The IT Guy is in the Doghouse

by Barrett


Let’s take a little test.  Does any of this sound familiar?

“Honey, our home network is down… again.   Why can’t you fix it so it doesn’t keep happening?”

The phone rings.  Your parent is on the other line.
“My printer isn’t working.  Can you press a few buttons and make it work again?”

Speaking of computer printers, I turned on my Epson the other day, and found the front LED menu items now glowing in French.  I turned around and my two year old was gleaming at his crowning accomplishment of the day.  He had discovered a menu subdirectory I didn’t even know existed!  C’est impossible!

If any of this rings a bell, don’t deny what you know to be true.  Embrace it.
You are tech support for your family.

The likely reality is you’re no tech expert.  You probably know just a little more than everyone else related to you.
That may not be saying much, but you’re it.  You’re what stands between the blissed-out 21st century family and tech anarchy.  The thankless job is yours. Own it.

Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful to keeping tech peace on the home front.

Use Remote Access via iChat
My father just turned 79, and he works hard to keep up with technology just like the rest of his generation.   The good news is he’s always been into gadgets and early tech.  So he was ready for digital living.  In the 80’s, he had the first TV watch from Casio.  How cool is that?  (It didn’t really work, but I guess that was never the point.)

He was an early Apple adopter before Apple ruled the world.   He loves his cell phone.  And he does a pretty good job driving his iMac today.
When he does get himself into a little computer pickle, I’ve found that doing screen sharing via iChat is an amazing tool for me to diagnose problems and make the fixes remotely from the comfort of my own desk.  No house call required.

I know the videophone thing has been around since the ‘60’s, but now with iChat or Skype, the fact that I can check in and see my Dad whenever I want on my computer screen still seems nothing short of magic.

Your Tech is Only as Strong as its Weakest Link
When my father got his iMac, I suggested he pass on the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.  I love these wireless tools for my own computer, but it’s easy to forget they occasionally need to be re-linked to the computer without reason.  Lose the weak link.   It’s a worried phone call to you late at night waiting to happen.

Don’t Try to Win the Battle with Older Tech
This is when you really question whether you should be in the family tech support game.  You know you have to figure the darn thing out.  And it’s driving you crazy.  Just because it’s a few years old and no longer playing nicely with your newer tech is no reason to retire it early.

Yes it is.

I know.  That’s admitting some level of failure on your part.   But the ‘fam’ doesn’t really care about threats to your geek god self-image.  They just want the tech in their lives to work.  And remember, that’s your problem.

So for the past six years, I’ve been very satisfied with my old Airport Extreme Base Station, which creates the happy glow of my home’s wireless network.  The only problem was ever week or two the network went down.   Inexplicably.  But I realized the simply fix was a quick reboot of the base station.  And I just did that by unplugging the Apple unit and then plugging it back in again.  A 10-second operation, tops.  I theorized the problem evolved from some growing incompatibility with my cable modem.  No biggie.  I thought.

Long ago, I subscribed to the fortune cookie philosophy of
‘Home tech is imperfect.  Just enjoy that it works.’

Occasionally, my wife would mention the issue in a casual way.  I thought more as a point of curiosity.  Perhaps an intellectual exercise.
So I didn’t think much of it.
I know I couldn’t cure the glitch, but I could quickly treat it.
Problem solved.  Or so I thought.

The fact that the glitch continued… and with growing frequency by some accounts… revealed the truth.  Casual comments evolved and morphed into frustrated reminders.

One night, it was made very clear to me.
The IT guy was now in the doghouse.

So I did some research and confirmed that back in 2009, Apple had upgraded their wireless base stations from the older 802.11g network standard to the newer and faster 802.11n dual band technology

Better range.  Less interference.  It’s the new thing.  In fact, now, it’s already the standard.  The cure was there, waiting for me.

Get with it!

So I did.  Bought it online, installed it in no time, and voila… no more network problems.  Our home network is humming again.

Why?  I really don’t know.

It just works again.

The official word from ‘BL Tech Support’ is “Product has reached end-of-life status. Replacement ordered and installed.  Please fill out the satisfaction survey.”

I confess it’s a pricey choice to simply buy new technology to solve your tech ills, but I rationalized it by saying I had already gotten my money’s worth on my wicked old base station.

More importantly, my wife is happy.  She thinks I’m a tech god again.
Harmony has been restored.

Anybody want to buy a perfectly good old Airport Extreme Base Station?

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