back to article I am NOT a PC repair man. I will NOT get your iPad working

“My nephew bought me one of those iPad things for my birthday.” My heart sinks – I can already tell where this is going. I’m at a neighbour’s house party, the time is last summer, and one of the older partygoers is about to tell me that some new-fangled technology is too much for him to cope with now that he has reached the …


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  1. Spoonsinger

    Reminds me of...

    A doctor and a lawyer were attending a cocktail party when the doctor was approached by a man who asked advice on how to handle his ulcer. The doctor mumbled some medical advice, then turned to the lawyer and remarked, "I never know how to handle the situation when I'm asked for medical advice during a social function. Is it acceptable to send a bill for such advice?" The lawyer replied that it was certainly acceptable to do so.

    The next day, the doctor sent the ulcer-stricken man a bill. The lawyer also sent one to the doctor.

    (Obviously replace 'doctor' - although it might be a doctor - with the 'I know nothing about the stuff I bought/use' person, and lawyer with your good self).

    1. Arachnoid

      Re: Reminds me of...

      Tell them you need to do a Risk Needs Analysis first then if they push further continue with how they need to fill in a multi page personal insurance liability form in which they will be liable for any injury's or loss of personal data and that by the way, you have two outstanding cases waiting settlement from others insurances.

      1. Homer 1

        Re: "Risk Needs Analysis"

        Nah, droning on about bureaucracy is too much conversation. Kill it dead with one word: money.

        Once people clearly understand that you refuse to provide unpaid voluntary work on behalf of multi-billion dollar global corporations, they'll give up and move on to their next victim.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Risk Needs Analysis"

          As a heterosexual man, if a woman ask me for IT help I mention sexual favours.

          1. DAN*tastik
            Thumb Up

            Re: "Risk Needs Analysis"

            "As a heterosexual man, if a woman ask me for IT help I mention sexual favours."

            Something similar happens in the homosexual kingdom: when they ask for IT help they expect sexual favours. And I even get free coffee!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "Risk Needs Analysis"

              So you lick his penis after you fixed his computer? I never did understand gay men.

              1. Lallabalalla

                Re: "Risk Needs Analysis"

                Well, you have to like licking penises.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "Risk Needs Analysis"

                Ugg, sick. Jut think where they put it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Risk Needs Analysis"

            Yep that gets me out of doing IT favours too ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reminds me of...

      When queried as to my occupation by strangers in a social setting, I just inform that I am a qualified sex instructor. If female I also tell them that the first lesson is free. Generally that ends the conversation pretty rapidly. And if it doesn't then it's not a problem.....

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reminds me of...

      Most of it comes down to pure fucking laziness.

      They will spend weeks on the internets, complaining to all and sundry (at home) that the PC is slow as a dead dog, and they won't spend ONE fucking minute, looking up the issue, and then looking at the probable causes, and then applying the most probable solutions.

      Being methodical, and careful and planning ahead....

      This is why they are essentially dumb fucks, but the truth is if your constantly picking up the tab for other people and their lazy bullshit, instead of sticking to your own game plan, then your the dumb fuck.

      Sure socialisation and favour giving has it's benefits, but everything in life is a compromise.

      Am I planning and going on the circumnavigation of my own country in kayak for 6 months, or am I spending all of MY time for living, doing stupid shit for lazy fucks, who just won't open the box and read the fucking directions.

      This is the only reason why idiots are idiots and capable people are capable.

      I chose to research the subject and apply the solution, and they chose not too.

      It's THAT simple.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Systems architect here

      "Civil engineers don't get people asking advice on how to build garden sheds."

      I have a feeling they might...

      I used to get asked if I could sign off on some idiot's dodgy modified car all the time, even before I'd graduated from engineering school.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Systems architect here

        "I have a feeling they might..."

        My uncle is a civil engineer and he found a way to stop such questions pretty sharpish. He starts with the foundations. 2 metre floating slab steel-reinforced concrete, he says. You'll have to do a site survey he says. You'll need to do soil quality tests he says. Then he starts recommending quantities surveyors and suitable suppliers of RSJs for the core structural supports.

        Then again, he once built a 3 ft extension to his house using the same design techniques he uses for bridges, so perhaps he was serious...

        1. Nuke

          @Graham Dawson - Re: Systems architect here

          Wrote :- "My uncle is a civil engineer and he found a way to stop such questions... ... You'll have to do a site survey he says. You'll need to do soil quality tests he says. "

          Well that could blow up in his face. Surely, don't they expect him to do that site survey and soil tests?

        2. David Dawson

          Re: Systems architect here

          Then again, he once built a 3 ft extension to his house using the same design techniques he uses for bridges, so perhaps he was serious...


          It is the most robust extension I've ever seen though. I'm pretty sure it will out last the house. All 3ft of it.

          1. Seanie Ryan

            Re: Systems architect here

            This article was like reading an autobiography.

            I got around this years ago, whenever i am someplace new and get asked what I do, I say I am an Air Traffic Controller. Boom. Conversation stops right there. Except once when one of the guests turned out to be a local based Air hostess and blondely asked where I was based. I carried on and named an airport 70 miles away, but that didnt stop her. I was asked what shifts I was on, how many others were based with me, etc etc. It continued until a few people in the room could not contain the laughter and then ratted me out. Needless to say she wasnt amused and didnt talk to me the rest of the evening... so result there too.

            Bloody IT ruined my life !

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Systems architect here

              I once had this problem. It didn't take me long to figure out that people are just as bad as at work, they'd rather call somebody for free to fix the problem than invest 30 seconds in googling it to figure out how to do it themselves.

              This problem was solved by charging £10 p/h (with no call out charge) My experience is that this minimal charge has an equivalent function to having a team of first line chaps on the helpdesk.

              In the last two years I have been called out 3 times. Firstly to fix a dead CMOS battery on an old dear's PC, secondly to recover/transfer data from a PC with a blown PSU and thirdly to re-terminate a proprietary and unavailable for sale OBD2-CAT5 cable for a driving instructors scanguage.

              Frankly, i'd have probably been perfectly happy doing those three for free since they were actually real problems that I wouldn't expect a user to fix, but if I did then I would have a que again and I don't want one. I think it's a fair dead, they get their problem fixed cheaply and quickly by somebody far more experienced than the local "Mr PC Fix it", and I get to keep my free time.

    2. lightknight
      IT Angle

      Re: Systems architect here

      Hmm. It's insanity. I started off in IT, then wandered off into programming...the entire field is messed up. I mean, just hands down, screwed up. I do not know about the rest of you, but when I was growing up, 'understanding computers' meant having all the knowledge which appears to fill the fields of EE, CE, CS, SE, IT, possibly Physics and Math, and some Business thrown in for good measure. Quite a surprise, by the end of my CS degree, that despite my Computer Vision / Graphics track, we never quite got around to doing OpenGl...(something I experimented with my Sophomore year). Their response was "well, you can just extrapolate from the theories you learned in class, and OpenGl should be easy" -> that's immaterial; OpenGl is something both interesting, standard, important, and should be mandatory; why am I paying for a piece of paper which guarantees I did not study this? Just pure madness.And this is how you end up with people who graduate with CS / SE degrees, but can't build HelloWorld. PhDs who do not know how to build a server from individual components...pure waste of grant money.

      But continuing with your point, it's the abuse of the good Samaritan principle here that is driving the techs bonkers. One person, every once in a while, asking for help (for free) with a computer problem? Not an issue, any more than a doctor / lawyer / priest / engineer / whatever donating their free time. Nine out of every ten people asking for help, demanding it be for free, demanding it be done immediately, on your free time, when you can't even get a job, and the jobs being offered pay nothing? Not many people can survive like that for long. You either need to be rich, or completely comped in life. But this is only part of the equation: the other half is that these tech skills are, like driving a car, something you are supposed to learn, not continuously put off learning. If I, like others, spend all of my time doing basic tech support because other people can't be bothered to read the manual, then I never get around to fulfilling the larger, and arguably more profitable / more powerful / more rewarding things that are on my plate. Basic tech literacy is really, what, a 6 month course in school, with occasional updates? Not difficult. And yet they're fighting it...and it's kind of like...well, I'm kind of past the age where I'm going to try and teach you the basics...that was a decade ago when you were too busy with 'more important stuff' I guess you can learn it the hard way now...because I have had a multiple decade plan in action for quite some time, and I really can't delay any longer because you decided to be lazy. I kind of have to go live my life now, as I'm probably not going to be given much in the way of any more time on this earth, and even less likely to get any more youth...and I am already terribly late.

    3. Nuke

      @ribosome - Re: Systems architect here

      Wrote :- "Civil engineers don't get people asking advice on how to build garden sheds."

      They do actually. As an engineer (though not civil) I was once co-erced into designing someone's carport. Never again.

    4. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Systems architect here

      "Civil engineers don't get people asking advice on how to build garden sheds."

      how much do you want to bet.

      Me? I tell people im a pox doctor :-)

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Systems architect here

        "Don't tell my mother I'm an IT specialist. She thinks I'm a piano player in a Brothel"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is all too familiar.

    I am now forever branded 'the computer guy' in my local. The only thing worse than fixing someones computer for free/for a couple of pints is having them describe it in the bar when the sole reason I'm there is to forget about my job (Developer, but apparently that still qualifies me as some sort of pro bono computer repair man) for a while.

    Anything that 'will only take you a couple of minutes' is also invariably a massive pain in the taint.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: This is all too familiar.

      I have had nothing against helping some friend with their computers but there is a problem that annoys me much. Every time you touch some device they tend to think it's then your responsibility for the next ten years, and if it stops working next month it's because you did not do "your" work properly last time.

      1. TechW

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        This is the number 1 reason I don't service home computers. They want it for free or at 1/5th of what you usually charge and then think they own you for life never feeling like they need to pay you ever again to work on that computer.

        To get out of it myself I say I only work with business systems and then give them the name of someone else that "knows" computers. This generally works.

        1. JustinClift

          Re: This is all too familiar.

          Heh. When (non-work) people ask me if I can fix their computer [stuff], my general response is a simple "f**k no. I hate that stuff, bores the s**t outta me."

          Not said nastily, just firmly. Has worked every time for years now. :D

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is all too familiar.

          I ws a developer and got continually asked about coputers by neighbours and friends. I started a company to deal with it all and make a nice living fixing computers all within a 20 mile radius of my own home. I now have two staff.

      2. Blake St. Claire

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        Yeah, that happens to me on the job too. I bashed up some changes to the RPM spec file once and now everyone thinks I own the fscking thing. Latest was a whinger who didn't like that the RPM build takes an extra minute after adding more things to it. Whooda thunk it? Doing more takes longer. Wowzers.

        "Can't we have an option to not build the bits I don't care about?" Mr. Whinger asks. Hey, I'm a software developer, not the fscking release wrangler. If it doesn't work the way you want it, fix it yourself, don't come whinging to me.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        "Every time you touch some device they tend to think it's then your responsibility for the next ten years, and if it stops working next month it's because you did not do "your" work properly last time."

        There's an appropriate saying for that. "No good deed goes unpunished."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is all too familiar.

          "Every time you touch some device they tend to think it's then your responsibility for the next ten years, and if it stops working next month it's because you did not do "your" work properly last time."

          ..and you then find they have throw away any CD/documentation you left with them - and deleted all the carefully prepared archive files because "they were just wasting disk space".

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is all too familiar.

            Simple answer. "If you click a website on the internet again, it will come back". Or "if you install that OTHER virus scanner again it will kill your performance". I like to put the ball clearly in their park. Then if said ball makes it's way out of the park, you know which naughty little child threw it out hoping you were not looking. :)

            (Because the icon says "windows user")

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: This is all too familiar.

              "Every time you touch some device they tend to think it's then your responsibility for the next ten years, and if it stops working next month it's because you did not do "your" work properly last time."

              Oh my god yes. I threw a new sound card into somebody's machine once. A YEAR LATER he phoned up swearing because his screen had gone funny and this was somehow my fault. As a bonus, it was 10PM on Friday when the wine had breathed and we were about to start the film. The cuntbucket's video lead had come loose, it turned out. The 300 viruses and multiple toolbars didn't help either.

              I don't touch hardware these days, and I cite this as the reason. Nothing to do with the fact that I'm getting old and everyone has laptops; which are fiddly little bastards.

          2. Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is all too familiar.

            Uhhh fuck.....

            Hitting that comment was like a kick in the guts.....

            "I put the nail in the fuse box, as we didn't have any wire. I didn't think it would be a problem."

            (after fuse blew 5 times and then the house has burnt down)

            "Ahhhh fuck..." -

            Terry Gilliams Brazil 1985

            Brazil. Frank. Form 43B stroke 19 1 A..

            Frank has a psychotic episode.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is all too familiar. - DITTO!

        There's a reason why I'm going anon on this story (although I know my female flatmate will never touch this site in her life). I've gone through all the friends of family, and then friend of friends to fix people's computers. I used to love the attention, but not try to steer away from it unless it's family in dire need and will negoiate for some compensation for my time whether that's money or big favour with their skills (although I used to refuse money etc).

        My flatmate knew I worked in IT, but hardly ever asked me to fix her computers. Always went to her uncle (although the machine wouldnt last that long until another problem - so only short-term fixes were imposed on her kit). In desperation, my colleagues personally owned work-based shitbook (or netbook) was running really slow. Before going abroad, she wanted it fixed to go faster as there was some work she needed to do (2nd job stuff) on the go. I proceeded to uninstall all the shite crapware HP had loaded on there (no surprise that Win 7 Starter struggled on 2GB RAM). Managed to do a defrag. All seemed better. The day after she stepped out the country, she text me saying the thing wouldnt boot and described a BIOS error. After she came back, I got an earful saying it was my responsibility I'd ruined the laptop (even though I hadn't touched the internals or removed anything crucial). In the end, the horrid 320GB 5400RPM drive shat itself. I basically said that she had no right to doubt my 7 years + hobby experience in IT (although she tried to claim I always seemed to bodge my way through and it was my actions that ruined it). After calming the situation down, I'd managed to order a replacement £50 drive, fitted it, sourced the Windows 7 Starter software via torrents and setup it all back to the way it was much better than before. Most likely she'd dropped the laptop and the hard-drive got a shock impact that ruined it.

        I try to keep my IT at work and not interfere with my personal life.

      5. Stewart McKenna
        Thumb Down

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        yep and as I tell my wife. Change your password - DO NOT tell your password to the KIDS!


      6. kurkosdr
        Thumb Up

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        My thoughts exactly. Here is how it goes: Family member ('family' includes cousins and such) buys the worst piece of hardware out there. You name it: A laptop that takes forever to boot, a peripheral that doesn't work etc. They call you to fix it, you fix it (most of the time), and whatever breaks from that point onwards is your responsibility, because of "what you did on my computer that day". So, as a reward for helping you before, apparently I now owe you free support for life, or I have to hear you blame me that I broke your computer. Right...

        Not to mention what happens if you help them buy something. The slightest thing they don't like, they 'll come and whine at you.

        The real solution is to just say no. And I even tell them the reasons why I say no (see above). I don't care if they think I am rude and unhelpful, I have piece of mind and more free time and that's what matters. The exception to this are the few people who aren't jerks and deserve help (whatever help I can offer anyway).

      7. N2

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        Even though they have filled it with every crappy program known to man and turned off everything that may help protect it.


      8. Master Rod

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        There are no truer words written than what you state Lars. I have been a Technologist for 30 years. Yes, even before computers. What we have here are Cave people wanting the newest technology without the brains to run it. Attoo the caveman is bitching " Ohhh, someone help Attoo. Attoo need smart phone for work." The Company gives Attoo a smart phone. "Ohhh, someone help Attoo work phone. Attoo need computer for work". So the company provides a computer for Attoo's use. "Ohhh, someone help Attoo how computer work". This damned cave dweller has just commandeered, and inundated the entire IT staff. It is best to steer clear of these type people, and not waste your time. You will not get paid, and if you do, the paltry sum will not equal the years of torture you will have to endure. Been There!

        Rod Donovan

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is all too familiar.

      Yeah, I get asked the same things. And I just point out that I write code, and I use a Mac to do it precisely because I have no interest in pissing about with device drivers and networking and all the rest of it.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        > And I just point out that I write code, and I use a Mac to do i

        Yeah. I tell people that I don't do Windows. I don't run it for myself therefore I'm not in a good position to debug it for anyone else.

        I tell them that if they decide they want to run some form of Unix, then I'm their man.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is all too familiar.

          "I tell them that if they decide they want to run some form of Unix, then I'm their man."

          Good idea, best way to ensure no one wants your help.

        2. JB

          Re: This is all too familiar.

          "I tell them that if they decide they want to run some form of Unix, then I'm their man."

          "Unix, is that Android or Mac? Can I run Microsoft Money 2004 on it?" :)

        3. Chris Hawkins

          Re: This is all too familiar.

          "....I tell them that if they decide they want to run some form of Unix, then I'm their man."

          I suggest that they email an expert I know that goes by the name of TUX! ;)))

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: This is all too familiar.

            I just tell people I'm a gynecologist

        4. uncredited

          Re: This is all too familiar.

          "I only use linux" is my standard reply - that gets me out of just about anything even though I'm writing this on my Windows desktop at home!

          1. Master Rod

            Re: This is all too familiar.

            I really do use Linux! OpenSUSE, in fact. Have I been problem free? No! But a lot was due to my inexperience at the time. After being tortured by Red Hat, openSUSE pretty much converted me since ver. 6.3, over 12 years ago. Besides, it is always best not to touch a 3-5 year old pc. The HD is about ready to crater, and it usually happens just when you have everything about right. No sir. No Mas!

            Master Rod

      2. Nick Pettefar

        Re: This is all too familiar.

        Exactly! There are fewer people with Macs and almost none of them need any assistance. Bloody whining whinging meddling Windows users! Never admit to knowing ANYTHING about Windows! Unless you like pain.

    3. Shooter

      Re: This is all too familiar.

      Upvoted purely for "massive pain in the taint".

      If I had a second upvote to give, it would be for the remainder of your comment.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is all too familiar.

      I'm the "computer guy" in my local, I'm a storage/backup specialist and found that the best bet to get rid of anyone who wants me to do something is to say, "yes I can do that for you, but you also need to think about your backup strategy" then tell them about backup and how important it is, discuss options, offsiteing backups, generally being really enthusiastic about it. If they're still interested after a five minute lecture about data protection, I'm happy to help them.

      My main problem with helping people is that the amount of people I've given good advice to who have totally ignored my advice and then wanted me to fix it when it went wrong.

  4. Joey

    My excuse...

    I use Macs, don't know anything about Windows - which isn't totally true but works every time ;?)

    1. Armando 123

      Re: My excuse...

      I quote people my hourly rate (about twice as much as my rate for my salaried job, because that comes with insurance, 401K, and my free time is too valuable).

      1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Re: My excuse...

        My employer allows me to do outside work, but they do charge for it (which is a good thing as it means I am apparently covered by their liability insurance in the event something should go wrong and I am sued). They charge enough per hour that most people think twice when asking for my help.

        It's funny really. People in most careers are not expected to take their work home. People don't ask a surgeon to perform surgery. They don't ask taxi drivers for a lift. They don't ask an undertaker to bury a relative for free. They don't expect shop workers to go and sell them something, yet as soon as you tell people you do anything to do with computers, regardless of what it is, they either come up with problems they are having and ask you about it, or fix their PC.

        I'm regularly asked questions like "Which Laptop is better, the Dell XPS-1500 or the Lenovo Thinkpad 7x5" (I know they aren't actual model numbers, just example), when I don't tend to keep up with computer model numbers unless I am actually looking to buy one myself, so wouldn't have a clue.

    2. DJ 2

      Re: My excuse...

      I know nothing of macs.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: My excuse... DJ 2

        I said that. 30 mins later I'd installed Open office for them, 25 of that was the download time. Literally the first time I used a Mac in 10 years! :O

        They get to sit in front of the thing for hours on end, yet I'm the one able to sort it out within nanoscale time. :P

    3. Ted Treen

      Re: My excuse...

      Ditto & likewise - except for the (increasing) tendency of people with iMacs trying to install a Windows version of Office or some such stuff - invariably followed by "But I thought Macs could run Windows" and me (mentally) replying "Yes they can, but not if you haven't installed it, you ****"

    4. Dana W

      Re: My excuse...

      That can backfire, I have a woman in my building who was given a three year old Mac. Despite having been online for the last two months, I still get calls because she forgets how to turn it off. Or how e-mail works. We also have phone conversations where I will say things like, Open your web browser and she will say what's a web browser? I'll tell her Firefox and she will open iTunes.........

      I keep telling myself, she is very old and on a lot of medications, but I admit coming back from her apartment can cause me to scream into a pillow till I calm down.

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: My excuse...

        @ Dana W. I have to respond to your "I have a woman in my building" I have one too, and she asks for help when her computer is stuck. She has a habit of hitting enter furiously when something does not happen immediately. The way, I suppose, (with some experience) a woman would start kicking her husband until he takes the garbage out.

        I try to tell it's a computer and not a human being and it will not respond to being kicked.

        Now a days I just tell her to leave the bastard alone for half an hour because it's downloading a very important update. It has helped a lot.

        1. Dana W

          Re: My excuse...

          @Lars Is she one of the ones who refuses to understand why their Windows 2000 PC, (upgraded from Windows 98) is slow and unresponsive? Those are the best. They don't get that it does not matter that it still works its still useless in THIS decade.

    5. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: My excuse...

      Getting dangerous now, people have iPads and iPhones which are Mac aren't they?

      No, I really don't want to be responsible for backing up your iShiny and re-installing everything with iFuckingHateTunes every two months.

    6. David Woodhead

      Re: My excuse...

      Ah, so that's why people use Macs. I knew there had to be some good reason ...

    7. I think so I am?
      Thumb Up

      Re: My excuse...

      Please be aware my day rate is £500 and I work 7 hours a day.

  5. Emperor Zarg

    Apparently, we are special

    Why is it, that the same people who would never contemplate asking a plumber or mechanic to come around to their house, out of hours and/or at weekends, think it's ok to ask us to fix their technology problems or provide free, one-to-one training? Said training often being on something that we have never seen before either.

    The plumber or mechanic would get paid and probably get a tip for being so helpful.

    I have better neighbours than Alastair... I get a cup of tea, with biscuits. No cash though.

    I don't get why technology is special in this regard.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apparently, we are special

      It's a hobby; we enjoy it apparently.

    2. Mike Brown

      Re: Apparently, we are special

      People seem to think that IT isnt a real job. And tinkering with computers is easy (well it is....but). I think its to do with how usefull but ultimitly pointless a home computer for the vast majortity actually is. Yes its nice to email your gran, or play bejewed, or look at cute kwittens, but its not quite as vital as a washing machine, hot water, or a fridge. So plumbers get paid, we get stupid questions. Personal fav was being asked why a consumer grade printer couldnt print in white, and the person not understanding the many scientific, and not so scientific answers i had to give.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Master Rod

        Re: Apparently, we are special

        Wha! You can't print in white? Hmmmm, have you tried black paper with a color ink cartridge? Oh, sorry, talking about the cave dwellers.....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apparently, we are special

      "Why is it, that the same people who would never contemplate asking a plumber or mechanic to come around to their house"

      I'm on car mechanics forums, and trust me, they get the same shameless chancers as the IT trade.

      On a personal note I've just moved in to my first home in a small rural village (300m from the telephone exchange so the best of both worlds!) and I do tend to do repairs etc. if someone asks. It's the kind of village where everyone knows everyone, and most people have found out that I'm an IT bod.

      The big difference is in people's preparedness to pay for work. Most people are happy and offer to pay whatever (I usually charge about £30 + bits), while others seem shocked that I would expect to be paid to do this work...

      Oh, and of course the law of the plug comes in to effect: If it has a plug, it's an IT problem...

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: Apparently, we are special

        Pretty much any useful career (mechanic, plumber, lawyer, probably even carpet fitter) that people have a need for you will get asked. As a photographer I get asked to do free shoots, setup cameras, teach folks how to shoot etc. Sometimes you help if the person is nice, sometimes if they are a tit you don't. It's quite useful to simply lie and give a previous career thats large useless i.e. engineer or be vague i.e. I work from home, mostly 'internet stuff' (although that runs the risk of you having to help them setup a website).

        Tres amusing the difference 10 years makes though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Apparently, we are special

          "Pretty much any useful career (mechanic, plumber, lawyer, probably even carpet fitter) that people have a need for you will get asked."

          I've often wondered what life is like for someone "useless" who doesn't get asked to do random jobs.

          1. Alistair Dabbs

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            >> I've often wondered what life is like for someone "useless" who doesn't get asked to do random jobs.

            Quite. My father used to be a clinical psychologist. No-one used to ask him at parties whether or not they might be mad.

            1. Nuke

              Tell them you are Gynecologist

              I'm not a gynecolgist, but I don't mind having a look.

          2. John 110
            IT Angle

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            I'm a microbiologist who handles lab IT support. I've de-virused many home PCs, but nobody's ever asked me to process their throat (or other bit) swab...

          3. Rampant Spaniel

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            Not quite how I meant it :-) but I'm sure if you are an admin assistant you probably get a few less requests for help lol. It's not so much useful and useless (I am struggling to find the right words sorry lol), but certain jobs do seem to attract more requests for help.

            One friend of a friend asked me to come take a picture of her kid (for free of course) on christmas day (apparently the fact he looked 'cute' should have been payment enough), tell me how many office managers get requests to help with an order for officemax ;-) on christmas day?

            A friend is a senior paramedic (and an absolute ****ing saint), anybody in his neighbourhood comes and wakes him up rather than call 911 as it's quicker (they live in the sticks).

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            "I've often wondered what life is like for someone "useless" who doesn't get asked to do random jobs."

            If you are in any way altruistic and believe you have the ability to contribute, it's uncomfortable and you go to bed at the end of the day feeling like your life is wasted and that your job might be the only reason the world wouldn't be better off if you were dead. Then you remember that you're really just a bureaucrat duplicating programming that will already have been done elsewhere.

            I'd get my coat, but I'm too busy wasting my time posting on forums.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            According to the tabloids and general public as a Public Sector worker I have a useless career, still doesn't stop people asking me to remove points from their driving licence even though I tell them I don't work with driving licences.

          6. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Apparently, we are special -people with no special skills.

            They become managers or politicians.

          7. Montreal Sean

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            My brother in law never has to lie.

            He tells people he's pursuing a PhD in philosophy.

            Surprisingly no one seems to need his help around the house...

          8. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            "I've often wondered what life is like for someone "useless" who doesn't get asked to do random jobs."

            Onslow :)

          9. Andrew James

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            I'm a financial controller. People often assume thats the same as a financial advisor, and ask me various questions on investments or pensions. Or worse, they think I'm a mortgage advisor. Or they assume its the same as being an accountant and ask me to help with a tax return, or the books for their new business idea.

            When I explain I only deal with corporate finance and making sure we set and adhere to budgets and targets that our Austrian overlords will like they look puzzled, and then continue asking about their personal finance issues.

        2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: Apparently, we are special

          Whenever I go away on holiday, if I make the mistake of mentioning that I'm an electrician (though not for much longer!) I invariably end up getting asked to fix the lights.

          1. JB

            Re: Apparently, we are special

            "Whenever I go away on holiday, if I make the mistake of mentioning that I'm an electrician (though not for much longer!) I invariably end up getting asked to fix the lights"

            Years ago, my parents took us on a weekend holiday at a static caravan park in Cornwall. My dad was a plumber, and needed a bit of a holiday. On the Sunday morning, we found there was no gas to the caravan, so my dad went out and checked the connection, and got it going. Someone in one of the adjacent caravans saw him working, and asked him to do the same for them; then he was asked by another neighbour, and so on. in the end, he went round and did virtually the whole site, about 80 caravans. He was thoroughly pissed off that he missed his cooked breakfast, but, as he conceded at the time, it's impossible to refuse! And the skinflint site owner didn't even knock anything off for getting him out of shit!

        3. Irk

          Re: Apparently, we are special

          I draw a lot, especially in cafes, around friends, at family get togethers, in meetings, etc. Mostly to avoid social awkwardness, I get fidgety if I'm around a lot of people and have nothing to do. I've done pro illustration work but all my sketches are fanart in ballpoint pen; hardly mindblowing stuff.

          I can't count how many times I've been asked to design people tattoos.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apparently, we are special - law of the plug.

        When I worked for AE in the late 70s the electrician's union controlled access to everything electrical (wait a week to get a lightbulb replaced, small bribe) but electronic engineers were allowed to work on anything with a three pin plug, and downstream.

        So people would come along with a desk lamp or a new piece of equipment, and ask innocently why it wasn't working. No plug. We can fix this for you.

        Apprentices got rather good at wiring plugs.

  6. IT Hack

    It's not rocket science

    When I'm asked by neighbours, acquaintances, friends or what have you I point out that before even listening to their problem that I charge £25 an hour. I explain that ICT is my profession and that it is my livelihood.

    Usually people are understanding if explained like that. Rarely have people gotten into a strop and those that do are usually the ones you really don't want much to do with anyway.

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    This is why

    I always say I program industrial robots instead of my actual job description of programming metal machining centers.

    Soon as you say you're a metal basher its 'I need a bit for a car/motorbike/kids cycle/door knocker etc etc etc"

    Then they get all pissy because you wont break down a £150 000 machine thats costs £60/hr to run to make them a ****ing washer.

    So you put them off by saying it will cost £150 for that 1 washer, with the answer you always get "they cost 10p in halfords"

    Which brings out 2 answers depending how much I like them

    "Ok order 25 000 and I can make them for 10p each" or....

    "Why dont you just goto ****ing halfords and buy one instead of pestering me in order to save 10p"

    Coat... because I'm always told to leave at the end of the conversation..

  8. Jamie Jones Silver badge


    I'd be interested to know where you lot live, and how close inside/to the city you are.

    I'll gladly help out my neighbours with computing problems... But then, 2 of my neighbours are doctors, and one a paramedic.. I am glad they don't have your ethos!

    1. Si 1

      Re: Community?

      So would you knock on the door of your neighbour who is a doctor in the evening and ask him to look at <insert symptom here> or would you phone your GP and book an appointment?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Community?

      Go around your doctor neighbour's house at 9pm complaining of a dicky bowel and see how far you get...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You think doctors have it bad?

        A friend of mine was a counsellor (of the personal, not local government kind) and she learnt to keep a separate business number, which was turned off out of hours. She took a call at 2.00am from someone saying that they were in great pain, and should they go to the dentist the next day: she asked that person why they did not call the dentist at 2.00am.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: You think doctors have it bad?

          "A friend of mine was a counsellor (of the personal, not local government kind)"

          The local government type is a councillor, not a counsellor.

          Tho', that didn't stop somebody coming to my local councillors' advice session and start discussing deeply personal emotional issues with me...

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: The local government type is a councillor, not a counsellor.


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Community?

        (snicker) "dicky bowel"

      3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Community?

        Some of the replies and downvotes prove my point.

        Otherwise, yeah, true, there is 'taking the piss', and how well you know your neighbours, but the reason I asked "where you live" is that when I was living in London for 10 years, I didn't even know what profession my neighbours had.

        Here (South Wales) a family member recently had suspected heart problems, and as my car was out of action at the time, we asked neighbours for a lift. One said "why don't you go and see X" [ one of the doctors ] - she then took it on herself to call X, who called straight around, did some tests and eventually all was ok. When he left, he said (paraphrased) "If you EVER have any issue, any time, day or night, then always call on me first" - I know the other doctor and paramedic would also be as happy to help.

        I'm sorry that this is so alien to some of you that you had to downvote me, but I knew that would happen, because living in a city, I met loads of people just like you.

        1. JohnG

          Re: Community?

          "Some of the replies and downvotes prove my point."

          No they don't. When was the last time your doctor or paramedic neighbours performed a time consuming medical procedure for a non-life threatening condition for you or anyone else who is not their patient? I would suggest never (not least because they wouldn't have the relevant medical records nor the authority to treat another doctor's patient). It seems more likely that they might give some advice like "Ask you doctor about seeing a relevant specialist" or "If you don't trust your GP, get a second opinion".

          It's one thing to ask someone for advice but something else entirely to be expect them to work for hours for free. It is a different matter if someone has a genuine emergency (e.g. "I have to hand in this report tomorrow but my printer isn't working") but they are on their own if it is something like "I bought this gadget and can't be bothered to waste my time reading the two page Getting Started instructions booklet, so I thought I would waste your time instead".

        2. Aldous

          Re: Community?

          A Medic can save a life in situations like above where every minute counts. They also take an oath to help regardless of other factors.

          None of this applies to IT. Not being able to check your email because your 10 year old machine has ground to a halt under the 20 "antivirus scanners" is not life threating or time critical.

          Now if a neighbou banged on my door and said " Help the machine that runs my daughters life support has blue screened" i would be much more inclined to help.

          1. Anomalous Cowturd

            @ Aldous.

            I'd ask "Have you tried switching her off and on again?"

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Community?

      Sure, but there are computer problems, and then there is simply not bothering to read the manual/knowledge base/first page of search engine results.

      1. Whitter

        Re: Community?

        Indeed: my first response has become "What did Google say?" whenever somebody asks.

    4. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: Community?

      Surely it varies based on the person and how well you know your neighbours. If its a friendship where you routinely help each other it's different from not helping someone who never helps you but it always quick to ask. I'm not saying we should only help when expecting stuff in return but I also think it's ok to refuse someone who has proven themselves needy AND selfish.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Community?

      If I was a doctor I'd expect the occasional bit of off-duty life saving to come with the job. On the other hand, being asked for an opinion on someone's lab reports at a party, or worse, a diagnosis on the basis of vague symptom descriptions must become incredibly tedious.

    6. Captain Scarlet

      Re: Community?

      "I'll gladly help out my neighbours with computing problems"

      Good I'll pass mine on to yourself (Including anything with a plug on it issues).

  9. auburnman

    I have a new favourite phrase nowadays...

    ..."Oh it's an [iPad/iPhone/Mac] is it? I'm really sorry, I don't know anything about them. They're a lot different to most computers."

    Shuts down a fair number of requests these days.

    1. Dana W

      Re: I have a new favourite phrase nowadays...

      @auburnman I do know a great deal about them, I don't mind getting asked to help people with them as once they know how to work them I never get bothered again. Nobody calls me in six months because they installed malware on an iPhone or a virus on a Mac. If all the clueless bought them I'd never get bothered to fix things again.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send them my way.

    I'm never too proud or too rich to turn away work. Any one of those people might pass your details on to someone else. Recommendations are worth their weight in gold.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Send them my way.

      Give me your number and I'll make sure all the unpaid work goes your way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Send them my way.

        If you're getting nothing for it then sorry, but you're doing it wrong. That nice old lady who wants you to rig up her TV? Does she makes jam? Couple of jars of homemade jam for 15 minutes' work.. Does the old boy who wants you to work his iPad have an apple tree in the garden? Bag of fresh apples, thank you very much. A bottle of wine or two for another job, etc etc. No, it's not your hourly rate but it all adds up, and you're building connections and making friends. It's the sort of social grease which makes the world a nicer place to live in.

    2. VinceH

      Re: Send them my way.

      "I'm never too proud or too rich to turn away work. Any one of those people might pass your details on to someone else. Recommendations are worth their weight in gold."

      Nice idea in theory - but in reality, I'm not so sure.

      I have a similar problem to Alistair - as do many people here judging by the comments. I'm "the computer guy" that everyone turns to - but my main "day job" is actually in accounts, so I also get a lot of that, as well as things that people seem to think are related, like filling in bloody forms for them! And - noting that Alistair mentioned someone's digital set-top box, that's also something I used to get a lot (especially pre-digital) though, thankfully, a lot less now.

      And in all my years of being pestered by all and sundry to do this or that for them as a favour, I don't think I've ever been recommended to someone else who will actually pay for my services, only to even others who want free favours, because they're a friend of a friend [of a friend of a friend...]

      I should point out that I *have* been recommended to others - but only by paying clients to other potentially paying clients.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Send them my way.

        I understand what you mean and I'm not saying it's all gravy. If it were I wouldn't be typing away on a tech website, I'd be waterskiing in the Seychelles while a lackey did my typing for me. I also recognise that there are people who can't tell the difference betweeen a programmer and someone who fixes PCs, and that some of the people who ask for your help can be a royal PITA.

        But everybody who works in a field where skills are scarce gets it. Every accountant or bookkeeper I've ever met gets asked to do the numbers for their local social groups or their parish council. Every carpenter or electrician I know gets asked their advice. We aren't unique in having our ear bent by the confused. You can take advantage of these favours in a positive way. I have a number of clients who are farmers, whose systems I manage in exchange for haunches of delicious animal. Got a couple of electricians, a carpenter, a plasterer, and so on. So within that large network of dozy old ladies getting confused by their set-top boxes, there's a few gems which make it worthwhile.

        1. Meldrewed

          Re: Send them my way.

          hmmm yes, i _used_ to think like you, but after being taken advantage of many times too often, i am now fully and utterly Meldrewed. i now wont admit to anyone i meet that i know anything about IT .

          also, i know someone who used to work at a large well known PC retailer. not a week went by without incident, and after the appalling verbal abuse, threats, and actual physical violence they suffered from a disgusting and sadly growing sector of that firm's customers, they feel even more strongly than i do .

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cleaning or full price.

    I got so sick-and-tired of this happening ("Ohhh ask him, he 'works with computers' !" ) that I either ask them to come round and clean my toilet/bathroom first, or quote them what my employer's daily onsite consultancy prices are divided by the number of hours I estimate it'd take.

    Both are stone-cold conversation killers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cleaning or full price.

      'divided by the number of hours I estimate it'd take'

      So you charge less the longer the job takes?

  12. Andrew Stevenson

    As a software developer

    As a software developer, I quickly learned to tell people that I didn't know much about broken computers and that I had someone I called when my computer was broken.

    This helped with most of the can-you-fix -it requests, but I would still ending up uninstalling all that unused software that my mom and sisters would have.

  13. Christopher Rogers
    IT Angle

    Its not always bad news. I get my house alarm serviced in return for a bit of IT support/web work. But really, its all people looking a freebie... As said in many comments, they wouldn't expect a plumber mate to come round and do it for free....

    1. CmdrX3

      If they knew one then yes, they very much would expect it. It's fine if you are getting a work for work sort of deal, e.g. I knew a builder who wanted his PC sorting out, I had an old fireplace I needed covered over, so he brought his PC down, and I sorted it while he sorted out the fireplace. Obviously there are limitations to even this kind of exchange. In general though, people who want stuff done for free will quite happily ask that "mate" who is a plumber, even though they only contact them or happen to be "mates" when a plumber is required.

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I'm a software engineer, but years ago also qualified as an electrician and plumber to get some money in. I now spend most of my time claiming I've forgotten everything I ever learned about plumbing and electrics to try and hold back the freetards.

  15. Flawless101


    I avoid going to my local Tesco now, as a friend who works there (seemingly 24/7) will ask me something about his shit-kicker laptop.

    I just reply with £20/hour to any request these days. I work in front of a PC all fucking day, I just want to get home and play video games on mine not tinker with theirs so they can get back to facebook/adult movies/whatever.

    One did pay the £20/hour, easiest £60 I made. I felt like a consultant.

  16. Combustable Lemon

    Thankfully i've managed to shake "most" of the people i used to get this from but for a while i used to make a habit of "helping" in the sense i would tell them what was wrong, tell them what needed to be done but at no point even suggest i was going to do it for them. Very quickly the ones who don't want to learn cease asking you what is wrong, the ones that do want to know how to solve these petty problems i have more patience with.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The Haircut Song" by Ray Stevens

    Whenever this sort of thing comes up, remember the lines from Ray Stevens' "The Haircut song"

    It was a macho barber shop.

    Hair dryers were mounted on a rifle rack.

    Wasn't no mirrors.

    The barber chair was a Peterbilt...

    Barber walked in;

    He was huge, seven feet tall,

    three hundred pounds of spring steel and rawhide.

    Wearin' a hard hat, chewin' a cigar,

    had a t-Shirt on -- said,

    "I hate musicians."

    Threw me in the chair, sneered and said,

    "What'll it Be pal?"

    Now a lot of people would be intimidated in a situation like this...

    I was not. I am what I am, play my piano, and sing my little songs.

    I looked him right in the eye and I said,:

    "'m a logger - just up from Coos Bay, Oregon. Been toppin' trees - quite

    Possibly the toughest man in the entire world."

    So remember: when asked what you do, you say "I'm a logger."

    Or an insurance actuarial adjuster.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    and this is why I only run Ubuntu on my desktop

    and say I haven't used Windows in years,

    so they probably know more than i do about the operating


    Which is true.

    "What windows, aren't they what you look through ?" I ask.

    Anyone who knows what I'm talking about when I say "ubuntu" doesn't need my help, (they're probably cleverer than me ) and anyone who does not know, now knows I'm not interested

    and generally know very little about Windows.

    I guess Windows is okay, I couldn't really comment post XP variants because that is the most recent version of Windows I've really used, for any significant amount of time.

    I prefer Ubuntu especially since it is free, does all what I want, and keeps me away from all the people sold on Windows.

    Job done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: and this is why I only run Ubuntu on my desktop

      "What windows, aren't they what you look through ?" I ask.

      Let me guess - you don't get many people approaching you at parties? Or any other social occasions?

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: and this is why I only run Ubuntu on my desktop

        As a home owner, Windows can be serious business. I am talking about the real kind that you look through. The ones that tract home builders put in tend to be crap. Plus you've got house settling. Being a miser when it's time to finally replace them can lead to unsatisfactory results.

        Talking about my experiences with real Windows can be entertaining enough for suburbanites. They're into that sort of thing. More than computers actually.

  19. Ross K Silver badge

    Life's Too Short

    When somebody says "Next time you're passing, can you drop in for a quick look at my...", you know you're dealing with someone who won't pay anything for your time,

    The same assholes will phone your mobile at midnight because they can't get into their Hotmail account or some poker site.

    These days I refer people (family or otherwise) to The Useless Guys in PC World. They can listen to your boring stories, fix your virus-ridden PCs and touch your disgusting laptop keyboards clogged with food and snot.

  20. Peter Simpson 1
    Paris Hilton

    One of life's little puzzles...

    Where on earth are all the hot 20-something women who don't know anything about computers?

    //and who do they ask for help?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One of life's little puzzles...

      They're all asking me!! I don't complain! :-D

    2. bag o' spanners

      Re: One of life's little puzzles...

      I'm prepared to make exceptions for the hotties. As long as they don't make a lifelong habit of bringing me their clicky external drives full of critical data that they haven't bothered to back up. I don't mind throwing a dying drive into a cradle and leaving a barebones rig to hoover up the uncorrupted data. Usually there's nothing wrong with the actual drive that regular defragging wouldn't fix, and either the pcb in the cheap n nasty external case is on its dry jointed last legs, or the usb socket has been maimed. It takes a couple of minutes to diagnose and decide the best course of action to remedy the mad panic. Then it's all autopilot. And they're actual friends, not random acquaintances. I never tell randoms that I know anything about computer maintenance.. That's just asking for trouble.

    3. Muscleguy

      Re: One of life's little puzzles...

      increasingly they ask the geeky female friend of a friend who won't hit on them or make them feel creeped out.

      I know this because they ask my youngest (double major CompSci & Biochem), who is pants with a screwdriver. I'm the one who does machine surgery.

  21. N2

    It happens to me also

    at any sort of social gathering, my reply never changes:

    Ive got two ways I can fix that - It will only take a minute or two:

    1. I can place it underneath my Land Rover and drive over it or

    2. Cut it in half with my chainsaw / 10" angle grinder

    Which would you prefer so I may continue enjoying my glass of wine as swiftly as possible?

    Swift change of subject & I dont have to talk technical crap all evening.

  22. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Don't do house calls

    My response to these annoyances is to tell the individual in question to "bring it over and I'll have a look". You are then at liberty to leave any computer that does actually turn up (the prospect of having to do something, themselves, seems to deter most people) in a dark corner for several weeks. If the owner does summon up the courage to enquire, just mumble something about "cross wiring the Southend bus" or somesuch and tell them you'll be in touch.

    The problem with going round to their house to fix a problem is

    (a) it puts you under pressure to do something immediately

    (b) you're away from your tools, favourite debugger, reference sources and possibly even a viable internet connection

    (c) unless you do manage to randomly fix it, it's difficult to get away when you've had enough

    (d) it takes no effort on the part of the ask-er - always a bad position to be in.

    The other advantage of leaving someone-else's kit to fester while you're "fixing" it, is that you could build up a stockpile. So when yet another freeloader cheefully asks for hundreds of pounds of your time (at professional rates) for nowt (or worse, in exchange for a bottle of undrinkable wine, that they were probably given on the cheap), just point to the pile and remind them that you've already got Fred from No. 6's to do first and then you promised the kids from across the street that you'd sort out their video drivers ...

    Alternatively, you could just hand them your lawnmower and suggest that while you're fixing their PC, they could make themselves useful with the jobs you were about to do, before they interrupted you.

    1. rhydian

      Re: Don't do house calls

      This is a lot easier now that people have laptops, as they tend to bring the offending machine with them.

      Some even bring the charger...

  23. John Deeb

    Becoming Hobbit

    Everyone with a decent amount of cleverness and curiosity can figure out most computer issues by themselves or at least figure out that some professional advice will be better for everyone involved, limiting the Question towhat is a good shop to go to for advice.

    As such we need to conclude cleverness and curiosity have become a scarce commodity. Certainly a lot of people possessing it capitalized and had sometimes additionally fun with it doing computer work for a living. But the rest of the world still has "smarts" (common sense really) and curiosity in great demand.

    There's where you come in. A walking supply of common sense and experience earned by just being curious and asking the right questions to the right people and remembering some of it. Now you are "expert" and needs to be drained. But nobody can take your common sense and general curiosity. It cannot be tapped! But you have something else perhaps: kindness and generosity. And those are also in demand and ruthlessly exploited until depleted.

    End result is that you will try to appear less informed and curious at any social scene. Like the One Ring, you need to remain invisible for the Eyes looking for Power (or just for someone to plug in something the right way). You need to become Hobbit all the way. No bloody adventures, slamming that round door close and wipe the wizard's mark off!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Becoming Hobbit

      "But nobody can take your common sense and general curiosity. It cannot be tapped! But you have something else perhaps: kindness and generosity. And those are also in demand and ruthlessly exploited until depleted."

      Spot on. I worked out a long time ago that those very qualities gave me a long successful career in hands-on IT Support roles. In the office colleagues expected me to be able to fix their desktops/laptops quickly - without taking several days just to prime it back to the Company image as would official IT support.

      At home some divorced women neighbours started to expect me to fix everything - PCs, plumbing, electrics, cars, etc - and evasion tactics were eventually needed. Oh no they couldn't ask their boyfriends - they were far too busy.

      I helped an elderly neighbour with the heavier work needed to maintain his front garden's splendid flower display. He was a pleasure to help. Then other neighbours started to assume I was the estate gardener. Answering the young children's questions was deemed an educational role - letting them help with the planting was a bit more fraught. A few persuaded their parents to do something with their own gardens - but the others didn't even get given cress seeds on cotton wool or a carrot top in a saucer.

      The most ridiculous PC problem? A woman had been sent a wireless keyboard by her son. She had managed to put the two AA batteries in nose-to-nose.

      I intend to spend the rest of my retirement as an anchorite - just lowering a basket from the window for food deliveries.

    2. Muscleguy

      Re: Becoming Hobbit

      It's because in education and in their jobs the ability to use their judgement or initiative and experiment is ground out of them. In their jobs they're the people who can't help you and keep parroting the company policy because they would be fired if they did anything else.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel your pain

    For a long time I was embarrassed by asking for payment, but now I just say its £x or £x on a fix price / one specific job.

    Im often asked for laptop recommendations. I always reply that unless they are going to buy a lappy over £450 then go to tesco direct. 1, its not worth the tiny margin on a laptop under £450 to get involved, 2. tesco can have the hassle of a warranty repairs on a budget machine

    I look after the local school's (pupils <150) IT for bottom rates, and its proved to be worth while as I get referrals.

    I work from home, and the rate for people to come here is the same as me remoting into their PC. I have got into the habit of leaving a PDF invoice on the desktop about 10 minutes before finishing and then on the last call I give the client a roundup of the work done and draw their attention to the invoice and the means for them to pay.

    Ironically I do get the quick calls but as these are people I know so I tend to bank the bills otherwise it looks bad if I charge for 5 minutes work. Then every now and then they get an accumulated bill.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Problem solved

    Yes, we all have this problem, but I think I have solved it. I wouldn't want to charge neighbours for IT work, because I don't /want/ to do that type of support work. So I say, in all honesty, that I'll have nothing to do with Windows systems, but if they want to run Free Software, most notably a Linux distro of their choice, I'll happily help. Occasionally the offer gets taken up, and after an installfest which is usually not unpleasant, and a few phone queries, it tends to go quiet as people either become more self-reliant or just have fewer random issues. Happy to do this as a contribution not only to my neighbourhood but also to further the cause of Free Software, which has been good to me.

  26. Snake Silver badge

    Wow. Talk about short temper! Someone asks you for assistance and [he's] automatically a PITA fucker?

    You seem to believe that all old people must automatically delve into the latest and greatest automation systems in order to be a functional part of society, that full comprehension of current technology is a must-have for every living soul.

    No empathy whatsoever.

    Have you ever considered that old people have other activities in their lives, that the technology forced upon them by modern society is not their main interests, and that actually asking for help is unreasonable? No one is saying that YOU must give the help, but your tirade of a column seems to make is so that their even *asking* for help is an abomination to modern living.

    "Most of my neighbours are retired but that’s no excuse. Being eligible to book a world cruise with Saga ought not to make them technologically helpless"

    YES, IT IS.

    Just because YOU center your life around understanding modern technology does not mean that EVERYONE must do the same. Their lives are based upon other interests - do YOU make it a point to completely and utterly service EVERY SINGLE DEVICE in your life, including every single service on your vehicle(s) personally as well as replacing the defective IC chips in that blown-out stereo system? No, I doubt you do. You have other interests, other activities, that you would rather be doing than training yourself in keeping up mundane servicing of mechanisms in your life.

    For these old people, it is the same. They have other personal interests that do NOT center around the fact that they simply "must" be on Facebook otherwise their peer neighbors won't think highly of them and then not invite them to the next district cookout. But you, so high and mighty, look dow on them: How DARE they not know how to work and maintain every technological toy near them! How gastly!!!

    Refuse the requests for service - that is your right. But don't act as if the entire world must be so on top of what YOU perceive as interesting that they must have the same proficiency in the area as you do. Look at the request as flattering - they perceive you as knowledgeable and helpful - but that does not mean that you must bow to their wishes - refusing to help, because of your *own* time-taking life patterns, is valid.

    1. tkioz

      I think the problem is that they wouldn't return the favour. I lived next door to a auto-repair tech once, I fixed up his computer a time or two, but when my car broke down on a weekend he refused to even look at it 'I do that at work, not at home'.

      See the problem with fixing computers is people expect us to be all Sherlock excited at a new mystery to ply our trade upon... yeah... no... that was me 15 years ago when I fresh, before I had the joy burnt out of me by many evenings of unpaid virus removing.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Wow. Talk about short temper!

      Absolutely agree. I am a really nasty person. Upvoted.

    3. Ross K Silver badge


      Have you ever considered that old people have other activities in their lives, that the technology forced upon them by modern society is not their main interests, and that actually asking for help is unreasonable? No one is saying that YOU must give the help, but your tirade of a column seems to make is so that their even *asking* for help is an abomination to modern living.

      Have you ever considered that after:

      1. coming home from a day's work

      2. sitting in a traffic jam/on the tube/whatever

      3. having your tea

      4. bathing the kids and putting them to bed

      5. finally getting a chance to relax at 7.30 or 8.00

      a person might not be in the mood to go back out in the night to perform IT or social worker duties?

      Take a chill pill... You're the one with a short temper.

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        and the old buggers still insist on doing their shopping on a weekend despite them being free to do it all week whilst we are working ;-) Gits!

      2. Snake Silver badge

        Do you know what it is like to end a day's work, travel a 110 MINUTE 108km commute to a person's door who is desperately asking you for help, only to stay to 1 O'CLOCK in the morning fixing the problems to then drive 40 minutes back home, in order to wake up at 6 A.M. for the next day's workday?

        I SERIOUSLY doubt it.

        So, I'VE BEEN THERE. And I've put my money where my mouth is with that above post. I've put in more after-work hours on outside IT help than you people will ever do in your lifetime. I can't even COUNT how many times I've gone to a person's house after my standard workday just to work past midnight on their issues - I don't think my brain can rationalize a figure that large.

        And, yes, for some people I did it without charge. Later, when the visits got regular, I did indeed charge...based upon their ability to pay. A number of people were middle class everyday workers and for all those hours I'd ask for (far) less than $100. For the businesswoman, I charged more.

        After doing the above for, oh, err, say 12 years (?) I had some serious life issues and stepped away, unable to dedicate that much time - to just about anything, really. Yes, I *do* feel that I have my life back! But I did help people who were in need...and lost a good elderly man that I was helping and got to know well to cancer. I watched him fade away as I continued my IT support visits to him, and then several years later watched my own father die in the exact same fashion. It was too much to bear.

        But I helped the people who needed help, and I felt rather honored that they would trust me enough to bring me into their homes and businesses to work on the equipment where they place so much of their lives into. Luckily my days of hand-recovering data from crashed hard drives and piecing damaged OS's back together is long behind me :)

        1. Ross K Silver badge

          Do you know what it is like to end a day's work, travel a 110 MINUTE 108km commute to a person's door who is desperately asking you for help, only to stay to 1 O'CLOCK in the morning fixing the problems to then drive 40 minutes back home, in order to wake up at 6 A.M. for the next day's workday?

          Whatever. If that's how you chose to waste your time, good for you. All I got from your rant was that you drive very slowly - nearly two hours to travel 65 miles?

          I've got a family. - I like spending time with them rather than fixing computers til one in the morning.

          I've also got the responsibility of feeding my family and keeping a roof over their heads, so I don't work for free.

          Warm fuzzy feelings don't pay the mortgage.

          1. Snake Silver badge

            Two hours for 65 miles?

            It was two hours for about 72 miles. And I guess you've never heard of TRAFFIC - you're all a wonderful bunch of pompous, self-important windbags on this "forum". Patting yourselves on the back on how SPECIAL you are, on oh! so many different story threads.

            1. Ross K Silver badge

              Two hours for 65 miles?

              It was two hours for about 72 miles. And I guess you've never heard of TRAFFIC - you're all a wonderful bunch of pompous, self-important windbags on this "forum". Patting yourselves on the back on how SPECIAL you are, on oh! so many different story threads.

              65 miles? 72 miles?

              You're boring me with your pedantic nonsense. You need to go to an anger management class...

              1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

                @Ross K - Don't be dense!

                Each direction of my daily commute takes me 75-90 minutes to travel 42 miles.

                It's not traffic that slows me down, it's the fact that there is not a single stretch of dual carriadge way or better, and there are things like towns and villages to drive through with speed restrictions, tractors and other farm machinery, caravans, sheep, cyclists and even the odd tourist who thinks that doing 25 on a national speed limit country road because it's pretty does not worry the people behind them who cannot pass because they cannot see far enough ahead to pass safely.

                Just because you may be able to jump on a motorway and burn along at 80 does not mean that everybody can!

                My lifestyle is my choice, I admit, and I put up with the drive because it's actually a nice place to live with many other benefits, but sometimes it does get too much.

            2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              you're all a wonderful bunch of pompous, self-important windbags on this "forum". Patting yourselves on the back on how SPECIAL you are, on oh! so many different story threads.

              Thanks for the generalisation, person I don't know. Here's a mirror.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      I can understand why some problems happen, but most things boil down to...

      1) Not knowing how to browse the web safely, but really some kind of intro should come with the OS now now all of them make a song and dance about being connected to the Internet from the start.

      2) Not being willing to think or even read, "yes you uninstall programs with the uninstall program option in the control panel."

      Now you can show people how to do 1) but if they come back next month with the same problem or if they ask you questions like 2) then they just can't be bothered. Why should I be bothered?

  27. Danny 5


    I'd be highly surprised if this is not par for the course for the majority of reg readers.

    I do try and teach people to help themselves though, many of my friends are now proficient at installing windows on their computers and have more then a basic grasp of what's out there.

    My mom's 65 and only just now getting into the world of computers altogether, i mostly leave her to her own devices as well. She does have the added benefit of being an avid gamer (and scourge of my friends in my younger years playing SNES), so i'm quite sure she'll figure it out too.

    Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, yadayadayada.

  28. Dropper


    Do what I do.. if your neighbours discover your trade, find someone sufficiently well off and then fuck up their PC so badly they have to spend real money to get it repaired. Only takes a couple of sabotage jobs before word gets around and no one will trust you. If they are particularly persistent, "repair" their PC/iPad/TV remote drunk and swear a lot in front of their kids. Then ask to use the bathroom and take a badly aimed piss. Believe me, there's no way their wife will let you back into the house.

    1. Ross K Silver badge

      Re: Sabotage

      swear a lot in front of their kids. Then ask to use the bathroom and take a badly aimed piss.

      Ha ha ha. Quality advice. And it can be applied to so many facets of daily life.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've helped my sports teacher at school when I was still there(ow that was 10 years or so ago) a few times getting something like 25e/whatever I was doing at the time(even post-chool I helped him a couple of times) and the guy voluntarily paid I didn't expect anything in return. As it was mostly staring at a reinstall most of the time it wasn't an issue. Beyond that helped fix something for a neighbour once but gotten no other unsolicited requests. My phone number is for my friends and family to contact me and nobody and I mean nobody else has it, especially work.

    But yeah the bring it to me and I'll take a look approach definitely helps filter out those that just want some free help vs those that actually need help to fix it. We have an electrician in the building and he's a damn good one. But always when we ask him to help(not questions but actual work) we ask him how much we owe. Usually he won't charge much else but materials but I am always willing to pay him for any work.

    Usually I don't get requests from coworkers about fixing their kit(other than during work hours and if they're lucky I'll have some time to do it) and my friends mostly have a clue what they're doing so yeah. Wouldn't be all bad to have a bit of extra work like this but as I haven't been using windows for over 10 years in anything other than professional - figure it out and get on with whatever you were doing - capacity I probably wouldn't be good at any such work anymore.

  30. AdamK

    I did IT support to help pay for training to be a lawyer. Criminal defence lawyer natch. Common question "How can you defend an iPad if you know its guilty. Now I tell them I'm a Jehova's Witness.

  31. tkioz

    I lie my ass off about what I do/did now, have done since I moved to a new town. I can actually eat my dinner in peace. It's a shocking experience.

    I was an excited geeky teenager when I first started working in IT, and happy to share my experience with all and sundry, but after a few years of getting calls from people I only tangentially knew who never spoke to me when there wasn't a 'computer crisis' I simply stopped bothering.

    Oddly I think it was family that broke me, I was working retail IT, the closest thing this side of hell I can think of, at the time, and I had knocked off from a terrible week, and my mother rung me on the way home, telling me to get out to my aunts house to fix her computer... I was hungry, I was tired, and still in my work clothes, so I drag my ass half away across creation (my Aunt lived about 30kms away), and I get there as they are sitting down to tea, and I'm shoved into the back room to fix a freaking printer. No offer of coffee, no offer of food, nothing, hell she didn't even have the decency to ask me herself, she called my mother to ask me, a woman half a freaking state away, because she knew I wouldn't say no to her.

    After all was said and done it wasn't even a bloody emergency, just a broken printer that could have waited.

    I think that was the point I started telling people "come into the shop" and "sorry, no, I don't moonlight".

  32. SirDigalot

    Two minds

    I generally like to think that I did not really pay for my IT knowledge, training was provided, I got to learn on the job, and I also (used to) do it as a hobby, so (back then) it was fun, so in return I do not mind helping people out, some even offer to pay, I often refuse, just because I feel guilty, there was one time I did it as a job and people were willing to pay, but I found that these days there are so many hard up college kids that it is less hassle for me to tell them to go find a spotty nephew or niece to sort them out, that usually works, and besides most of the kids now are boomerangers so they live at home anyway, for be it from me to turn down potential payment,(unless family, they don't pay apparently it is your duty to them!) but to be honest it is not worth the seething hatred I know hold for my career... though it is usually more fun after a few beers, less productive, but more fun.

    However if they catch me at work and I tell them to bring in the machine I don't mind looking at it if I have a slow couple of minutes 5 to 10 minutes usually gives me time to fix or tell them they need to reinstall, if it is hardware I tell them what they need they go and buy it and I will install, for that I usually get my usual payment of biscuits (cookies) and tea ( living in the land of the free I do not mind payment id olde worlde currency especially since I tell them where to buy it... not quite got to the real bacon yet but I am working up to it) However it does get tedious that as soon as the mouse cursor jumps an inch to the left for no reason they think they have a virus or their machine is broken and they call on you, family members are the worst, but I also find that family members ( and especially the kid) will whole heartedly argue with me about something they just asked me about, if you know so darn much, fix it yourself!

    That said the same issue arises with all aspects, "oh your handy?" "I need a sink/bathtub/window replaced/fixed"... "I did not know you can do mechanics... my car has this funny noise" ... can you just rewire my [insert something here]..

    I agree, I wonder what it is like for someone to be generally useless or has a job that is generally not transferable to regular life and never asked to do anything, (but then I seem to think that they must leave very empty and boring lives.)

    Recently my answer to questions of my job/career have been... " I dunno" though I am tempted to say I am a co2 factory.

  33. arrbee

    simple really

    Just tell people you're a "manager" - then nobody will expect you to be useful for anything.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: simple really

      My favourite is that I nominally have the title of "assistant practice manager", which I never actually use at work in favour of "IT Manager", which actually reflects what I do. I use IT Manager at work.

      If asked socially, I'm an Assistant Practice Manager which is true and even gives the impression that I don't even know enough to be a real manager. If pressed, I can always produce an impassioned and earnest lecture on how important elf and Safety is.

      That repels most people quickly.

    2. mark 63 Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      "Just tell people you're a "manager".........

      F***king brilliant

    3. Meldrewed

      Re: simple really

      didnt work for me. when i got promoted they just tried to get me to help them with their personal/financial problems as well as their PC ones ! Dilbert's "curse of competence" ?

      i wouldnt have minded so much, but most times they were perfectly capable of finding the answer for themselves, but it was just too easy to ask me, instead of making an effort. lazy minds. when i was learning about IT there were very few people _to_ ask. i _had_ to find things out for myself, and i learned even more in the process.

  34. Kevin 6

    Funny enough Dilbert covered this a little while ago

  35. Admiral Grace Hopper
    Thumb Up

    I may print this article off several times and distribute it to friends, family and neighbours.

  36. StevesWeb

    This is why the entry gate at Geek Hill has a sign that says "No, we will not fix your computer". I wanted it to say No Muggles but there was a compromise.


    Geek Hill (dot) org

    1. pepper

      Nice! I just read your demands for safe passage into your estate, brilliant. I have a t-shirt that has the formula of the airspeed of a unladen swallow, would you consider this cheating?

  37. Spamfast
    Thumb Up


    Ah yes. All too recognizable.

    I've got some ways of handling the problem.

    1. My fiancée bought me a T-shirt that has the simple message "NO, I WILL NOT FIX YOUR COMPUTER FOR YOU' printed in large type on the front & back. I make sure I wear it to all events where I'm likely to meet friends of friends or other strangers who might assume I've nothing better to do with my free time.

    2. As ribosome hinted, answer "Certainly, but my accountant insists I tell you that my rate is £100 per hour plus expenses."

    3. Memorise the phone number for PC World or some similar outfit and say "Sure, call this number to arrange a time."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solutions...

      Actually no, that wasn't what I was suggesting (and I withdrew the post because I can't edit it.) I am genuinely unqualified to fix desktop computer problems, and as a professional person I won't do work for other people, even for free, that I don't feel qualified to carry out. I make an exception only if I know people very well.

      My own home computers are run on a maintain often, backup frequently and avoid dodgy website basis, so I have almost no experience of actually fixing problems.

  38. Kapt Roger

    Whenever I get the line "I hear that you work in I.T., I've got a problem with my PC", I usually reply "I'm a gynaecologist, I can take a look at your wife if you like...."

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I go back to my parents for a mini-holiday quite often. When I do I have the whole pub and family wanting me to come round to get their ancient pc / scanner / printer / mouse / AV etc etc. I quickly realised that I was in fact having no holiday at all.

    I had to respectfully tell my family that i am on holiday and everyone down the pub a flat £5000 fee applied. It is now respected that I am on holiday, even down the pub :)

    I generally tell people I work on "networking" to avoid such requests.

  40. This post has been deleted by its author

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There is a Dilbert strip on my desk. A colleague tells him she will date him - just for a month until all her household gadgets are fixed.

    He says "Will there be any kissing?"

    She replies "What sort of girl do you think I am?"

    More than a ring of truth. People want a nice, generous, reliable person as a friend - particularly in emergencies. For a lover they are often attracted to someone selfish and challenging. There must be a Darwinian benefit for someone. Cynical - moi?

  42. Headstar

    "Can you take a look at my computer?" they ask

    "I charge $125/hour." I reply.

    1. pepper

      Re: "Can you take a look at my computer?" they ask

      how about:"sure, make a picture and email it to me"?

  43. Dana W

    I have the same problem. I live in a disabled building full of people who have mostly cheap old computers (often received firm well meaning but technically inept charities) and no clue at all.

    If they had their way I'd be fixing an endless stream of malware riddled old Dell office throwaways of 2001-2003 vintage. Now they come to me and ask for help and I tell them I offer two kinds of help, I'll help them buy a Mac, or I'll help them install Linux.

    I still have the odd evening ruined, but only 2-3 times a month, and I have yet to have to reinstall anything.

  44. bag o' spanners

    It's a marriage made in Maplins

    I ph34r the co-dependency. I don't mind getting keen silver surfers equipped for the task at hand, and giving them a few tips about the innards of a pooter, sensible web practice, and suchlike, but the porntards, who habitually kak their underpowered pc world laptops by going to .ru wanksites every evening, get short shrift. They're too lazy and /or stupid to learn from their mistakes, and prefer to bellyache while someone else does their dirty work. Over and over again.

    Eventually they'll find one of those "computer experts" who's taped a mismatched power supply on to their Xbox, because it was cheaper than replacing the blown one with a genuine part, even if it was a bit too big to fit inside.. Those relationships are great to watch....from a safe distance. Nothing ever gets permanently fixed, of course, because misery loves company.

  45. Shane Kent

    I used to have techies...

    that would hit me up as I 'used to be' their mentor when I did MS Canada support. In fact I had one tech that had the nerve to follow me out to parking lot when I got laid off, he wanted to get my number to call me at home? I stopped using messenger and hotmail for this very reason. A neighbour or old person with a simple problem is one thing, but a tech wanting to know how to setup DNS, DHCP, and AD is way way out there. Or help setting up their website, from scratch ain't help. Now I do IT for a construction company and tell people I build scaffold and don't know Windows XP or Server 2003, I lie as I stopped doing MS support after Win2k and ME and make out that is when I stopped keeping up on computers, but i guess my overclocked phenom X6 would beg to differ ;)

  46. Rufus McDufus

    I tell tham I only know Linux. Or I'm an infrastructure architect. Or something completely opposite to what they want.

    No-one expects a plumber or electrician to pop round and fix their stuff for free do they? I've got the brain the size of a planet but for some reason it's seen as if I enjoy doing my job (hobby?) and am only too eager to fix their (usually disgustingly dirty) shit for free.

  47. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    I just tell them that I'm a self-taught sex therapist.

    Based on the fact that everyone I know tells me that when they want my f*king advice, they'll be more then happy to ask for it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I just tell them that I'm a self-taught sex therapist."

      An Israeli old girlfriend proudly presented her new career business card in that line. She translated the Hebrew for me as "sexologist" in an accent reminiscent of Maureen Lipman. Cue laughing fit - saying "ooh - you got an ology"*

      *Youngsters see the Maureen Lipman BT advert from 1987 on YouTube

  48. John H Woods Silver badge


    ... helping people often pays back, even if you don't expect it. I never expected to get anything but good karma from helping my neighbour with his PC. Maybe I've spent 10 hours doing it over the last 10 years?

    Then my mother in law moved house and said I could have her summerhouse if I could work out how to get it to my house. My neighbour and his son spent one weekend dismantling it, stored it for two weeks on their premises and reassembled it in my garden the weekend after - everything from the slabs to the felting.

    I think I'm suddenly in karmic arrears again!

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Payback...

      10 hours over 10 years is a pretty good ratio. I've had occasions when it's been 10 hours over 10 hours.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silly article with unnecessary swearing

    Just help people out when and where you can and stop wasting energy swearing and writing drivel.

    Life's too short to be a lazy, unhelpful sod.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Silly article with unnecessary swearing

      Arse biscuits.

  50. 5hady

    In response to the original article...

    Amen, Brother, I feel your pain.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Retard" Really? You are definitely not a proper journalist if you still use antiquated and offensive words like that. Grow up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: offensive

      Thank you Lucas - I thought for a minute that I was the only one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: offensive

      I was afraid I was over-reacting to that word, but glad to see others see that as offensive too.

      Also noticed the spelling mistake in the first sentence.

    3. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: offensive

      Please provide a list of words you don't like.

      1. auburnman

        Re: offensive







    4. Dropper

      Re: offensive

      I'm not sure what you find offensive about this. Any retard could see that bothering an IT professional on his day off is offensive.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I always add a caveat

    I tell them I'm s computer forensics expert. My price is a bottle of Château Neuf de Pape and I am trained to find all the things you don't want me to know about and if you have a problem will ages I will get you arrested.

    I have drunk fine wines and a few computers never presented themselves.

  53. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    I don't do Windows.

    That's what I say when I'm asked about supporting/fixing a PC. Quite simple really.

    Two cases. both used windows and they called me at least once a year to 'fix their computer'.

    I converted both to using Mac's and I've not had any calls since. Both families are happy with their systems and will probably carry on using them for a long time.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: I don't do Windows.

      Does Mac know they're using his computers?

  54. Notorious Biggles

    It's not all bad...

    Some of my experiences...

    There was the beautiful friend of a friend whose PC died and wondered if I could resurrect it and recover her pictures. I cloned the (corrupted) hard drive, fitted a new motherboard and installed Windows. Then as I copied back her pictures I realised she was in fact into glamour modelling. That one was worth it.

    Then there was the guy who was a mechanic and happy to exchange time in a pit under my car for removing viruses from his laptop. The new suspension that the garage quoted £1200 for? That was about 4 hours and a 12-pack of Stella, plus £120 for parts.

    Of course the old guy who my mother used to work for and who is bombarding me with emails about his unstable wireless is unlikely to repay in quite such a way as the first two, but you win some you lose some.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I feel your pain!

    " ...With almighty crashing inevitability, at least three of them are asking which laptop they should buy"

    I now just tell them to pick one that they think is pretty and is within their price range as they can all do the ' I just want to surf the web and do emails and documens' things now.

    Dear oh lor, I am soooo sick of that question.

  56. Thorfkin

    I experienced the same crap for the longest time until I started making my friends and family buy their computers from an official vender like Dell or HP. When something goes wrong I tell them to call tech support. I'm much happier for it.

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Thumb Up

      Dell refurbs

      I recommend to my "clients" that they go to or someplace like that, and buy a refurb Dell office machine (but NOT the ultra-small form factor ones!). When they say something about the Dell Inspiron they saw on sale at Best Buy for only $399, I bring up the page with Latitude laptops for $250 and tell them they're older but they will have far fewer problems with them. No complaints yet.

  57. Steve Medway

    Age <> decrease in learning ability.

    When the first bubble burst I had to spend a miserable time doing PC tech support over the phone....

    One day on old lady called that was 85 and the first time she'd used a computer was when she was 83. She had a problem with WinXP, so I asked her what she had done to try and fix it. She reeled off a list that I can only describe as what could have been a training manual for most of the muppets I had to work with.

    Anyway after I'd helped her resolve the issue she said "Sorry, I'm not very good at computers thank you so much for helping". I replied truthfully that she knew more about how to fix a Windows problem than most of my colleagues and it had been a pleasure talking to her.

    This contrasted strongly with the really, really rude old git that called because he bought a laptop that "won't f'ing work" when he took it out of the box. He hadn't worked out that you need to actually charge up a laptop by plugging it into the mains. I simply told him to take it back to the store, he asked "what for a bloddy replacement?" followed by some more aggressive rudeness. I replied "no, ask for your money back because your too fucking stupid to own a computer".

    The moral of this little rant:-

    1) Age is no excuse for being a rude aggressive old git.

    2) The human brain does not stop being able to learn new things regardless of age.

    3) Many oldies use their age as an excuse for not even fucking trying.

    4) I'm more than happy to help my neighbours (mostly OAP's) that actually want to know how I fixed something but I'm not happy to just 'fix' their problem and then fix it again and again because they are too lazy to learn what to do 'next time'.

  58. Peter Simpson 1

    I've had this happen twice

    My brother and a couple who are close friends. Converted them both to Linux. I told them I could fix their PC, remove the malware ("My computer's running slowly") and reinstall Windows, but that it was highly likely they would be calling me again next month. Linux would solve all their (and my) problems, if they'd give it a try for a few months. If not, I would come back and reinstall Windows for them (because I convinced them to buy a larger HDD and set their old Windows one aside)

    For the applications they needed to run on Windows (camera software and iTunes), I installed VirtualBox and a copy of WindowsXP. Firefox works on Linux the same way it works on Windows, and that's 90% of their use.

    It was worth the gamble. Both are happy after several years as Linux users. I have had one or two calls, usually because a wifi link needed to be reconfigured or something minor like that.

  59. Anonymous Coward


    The comments have been inspiring.

    My new quick response will now be

    "Oh great you are into the Barter economy, cool ! what are you offering?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks

      "Oh great you are into the Barter economy, cool ! what are you offering?"

      Don't forget the taxman wants his cut of the payment in kind for barter transactions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks

        Yes that's part of the idea, I don't actually want the work and if it requires an equal effort by the requester they will probably think twice.

  60. Shane Mussell


    I still have people who phone me at random times of the day to fix their computers, I have even changed industry working offshore with only a Sat phone and connection that makes a 9k6 modem look like a luxury item. Yet when I get back to land I still receive random calls about my mums, cats, granddaughters printer has a broken button and can I fix it over the phone?

    Again when I was younger I would have been more than happy to help out, alas I was young and far too stupid to fix these things then..

    ..Must resist the temptation to throttle someone next time they ask for a little help.. ARGHH!

  61. Slap

    It's a tough one. There are people I'll gladly help out because I know they're smart enough to learn from my help, and be able to apply what they've leart to other areas where they might have a problem.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of other people who you just simply can't help. These are the people that operate a computer by rote. They have no idea what they're doing, they just perform a set of remembered steps, a macro if you like, to get the computer to do basic very basic things, and if there is something even slightly out of the ordinary that macro won't work, and they have absolutely no idea why it won't work. I have very little patience with people who refuse to think.

    To be honest, unless the person who's asking for my help has demonstrated at least a bit of tech savvy and desire to learn then my answer is no.

    My stock answer to those who I don't want to help is that " No, I'm only really experienced with a forked flavour of FreeBSD unix in conjunction with the Quartz Compositor windowing environment, plus a number of Linux based systems with KDE or Gnome windowing environments operating mostly within a hypervisor". The beauty of this is that I'm not lying - I use a Mac, and bugger around with various types of Linux in virtualbox, but the keywords Microsoft, Windows, Apple, and Mac have not been used, hence no further questions on the subject.

    One particularly memorable comment to my stock answer was "Is that like Facebook then?"

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    its your choice

    I help my parents snd a neighbour out without thinking about it. My parents for reasons that include the obvious such as what theyve done for me and the times they look after my son, and because they buy stuff I cant avoid and like to investigate ( eg this Sony tablet im typing on right now) Also the inlaws though if father in law wantsto faff about with linux then he's on his own...

    my neighbour because shes not well off and she'll feed the cat when. We're away. Though she does offerto pay each time.

    For others ill offer some advice to point them in the right direction. But I only get involved if its trivially simple or interesting.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: its your choice

      Best comment of the lot. Joking aside, this is what it's all about. Thank you, Mr Coward.

  63. Herby

    It becomes a bigger problem...

    ...when you HAVE to perform service. This usually happens in my own house when my wife screams at me that something technical doesn't work. The problems can be wide ranging. The examples are:

    Under counter lights (they ARE electrical!). Solution: replace some of them.

    TV that is very loud, and can't be turned down. Solution: remove book from top of the other remote.

    Any computer problem: Solution: reboot.

    IPad funnies. Solution: Look, I really don't know, but I might be able to fix it (no a new one will have the same problem!).

    IPhone things: Solution: No, I don't know where you misplaced it. Try calling it.

    So, yes, I do love my wife, but I don't ask her about medical things all the time (she is an MD). (*SIGH*)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It becomes a bigger problem...

      Yes, I have a wife just like you :-)

      She'll phone me at work to tell me "google" isn't working. I then have to interrogate her to ascertain if by "google" she means the internet connection is down or if FireFox is playing up (Google is the default home page)

      And yes, I do love her.

  64. Tony Green

    Another reason to love being Linux-only

    "You using Windows? Sorry I don't know anything about it."

  65. Shane Kent

    At LucasNorth...

    really, it's a story and you had to s#!+ on the guy. It is not journalism but someone sharing a story, and I for one appreciated it. I also appreciate reading the reader comments, I guess I am a commentard, oh well! It is not like he was informing us on current events, he was sharing a part of his life with us and you get all bent up over it? Maybe you are not as harassed as much as him, and you should show a little compassion as I can relate and swear words are appropriate, as it is how he feels. This is "The Register" where geeks share news and STORIES.

  66. Rural area satellite.

    1. If I remember correctly 47% of admins who use linux on their desktop answered in a theregister survey that they partly used it to tell windows users that they did not know windows and its apps. Not knowing is a good first step.

    2. Not doing is a good second step. I always take my PCs to PCworld to add memory or whatever. I do analyse well before I go, but I outsource the work.

    3. Tell them you write about tech but pick a non-consumerized topic. Any progress towards helping with printers can be met with discourses on how many tranactions per second the mainframes you write about can handle. Printing itself is actually outdated an outsourced nowadays. Hulu, etc. are much cheaper than having to make testprints first, then finding that a label got stuck in the printer when your son wanted to send ....<whatever>. In extreme cases you could revert to writing mainly about the technologies for live-videostreaming but they'll understand that the industry that mostly uses that cannot be discussed in great detail and if they go on about security through webcams at home switch to the x-rated industries that use your tech.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I gave up telling people what I did years ago...

    ...out of necessity.

    I'd pull a 9 to 5 in the office, and come home mentally exhausted to find a thousand PC World refugees all seeking asylum.

    The 'no more' point came one night when I found two answerphone messages, a handwritten letter, and a predator that was literally watching my driveway waiting for me to get in and POUNCE.

    I'd always get duped in since I got enraged at what bollocks my neighbours, friends etc had been told by the man from DSGI or the ubiquitous 'my mate Dave that works at IBM'. The problem is, sound roughly like you're competent and you become a very, very useful man indeed. The support net widens to friend's auntie's hairdresser's boyfriend's mates, and guaranteed one will have a relative that comes back to criticise their free repair - you know, for the fault they couldn't fix themselves in the first place. I actually took a call berating me for implementing security on his parent's *wide-open* wireless network (an IT 'consultant' no less that turned out to be an Office apps trainer).

    Bah. That was the proverbial straw. Now I willingly help family and close friends but that's it - they're under strict orders not to advertise my non-existent services. Occasionally I help someone I know genuinely can't afford a repair, under the same conditions. Now, when asked what I do at social occasions, I simply state the nature of the business of the company I work for or don't volunteer the information at all.

    I actually genuinely liked helping them, but that's the rub - the frustrations and hassle made it too much to handle. Then there's the 'morning after' awkwardness - I can't tell you how many bottles of booze I was promised that never materialised. Entire motherboard replacements, rebuilds, days and evenings of work...I never asked for payment, but if you don't intend to make a gesture, don't mention one.

    It's human nature - we all need a hand from time-to-time and I like to think someone would help me with something I don't understand, if I needed it. So I reserve accepting 'cases' for those occasions where someone really needs the support and values it.

    And never, *ever* take money for repairs unless you want to end up cleaning malware ad infinitum because you installed RAM 2 years ago and you were the last bloke to touch the machine.

    Early into this gig, an era ago, my first IT boss told me that I'd start turning away home PC repairs out of risk of going insane and losing all my free time. How right he was.

    1. Darryl

      Re: I gave up telling people what I did years ago...

      You got my upvote for the comment about charging them. I've been reading all of these comments about "Sure, I'll do it for $50/hour," or whatever, but the few times I've tried this, it's bit me in the ass more often than not. Install an antivirus on their laptop, and three years later when the hinge breaks, you're responsible for it.

      I help out family and a few close friends. Others who ask for free PC service/advice, I tell them that it's my job, not my hobby. Usually they get the hint and we can interact normally, the ones who get offended and stalk off in a huff aren't the type or people I want to talk to anyways.

  68. Anorak

    The solution....

    I worked out the solution to this years ago. Charge the beggers. I charge £25/hour. Virus sir? You need a Windows reinstall - 2 hours = £50. Why should I charge less than I get for my day job? And only doing the work when I really actually have time helps too. Drop it over but I don't have a free slot until next Wednesday...

    The word fairly quickly got around that I don't work for nothing. I don't get asked very often, but its fairly nice pocket money when I do.

  69. hombrito

    Stopped doing this years ago

    Once you touch something, you own it. Whatever happens later is your fault and you need to fix it. I only work on the immediate family's computer, and with all but my grandmother on the other side of the country, it makes it even better. I'll give advice, tell them what to do, but never touch it.

    Now I say I don't work on computers anymore. They say I'll pay you. I say no. Call the idiots at Geek Squad or ask your kid, I'm not touching it. If they get mad, tough shit, not my problem. If they no longer like you because you won't fix their computer, good for them. They're not worth the trouble.

  70. Greg Clough

    WARNING: 5 Reasons why you should NEVER fix a computer for free.

    There are 5 reasons you should ALWAYS hand out a bill.

    1) You Break it You Bought it.

    2) People don't respect things that are free.

    3) They will expect it forever.

    4) The demands will only grow with time.

    5) It Weakens Your Backbone

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on a minute!

    "Naturally, I suggest that he would have more success if he takes the iPad out of its box, read the instructions and – what the hell, let’s throw caution to the wind – switch the fucker on."

    Apple products don't come with instruction manuals. They "just work". And you're expected to "just know" how to use them.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Hang on a minute!

      Oho, you are wrong about this. Open an iPad box and there are instructions - in large, friendly type - telling you what to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hang on a minute!

        No, they don't.

        " We all know and love Apple's iconic iPad. It's been shipping in the millions, an oft-wished-for gift on many a Christmas list -- and none of them come with a user manual. Apple claims the iPad is so easy to use that a manual isn't necessary. But while some features are easy to master, more advanced features sometimes makes many an iPad owner wish a manual existed for them to thumb through.

        "I was surprised and disappointed that there was no instruction manual with my iPad," says iPad Pete, creator of the iPad tutorial videos. "I thought it was a mistake and the Apple factory forgot to pack my instruction book. But no -- they just don't come with any instructions. At all!"

        Apple’s whole model is "ease of use." They claim you don’t even need a manual. Using an iPad's simple features such as checking email easy enough. But many users are finding it tough to get their existing music collection onto the iPad and have many basic questions about its use when first starting out, as evidenced by these posts on the Apple forums."

  72. Evil Auditor Silver badge


    I just tell them I'm an auditor and they excuse themselves. Bad luck though when I bump into a "real" auditor. Fucking hell, they can be a bore!

  73. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Re: offensive

    Give the guy a break. He's had to deal with a few Windows systems.

  74. mhoulden

    I've had the same problem quite a bit myself. Next time someone asks I'm tempted to quote a steep fee so they realise my time is expensive and I generally deal with much more complex corporate style systems. Question is, what's a good place to refer people when they ask you to fix their home machines? I fix my own stuff so I don't need to use other places and don't have any experience of them, but would somewhere like the PC World workshop be a good place to send people?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " Next time someone asks I'm tempted to quote a steep fee so they realise my time is expensive and I generally deal with much more complex corporate style systems."

      When fixing PCs for people who I know slightly, but who are judged a deserving case - I have found a way to answer their "how much?" question. I say "you can't afford me". That seems to sink in and they don't abuse the help. Accept a token price, or offering, and you've established a market price that will then be recommended to all and sundry.

  75. xperroni

    No good deed shall escape unpunished

    Though it's been almost ten years since I have moved alway from my parents' home – about 1000Km away into another city – I am still my mother's go-to son for all her technology needs. Eventually I got to direct her, at great psychological cost, into installing a remote management client to her netbook, so I didn't have to spend hours at the phone helping her download an attachment from Hotmail and the like.

    Of course, my younger brother (three years my junior) still lives with them and could bloody well provide the IT support she needs. But apparently he cannot be bothered to help the woman who to this day gives him food, clothes and generally supports his lifestyle – which by the way he couldn't afford by himself even in those rare occasions when he has a job.

    1. tonysmith

      Re: No good deed shall escape unpunished

      I think you're mum is just finding an excuse to call you - you moved 1000kms away after all.

      1. xperroni

        Re: No good deed shall escape unpunished

        I think you're mum

        I'm a man. By definition, I cannot be anybody's "mum".

  76. Haku

    I'm glad I'm not alone in this.

    Sometimes I have to look in a mirror just to see if I've got "FREE TECH HELP!" stamped on my fucking forehead.

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As far as my neighbours are concerned

    "I don't know much about Macs or Windows. I mainly work with huge unix-based mainframes and HPCs."

    Complete tosh, of course, but it keeps the support requests down.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: As far as my neighbours are concerned

      It's not impossible. I can claim both in my experience (it's even on my CV)!

      (Historically, UTS and AT&T R&D UNIX on Amdahl mainframes, AIX/370 on IBM mainframes, and two generations of IBM HPC where I currently work!)

      Currently, I don't think there is any mainframe proper sold with UNIX, although Linux would not be a problem. I don't count HP Integrity Superdome or the IBM 795s as mainframes.

      But having said that, I still get asked about PCs. My stock answer is "PCs, horrible little systems. I can't stand them!"

  78. 2Fat2Bald

    The one that annoys me...

    Is "What PC should I buy"?

    How the heck should I know - do you seriously imagine I get to play with every PC on the market, and oddly enough know exactly which software you'll run for the next decade? They always look a touch askance when I say to go to Tesco and buy the most expensive one they can afford by a brand they recognise for computers (IE Dell, HP, Lenovo etc). But for me that's good advice. Tesco can stack them high and sell them cheap, you can march back in with it if it doesn't work, and if you stick to major brands you're unlikely to hit a major stinker.

    Most people are happy with this when explained to them, but some people them start getting out PC magazines and asking of the 3200mhz processor is more of a benefit than the 2800mhz processor with more RAM. Or if the Nvidia GFX card is better than the ATI one. Well, I neither know nor care so I usually say "I really couldn't say without testing them, and we're not in a position to do that". Which is the truth. Generally I'd go for the extra memory of clock cycles (and recommend an SSD if possible), but that's about as far as I'd stick my neck out as I have no way of knowing if a Laptop I've never seen is "a good one", or not.

    The other one is get is people clearly trying to get me to give them (and therefore endorse) a specific answer they want. They'll say to me "Isn't the Advent laptop better value as it's got more megahertz than the Dell??". "To be honest, I've never had a good experience with Advent..." "Oh, but would it be okay?" "Dunno - I wouldn't buy one. I'd spend the extra and get the Dell". "hmmm. But the Advent is cheaper and it's a better spec..." "Up to a point - it's a lower-quality machine. And it's got a magnetic drive, not an SSD - so I'd buy the Dell". "But would the Advent be *okay*?". "Probably, but if it were my money I'd spend the extra and get the Dell...". "But we use Dells at work. One of them broke last year... So I don't think Dell's ARE good".. It's really hard at this point not to grab them by the lapels, shake then and shout "Why the F*CK did you ask my advice, if you're going to F*cking argue with every word I say and try to get me to change it to what you wanted to hear???"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The one that annoys me...

      Telling average people to buy the most expensive computer they can afford is terrible, horrible advice.

      The cheapest new computer is more powerful than the most powerful computer from a few years ago. And people a few years ago were still able to get their email and log into Facebook. You really need to be a hardcore gamer or computer professional to require anything but the cheapest new computer.

      My advice, though, including to myself, is just go buy the cheapest Mac.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: The one that annoys me...

        >> Telling average people to buy the most expensive computer they can afford is terrible, horrible advice.

        I disagree. A no-brand notebook weighing 4 tonnes and containing 256K RAM and a 32GB hard disk is not a good buy. You have to suggest a basic minimum spec, *then* tell them to buy the one they can afford. And those Mac Minis are very poor value for money.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The one that annoys me...

          >>I disagree. A no-brand notebook weighing 4 tonnes and containing 256K RAM and a 32GB hard disk is not a good buy. You have to suggest a basic minimum spec, *then* tell them to buy the one they can afford. And those Mac Minis are very poor value for money.

          Don't know where you live or where you're you're shopping but I just checked the cheapest local big-box retailer and the cheapest laptop (non-netbook) you can buy there is a $250 Acer and has an Intel dual core processor, 2GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, and 15.6" display, which I would be perfectly comfortable recommending to any average person.

          As for the Mac Mini being a poor value, meh. There is a huge market for used Apple products. I'm sure I can sell my Mini in a few years for more than half of what I paid for it. Good luck getting any money for a used PC. I should know, I've been trying to sell my HTPC for a few months now and will be lucky to get one quarter of what I paid for it, and I only bought it 2 years ago. I'm just tired of my PCs losing basically all their value upon purchase. Owning Apple products is very relaxing.

      2. Ross K Silver badge

        Re: The one that annoys me...

        Telling average people to buy the most expensive computer they can afford is terrible, horrible advice.


        My advice, though, including to myself, is just go buy the cheapest Mac.

        Um, the cheapest Mac is still a pretty expensive computer...

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be honest, I've just got used to saying "no" politely.

    I've got some *close* family and *good* friends who I'm happy to help, for example uncles and aunts who rallied round my brother and I and gave up lots of time between them to help us sort things out after the death of both our parents, but outside of that I just tell people that the last thing I want to do after a day working in IT is to have to do it in the evenings or at the weekend too.

    It seems to work, took longer to register with some than it did others but it works just fine once it does register.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It could be worse.

    I'm an app developer.

    Tell anybody that, even complete strangers, and they will immediately tell you their crap app ideas. And react with supreme disappointment and sometimes anger when you decline to make said apps for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It could be worse.

      "I'm an app developer."


      Dude CAN U ,ake me and adp 4 my facebock websuit?

      No? U sux0r


      Looks like you were right!

  81. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    On the other hand.

    When I was at college, I went to a part with a couple of my classmates. One of whom found a particularly attractive girl, and tried an unusual chat up technique. He got talking to her, then started talking about databases and database servers.

    I saw the rather bored look on her face he apparently missed, and went up to her, introduced myself and started talking about more normal subjects (films, music, her, me etc) and we struck up quite an interesting conversation. Then she asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I was a student, and looking to get in to Application Programming, she screamed and ran off.

    Never heard from her again.

  82. Spiny_Norman

    My variant on the 'I only do Macs' theme

    If asked to help with someone's home set up I reply that my job is supporting an 8 node Oracle Exadata cluster which tends to kill the convo dead as they realise that they have absolutely no idea what that means. It's also true but not the complete truth as there are various peripherals involved but we just don't get to go there.

  83. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British problem?

    In the last 10 years, there have been two occasions when I've been asked to fix a neighbour's computer. Oddly enough, both occasions were during brief visits to my wife's family in England (I live in Australia). The computers belonged to friends of my father in law. I didn't mind, but I can see that it might begin to grate after a while.

  84. Former KowloonTonger

    Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

    Don't ANY-body point any fingers at us "idiot" lazy, tech consumers.

    What I've learned as a Geriatric but emerging computer addict is that my brain that was useful in achieving a B.A. in Economics is totally insufficient to divine the tea-leaves-meanings in the truncated jargon-laden pieces of paper in microscopic print which seem to accompany any new boxed tech device such as a tablet or laptop or even a larger PC. These are meant to be "User Manuals"? The language simply isn't English. Can't imagine what is lost in translation to other tongues.

    These are simply indecipherable word-masses and useless, and lead the reader to cull-de-sac'd angry frustration.

    Add to this the handy 1-800 telephone number for "Warranty" [gasp!] ...assistance .....and you hear that rapid, staccato accent from Mumbai reciting from a script, regardless of what your initial question was. Did he hear you? No, of course not....when you started talking, he started his recitation.

    These machines are far, far more temperamentally complex than the manufacturers would dare have us believe, and the eager code-writers and programmers are so wrapped up in themselves that they've tacitly agreed among themselves that we the Consumer/Customer simply must bear with them and accept their arcane dicta. This conceit is ....well....viral.

    So, you IT personages become Dervish-Magnets, those of us whirling around in ever decreasing circles towards a drain.

    Don't be so defensive., dear Tech Writers......Join together....fight J A R G O N......until you do so, you remain part of the Problem.

    We Customers/Consumers are fed up with trying to Maintain Calm.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

      The booklet that came with my car doesn't explain how to take the engine apart, nor does it include the Highway Code or provide instructions on how to drive.

      1. Former KowloonTonger

        Re: Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

        Aye.....but after a century of these horseless carriages, even sixteen year old girls now master the exam about road rules and can turn the ignition on with a key. Even operate a clutch....but now, there's no need for that coordination...... is there?

        Must we wait a century before we truly can skip gleefully over that BlueScreamOfDeath? .....or....Gasp!......or until we evil Consumers who pay your wages will have mastered electronic retaliatory tactics besides refusing to buy your cranky, temperamental product?

        As a startling Public Relations gesture, don't continue bite our scorched finger tips that click-enable your way to the feeding trough.

        New Motto:. User! Friendly! After! Being! Out! Of! That! Box!For!A!While!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

        "The booklet that came with my car doesn't explain how to take the engine apart, nor does it include the Highway Code or provide instructions on how to drive."

        Maybe not, but it does tell you how to check and maintain the fluid levels, fill the washer bottle, change a wheel, change a bulb or fuse, enable/disable the airbags, what type of oil and fuel to use, how to fit a child seat, what the correct tyre pressures should be under various conditions, how all the dash controls work, what the dash display lights/computer is telling you etc etc etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

          The manual for the satnav etc. on my car runs to 300 pages, as long as a BlackBerry manual, but on paper.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

      If we techies had our way you wouldn't be let anywhere near our precious devices, filling them up with social media and other such nonsense, we're only allowing you to buy them so we can get money to develop even more complex devices that you don't understand.

    3. Tank boy

      Re: Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

      I'll wager that you yell at kids to get off your lawn as well. Or shake your fist at the weather.

    4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Surprisingly, This Is Serious:

      You've obviously never had to read a Fanuc machine control manual that was originally written in Japanese, and translated into English by a russian who can speak neither langage.

      Still I prefer the German controls we have... at least they only try to invade Poland when they go wrong rather than a kamakazi dive into the nearest american thing they can find

      OMG I mentioned the war

  85. Rogier van Vlissingen

    Agreed, I'm not the repairman either...

    In fact this article evokes my own time in the corporate world when I was involved in high level systems design, and really more of business process (re)design facilitated by IT, but the perception of a vast majority of my colleagues was that I now fixed computers. I've been feigning ignorance ever since. In fact I like to maintain that maintaining and supporting a PC is above the paygrade of 99% of people, even most so-called professionals, so we should really just abandon them and go back to pencil and paper. But nobody listens

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just demand payment in ...

    Blowjobs; Doesn't matter if the person asking is male or female, they hardly ever agree to my terms ;)

  87. jake Silver badge

    Personal perspective.

    All my friends & family know "jake don't do Apple". Has been true forever. I have worked on almost everything, but not Apple. I do, however, do BSD ... and will happily work on it. Fortunately, none of my friends & family grok that iOS is BSD. And I'm not telling.

    They also know that, as of Jan. 1 2010, I don't work on Microsoft anything. Not even on a dare. It took about two years before they believed me. Haven't had a call for MS-anything support in over a year. The silence has been wonderful.

    I refused Android support, right from the git-go. That's a telephone handset. I only do backend telephony, I only want a telephone to make & receive telephone calls (as I point out my Nokia 5185).

    I *do*, however, offer to support the version of Slackware that I built for my DearOldMum & GreatAunt. Over 100 installs to date for friends & family, and virtually zero support calls ...

  88. ortunk

    get an intern to do it

    that's what I ended up doing and he saves me time worth triple the amount I pay him :)

  89. richard 7

    And there we have it

    "What I should do is send them to a local PC repair shop. The problem is that I don’t trust them. Judging from my own experiences when getting proper IT kit fixed by qualified engineers at registered service centres – all the time-wasting, cock-ups and rip-offs – I can hardly expect some back-street hoodlum to play fair with my nice neighbours."

    Thank you for ruining my perception of you. I did like reading your articles, now I'm faced with the fact that I was enjoying articles written by a complete and utter tit.

    There are a few small outfits that dont play by the rules yes. There are garages, builders, sparkies that dont either. The majority of us two and when asshats like you come out with ill considered bollocks like this it makes our lives a little bit harder. Most Indies are struggling right now, we'd expect help and support from fellows in our community such as yourself, not this crap. Why dont you bin the self satisfied, elitist air and do some research and find a reputable one, hell, tell me where you are and I'll find someone who will be happy to take on your neighbours and look after them.

    On the other hand, there are large national companies whom I wont mention, taht everyone knows and trusts who *WILL* shaft your neighbours at every given opertunity, will sell them shit they dont need and will make their lives hell, odd you dont mention them too.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: And there we have it

      >> I did like reading your articles, now I'm faced with the fact that I was enjoying articles written by a complete and utter tit.

      So you've been regularly laughing at the misfortunes of other people in my weekly column, but now that it's your turn in the spotlight, everything has changed?

  90. Gil Grissum
    Thumb Down

    Not me

    This is why I don't tell neighbors or anyone who isn't attempting to hire me for a job, that I've worked in tech support for years. Helping my mum with her usually self induced or "got a virus from some idiot in an e-mail" type of problem is one thing. Anyone else who needs tech support is expected to pay for it. I don't work for free. The author shouldn't either. Bills to pay and a family to feed. Not a volunteer for charity work.

  91. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My technique

    "Well, look, I only help out true friends with this kind of stuff[1]. All I ask for are three things:

    1. The original install disks for your computer[2] and any software on it[3]

    2. Lend me a blank USB hard drive at least as big as the drive on your computer [4] - they're only around £50 from PC World or Amazon [5]

    3. A really interesting or unusual bottle of wine[6]; I'm trying to grow my collection[7]"


    [1] Are you the type of person who actually takes care of your kit? If you've got the computer from your mate down the pub, no questions asked, and it doesn't work properly, I don't want to know.

    [2] That copy of Microsoft Office / Photoshop / Autocad that your brother's mate lent you. Not my problem.

    [3] You almost certainly deliberated for hours of whether all your photos of little Jonny would fit on a 160GB hard drive, or would you need the 320GB version so this should be easy (!)... I will take a complete image of your broken PC using before I start anything, so you don't accuse me of deleting *your* precious files that *you* failed to back-up.

    [4] Do you want my expertise or just my free labour? If you're not prepared to pay for the tools I need to help you out, then go away.

    [5] I'm not your personal shopper.

    [6] It is a social faux pas to thank someone with a cheap bottle of plonk. I've made this clear.

    [7] I'm no wine expert and I don't have a wine collection. But this is a great filter for people who really want help and recognise that it is a huge favour that they are asking (just visit a wine shop FFS and ask them) versus the freeloaders. Seems to work every time.

    The ones that get through this process tend to be a pleasure to help out - it becomes a rewarding experience to help them, not a chore. The ones that are filtered out - good riddance.

  92. Mike Lewis

    It happens with other industries too. I recall being at a motorbike club party when one of the attendees foolishly admitted to being a motorcycle mechanic. He was swamped.

    I read a story on the Internet, so it must be true, about a university student who went home for the holidays, taking his usual rescue CD to clean up his mother's computer. To his horror, he found that she had told all her friends he was coming so he spent the entire time fixing their computers as well.

  93. TheOldFellow

    Oh it's windows, I don't know anything about that.

    My answer to everything, Substitute OSX, Android, whatever. I then offer to install Linux instead - they usually run away.

    1. Dana W

      Re: Oh it's windows, I don't know anything about that.

      @TheOldFellow Linux was a hard sell on the first one, but after word got around I did several more. I'd prefer they get a Mac, but either works. Best of all, either way I seldom hear from them again.

      They bump into me downstairs from time to time to tell me how happy they are now, and how well everything works. And especially how they never see ads anymore. Linux/Mac, Firefox and Adblock Plus, Helping them has gone from being a permanent chore to a 1-2 times at best thing. (With one glaring exception) And no more complaints from people who installed fake "security upgrades"

      The best way to ditch freeloaders is to tell them the same thing upmarket domestics have said for ages. I don't do Windows!

  94. Kranth
    Thumb Up

    Age != IT Illiterate

    A few years ago I started helping out the local OAPs and uni students with tech support queries while unemployed.

    My rules were simple :

    Feel free to pass on reccommendations if you liked the service.

    You want me on-site, you pay for the travel time.

    Payment accepted in cash (£10 per hour), paypal, or BACS.

    All work is accompanied by an invoice detailing all work done (pdf archived in a folder). DO NOT LOSE THE INVOICE, the jobcentre may ask you how much you paid and for what.

    All payments are declared to the job centre. (unemployed at the time)

    If you don't like the service / me, then don't call me back.

    If I can't fix it, I'll tell you so as soon as I know.

    *All* tech support requests come by text to a seperate number. That number is deactivated when I am busy or asleep. I do not give out my private number.

    Hardware upgrades work as follows : You buy it, I'll fit it. I do not buy your parts, you do.

    I only charge OAPs for the time I am actually working. (So a three hour install where I spend 2 hours sitting around, is only 1 hours work.) [Fine for me as an unemployed person, and gives them someone to chat to while I explain how to fix the problem.]

    I take my tea with milk, no sugar; and my coffee white with one. Biscuits, sandwiches and cake are accepted as well.

    If you ask for advice from multiple sources, I expect you to stop asking me. If you don't trust my advice don't ask for it.

    After about 6 months using this not overly stringent set of rules, I had about 50 people asking me for support on a semi-regular basis. I think I made about £20-£50 per week towards the end though. (not counting JCP rules where you only get to keep the first £5 mind you).

    I had one 90+ year old little old lady who went from not knowing how to turn it on to running a nice little network perfectly smoothly with no problems, and only the odd call for hardware upgrades. I also had an english language student, (from england, where english was their first (and only) language), who couldn't spell, had no idea of grammar (neither do I, but I'm an IT geek, it's not expected of me), and read so slowly that I actually wondered if they were a functioning illiterate.

    I would hand out idiot-guides for common issues (conflicting anti-virus, how do I uninstall X, etc) and a flow chart which boiled down to "Turn it off and on again, does it work yet?". I found that I reduced the repeat offender rate to about 15-20% on most issues with these. Those that continued to repeat offend were handed off to someone who charged £25/h, or to PC World etc.

    I had great fun, met a lot of lovely people (and some infuriating ones), and did a lot of basic IT training for mixed groups of students and OAPs. I'd like to think I managed to improve some of these people so that they didn' just shut off their brains when there was an IT 'problem'. At least they all learned to give a better description than 'it broke'.

    ...and yet....

    I still can't stop my mother from texting with "Can you fix your sister's phone?" or "My laptop is slow." Gah!

  95. strangelybrown
    Thumb Up

    It's all good fun until...

    All of my friends have learnt to not let me anywhere near their laptops/desktops unless they want Linux installed, with accompanying rant about Windows, how simple Linux is, and "just a moment, ndiswrapper isn't working... that's odd. You'll have to do without wireless I'm afraid"

    HQ, meanwhile, has stopped volunteering my IT rebuilding services on her friend's generic high-street bloatware PCs after the incident with Miss S's dead laptop. Having offered me to swap all of Miss S's photos from the old HDD to the new one (after all, I'm stood idle at the weekends, best keep me occupied otherwise I might get a day off or something).

    Anyway, long story short, Miss S is a wonderful girl, but very round and very single. As I discovered rummaging around in the drive looking for photos, she's also apparently developed a Universal Port which will accept anything that fits, and quite a lot which doesn't. Seems you can make quite a tidy sideline with a webcam and your Universal Port. I still scream myself to sleep at night.

    However, it did ensure that HQ now denies I'm "good with computers" when asked if I can help.

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least meet us half way

    I don't mind helping people out occasionally, but it gets tiresome when they won't do anything to help themselves.

    How many times have you encountered:

    - Windows with no service packs applied and needing 274 updates (involving 3 reboots) before you can even start.

    - The McNortonSpersky anti-virus trial version expired 9 months ago, but no replacement was ever installed.

    - Everyone in the house uses the same account, no password, with full admin rights.

    - IE6, unpatched.

    - Original system install discs lost (if it ever had any).

    - "A mate in work installed it".

    - No-one can remember the password for the wireless network, the ADSL connection or the email account (of which there is also just one).

    - The mission-critical photos and videos of the kids have never been backed up.

    - System tray rammed with 38 brightly coloured crapware icons, all fighting for CPU time.

    - Keyboard / fan clogged with pet hair, biscuit crumbs and stuff you probably don't want to think about.

    - 3 fake spyware removal tools installed.

    And last, but by no means least - nobody has ever been on any kind of training course to use any of this.

  97. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You're all a bunch of winers.

    "I am a PC technician and I WILL fix your computer and you will PAY me!"

    Fixing PC's from friends and neighbors is good start for a small lucrative business opportunity. Especially if you're convinced that you can do it better than the PC shop around the corner. Friends and neighbors will usually tolerate more from you (even if you mess up) and as such are the perfect learning school to deal with "real customers".

    You're leaving out on some extra wealth that might increase your welfare. And even if you don't charge money the least you could get is a free beer (which is were some of that money is envitably going to get spend on anyway). Free drinks, maybe a couple of new friends and you get to do something that isn't that hard to do or too dirty. Compared to the folks whom lay bricks in the rain and wind to build that house or asphalt on the streets or even that plumber that sometimes literally has to clean out other people's shit!

    Bunch of wankers, you are.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: wankers

      I think you'll find we are "whiners".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: wankers

        Not me. I'm a wanker.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: wankers

          Or possibly a whanker.

    2. Fiddler on the roof

      Re: wankers

      But what if we dont want to start a business? Havent considered that have you with your foul mouthed stupid post.

  98. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you place no charge on your time... do you expect others to value it?

    You'd expect to pay your mates who are mechanics or plumbers even at 'mates rates' to cover their costs because they work with their hands. Why the fuck should I use my brain to drive your keyboard for free?! My IT skills came at a cost - years of study and problem solving and training - why the fuck should I de-gunk your shitty old hardware, or malware infested porn-browser for nothing. No - fuck off - I will not fix your computer for free. Go buy a new PC for £300 and leave me the hell alone.

  99. schafdog

    Buy the t-shirt

    "No I will not fix your computer" or the more general one: "No"

  100. YoBenH

    Same sh#t different situation.

    I've bought and sold computer equipment from/to the public for over 10 years and the words guaranteed to strike dread into my very soul are "My mate. Who knows a load about computers..."

    He doesn't mate, he doesn't.

  101. Greg D

    I'm totally hetero...

    ...but I love you man.

    Seriously, you've summarised my past 10 years of living. I feel a bond between us <3

  102. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    For me it's simple...

    For me it's simple, if someone wants to talk a bit it's fine. If they want some work I give my rate, and point out no one would expect free plumbing work. No one's been offended by it, and it cuts down on that spurious work -- people are motivated to plug in the printer, pop in the CD and see if it works first (which it will), instead of asking for help when it's still in the box.

  103. Uglybob

    Can totally identify with your comments there as have the same experience myself working in IT and on a helpdesk

    However I cant help point the finger at yourself for creating this situation and getting annoyed at others seems a little nonsensical plus burning bridges with your neighbors especially those that notice someone strange might be hanging around your property and call the authorities can be a life saver

    I would suggest you harden up and deal with this in a way that fixes your boundary issues and stops you being a door mat

    This works for me so feel free to use or tailor anything to your liking

    1 if someone ask's me to look into their computer issue I offer to do it gladly for $50 per hour which is approx half price compared to other places around town - this gets rid of at least 99% of all enquirers right then and there

    Regardless of its the nice old pensioner down the street on a low income or such and such cousin I've never seen before in my life or a anyone at a party, the only exception to this rule is parents sibling and parents/siblings of your partner and one or two best mates

    2 Learn to know and love the local IT stores in your community too bad if they are over priced and don't preform a grade A+++ job find one or two you reasonably happy with and anyone asking to buy this or that should be sent their way - memorize address and hourly rate so you can rattle this off without getting drawn into too much of the nitty gritty of whatever issue that person is dealing with

    They(the store) are getting paid a commission to sell and support the equipment they sell, you do not

    And if you really cant be bothered fixes anyone's equipment disregard point 1 and stick to point 2

    3 Lastly set boundary's and limits otherwise the only person you can blame is yourself! - chivalry be damned if I'm spending my free time bothering with someone else clunky old pc for free!!!

    Politely advising someone who knocks at your door at 8pm that this isnt a good time now or ever is a good move but I would also point them in the direction of the aforementioned it store

    hope this helps

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Act like a spy ftw!

    1. I own a packaging business. You know, packing equipment. Which one? Central Packaging we cater to other businesses. We aren't on yelp, we are business to business and we aren't taking any more business contracts right now. - Since packaging machines have electronics and programming, it's best not to say you "repair" the machines, but you OWN the business, which they can't check. Most people don't know what the fuck happens with a packaging business anyway. You can say shit like your accountant say's this and accountant says that, it gives you an excuse to do just about anything at any time day or night.

    2. At dupont | research and development and I am not allowed to say anything more, they'll sue and fire me. - This is pretty clean.

    3. At cessna at the airport, (optional) in the hangar. Pick a story, or make one up painter, QA Inspector , parts, aircraft washer, stay away from "elect, inst, nav, com, engine shop, etc " - They can NEVER get access to the hangar to check. Don't ever say a hangar number. If you fuck up and say you work at a different airport, it's all good, because you work at ALL airports, and again you can come and go at any time day or night.

    4. Have your Irish Girlfriend "Shoot them" j/k

  105. Lost in Cyberspace

    I AM a domestic PC technician I find that turning up with a bag, a uniform, in my van, and putting my invoice pad on the table and itemising my work (but charging a fixed fee) is a good way of avoiding misunderstandings in most cases.

    Apart from the occasional "Do I owe you anything for that?" [2 hour visit!]

    Oh yes I do get requests for free advice at social events, so I give them a card and offer to book an appointment when I next have my diary on me.

  106. Killamarshian

    Same old story

    I am not an IT professional, however I have been interested in computers since my first ZX81 in 1983. I used to have a reputation of being able to fix most things, firstly on the Amiga platform and then on Windows. I made friends with a guy I was doing a CNC course with, and he complained that his PC wasn’t working too well. So of course I went round and fixed it.

    Next thing I knew his brother was asking if I could take a look at his PC as it wasn’t running too well. I agreed like a mug.

    When I arrived early on the Sunday morning I was ushered to this PC that although it had a mouse, there was no ball inside it. He had ‘lost it’. I proceeded to sort out his pc which included a huge amount of porn on it and pirated stuff. (He was high up in the C.I.D he had bragged when I first met him). I spent a total of 8 hours there, partly because I decided the PC was beyond hope and reformatted it (porn and all, hee hee).

    What did I get for my trouble? 1 cup of tea. I sat there as they tucked into Sunday lunch, without so much as an offer of a sandwich. More fool me I suppose, but in those days I saw it all as a challenge.

    I stopped it all when I got fed up with the, “You like computers don’t you?” questions. Yeah I love sat watching progress bars running for hours on end!

  107. Greg Fawcett

    Finally the true reason I use Linux emerges...

    I switched to Linux years ago, and tell everyone I don't know how Windows works any more. Works a treat.

    Occasionally someone calls my bluff and gets me to install Ubuntu, but even then the support calls are few and far between.

  108. Tim Bates

    Totally getting this story

    I work in a local IT repair shop.... Slightly offended by that comment at the end - although as our main competitor (a "brand name" type place) cocks up most things they touch, I can see where it comes from.

    Anyway, whenever we get that inevitable story about a certain computer thingy not doing it's particular task, we all give the tight-arse the same sort of reply - "I know a shop that can fix that". 9 times out of 10, they do bring it in and pay us to fix it...

    The few that don't keep on trying themselves, which sadly usually turns into another boring story about how they solved the problem. This tends to be a punishment for not doing it for them I think.

  109. Paul 87

    Then again, the number of people in this world who still don't understand modern technology is a fail on the part of the designers. Very very few IT literate people are capable of writing software that can be understood by someone without any relevant IT experience.

  110. John Lodge

    I hate this. God I detest people knowing what I do for a living. And there's always an expert, some spotty hobbyist who reads PC Daily and thinks that all things Micro$oft are really cool.

    "Have you been visiting any dodgy sites?" I ask in response to a question as to why the laptop is running like a tortoise on mogadon. "Don't do thinks like that" comes the inevitable response as I scroll down the cookies and find all manner of unpleasantness site visit wise. "when did you last update your AV?". "What's that". "Never mind" Spends next hour or so cleaning various trojans spambots and other assorted shite, a quick defrag and installation of a new AV and hand the squeaky clean box back with a reminder to be careful when surfing.

    The only upside is the occasional bottle of vino and the sure and certain knowledge of all the neighbours sexual foibles. God, there's some pervs next door but one!

  111. Stratman

    Just remember you're a journalist...

    .... and when you get pestered ask them what they'd like you to write about .

  112. Stuart Halliday


    I can sympathise.

    I trained to be a electronic engineer, then after 10 years of fixing PCBs I changed to the IT side of things.

    Sometime around 1995 people started finding me 'interesting' at parties.

    It was a strange phenomenon I can tell you. Women actually wanted to talk to me!

    I no longer felt ashamed at mentioning I can fix electronics and do IT stuff!

    I too was taken aback at the slow but increasing traffic to my door over the coming years by my neighbours, relatives and friends as it dawned on them that here was someone who could fix their problems for free!

    So I made it known I charge £15 an hour....Amazing how that keeps the annoying ones away. But the genuine needy person still flocks to my door and I get some money to buy new kit once in a while....


  113. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scrooge...or NOT !

    I know some auto engine builders who also get real tired of explaining to wannabe engine builders how to build an engine and then have these wannabes go elsewhere to buy their parts. Why some people think you should work for free but they should get paid their weekly salary is beyond me... They seem so clueless.

  114. Boris S.

    For a price...

    ...I'll fix anything. Most people aren't interested in paying my price however.

  115. lpcollier

    tell them to spend money...

    I get this a lot. I usually look at what they have, and if it's more than a couple of years old (or just cheap junk) I usually tell them they need to buy something new, and that it's irreparable. If they don't know what to buy, I print out the relevant pages from Amazon.

    Usually, they do nothing, but don't disturb me again as they haven't followed my advice. A few will actually buy the new kit and ask for help installing it, which I generally don't mind as I'm still geeky enough to enjoy ripping the plastic of new boxes.

    Of course, I do help out friends that I know are short of cash and need help. But I've been caught out too many times by people who will happily take up my whole weekend to fix something for free, and then spend £800 on a new iPhone or whatever when it comes out.

  116. Jones

    The other type of Cookies

    I use Bakery for my fake profession... People don't have too many follow up questions about Bakery work. Plus, it doubles as an excuse to leave a boring party "I have to be up early tomorrow to start baking things..."

  117. the J to the C


    well, I think I have read this story before, well lots of times before, yes its true, but I also guess its one of them lazy articles to write

  118. A A

    Re: My excuse...

    I used to fix PC for folks but it isn't worth it, they always come back. Now I tell them I'll do it for $200 an hour with a four hour minimum. I've never had anyone take me up on it but for $800, I'll reset a cable modem.

  119. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good neighbors

    Annoys me, too. Back in the early '90s a neighbor 2 houses down, who heard second hand that I was a programmer, knocked on my door. "You're into computers, aren't you?" she asked. Her husband, who was a partner in the local trash pick up company, brought one home and perhaps I could get it to run for them. Sheesh! Would I ever run down to her house and ask, "Your husband's into trash, isn't he? I missed pick up today. Could he take this can to work with him?" No, not likely. So why is it that IT workers are expected to provide their services, gratis?

  120. FishyLuv

    Wait till you're a church-attending Christian and word gets out

    hat you build websites. From then on, your church gets a really nice website. And your pastor is so excited that he tells all his friends. And from on, all the churches in the area are constantly calling with their tales of woe, how someone such-and-such, who was a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend (and everyone liked him) offered to build them a website, but since there was no clear chain of command and no one ever actually bothered to decide exactly who was PAYING for the hosting or domain name, it's now a complete disaster and a wreck and hasn't been updated since Joomla and has a dozen viruses in it. And the original website guy is nowhere to be found. And you, because you're a nice guy and your wife is pretty and smiles at you, you accept yet another hopeless (unpaid) thankless assignment, which will guarantee that you fight with the disgruntled tech guy, the toothless old board members who want blue on the banner instead of red, and the various church members who wall want their "ministries" front and center on the page.

    And yes, this article torked me so much I DID sign up for a new account just to comment.

    1. Havin_it

      Re: Wait till you're a church-attending Christian and word gets out

      Well... forgive them?

  121. RyokuMas

    Play by BOFH rules

    When people ask me to take a look at their computer because "something's not working", I tell them that I build websites and games, and know nothing about hardware/support. If they don't take the hint, I will occasionally agree to take a look (after making sure they understand that I might not be able to fix the problem)... then root the hell out of the machine in question.

    It's actually quite satisfying, the look of abject horror on someone's face after they hand you a machine that won't connect to wifi or something similar only to get it back stuck in full-on BSOD.

    Needless to say, I haven't had to "take a look at someone's PC" for some time now.

  122. bowdie

    I live and work in Cheltenham. I tell everyone I meet (that I'm unlikely to have much to do with) that I'm a civil servant. That kills it dead. Anyone that knows I really work in IT support knows that I have a very strict personal rule that I do not fix, or even offer advice*, regarding computers.

    I fix my parents stuff, anyone else can get knotted.

    *My stock response to "what computer should I buy" and the like is just "The best thing you can afford from the Dell catolouge"

  123. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why don't they do it if you're not in IT?

    I am the owner of a website, so now have developers working for me doing the technical stuff. I have an IT degree and programming experience, but know sweet FA about Windows, so would not feel comfortable poking through the registry, etc.

    When I get asked to fix someone's PC, I ask what car they drive. When they say 'Renault', I tell them to imagine that the air-conditioning is broken on their Clio, and that I'm the head of Lotus. Would they ask me to come into their garage and poke around under the bonnet? 'Of course not!', they answer, shaking their head at the ridiculousness of the suggestion. Then a few seconds later you see the penny finally drop, and they'll sheepishly change the topic.

  124. Arg0n

    Why The Lies?

    I don't get the lying or the hassle. If people ask me what I do, I tell them I work for small IT firm. If they ask me to fix something I just simply tell them I don't fix stuff outside of work and tell them to bring it down to the workshop.

    Never had an issue with anyone yet.

  125. Ben Rosenthal
    Thumb Up

    I am a PC repair guy (among other things), and I still won't set up your smegging iFad, and certainly not for free in my spare time.

    If cash money is offered I might consider it, but that's pretty rare, for some reason people see technical assistance as something they deserve just for knowing me in the most vague manner.

    Even taking payment for a job is risky, as people then expect a lifetime of support to be paid for by the thirty quid or whatever they paid for an hours work.

  126. SeanEllis

    Switch to Linux

    It's a complete Get Out of Jail Free. "Oh, it's a Windows/Mac machine. Sorry, I haven't touched one of those in years. I could switch it over to Ubuntu for you. No? Linux Mint? Gentoo? Oh, OK then. Bye."

  127. Anonymous Coward

    Now and again

    I do something for a neighbour. I don't mind as she doesn't ask very often. Just after her father died I built the PC he had bought the parts for. No problems with it at all. I didn't want anything and told her so but I ended up with a few bottles. Nobody else asks so not a problem for me. I am currently trying to get an old laptop of hers up and running. Vista would install but wouldn't see the nic so it wouldn't connect to the net and reactivate so I am looking at installing a Linux distro. Zorin might just be the one Mint wouldn't work, it complained about a directory having the wrong perms when starting up X, but the directory perms were fine).

    Judging by the comments, this situation varies from person to person. I don't mind helping out friends, family and neighbours as it may save them some hassle in the long run. It doesn't happen very often so I don't mind. The odd glass or three when I pop over to say hello also helps. And her OH is a builder. Advice very useful but I would certainly pay him for any work he did for us. The guttering needs looking at so he may be able to help and we can pad out his wallet for it too.

  128. kb

    Easy way to fix that..

    I used to get the same from my friends and relatives until I told them flat footed i have ONE, and only one simple rule that shall NEVER be broken under pain of death...MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY.

    What does that mean? Simple you want a desktop I BUILD IT so I KNOW that you are not buying some underpowered piece of garbage that is gonna be choking and sputtering in 6 months, you want a portable I PICK IT for the same reason, you need gear like a printer or wireless YOU WILL COME TO ME so that I may choose the model, again you don't know squat and if you pick the wrong thing you are just gonna throw money down the toilet and if you want to do that go to Geek Squad and get ripped off, the choice is yours.

    Since I have done this? NO more headaches because the ones dumb enough to think they know better can go get their wallets raped for awhile until they either crawl with their tails between their legs and watch me throw the rubbish out and start over or get used to failure, the smart ones? Are enjoying hassle free computing because i don't mess with trash. Now that isn't to say I'm forcing them to buy high end gear, far from it, if they want a desktop I build them a quite nice and affordable AMD Athlon triple of Phenom II quad, on the laptop front there are several companies that make nice AMD A series laptops that are VERY affordable without being flimsy plastic junk.

    They save money and more importantly I KNOW what they have, that it will work with what they've got, and since i did the building and setting up I have made it as close to moron proof as humanly possible and a good 95%+ of problems they can possibly run into I can have fixed in under 30 minutes as I set up sensible backup plans using software simple enough I can walk them through a restore over the phone.

    Believe me do this and you WILL weed the irritants out but quick, once they know that you will NEVER budge from this rule they will either accept that you know more about such things than they do and listen to you or they will go away never to darken your door again and good riddance i say. with a little common sense one can have a truly networked home that is so simple your dad can run the whole thing, but if you let them just go off willy nilly and buy any old junk and expect you to "make it work"? Well I'm sorry but you really should have just listened to me in the first place and you wouldn't be in this mess, would you?

  129. thondwe
    Thumb Up

    Try Africa

    Seems I've mostly avoided this fate now (university IT manager makes me too scary?), but when I was a volunteer in Malawi, I got roped in to fix every aid workers laptop, and quite a few NGO office set ups plus the local university! Local I.T. Support was virtually non existent, with only one I.T. "Shop" in the next town which was way expensive.

    Viruses and pirated software was rife, and laptops were always bust - given the heat, dust, poor "roads" not a suprise. And AOL was on pretty much every machine!


  130. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tail pipe warranty

    If asked, I usually tell them I will fix it but it comes with a tailpipe warranty. To which they usually ask "what's that?" and I reply "the warranty is only as good as the visibility of you or my exhaust pipe, once one of them disappears from view so does the warranty".

    Seriously though, I am upfront on expectations. I tell them that I will help them but don't expect me to drop everything for them when the proverbial shit hits the fan. They will get some remote support from me or they can google the answer themselves. If it is hardware related then I tell them what I think they should do (i.e. buy the part, I will help them with fitting it and getting it working, tail pip warranty included) and if they don't take my advice, all the better for me.

    Anonymous 'cos too many of my colleagues and friends are Register readers.

  131. Dan Howarth
    Thumb Down

    Ah, the Set-Top box...

    Apparently, because I work in enterprise IT, my friends and family have asked me about installing/fixing the following things;

    1) LCD Hi-Def TV

    2) Car alarm

    3) House alarm

    4) Cooker

    5) Car ECU ("but you work with computers. It's a computer.")

    6) Smartphones/tablets

    7) Windows (the OS, not the aperture)

    So it seems that because I work with servers, that also includes the above list.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have a look at some things. I fixed my Dad's motor-mover for his caravan, as it was a crappy soldering job. Being a ham radio enthusiast has its advantages.

    I still help my Dad these days (who still hasn't grasped the terminology... "I clicked onto my internet client and.....") and that's about it.

  132. kev-martin

    your only mistake is not chanrging, or not charging enough.

    I get all the knocks at the door and the regular "how do I" text messages, but I charge the f*ckers.

    Why should I do it for nowt?

  133. Fiddler on the roof
    Thumb Down

    It got too much

    I stopped doing freebie work for people when my neighbour (who is a complete idiot) asked me to go round and download his pictures from his camera for the 3rd time. He very generously agreed to write down the process this time so he wouldnt have to ask me to do it again, he then looked for a peice of paper on his little home office desk. He eventually found one and lo and behold it already had the instructions on it because he'd written them down last time so he wouldn't have to ask me again!! He then offered me a bottle of beer for my time, now you may think it would be one of those pint bottles of expensive beer you can get from a super market, but no it was one of those "stubbies" that you can get 24 of for a fiver. He asked me about 2 months later to look at his printer as it wasn't working correctly. I refused saying I was far to busy with a new hobby that I (didn't) have, the look on his face was priceless and from that moment till he moved house a year or so ago our relationship went gradually downhilll till we barely spoke. Apparently I was obliged to provide him with free computer suppport for the rest of his life.

    On the other hand I have a neighbour who asks me to look at something from time to time and he always gives me a litre of Bombay Saphire, he's now the only person in the road I will do work for.

  134. The Jase

    scope creep

    "Oh you work in IT. Could you design our website/newsletter/whatever?"

    Sure, I could do it...badly. Get a specialist if you want it done properly.

  135. Chika

    Yes, I recognise all of the above with one notable addition.

    Actually, I rather enjoy getting old kit to work, but my biggest gripe is when somebody goes out and buys a nice, shiny new machine, gets it home, plugs it in then hasn't the slightest clue how to use it. One of the latest bugbears is where a user with only a slight grasp of how to use Windows XP suddenly goes out and buys a Mac of some sort because one of his friends or colleagues has one and it looks nice. BLOODY HELL! A computer is NOT a fashion accessory! But they do it all the same but expect the same degree of support from me that they get for whatever they used to use.

    To an extent, I'm lucky in that I've been exposed to many different systems over the years so I have a good idea where to look on any given bit of kit, but it still beggars the question; if you don't know how to use it, why buy it? Learn about it first, then you have a better idea about whether you should buy it. The shame is that, in every situation, the problem all comes back to a failure to ask the first, basic rules of IT procurement:-

    What do I need it for? If you can't answer that, go buy a pencil and a pad.

    Does this machine do what I want it to do? If not, what are you doing buying it?

    Do I know how to make it do what I want it to do? I refer you to the previous answers.

    If the system I have does what I want it to do, why do I need to change it? You buy new kit to resolve a legitimate problem, not just because it's shiny.

    Would that more folk would ask these questions, then this problem would not be so acute.

    1. Nick Pettefar

      New Mac

      My mother bought a Mac Book Pro to play Facebook Scrabble on while her partner watches the football.

      Then she persuaded the PC World tech guy to come to her house to find out why e she couldn't access Facebook. Of course she didn't have WiFi...


  136. Alistair Dabbs

    Nothing to say

    I really have nothing more to say on the matter. However, it would be nice to see the number of comments hit 300.

  137. CountZer0

    I blame google myself

    Try telling someone to go to a website by patiently giving them the URL. They type the www. in the bloody google search box, cos google is the internet innit? Address bar? what's an address bar?

  138. Magnus_Pym

    My laptop has slowed down...

    ... is usually the opening gambit. "Yes, that happens I say".

    "I think I need a new one" I ignore this but most persist. "What should I buy?"

    "Reconditioned Lenovo T series or a macbook." is my the stock answer (make of that what you will).

    ...Time passes...

    "I thought about what you said about Len.. thingy's and mac but I went to PC world and the had a sale on I got a much better deal on a (Insert shite of the day here) are they any good? Only it's started to do this thing where..." I feign death at this point.

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