Wanted: Computer Nerd ASAP

Since about 1992, I’ve been working with computers. In those early days, I ignored my younger brother’s advice to go with Mac (what did he know … he was my kid brother after all). I wholeheartedly jumped on the Windows 3.1 bandwagon.

We had dial-up internet and as I recall, the speed (theoretically) was in the 14.4k range (bits per second?) But we were amazed computers could communicate over a network! Wow! Eventually, we ditched the outmoded modem for a smokin’ hot 56k — boy, we were zooming!

(It’s been so long, I’m having trouble recalling the exact terms, but all those old modems are still gathering dust in a box out in our barn. Maybe when I’m old and gray … uh, really, really old and gray … my grandkids will dig through that stuff and ask me, “What’s that odd-looking thing?”)

In the years since, Windows has released multiple iterations and advanced its operating system far beyond what we experienced in those good old days. I remember 3.1 — a single window at a time, but we were tickled pink with its fancy, colorful interface. How far we’ve come!

Throughout my history with computers, mostly I’ve been self-taught. Whether it’s how to run the software, how to add hardware and how to tweak networks and systems, I’ve been hands-on.

There were times, though, my dive-in nature created its own complications for me! When I was younger, the standard temptation was to “enhance” my experience with the latest add-ons hyped by computer magazines. It was an adventure trying out the latest technological innovations, things I’d have ahead of my friends, and they’d want to know how I liked them! More often than not, though, the add-on hardware created other problems,  introducing conflicts with my system. Conflicts always necessitated fixes, sometimes immediate fixes!

Even with many sleepless nights tracking down solutions, there was always a silver lining. In the process, I’d learn more, broaden my knowledge, and on at least one occasion, I taught a Dell service agent it was possible to make one modem a “slave” to another modem (by flipping switches away from the default settings). He seemed totally impressed by my revelation. In turn, I wondered whether he’d been properly trained but the guys around him seem equally impressed.

Given two decades of working with computers, my experience with service and support agents is considerable, both positive and negative experiences. In the days when support was a free phone call away, I rarely called unless I’d arrived at an impasse troubleshooting the problem myself. But when I called, there would be hours spent on hold and other hours working with agents to duplicate and assess the problem and usually arrive at its resolution.

Whenever I was tackling network issues, an agent would typically ask: “Have you run that problem by your system administrator?” My answer was always the same: “That’s me.” Working on both our home and business computers, I’m sad to say, is my task alone! Frankly, I no longer think of my computer work as an adventure. Nowadays, I mostly dread it; the status quo is more appealing for me … unless I run across a really cool new piece of hardware and that doesn’t happen as often as in the old days.

About ten years ago, I began to rethink my brother’s early advice. Though we continued to use Windows-based systems at our business, I chose a Mac for my home computer. As soon as I began working on a Mac, I worried I’d made a mistake. Being so familiar with Windows conventions, I was initially bamboozled, but decided to stick it out! Now I have two desktops, a laptop and an iPad. I love my Macs!

However, we still have Windows machines at work, and today I decided it was a good … er, satisfactory … day to install a new computer for an employee. I arrived at the office shortly after lunch. I didn’t think I’d get the entire setup done — many programs to uninstall (this is an off-the-shelf purchase with its share of bloatware) and then additional programs to install (Adobe Creative Suite usually takes a while).

I should have known better. This machine has Windows 8 and my employee’s older machine is Windows 7. After I got the hardware up and running, the new computer downloaded 98 updates!! If you think that might take some time to install, you’d be correct! But some updates apparently failed and now Windows 8 is “reverting changes” though it has yet to tell me how many updates failed. All I wanted was to make sure my employee had a “Start” button!

I bought a new Windows 8 laptop late last year solely to run my payroll and bookkeeping software. I didn’t want to buy another computer with Windows but the Mac product for QuickBooks requires online payroll (a non-starter for me). Unfortunately, the memory of my frustration with Windows 8 had dimmed … once I got that machine set up to my liking (i.e. with a “Start” button). At least the memory dimmed until tonight … as I sit here wondering about this Windows reversion for which I’m waiting to happen.

Anyone have the number for a qualified System Admin? I’m ready to hang up my spurs and retire to the front porch rocking chair.

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