17. I had my mom buy a dell, so now the conversation goes like this:
    Mom: Son my computer is broken
    Me: Is it that Dell we bought last week?
    Mom: Yes
    Me: Their number is….

    Although I should be nicer about this, my 7 yo twin boys can outhack me on the Kindles hands down now, soon I may be the one needing their assistance

  18. I bought a cheap Canon printer a few months ago, and while I’m not trying to do comics or run a Fortune 500 office with it, the only real problem I have with it is getting Word to recognize it as the default printer. The laptop is almost never in the same room as the printer, so sometimes I’ll run out of paper and wonder what’s going on for a moment.

  19. I have two strange stories for the short time I was living with my mother-in-law. She once asked me to remove “my junk” from her computer because it was slowing her computer down. The junk in question? Firefox. While she was away that day I took a peek at her desktop to find her windows explorer task bar absorbing 85% of the screen, about a dozen adware sites opened themselves, and the computer was literally packed with dust and cat hairs. I had perfect molds of his air vents from her computer.

    Story number two was from a job I had out there. I worked at the electronics section of a national retail store. One day a member of the pharmacy came over to me in a hurry. My heart sank because my wife got her prescriptions from there at the time and I was worried something went wrong. As she approached she asked me if I could help them out with something important. I follow her back over there and it was only then that they needed me to change out their monitor on their register. I suddenly became the store IT guy without the pay…

  20. I used to print a lot, but not so much lately. My Epson Stylus 880 that I bought in 2001 served me well for many years before the head got too clogged to print anything.
    I then went out and bought an HP D1660 that was, it seemed, the last standalone printer available. It cost less than $50, and developed a fatal hardware error after printing only about 30 pages.
    I then accepted that all-in-ones were the way to go, even though I had a perfectly good scanner, and bought an Epson NX420 for about $90. And then I didn’t use it for a couple of months, and now the head’s clogged and it’s irreparable junk.
    I had to go to the public library last week and get a library card (haven’t had one since the ’90s) and PUT MONEY ON IT in order to print out a two-page photo release, because I can’t print at home and can’t access my web-based e-mail at work anymore.
    My current package of paper pre-dates the HP (and, by the way, HP, fuck you right in the ear for your update-reminder software that’s buried so deep in my computer that it wasn’t removed during the TWO HOURS it took to delete all the software related to that printer). I figure each page I’ve printed on these two machines cost about $2.50.

  21. 14-year-old laser printer connected to an Airport Express, both plugged into a power strip. I turn on the power strip when I want to print something, and it works flawlessly. I update my OS without giving the printer a thought because it really does “just work.” Of course if it stopped, I’d just have concert/theater tickets held at will-call instead of print at home; that’s about all I use a printer for these days.

  22. Tech-savvy parents can be just as bad sometimes. I used to give my Dad my old equipment, until my wife made me promise to never give him anything. He would call us years later about “How do I make this Motorola StarTAC do a pause during a dial?” “Do you have the manual for this AMD Athlon motherboard you gave me 5 years ago? I need to reset the CMOS battery.” Etc.

  23. My mother tries to do her own website updates. She has a bad memory. Imagine trying to work out a system where someone who shouldn’t be allowed to click “remember password” (because seriously: the hosting provider kept resetting her passwords. I complained to them. They told me: “well, if her passwords wouldn’t make their way into spammer’s hands every time we reset them, then we wouldn’t have to” ), yet is unable to remember passwords that she doesn’t have to do every day NEVER MIND having to fix the navigation whenever she decided to remodel the navigational structure of the website. OH AND AS I WRITE THIS, my father comes in and goes: “Hey can you check out why my phone doesn’t connect to my car anymore.”

  24. When I need to print something in color, I just take my laptop to the nearest comic convention and pay the nearest webcomic author a pittance to draw it.

    Which reminds me, how are my directions to the hotel coming Joel?

  25. The owner of the company I work at destroys keyboards on a regular basis by typing on them like he’s working in a forge. It sounds like he’s just slapping the keyboard.

    • When I was attending college as an adult student, one afternoon in the computer lab it got very quiet and I could feel a presence behind me. It was the instructor who said, “Please, you don’t have to hit the keys so hard!” I tried to explain, “Since 1971 I have used a Remington 1919 Standard typewriter, it is hard to break the habit of 30+ years of manual typing!” The kids around me got a good laugh!!

  26. First time poster — I’m enjoying this comic ๐Ÿ˜Ž

    My parents computers have Ubuntu on them, so I get 0 support requests. Just as you are seeing once your ma switched to a Mac, the constant computer software blowing up problems are a Windows problem, not a computer problem. Hardware is of course another matter — dusty fans, stuff plugged where it doesn’t belong, CDs shoved into random computer orifices, that’s another matter entirely. Luckily my parents don’t do that ๐Ÿ˜Ž

    Agreed 100% on the printers… printers that behave totally differently depending on if they are plugged via USB versus wifi (even with Ubuntu)… and the hardware! The printes my parents have had, one inkjet had misfeeds and paper jams all the time… then an inkjet where the ink constantly dried up.. then one that did both.. then a (very inexpensive) color laser printer that (besides them complaining it was too big) got some kind of sensor fault and quit printing. Their current inkjet hasn’t started misfeeding yet, but I swear the cartridges on it must last about 20 pages.

  27. Yeah, I’m my mum’s tech support. The frustrating thing is, even though I earned my living as a tech support tier 2 agent both in college and for three years afterwards, she’s still skeptical that I can fix her 8 million bee-viruses because “girls can’t do tech support.” But of course I’m expected to fix it anyway. Then she listens to the guy next door when he tells her to install whatever latest piece of spamware “computer optimizer” that has crawled out of the internet. Guh.

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