back to article I haven't bought new pants for years, why do I have to keep buying new PCs?

It's a friends and family episode of On Call today, dedicated to the moments when one's attempts to render IT assistance are met with bafflement or just plain hostility. Our story takes us to the mid-1990s and a reader Regomised as "Liz" who had just landed her first IT gig in a rural US computer store. The magic words "I'll …

  1. CrackedNoggin

    Apple-achia

  2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    When you say "pants",

    do you mean that in the American or British sense?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: When you say "pants",

      Yes.

      1. FIA Silver badge

        Re: When you say "pants",

        Just to be clear, we mean 'plural' too.

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: When you say "pants",

      With some of my colleagues I'm convinced that they were a packaged purchase. I can't be sure, unlike the certainty I had about one guy's shirt re-use cycle when I noticed that the bloodstains on Wednesday's short were exactly the same as the ones that I saw on Tuesday.

    3. Stuart Moore
      Linux

      Re: When you say "pants",

      In the doggie breathing hard sense

    4. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: When you say "pants",

      Lemme think... My oldest machine still in regular use (ok, as a radio / media player, mpdroid is a wonderful thing!) is a netbook bought ca. 2010. I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old. I have gained about a stone or two since then, so they don't fit any more (well, some of them). Some are still ok. The netbook has a weird heisenbug with the display, it sometimes does not want to work. I guess travelling the world (and daily commutes) for five years didn't do it good. Then I bought the "current" notebook. Not sure when I will replace it, maybe in a few years.

      Back then, processor power increased a lot faster, or the need for more RAM, faster CPUs etc. was increasing much faster than today.

      On the tech support: I got out of that after my dad called about some probelm (which I did solve in the end, to be fair), and I started troubleshooting it by asking "what is in the bottom left corner of the screen?" His reply was "the 'start' button". I then asked "what's on that?", which was, of course, the windows logo, and then I just replied by "aah, that would be it". As I said, I did figure out the problem, but that was the last time I got called for tech support - my brother (being a Windows guy) was not as lucky ;)

      1. TheManCalledStan

        Re: When you say "pants", - nothing wrong with old tech

        2008 MAC Pro Quad Core, makes an excellent MInecraft server for my kids and their friends to grief each other on!

        1. Snapper

          Re: When you say "pants", - nothing wrong with old tech

          My Mac Pro 2008 (admittedly upgraded with more RAM and an SSD) is running Microsoft 365 and Adobe CC 2020 quite well. Runs my business as well. My trusty MacBook Pro 13" is from 2012, and I take it everywhere.

          1. TimMaher Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: When you say "pants", - nothing wrong with old tech

            Spot on @Snap. I recently upgraded from a Pro 2008 to a re-furbed Pro 2012 as I needed to move the OS and some apps further along the road.

            I also have an early 2014 book pro retina for travel.

      2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

        Re: When you say "pants",

        My oldest machine still in regular use (ok, as a radio / media player, mpdroid is a wonderful thing!) is a netbook bought ca. 2010. I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old.

        I'm with you on the netbook thing - I have one of a similar vintage plugged into my midi hifi system (old school!) as a source of online streams.

        In the trousers department....as I type this I'm wearing a pair of jeans that are at least pre-Y2K. They're a bit tatty around the edges, but perfectly serviceable in these working-from-home days. I hate clothes shopping more than just about anything else in the world, but thankfully my waistline has never expanded with age.

        1. Shooter

          Re: When you say "pants",

          >> but thankfully my waistline has never expanded with age.

          No offense, but I hate you.

          1. Aus Tech

            Re: When you say "pants",

            "No offence, but I hate you"

            Then you'll hate me even more, because over the past 12 months, my waist has shrunk by 2 inches, so now I'm back into 36 inch waists on my suits, trousers and jeans and underwear, and I'm aiming to stay there.

      3. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: When you say "pants",

        I played the opposite card, I am a Windows guy so made sure parentals got Samsung tablets so Brother could do the support.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: When you say "pants",

          "made sure parentals got Samsung tablets so Brother could do the support."

          Are Brother still in the IT business? I've not seen a Brother printer or PC in years. And why would they support Samsung tablets? Last time a saw a Brother logo it was on the side of a sewing machine :-)

          1. NorthIowan

            Re: When you say "pants",

            They still make Brother printers, I hope.

            I just bought one last week to replace my 18 year old HP. It prints and scans much faster. ;-)

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: When you say "pants",

              Thanks, just had a quick look, and yes, they do.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: When you say "pants",

              They're rebranding to the gender-neutral name "Sibling".

            3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

              Re: When you say "pants",

              +1

              Yes, got a Brother laser to replace a similar vintage HP. Solid construction. Looked at toner prices before buying - reasonable.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: When you say "pants",

            They make very good sewing machines. We even take my SO's Brother on vacation with us.

      4. jake Silver badge

        Re: When you say "pants",

        My "daily driver" is a 17 year old laptop running Slackware-current.

        1. AK565

          Re: When you say "pants",

          Lenovo X220s and a T431s.

          Dell E6510. That's as new as I go.

          1. rototype

            Re: When you say "pants",

            IBM X3650 server (NAS) and Lenovo T410 still going strong, although now relegated to second fiddle since I bought one of these fancy IdeaPad Flip thingies in late 2019. Still use the T410 though, it's got an ethernet port on it so necessary for plugging in and sorting out issues with broadband modems/routers.

            Oh, and the oldest trousers (pants) are probably on my good suit, circa 1990 - AND they still fit!! (just). Jeans just don't seem to last that long for me, I tend to wear them out (I don't believe in continuing once the knees/pockets are through etc..).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When you say "pants",

          Congratulations on paying more money for electricity then you would have spent on a new computer I guess??

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

        I'm not trying to outbid you (pants?! In my days, we used mammoth fur, etc.), but I do have (and use some clothes that I bought in early to mid-1990s, and while I can't say they're 'going strong', they... keep going. I wear them more for my own amusement and sentiment's sake, than for lack of anything 'new', I don't give a f... what people think, so why not? In fact (trying desperately to outbid myself) I have two shirts, one dating from late 1980s (already purchased 2nd hand then), the other, possibly, going back to around 1988-ish (used in my late teens, then only at times, even though it was a casual, short-sleeve one. Now it's a bit tight in some stress points, but not tight enough to let go (or pass it to my son ;). And, on that subject, I have several pieces of clothing that my parents wore, one leather-like jacket (?) that I remember mid to late 1970s, but possibly older. I don't wear them, because they're bullet-proof heavy, and I don't have any need for them, but if my kids, at some point, decide to explore 'ancient' fashions, I would be really pleased, and so would be my parents. Now, on that 15th century suit of armour that my grand-grand-grand-grand... nope.

        Looking around... gosh, this computer / mobile crap is the only exception around that's relatively 'young and fresh', ie. less than 10 years old, the rest is just... older. Or much older ;)

        Anyway, the subject is, "why buy new pc?" Why indeed.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

          I have a carefully preserved "Destination Docklands" t-shirt that I don't wear any more due to its propensity to start falling apart.

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

          I still have (and wear, occasionally) T-shirts from going to concerts in the 1970s. I have the well-worn Levis jeans and jackets to go with them ... but these are quite a bit newer, the originals are long gone.

          I still use my dad's welding gloves & jacket from the 1940s.

          I wear my Grandfather's depression era Stetson (real working hat, not a sunday-go-to-meeting version) when I'm riding fence in the summer. I've been told I shouldn't, it's worth too much ... but I'm not the kind of guy to hang a tool on the wall and admire it when it still has years of use left in it. Likewise, I still use his linen duster when conditions warrant it, roughly the same age.

          We have all kinds of knitted/crocheted hats, gloves, scarves and socks that my Great Grandmother made in the late 1800s for pin money. They are still wearable, and we use them sometimes. Likewise, her homemade quilts, blankets, knee rugs and throws are also still in use, as are her table linens. (All were stored in ceder lined steamer trunks for probably 85 or 90 years, and survived remarkably well.)

          I have a wide leather belt that my family has used for stropping knives (and occasionally kids, or so rumo(u)r has it) since before my Father was born. I recently discovered a photo that proves it was originally my Great Grandfather's gun belt. The matching holster still houses his M1861 Colt Navy ...

          1. Chris 239
            Happy

            Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

            I would vae a large selection of clothes from the 80ies onward except I got married 13 years ago and SWMBO insisted I throw most of it away. Shame really, around now would probably be back in fashion! It was probably going out of fashion when I bought it - would have been nice to actually wear fashionable clothes! :-)

        3. CountCadaver

          Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

          I have some early 90s vintage swimming trunks (albeit bought as NOS about 10 years back)

          Oldest machine in daily use is about 10 years old (HPZ600) then the Z620 I'm using now in the lounge, soon to be going up to the office (well once the decorating is finally done...only taken me 6 weeks thus far....yeah I hate it)

          Media duties will then be handled by a 965 chipset motherboard with an X5460 771 Xeon with a conversion sticker on linux as windows 10 won't play nicely with the 771 conversion, literally won't boot at all....would if I put the Q6600 back in....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

            "I have some early 90s vintage swimming trunks (albeit bought as NOS about 10 years back)"

            I have a Jantzen pair that I bought in 1972 - even have the Standard 8 film of me wearing them. A fashionable improvement on my woollen ones that hung to the knees when full of water.

            My Fred Perry short shorts (70s?) were all bought on ebay. In excellent condition - their owners had probably hoped one day to diet enough for them to fit again. They actually came back into fashion a couple of years ago. School kids stopped singing "we like short shorts" as we passed in the street - and now wanted to know where they could buy them.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

              Digging through a trunk with old summer stuff, it turns out I still have a couple pair of boardshorts from the late 1960s. I haven't worn them in years, but they look to still be serviceable. And they still fit. I have a board from the same era, too ... I think I'll head for Halfmoon Bay tomorrow and see if anyone notices the anachronism :-)

              Or maybe not ... water temp's a trifle on the chilly side. Need neoprene at my age ...

        4. Stanislav Bonita

          Re: I still have some pairs of trousers that are that old

          My favourite jeans are 24 years old. I couldn't tell you what brand they are as the label has completely faded.

          My favourite tech is slightly newer. Laptops are not as robust or upgradable as desktops, but laptops are what I need, so I have to live with spending a chunk of money every 3 or 4 years.

      6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: When you say "pants",

        "My oldest machine still in regular use (ok, as a radio / media player, mpdroid is a wonderful thing!) is a netbook bought ca. 2010."

        I still have a netbook of that vintage. I'm not sure of the age but it was in the days of W7. It used to get used a fair bit to take on holiday to check email or as a compact work machine when on Grandad's Taxi duty but the latter service has been suspended for a year or so. It still runs Linux just fine, of course but I did fire it up yesterday to see how the Signal download page looked when viewed in Windows.

        Come the holiday season again (if it ever does) it'll probably get used again as the current laptop is a bit bigger than the previous one.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When you say "pants",

        Clothes: I have some hand-me-down dress pants (trousers for right-pondians) from my dad; I'm not sure what decade they were made in, but they fit and look good. I don't think I've acquired a new T-shirt in... 15 years? Yet my drawers are full of them, and several are worn every week. Some are over 20 years old.

        Computers: My **NEWEST** computer is 3 years old, with no notable upgrades in any system since then. My SO's MacBook Pro is over a decade old, and is doing ok. My desktop used to run WinXP, but does ok on Ubuntu 18.04.

        About time to replace the cell phone, though - if I have the wrong app running when a call comes in, it takes so long to switch to the call that it goes to voicemail instead!

      8. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: When you say "pants",

        In recent times I seem to have gained a inch on the horizontal & lost a inch on the vertical.

        Replacing the popped buttons with a jeans fastener 1" over & in one case getting the leg hem's which had long ceased to be a hem brought my wardrobe up to scratch.

        The prospect of now having to source chinos that are wider & shorter legs makes clothing shopping more challenging than ever.

        Talking of legacy clothing, I had a couple of belts that I liberated from my fathers wardrobe after his passing, the leather recently ceased to be usable as a belt, but I found replacements on the bay of flea's to fit the buckles to keeping his memory alive that little bit longer.

        A couple of my leather jackets & long coats recently got donated to charity as the result of the first line on this post.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When you say "pants",

          >The prospect of now having to source chinos that are wider & shorter legs makes clothing shopping more challenging than ever.

          Had 'fun' last year, needed some new trousers, so decided M&S should do the trick, the only problem was they no longer had consistent sizing: the label in my old M&S trousers might say 34R and comfortably fit me and the new measurements agreed, but I couldn't find a single pair of new 34R trousers that fitted me (even allowing for 'give'). So every pair returned, fortunately, didn't have this problem at Next - probably explained why M&S had a BOGOF sale on and Next didn't. This was during the brief store opening period so wasn't too onerous, just irritating.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: When you say "pants",

            A few years ago I had some M&S chinos from a charity shop. Liked them - so bought three identically labelled ones new from M&S. The actual waist sizes varied by up to 2 inches.

            1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: When you say "pants",

              That tends to be why I find something that fits & I like, then buy the rest, sometimes in different colours just for variety & consistency of fitting (If not return to shop with receipt).

              I have ceased to have the issue of trying to explain that just because one factory in the far east, designates one size as a 34" waist, another factory may decide that their 34" is going to be +/- 1.5" difference for their brand.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: When you say "pants",

                Shoes are worse ... Different manufacturers use different sized lasts. And plants on different continents belonging to the same manufacturer use different sized lasts. The only the only good way to purchase shoes is to physically try them on.

                Once when I bought "walking the dawgs" shoes, I tried on four identically labeled pairs. Same manufacturer, make, model, size and Universal Product Code. One pair was too small, one too big, and two fit as perfectly as off-the-shelf shoes ever do. I bought the two. They were made in Mexico, the large pair was made in Malaysia, and the small pair was made in Taiwan. Caveat emptor.

        2. Shooter

          Re: When you say "pants",

          I miss the days when my inseam measurement exceeded my waistband measurement.

      9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: When you say "pants",

        "My oldest machine still in regular use...is a netbook bought ca. 2010."

        My oldest computer in semi-regular use is my Amiga 1200!

        My actual oldest computer is my Video Genie (TRS-80 model 1 clone). It was still working 5 years ago when I spent an hour or 5 playing Big5 Galaxy Invaders, Robot Attack, Adventure Internationals Sea Dragon and even a short spell with SubLogics Flight Simulator (The Adam and Eve of the current MS FlightSim) . Sadly, just from a few old cassette tapes since the FDD/Printer expansion, the printer and the two floppy drivers (and disks) are long gone but the 32K RAM expansion giving a whopping 48K of RAM is still in there along with the additional 1Kx1-bit RAM chip to get 8-bit video RAM allowing lower case letters with the replacement character set ROM.

        1. Dave K Silver badge

          Re: When you say "pants",

          I have a Silicon Graphics Indigo2 from around 1996 which sees occasional use still. Mainly for hobbyist stuff these days if I'm honest! I also managed 8 years out of my previous PC, which isn't bad given that I do play games on it.

      10. MJB7
        Headmaster

        Re: When you say "pants",

        "Some trousers that are that old"? 2010? Today I was wearing the moleskin trousers I inherited from my father; he died in 1994 - and they were nothing like brand-new when he died.

        I use them for DIY/gardening in cold weather, but they are starting to get a bit worn at the knees.

        Icon: Similar era.

      11. swm Silver badge

        Re: When you say "pants",

        I still have a 20 year old Dell laptop that runs UBUNTU just fine. (It used to windows NT but had some problems so I wiped the disk and then it ran much faster and had better screen resolution.)

      12. NITS

        Re: When you say "pants",

        I still carry a Dell D610 (circa 2005). It dualboots WinXP (for some apps I need for work) and Xubuntu (for other apps I need). I have acquired several spare D610s in case this one ever dies.

        It *is* a bit long in the tooth. Anyone know a newer laptop that has a 10/100/1000 Broadcom NIC?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When you say "pants",

          The Dell Latitude E6410 - and probably others in their E64xx range - has an Intel 82557LM Gigabit Ethernet port. They are very sturdy machines that flooded the ex-business "write-down" market a few years ago. Most were Windows Vista or 7 - but they also sold an "N" range that was for Linux. The latter don't have a Windows licence and the Dell W7 install won't accept them as valid .

        2. The Unexpected Bill
          Go

          Re: When you say "pants",

          Dell kept using Broadcom Ethernet chips in their Latitude laptops until at least the D530/630/830. I've never had a problem with any of them under any OS, but I'm not sure why they didn't go with Intel Ethernet parts like almost everyone else.

          I still have several in regular (almost daily) use, particularly the D630. There's also a D531 floating around, one of those curious models where Dell briefly dipped their toe into the AMD world. (Not sure what it has for a wired Ethernet solution, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was also Broadcom based.)

          Finding good working batteries is getting to be more and more of a problem. (The cheap Chinese ones aren't very good. Thankfully, none have halted and caught fire as yet.)

          1. NITS

            Re: When you say "pants",

            My killer app is Broadcom Advanced Control Suite. It exposes the Broadcom NIC's ability to do cable analysis. (I suspect it does time domain reflectometry) to tell you the length of each pair, and will warn you if there's noise or a split pair. Quite handy in localizing cable faults -- if it says that pair 3 is open 30 meters from the jack, look for a damaged or pinched cable 100 feet away. Its analysis is qualitative, not quantitative. It's not as rigorous as a full-on cable certifier, but it gets the job done and is a lot less costly.

            That's why I was looking for newer machines with Broadcom NICs, in case my stock of D610s ever runs out. Anyone know of an app that exposes the cable analysis ability of Intel (or other) NICs?

      13. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: When you say "pants",

        Thinkpad T42 here (2005 ish) is the oldest. Can run OpenBSD and Slackware fine but there are limits to what you can do with 1Gb, mainly Web browsers. I just disable javascript in Firefox.

        Claudio Magris is an Italian national and a professor of German literature. His book Danube is worth tracking down if you like a slow episodic non-fiction read. I was brought up sharp by his comment at one point that the coat he was wearing had lasted longer than the Thousand Year Reich (10 years). I have a coat and a few shirts from around the Millennium but they are like tents on me now (been losing weight to stave off type 2).

        Back on topic in a vague sort of way: would links and something like alpine have run under DOS on a 286? or were they just too advanced. Was there a tcp/ip stack even?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: When you say "pants",

          "Back on topic in a vague sort of way: would links and something like alpine have run under DOS on a 286? or were they just too advanced. Was there a tcp/ip stack even?"

          Links wasn't released until 1999, so that likely wasn't an option. According to the Wikipedia page, Lynx (not the same thing) was ported to DOS in 1994. So that probably would work except it doesn't do anything graphical. I suppose that's an option, but which would you rather do: convince a relative to buy a newer computer or endure their complaints about how the internet keeps telling them they can see pictures but all they see is text (with the bonus feature of complaining that their 286 also can't run [insert other possible software])?

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: When you say "pants",

          Early Minix and Coherent versions ran on as little as an 8088.

          DOS had various bastardized variations of TCP/IP available for it, but I always found it easier to "dial" in to a shell account on a *nix machine. (Procomm worked well serial-port to serial port, no modems and telco required). I got Pine to compile on DOS. Lynx compiled quite nicely on DOS. Both tested out OK, but I never saw a real need for them.

          Minix got TCP/IP late in life. Coherent, to all intents and purposes, never did, but made very good use of Taylor UUCP for networking. Both could use serial-serial communications like DOS (minicom worked well). Both could also do faster networking with ethernet, so telneting into a shell account on a more capable machine was a no-brainer. I'm fairly certain I used Pine on both, but I can't remember if I compiled it myself, or if it came with (maybe it came with, but I compiled a newer version?). Same for lynx,

          Pine was about 1990, Alpine about 2007. Lynx was 1992, links was 1999.

    5. Naselus

      Re: When you say "pants",

      In the British sense, I've owned pants longer than some computers last. In the American sense, I've worn them continuously for longer.

    6. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: When you say "pants",

      I've got trousers that remember a time before windows XP and pants that can no longer be returned to M&S as the label has faded so badly the product number can't be read any more (I'm pretty sure they predate 3G mobiles... Still hold bits in the right place).

      That being said.. The trouser appear to have shrunk and the pants definitely aren't as tight as they used to be.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: When you say "pants",

        Modern M&S pants are crap. I’ve got some decades old “Pants to Poverty” bamboos that have outlasted my most recent, two year old, Marks & Sparks. Not buying from them again.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: When you say "pants",

          M&S sourcing them from overseas was when it all started to go wrong. "All" has a fairly wide definition there.

        2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Re: When you say "pants",

          Indeed, I bought some a while ago and I'm down to 2 of the original 5. Same for the socks, only one of those bought the same time as the pants survive too this day.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When you say "pants",

          "Modern M&S pants are crap."

          They have been for many years. I switched to a reasonably priced made in UK brand - Kiniki. Their styles may not suit everyone though - but I'm still my 1970s shape.

    7. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: When you say "pants",

      In the UK caving scene it used to be that the hardest cavers wore the worst gear. Home-made wetsuits with 3 layers of patches on the knees and the knees still visible, etc!

      I had 3 pair of caving pants. I had to wear them all at the same time as they all had multiple holes!

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: When you say "pants",

        Having injured myself & taking a chunk out of my knee one Friday night (Start of the evening & having consumed only one pint), which was healing nicely, when I went caving in Cheddar Gorge & ripped the whole massive scab off leaving me with a nice scar on the kneecap.

        Icon - I returned to the pub & drank lots of painkiller instead.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: When you say "pants",

        >I had 3 pair of caving pants. I had to wear them all at the same time ...

        I thought they only did that because ripping pants was cheaper than ripping wet suits.

  3. John70

    Only relative tech support I give is my parents and siblings (not often, their kids know more than them)

    1. Naselus

      My sister used to ask me for tech support until I explained my hourly consultancy rate.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "My sister used to ask me for tech support until I explained my hourly consultancy rate."

        When someone asks how much they owe me for fix - I reply "you can't afford me" - and refuse any payment. That seems to stop them recommending to their friends that they know someone who can fix PCs cheaply.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Linux

      Computters for family members - Best Practices

      I brought both my kids up to know how to use (and maintain) a computer. At a tender age, they both had Data General Dasher/One (aka "Shark") desktops, though they were prototype models from the scrap bin and the kiddos were warned not to stick their fingers in any openings whilst playing "Popcorn" or Space Invaders. 3.5 floppies booting DOS.

      Things progressed from there. Now they're both in their 30s, the younger one having done IT work for the Corcoran Gallery in DC and currently a middle school librarian with two Masters degrees, and the older one (Captain in the Army, currently stationed in Hawaii) has built several gaming rigs for himself. Nothing like bringing your kids up right, I always say.

      Now, my brother, who is not an idiot, but does not grok computers, has a castoff desktop I hauled home from work a few years ago. Fine for spreadsheets and web videos, and he needs nothing more sophisticated. I started him off with a Windows machine, many years back, but quickly grew tired of the phone calls and trips over to straighten out whatever borkage had manifested itself. So, about 15 years ago, I introduced him (forcibly) to Linux (first, Ubuntu, now Mint). It has worked out well for both of us. I talked to him recently and discovered he was paying about four times what I was for internet (he was still on an old rate plan). He's now grateful to me for getting him to call the company and remind them that he should be paying less and getting more; to their credit, they agreed.

  4. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    So many tales

    Say you work in IT in a social situation and shity kit/phones appear like magic. Best to say your a proctologist, unlikely they ask you to stick your finger up their arse in the pub, but your milage may vary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So many tales

      only problem is the tendency for them to drop their trousers in the middle of a party and ask you to just have a quick look...

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: So many tales

        Depends on the sort of party!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So many tales

        I once went to a friend's fancy dress birthday party dressed in just a "grass" skirt and body paint. I had been warned that one of the other guests was notorious for pulling mens' trousers down after she had had a few drinks.

        Someone asked what brand of underwear I was wearing - so I took them off and declared "M&S". At this point the woman was being encouraged by other guests to take my "grass" skirt off - and she was so embarrassed she refused. I revealed a G-string under my M&S briefs - although as a naturist being naked is not a hang-up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So many tales

      Or a traffic warden.....?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: So many tales

        Bad move. Either you get a hit taken out on you or you'll be inundated with requests to get tickets fixed.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: So many tales

      I tell them I work with embedded devices, repeat some dimly remembered stuff from my 6502 days, and make it quite clear that XP is the last version of Windows I've ever used or touched.

      If they still persist, fine. It's my free time outside of work hours, so it's €80 per hour (or part hour) including travel time, and anything done will be documented and I'll expect a signed receipt (to stop the "you were the last person to touch this so fix this totally unrelated problem for free" wheeze).

      That usually gets an astonished reaction and "f off", which I'm quite happy with. F off indeed. I used to provide support for tea and cookies. I got taken advantage of. No longer.

    4. Dan Watson

      Re: So many tales

      And most of the time you won’t need to shake hands with anyone, either.

  5. David Robinson 1

    "But I hardly use it."

    My dad mainly uses his laptop these days, but in his study has a old tower PC I built for him. I recently got a call from him, "My PC won't turn on."

    Me: "Well, it is quite old, it's probably given up the ghost."

    Dad: "But I hardly use it."

    Me: "Didn't you tell me that you never used to turn it off because it took too long to start up?"

    The next time I was around my parents, I cracked open the side panel to see if I could spot anything obvious but nothing jumped out at me. Out of curiosity, I did a search for the motherboard model number. Released in 2004, so a 16 year old PC, most likely running XP.

    Me: "Yeah, after 16 years, I think it owes you nothing at this point."

    Fortunately I was able to pull the IDE(!) HDD and successfully copy his files to an external HDD.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "But I hardly use it."

      "but nothing jumped out at me"

      Probably just as well.

      I've got several towers. Sentiment forbids getting rid of them even though one of then is my only SCO box & won't run because it needs a new AT PSU.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "But I hardly use it."

        I really need to get rid of my old server. I decommissioned it several years ago, but haven't bothered ditching it yet. It's a Pentium 3.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: "But I hardly use it."

        "won't run because it needs a new AT PSU."

        So fix it. It's hardly rocket surgery.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "But I hardly use it."

          Missing component. I need to get a round tuit.

    2. aidanstevens

      Re: "But I hardly use it."

      It turns my stomach to think how much electricity has been wasted by people over the years which could have been saved with the use of Sleep or Hibernate modes.

      Could have saved plenty of time watching OSs boot also.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "But I hardly use it."

        Looking at the ancient Compaq running as my router/firewall, I could probably have saved much money by replacing it 10 years ago with something more power efficient. I should probably do something about that sometime soon. On the other hand, it only cost me £5 when I got it about 15 years ago as "scrap" from my employer. It was classed obsolete by the standards of the day and back then I think was when it was becoming a cost to get rid of electronics.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "But I hardly use it."

          My "previously used", "fell into my lap", 1988 Sun 3/470 "Pegasus" is still happily serving email, gopher, usenet, ftp (and now that new-fangled WWW-thingy) for my friends & family, as she has for over thirty years :-)

          She's firewalled behind a more modern stateful firewall, of course. She has outlasted eight "headless" laptop Slackware fallover boxen ... I honestly think I'll shed a tear or two when she finally goes titsup, even though I'm not prone to being emotional about hardware.

          Yes, I know I could save a few bob on electricity with newer kit. Frankly, in this particular case I don't give a shit.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "But I hardly use it."

            Dude!

            And I mean that with no sarcasm and full respect.

            Sun made wonderful machines in their all too brief time.

            Brief. Now that was an editor.

  6. ColinPa

    Uncle sounds like my father

    Although my father had a chain saw, as children we had to saw the wood up by hand, because you got warm twice - once cutting it up, and once burning it on the fire.

    We kids left home, my brother worked for the water board clearing timber from river banks. He came back one day and used his chain saw to cut up the pile of logs. Mum was every so grateful, as she could light the fire more often, and it made Dad even more unhappy because the wood got used up faster!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Uncle sounds like my father

      You kids using the hand saw was probably to keep you from pruning body parts accidentally, and had nothing to do with keeping warm twice. I can assure you I get just as warm making wood with a chainsaw as a hand saw.

      Besides, it keeps you warm four times: Once when you cut it, once when you split it, once when you stack it, and once when you burn it.

    2. rototype

      Re: Uncle sounds like my father

      Sounds to me like the real reason was that he begrudged the pice of the fuel to run said chainsaw. (and the kids labour is effectively free in comparison).

  7. Bogbody

    Arg....

    Apple stuff.... "I've got a new ishiny and I cant get my old stuff anymore"

    Do you know your icloud username/login ???

    "Whats that?"

    Cant help sorry - take it too the apple shop.

    Windows stuff

    LMGIFY ........

    :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Strangely, my experience is almost the exact opposite (except LMGIFY works for Windows and Mac). My current primary computer is a mid-2011 iMac; I've just finished editing a 20 minute video for the local church on it and, apart from no more updates for the OS (High Sierra), Microsoft (Office365 - because I need that in my Win10 VM, I also run it on the host Mac) and Adobe (which I've recently ditched because it was just costing more to get less).

      I have a 2014 MacBookPro as a backup - set up so I could switch over to it as my primary within a few minutes. Having been exploring video editing on my iPad (so I can continue on weekly jobs when away visiting family, without needing to take my MBP with me), I reckon an iPad could cover >75% of my current work; if Apple continue their iPadOS fork the way it's started, I reckon the final <25% will be covered within a couple years (and by the time I seriously need to think about replacing the iMac).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How about "can't transfer music to the old iPad from the even older MacBook". Because Apple decided to make all music transfer take place through iTunes (no other method allowed), and the MacBook can't run the right iTunes version because it would require an OS update that it can't handle (and would disable all our 32-bit software anyway). My Android phone, however, can be connected like a thumbdrive and the music files just copied across.

      I hate Apple.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Never heard of ssh, scp and rsync have you?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          How are they supposed to use those? You can't SCP files to an iPad unless you jailbreak it. They might not have a working jailbreak for the OS version it's on, and the people using it may not really want to take that risk. Also, even if they do have a jailbreak, some of them require iTunes to connect to the device so the jailbreak can emulate it. They could always try to get a different music player app which allows you to move files through a cloud account or web server, but you can't do that with the default one. As such, the complaint seems reasonable, given that most solutions that resolve it require some technical knowledge the average user doesn't really want to bother with.

  8. Andytug

    I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

    ...lack of back button etc, but for the elderly Apple is usually the answer

    Yes, overpriced, hobbled in file transfer, etc etc but the volume of "IT Support" calls drops to almost zero once you get them off laptops and onto iPads. And they last a fair while too.

    For those who must have a PC or laptop, an SSD upgrade from spinning rust (where possible) is a cheap way to speed up an older PC or laptop.

    The older stuff does have an analogy with old cars - the people who can keep those running are the ones with the knowledge, the cupboards stuffed with old parts, and so on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SSD

      I've recently resurrected a few Windows 10 systems by replacing the HDDs with SSDs. One 10 year old Samsung (originally Windows 7), a new Acer and a new HP (both sold with Windows 10).

      All were unusable, with Task Manager showing the disks running at 100% all of the time and major Windows Updates taking up to 12 hours to complete. Once the SSDs were installed, disk use went to virtually nothing and updates install in a more "normal" time frame.

      I can understand the 10 year old Samsung having problems, but I would have taken the other two back as "not fit for purpose" if they had been mine!

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: SSD

        The reason for that slowdown could well be the amount of system RAM. Frequent swapping on spinning rust slow things down significantly. With Windows 10 and all its bloat and things you can't properly turn off like "Cortana", you need a lot more base RAM just to run the OS without it slowing down.

        Even modern cheapo laptops often come with only 4GB, which is woeful these days. The first thing I'd suggest, before replacing the HDD with a SDD is popping the back off and putting another stick of memory into the empty second slot, or even better, replacing both with higher capacity sticks. Just make sure you get the right sort (laptop memory != desktop memory, DDR3 != DDR4, etc.) and I'd recommend getting the fastest RAM the system supports.

        You'll probably find this negates the need for the system to be at 100% disk usage right off the bat. You can then think about replacing the disk with a solid state one, but that will likely come with the ball-ache of reinstalling the OS and copying all the files over.

        1. Blitheringeejit
          Thumb Up

          Re: SSD

          >>but that will likely come with the ball-ache of reinstalling the OS and copying all the files over.

          Clonezilla is your friend! (With USB SATA interface if you're in laptop land.)

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: SSD

            A quick calculation shows that, at optimal speed of 480Mbps over USB2, a 500GB hard disk is going to take around 2.5 hours to copy over. In reality, you could be looking at closer to 100MBps on a laptop USB port, so somewhere North of 11 hours. Doable if you REALLY need to clone that drive, and have a good book to read, but a reinstall onto the clean SSD will probably be quicker and also give the opportunity to remove cruft and make sure all patches are installed.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: SSD

              If you use something more intelligent than clonezilla, something aware of the Windows 10 file system, it'll only copy over what it needs to copy, so time taken is dependant on how full the source disk is.

              1. Fabrizio

                Re: SSD

                I don't know when you used Clonezilla for the last time, but that's exactly what it does nowadays: only copy NTFS, EXT4 allocated sectors.(havent had a good look what it does with my ESP (FAT32) yet

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: SSD

                  It was quite some years ago, to be honest. Glad to hear it's improved because it is a good, free tool.

                  Luckily, the customers we deal with have changed over the years and we never need to copy HDDs these days. The customers we deal with have their own IT teams and they just image the new disks with their standard image thanks to server based user profiles :-)

            2. gnasher729 Silver badge

              Re: SSD

              Remember that USB has overhead - 480 Mbit isn’t 60 MB but only 48 MB, and not all of that is used for data transfer. And make sure you’re not using two drives on the same port.

          2. David Nash

            Re: SSD

            dd with an externally booted Linux. Traditionally this would be CD-ROM but many modern laptops don't have such a thing any more. Although since we're talking about old hardware, they probably do, so it's all good!

          3. Sudosu

            Re: SSD

            If the old drive is a SATA, i often use a cheap "stand alone" drive duplicator which can then also function as an external USB connected dual SATA caddy.

            It will clone smaller drives onto larger at the push of a button and has nice labeling marked Source and Target to reduce confusion.

            I think it can even clone larger drives to smaller if the partitions will fit as well, but its been a while since I have done that one.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: SSD

          >Even modern cheapo laptops often come with only 4GB, which is woeful these days.

          Agree.

          Been playing around with W10 x64 and had the opportunity to experiment with RAM on a couple of business desktop systems (had several dead systems, so pulled out the 4GB SIMMs).

          4GB and you can just about run stuff because Windows idling uses ~2.1GB of it, 8GB and normal MS Office apps run and work, 16GB only notice the 'slow' HDD on file load or save. Obviously, with the 8 and 16 configurations performance is further improved through dual-channel memory access. However, what is irritating is how many desktop systems now only have two SIMM slots, if one already has a 4GB SIMM installed, going beyond 8GB becomes expensive.

      2. nintendoeats

        Re: SSD

        I can do you one better: I have a Windows 98 machine running an SSD. That's through a SATA->IDE bridge of course, so max throughput is limited, but the improvement in random R/W is just silly. It's such a nice OS to use under those conditions, and you can really ring out the Duron.

        Of course you don't get the clicky-click experience of a cheap old HDD, but those things are failing so often I don't even bother installing them.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: SSD

          I have to say, I've never had a HDD fail on me. Looking back at my records, the last one I bought was a 3TB job back in 2013, which has been used constantly since (now as a secondary disk to a primary SSD). I have two other HDDs in my desktop, which are both older, by several years, and others in a box in a storage unit somewhere which are only not used because their capacity is now laughable and / or they are IDE disks. The oldest probably dates to the turn of the century and I fully expect it would work if I still had a motherboard I could plug it into.

          People talk about spinning rust failing, but the only components I've had fail in the last 20 years are a cheapo PSU, a 4GB stick of DDR3, and the power supply circuitry on a second-hand Dell laptop.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: SSD

            I've salvaged from a recycler & cherry picked units from works scrap pile over the last few years by maxing out the memory as much as possible (My stash of 4Gb SODIMMs has shrunk accordingly.) fitting a new SSD, then depending on the requirements fresh install of Windows or cloned from the spinning rust.

            I love keeping old tech going as much as possible haven't bought a new laptop in about 7 years.

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Windows

              Re: SSD

              You are a man after my own heart! I have not bought a new computer in years.

              My current system is running a gaming motherboard from eBay, an i7-6700 and RAM from Goodwill and a graphics card from a reseller I found through Googling. The power supply and case are several systems old, originally came from a castoff at work. I did buy a new CPU cooler for this.

              I have two laptops that were given to me by the IT folks at work when they upgraded people (pays to remember them at Christmas, I guess), which came sans HDD, natch -- one's now rocking an SSD which I splurged on and bought new. Of course, everything runs Linux Mint...

              My internet router and wifi access points are Netgear R7000 routers - $30 each off Goodwill and upgraded to the latest firmware.

            2. Andy A

              Re: SSD

              I've NEVER bought a new laptop (though work has delivered them on occasion), The laptop I'm using was new in about 2011 and bought from an eBay seller about 5 years ago. Doubled the RAM and moved my SSD from the box I'd worn out. The result is a box which is still better than most of the consumer stuff in the big retailers.

              I've just upgraded my home server. I picked up an HP DL380 G7 for 70 quid and a batch of 20 working SAS drives for another 30 quid. Threw in some extra RAM I had lying around and I have a box I can easily run up VMs for anything I like, such as the one for wasting the time of those scammers who ring up, pretend to be to Amazon or BT and try to get people's bank details.

              That VM has never been used for surfing the web but contains tempting things for them to copy to their own machines, such as "Log on to Bank Automatically.cmd" (brings up web page of a real bank, and if not on that machine, launches all sorts of destructive tasks in the background). Great fun!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: SSD

            I don't recall having one fail personally, but I've helped out a couple of folks who have. Seems most likely with laptops, as they get moved around a lot more.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: SSD

              (same AC, responding to myself)

              Come to think of it, I HAVE had a desktop-mounted HDD fail. It was on a small server, back before I invested in a UPS. On the way to a dinner out, we were stopped at a stop light. The light turned off, back on, back off again, then back on again. I turned to my spouse and said "Well, there goes the server." I was, unfortunately, right; HDD wouldn't boot anymore, and appeared to be a hardware issue (like fried circuit board).

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: SSD

            "The oldest probably dates to the turn of the century and I fully expect it would work if I still had a motherboard I could plug it into."

            The 2.5" HDD in my Amiga 1200 still works. It definitely dates back to before the turn of the century. Admittedly it spent m,any years not in use at all, but is most definitely still working. It's been imaged and said image is mounted on UAE, but I still prefer the real thing for games :-)

          4. gfx

            Re: SSD

            WD Blue (cheap consumer spunning rust drive) in an always on system... They will fail.

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: SSD

              Oh, I know they do fail, and I've helped people recover data from drives that have failed (not to the extent that they won't spin up, but where you have to use a tool such as recuva to get the data off). I guess laptop drives get a harder life because people don't treat laptops nicely, but at the same time, 2.5" disks are going to be inherently more hardy because the platters are smaller than 3.5" ones so have less angular momentum when spinning. I just think that hard disks aren't quite as fragile as some people would like to make out, and other hardware fails as well...

              1. Andy A
                Alert

                Re: SSD

                Had one HDD fail on me in a laptop. I'm one of those people that we tech support folks hate. I just pick up the laptop and go. Unplug the cables as I'm leaving the chair. No "sleep", no "hibernate".

                This drive was one with 512KB of semiconductor cache. Because it reported itself as an SSD, the "head park" routine built into the laptop did diddly squat. Result - several lost files. Luckily my backups were only 3 days old.

                Back in ye olden days, I lost head zero on the 20MB MFM drive I was using for software development. I wrote code to read in chunks of data from the remaining 5 heads, then ploughed through the results looking for chunks of source code. I located enough of it to compile, then compared the EXE file with the latest from a floppy disk. Find the difference, edit relevant module, rinse, repeat. Took two whole days. Going back to my latest backup would have taken 2 days, and I'd made changes inbetween.

                You only become paranoid about backups when you have actually lost something.

      3. Jon Bar

        Re: SSD

        As far as I'm concerned, any HP computer newer than the Omnibook 800 is "Not Fit For Purpose". I have pretty much the same view of Acer. Just finished dealing (via remote control) with my sister's dead HP, which she told me she (her husband) was going to try to resurrect with a new HDD and the recovery USB from her previous Acer. Why don't they ever listen?

    2. Martin Silver badge

      Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

      Or why not a Chromebook? Much cheaper than Apple kit, and basically nothing to support. I bought my sister one six months ago, brand new, for the princely sum of £179, and she's pleased as punch with it.

      1. l8gravely

        Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

        I support my in-laws and getting the Mum-in-law a chromebook was best thing I ever did. Just occasional issues, mostly due to her not groking computers or technology at all.

        On a side note, getting each of them their own Roku stick which can use my Netflix account has also done wonders for them as well. Esp since I forced them off their old DSL plan which just sucked in terms of reliability.

      2. gfx

        Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

        Yes I lended my Dad one because he used mostly chrome and gmail but he had never used a trackpad so had to bring an external mouse the next visit.

    3. Naselus

      Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

      Arguable tbh.

      My increasingly elderly mother has a phobia about touchsreens; she refuses to accept that they work and the only tabletoid she'll touch is one of the ancient non-touch Kindles with the wheel at the bottom. An iPad will be sneered at for 20 minutes then abandoned and never, ever charged, so we're on keyboard and mouse machines - preferably of the desktop variety, since the idea of moving around with a machine will be treated as borderline witchcraft.

      She can navigate Windows because she's used one variant or another for 30 years, but the idea of teaching her to use a different OS at this point is a non-starter, unless Apple release a version of MacOS which exactly simulates Windows 95's UI.

      1. TWB

        Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

        My wife is far from elderly but hates anything changing tech wise even when old designs/UIs etc were flawed. For her, learning anything new - even if much improved - brings out the "why have they changed that when it worked fine* before?"

        *she had got used to it.

        1. nintendoeats

          Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

          In fairness, they do often change things that worked fine before.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

            Indeed. Win8 and Office's Ribbon come to mind. Probably done to convince the user that there are actually "improvements" that they're paying for, instead of just paying again for software that does exactly the same thing. (I use Ubuntu and LibreOffice.)

            1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

              Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

              Ubuntu hasn't been entirely innocent of disruptive changes that were apparently made because the developers were bored with the old interface. Although, to be fair, you're not paying (again) for it.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

                Cinnamon!

            2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

              I have no idea why people complain about the Office ribbon. It's a breakthrough in discoverability and therefore usability. The problem wasn't a lack of functionality, but that no-one knew stuff was there. Now they have a much higher chance of finding it by themselves.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

                I never had any trouble finding things in the menu bar. Which took up much less of the valuable screen space. To me, it's like they built the Ribbon just so they could use icons instead of words, in addition to "see, improved, now pay up".

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

                  "so they could use icons instead of words"

                  Penny pinching on multilingual translation costs.

                2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

                  They'd had to get an ISO standard on the file format to satisfy government procurement standards. That meant that that barrier to rival versions - OpenOffice etc. - disappeared because it was possible to catch up with the moving target and stay caught up. Imposing a new UI gave them the edge. It might have made it hell for old users but new users then couldn't deal with OO/LO's interface which was close enough to the old Office one.

              2. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

                I do indeed find new things in the ribbon much more frequently than I did in the menus, primarily when searching for something that was in here yesterday, wasn't it? In general, I don't think it was that hard to pull down a menu and look at all the options. People who didn't know about a feature probably saw it in the menu as they used something else but didn't know what it was and didn't go test it when they didn't need to. They're not more likely to do that when seeing an icon in the ribbon either.

              3. yetanotheraoc

                Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

                Did you say discoverability? Maybe you meant this:

                Customize Quick Access Toolbar | More commands...

                Choose commands from: Commands Not in the Ribbon

                When I do that in Outlook, one of the commands in the list is "Print".

              4. TSM

                Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

                Here's an experiment for you. Go to your favourite Office app, customise your Quick Access toolbar, and set the filter to "Commands not in the Ribbon". See how many there are? How are they discoverable to the average user?

                Of course, most of these are things the average user won't need, or specialisations of general commands that are in the ribbon.

                Nevertheless, you're right that the ribbon is a benefit to new or inexperienced users. It usually does a reasonable job of presenting the most useful options for what the user appears to be doing.

                However, for experienced users who knew how to find all the features they used in the menu structure, the ribbon slows them down very time they have to change to a new group to get to the command they want. Before the ribbon all the commands were accessible all the time.

                I find for example that in Excel (which is the Office app I use the most) I frequently want certain commands from the Data group when I'm on other groups. The solution, of course, is to put all the commands you frequently have to swap ribbon groups for onto the Quick Access Toolbar. If you get the Quick Access toolbar set up properly for your usage pattern, the Ribbon isn't really a problem.

                Related is the issue of trying to find a command that you know is in the program, but don't know which ribbon group (if any) it is in. (Though trying to find an obscure option in the menus wasn't necessarily any better.) This is compounded by the fact that a bunch of stuff is shoved off into the weird File menu structure - there's nothing more fun than hunting through the ribbon for an option which turns out to be buried somewhere in the File menu.

                It took me quite a while to work out how to open another user's mailbox in Outlook. (It's *not* File > Open and Export > Other User's Folder). And in fact "work out" is overstating it, I eventually managed to find it in the help files. And because it's something I do very rarely, every time I need to add another mailbox I spend time hunting for it (and usually having to resort to the help to find it, though at least now I know the keywords to use in my query).

                (File > Info > Account settings > Account settings > Change > More Settings > Advanced. At least for now.)

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

          In resisting interface changes I think your wife has it right. The rationale for interfaces in computing is that the interface can stay stable whilst the implementation changes; it avoids the need for everything that uses the interface to change in step. The interface should only change if there's a specific need for it to do so. A change of chair-warmers in the crayon department does not amount to a specific need.

    4. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

      I used to have to take yearly long haul trips to see my parents to sort out their PC's.

      We got them iPads and we all saved a fortune in phone charges and my long haul trips got a little less frequent.

      They both have laptops, when I open them everything is well out of date with the date of last use when I last opened it a few years prior. I recently replaced the knackered hdd on my dads Samsung laptop. the machine is now usable again, but still not used.

      we will be getting them new iPads again & new iPhones.

      when they come over their iPhones and iPads are always fully uptodate, their pc's and laptops where never that way.

      1. l8gravely

        Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

        I love how iPhone and facetime has made debugging stuff some much easier. I mean I have to tell the mum-in-law how to point the phone at the screen, but I can see what's she's looking at and give her pointers and train her without making the drive down and back. Which isn't far, but in these covid times it's good to keep distance.

  9. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
    Happy

    Mother and Mother in Law

    My Brother having escaped brexit Blighty set up a VPN router so we could remote support our Mother. The last instance was to plug in the new printer. Boy print drivers are better than when I used to do desktop back in the day. The challenge was to persuade her that the cable did need to be plugged into the back of the PC.

    On the MiL side. We had made up a PC for them with Ubuntu installed and they even managed to get some broadband when they moved back to Jamaica. As she worked as a home help and had never seen a computer before it was a real struggle to explain the relationship between the mouse and the arrow on the screen. Still, we did get a few emails till the broadband provider over there decided to jack up the price too much. We are back to phones and snail mail now. I might give her my old iPhone once we can escape lockdown and fly down to the land of the humming bird and Wray & Nephew rum.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Mother and Mother in Law

      You need to fly a bit further south to get to the land of the hummingbird - that's Trinidad.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Mother and Mother in Law

        I've got hummingbirds flitting about the place right now ... last time I checked, Sonoma California was a trifle further North than Trinidad.

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Mother and Mother in Law

          Lots of places have hummingbirds. The Land of the Hummingbird is Trinidad.

    2. Steve K Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Mother and Mother in Law

      So Jamaica do her own support now?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Mother and Mother in Law

        Alaska!

        1. Steve K Silver badge

          Re: Mother and Mother in Law

          If his father is still alive, maybe he could Trinidad to help out here?

    3. TSM

      Re: Mother and Mother in Law

      My mother's not too bad. I occasionally get asked to look at her system if there's something wrong, but not very often; and she has pretty basic needs - but firmly committed to Windows because she definitely does not want to learn new interfaces (she mostly uses Word and Publisher on it).

      My in-laws have an ancient computer running XP. They manage OK with it, although we did discuss recently that it might be reasonable to think about upgrading a bit. They don't have or want any form of internet (even blocked it on their mobile phone), so it's safe enough as it is. Of course this means that every time they do want to look something up on the internet (parcel tracking, funeral notices, etc), they call us and ask us to look it up for them. But it's not very often, so we're happy to oblige. It's a lot less work for us than training them up on using the internet safely would be!

  10. Barking House

    So why isn't IT kit like Jet Engines ........

    Circa 2009 and I was with a very senior leadership team of a large aero engines manufacturer, one of the questions they wanted to understand in more detail is why is it that they can design an engine that has an effective lifespan of many decades and yet the computers systems go obsolete much much quicker. The reason for the question is that they were maintaining all the systems used to design the engines and keeping them in place for the lifespan of the engines, this is so if there was an issue they had all the original software, data etc in place. The challenge being a 20-30 year old system (Think VAX, SPARC workstations etc) became increasingly expensive to maintain and fix (In fact for some systems they had to get some items they required via eBay). The conversation was difficult as they could not relate to the pace of change in IT against what they were doing in terms of development cycles etc - However we did introduce them to the world of Emulation and virtualisation - Impressed seeing a VAX system moved to a Intel Server running a VAX Emulator with a PCI to UniBus adapter and running about 10 times faster !

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: The pace of change

      That pace is slowing down, and its type is evolving.

      Back in the days of the first IBM PC, it took less than a year to get a more powerful processor. Intel was running full tilt on new CPU designs, and the frequency was always climbing. Every year the new model was visibly much more powerful than the last.

      Then we hit the 4Ghz barrier, and there was no more easy way to wring more power out of a CPU core. So, Intel went lateral and started thowing more cores into the die. On top of that, hard disks got their own channel, instead of IDE sharing with another.

      Then we got PCI express and SATA connections, making disc access a breeze.

      And here we are now, with machines that are multitasking every part of their functions and control being delegated to in the most efficient way we can think of. The consequence ? This year's model is barely faster than last year's.

      I used to upgrade my PC's components every year. I haven't touch my main PC in six years now. It still works fine for what I do.

      That said, now I am oogling the latest CPUs and graphics cards, and sketching out my dream configuration. Hey, it's been six years, right ? ;)

    2. Blitheringeejit
      Windows

      Re: So why isn't IT kit like Jet Engines ........

      Perhaps if they put as much R&D into optimising the materials for their computer construction as they do for their engine components, they might get a comparable MTBF.

      But they may find a few problems trying to run current OSs on 30-year-old hardware, even if said hardware is in full working order. WIndows10 on an 8086 with 640K RAM and EGA graphics anyone?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: So why isn't IT kit like Jet Engines ........

        30 years ago, you'd be looking at a 486DX at 50MHz. Still sluggish for Win10 and RAM and HDD space would still be an issue though.

        Although to be fair to you, PCs were still often a capital investment back then which needed to be fully sweated and amortised so the newcomers were probably still buying 386/33 and the early adopters will have still been using some original 8088/86 and 286 beasts on peoples desktops. Hell I remember replacing a floppy drive in an original IBM PC (Yes, PC, not AT, not even XT, no HDD fitted) at a company when the first Pentiums were showing up on desktops!

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: So why isn't IT kit like Jet Engines ........

      The answer to that would be along the lines of:

      How much did you charge for a jet engine N years ago and how much to you charge for one of the same power now?

      How much did you pay for a computer N years ago and how much would you pay for one of the same power now?

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: So why isn't IT kit like Jet Engines ........

      "they wanted to understand in more detail is why is it that they can design an engine that has an effective lifespan of many decades and yet the computers systems go obsolete much much quicker."

      Maybe they should have looked at how rapidly their own industry changed in the first 4 decades since it's birth. ie from the Wright Bros. to the jet engine. And for that matter, the evolution of the jet engine since the early ones with flying life measured in single digit hours to 2-3 decades later and their own multi-decade life-span engines.

  11. PerlyKing Silver badge

    Old kit

    An unnamed family member is still using a 2010 Lenovo X201 running Windows 10 which is well past its prime. It takes ages to get going, and is then very slow. I have tried, many times, to persuade the owner to upgrade to something newer and shinier - say only five years old - but so far I have not been able to break through the perception that if a laptop was expensive when new then it should still be going strong now. So they struggle on, with frequent tirades of verbal abuse directed at the underperforming item and complaints about how slow it is...

    Said family member is also addicted to Microsoft Word so there's no chance of replacing the OS with something more suitable.

    1. jasha

      Re: Old kit

      I've got a 2009 laptop with a paltry Core2Duo something or other which, after swapping in an SSD, runs along extremely happily on Windows 10. 50 dollarpounds upgrade versus 500+, and the SSD will live on in another machine when the time comes.

      I do need to acquire/build a new battery though, it's long since lost any meaningful charging ability.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Old kit

      More memory & maybe less S/W cruft might help.

    3. dc_m

      Re: Old kit

      There's only two things you can do to improve that machine.

      1. More RAM (if you can get it, probably rare now for that age)

      2. (more effective) Lose the spinning rust and fit an SSD. It makes a huge difference! Steal it back when the machine dies completely.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      No such thing as "old kit" anymore

      As others have said, add an SSD and more RAM (since it probably was shortchanged at purchase) and it may outlast that family member if they are already old enough to be eligible for a covid vaccine.

      I did this to my mom's PC over the holidays - don't know how old it is but it has a Pentium 4 and came with Windows 7 if that is any indication. I slapped in the SSD and additional RAM (going from 2GB to 10GB) then did a clean install of Windows 10, and now it is indistinguishable from a brand new top of the lien PC for basic stuff like email and web browsing.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Old kit

      "Said family member is also addicted to Microsoft Word so there's no chance of replacing the OS with something more suitable."

      You can name desktop icons to reflect the persons choice of word processor. Not sure if you can stop the LibreOffice splash screen showing though. Just tell them it's the latest version of Word and name the icon accordingly. Or blame the Marketeers at MS for naming the new version LibreOffice.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Old kit

        "Not sure if you can stop the LibreOffice splash screen showing though."

        On Linux, edit sofficerc, change logo=1 to logo=0

        Not sure about Windows. DDG it?

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Old kit

        Yes, that'll fool them.

        Hey, would you like to buy this Ferrari I have for sale? I know it looks like a shopping trolley, but...

    6. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: Old kit

      I have an X201 which was in regular use until very recently (never got around to downgrading it from Windows 7 or trying Linux on it). The Core i5 version upgraded to 8GB of RAM and with an SSD popped in is still a nice and capable little machine. It's the spinning rust and lower default RAM which are likely hobbling your family member's system.

  12. jake Silver badge

    Personally ...

    ... I have told my friends & family that I no longer support Redmond or Cupertino computers, but if they will let me install the version of Slackware that I put together for MeDearOldMum, GreatAunt and Wife I'll be more than happy to to keep their systems running. I have had quite a few takers, and most are vocally enthusiastic about the change once they realize that it works pretty much as they are used to computers working, but without the crashes, slowdowns, missing files, and whathaveyou.

    MeDearOldMum, GreatAunt and Wife needed precisely zero technical support in all of 2020. Right tool for the job and all that. (I handle their software updates and backups from my desk here in the office.) My sister, on the other hand, who insists that if she doesn't run Windows the entire planet will implode, is constantly trying to get me to fix her computers ...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Personally ...

      Whilst I support your choice fully, and have and will continue to make a similar choice, the problem with switching non-techy family members or friends to Linux is when they need specialised software as recommended by their friends, for hobbies such as cross-stitch, genealogy and whatnot.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Personally ...

        I honestly haven't really had that problem. One cousin complained about not having the proper software for a machine that prints, cuts and spits out stickers ... but she quit scrapbooking soon after (mind-numbingly boring, I think she said) and the problem went away on it's own.

  13. jake Silver badge

    One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

    By it's very nature, FOSS will be around as close to forever as makes no nevermind. Corporate closed source software, on the other hand, is just as ephemeral as the company in question. IBM is doomed to die, eventually. So are Amazon, Goophabet, Apple and Microsoft. Shirley the proverbial Thinking Man should throw their lot in with the obvious long-term winners and eschew the obvious losers?

    Before you poo-poo this, think about it. Where are Burroughs, Sperry, Allied Signal, Philco, Amdahl, Remington Rand, DEC and ROLM? We won't mention the likes of HP, the poor mewling thing, so senile it doesn't know it's dead. And that's just for a start.

    1. Anonymous IV
      Alert

      Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

      Basically you're saying that All Things Must Pass.

      Don't forget the 639 dormant and discontinued distros (70%) of the total 916 Linux distros included on the DistroWatch database...

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        That proves the point!

        When Linux distros are discontinued*, we just step sideways onto another one - with all the same software.

        Even on the day Linus turns off his monitor, someone else will pick up the kernal update reins.

        * or the maintainers go mad & implement a change with big operational impact.

        1. yetanotheraoc

          Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

          "Even on the day Linus turns off his monitor, someone else will pick up the kernal update reins."

          Poettering?

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

            "Poettering?"

            Nah. Probably Greg Kroah-Hartman. There are a couple others if he doesn't want it. There will be a few assholes who will argue regardless of who takes on the ulcers roll, but the vast majority of us will go along with the consensus of the old guard. Regardless, Linux will live on, and most people will not notice any difference.

            First order of business: Get into an argument with Stallman.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        Each of those 639 dormant or discontinued distros can still be had for the download (or assembled from software still available for download in various places). Essentially, being FOSS they are immortal. Which is kind of my point.

        So no, I am NOT saying that All Things Must Pass.

    2. General Purpose Bronze badge

      Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

      "Apple and Microsoft are bound to die soon, they're 45 years old already" is about as good a business strategy as "Apple and Microsoft are bound to die soon, they're 35 years old already" was 10 years ago.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        I didn't say it was going to happen today. Nor tomorrow. But it is inevitable. They will die, eventually, and there is quite literally nothing that anyone can do about it.

        In contrast, FOSS is immortal.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

      "IBM is doomed to die, eventually."

      The amazing thing is that it's still going.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        It's a bit like those skeletons wielding swords in Jason and the Argonauts! You can't kill them, they just keep coming back!

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        Not all that amazing. The momentum of several hundred thousand ton(ne)s of Mainframes will be rather difficult to turn, much less halt. Especially before we have alternates that can handle that kind of I/O ...

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

      Not really true. Foss will be around as long as there are people maintaining it. Linux is around because people exist to make the kernel compile on later hardware. If you have software source which hasn't been updated in years, it won't necessarily work well. I, for example, have some code which doesn't make if using the latest compiler, seems to crash when using the latest libc, and doesn't like the latest kernel. I'm trying to emulate it, which is how I found out these things. I think I can get the latest compiler to accept it by turning off all the warnings. I think the libc issue is probably a minor one due to the old networking functions it's running (oh, right, if it sees IPV6 it will keel over, there's another problem with it). The kernel issue is probably there because this used to run on an embedded device. I can dedicate a bunch of time to making this compile again, but most of it is going to be replacing old code which was probably written badly in the first place with more modern replacement code.

      Don't get cocky. Everything dies eventually. IBM will die. Microsoft will die. Linux will die. The only question is how long it will survive first and what replaces it. I think several of the big components in our modern tech landscape will survive for quite a while, open or closed. Lots of it will die, but the good news is that we usually choose to let them wither, like the processors we don't need in the kernel anymore, because we have new and better things to work on.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        "Foss will be around as long as there are people maintaining it."

        Nope. If all maintenance permanently stopped today, all of today's FOSS code will still be available in March of 3021. It is free, and open source, and in the public domain. It is not going to evaporate. And like the proverbial bolted horse, you can't sweep it back into the can.

        Embedded device code is an edge case. However, if you build a new device to the same spec as the original, that code will run perfectly. Without the device, I;ll argue that the code is pretty much useless ... but it is still available. And will stay that way.

        I still use processors that are no longer in the current kernel. With older, sometimes still maintained, kernels. And even the older, unmaintained kernels are still doing useful work with new projects using old, obsolete processors. Mostly hobbyist stuff, true, but the point is the code exists. And will continue to exist.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

          On that basis, almost everything is immortal. It still exists, in the same sense that there could still be a Windows disk in 3021. That doesn't mean Windows is alive. If you manufactured an exact replica of a 2000s-era computer, the Windows disk would still install Windows. You couldn't get the update servers, so you could argue that it wasn't really fully alive, but then again you can install those from offline media which could survive, so now Windows is immortal too.

          Code is only alive if you can realistically run it. If you can't run it but you can take pieces off and use those, then it is sort of halfway. In that sense, a lot of stuff we have the source to may survive a long time in half-life. Unless you can choose to run it easily, it's not alive. In that sense, the embedded software died a while ago. I don't have an exact replica of that equipment. I don't even know all the things they put in that equipment. If I did, I bet it would include some pieces they don't make anymore. If I could still build and run it on something else, it would be alive, but it won't run until I've emulated at least the I/O of the hardware it used to have and probably I'll have to do even more than that.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

            Windows will become a zombie when Microsoft evaporates. You and I might have access to the source code, even, but we will not be allowed to use it commercially, unless Microsoft's heirs say it's allowed.

            FOSS will always be free to use, and pretty much as you see fit. That's the point.

            Question: What hardware are you talking about? I have ... sources ... for all kinds of weird and wonderful junk treasures. I might be able to help you out. Possibly for free, but you pay shipping and handling ("as is, where is").

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

              The point is that code can become dead if things outside of it break. Just saying "duplicate everything" doesn't necessarily change that fact since not everything exists to be duplicated. For example, I know what the CPU in this embedded thing was like, at least I know the specific type of ARM and the manufacturer. I have no clue what kind of networking chip they used but maybe I could find it somewhere, and if I could find it, I don't have one. You might, but in twenty years you probably would not. It's not critical to me that I emulate this successfully, so this isn't a big problem. I'm mostly planning to hack out some parts and rewrite the rest.

              At some point, Windows won't be used anymore. You could still duplicate the hardware and run it just fine though. At that point, the code would have gone out of copyright and even if Microsoft died really fast and it hadn't expired yet, there'd be no Microsoft to defend it. I would still call it dead though, because it likely wouldn't run on modern hardware anymore. The same can apply to FOSS, and therefore I think it too can die. It might be less likely to die, but the world's full of code which doesn't work anymore unless you do a lot of work to nurse it back to life. That doesn't make me anti-FOSS. I prefer free software under almost all conditions. I do so because of the benefits it provides me and others today, not because I think it will have immortality.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

      "By it's very nature, FOSS will be around as close to forever as makes no nevermind. Corporate closed source software, on the other hand, is just as ephemeral as the company in question."

      Not so sure about that. There's plenty of FOSS that has withered on the vine. There are usually alternatives, but that's not always ideal for those used to whatever app stopped being supported due to lack of maintainers.

      I used to like klibido for Usenet binary downloads. Unless going commandline, it was about the only GUI based option at the time. Pan didn't really do binaries back then. Nowadays, Pan is the only option and even that's pretty precarious. There was a long drought when the one and only maintainer really wasn't doing anything with it due to lack of time. Even now, since a major re-write and update, there's still really only one prime maintainer and a couple others who help out with minor bugfixes. I'm not sure when I last saw an update.

      Now, you might say that Usenet is a niche thing nowadays, but it's actually still quite lively, but FOSS options to access it, at least in *nix land, are few and far between.

      There's still the likes of Thunderbird and Evolution, but news always feels like the unloved step-brother and not really looked after properly like the mail client parts.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        "There's plenty of FOSS that has withered on the vine."

        The thing to remember about Pan is that it's mature. It doesn't really need all that much by way of maintenance. Likewise tin and slrn (for us CLI junkies) ... or even knode, for that matter.

        Yes, Usenet itself isn't what it once was. Today's kiddies need their emojis, apparently. Nothing like a pile of poo and a couple of eggplants in your inbox first thing in the morning ... but on the bright side, it seems to be coming back. It's better than it was 12 or 15 years ago.

      2. rototype

        Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

        There is of course one other thing that's holding FOSS together - the people/companies who support it's hosting. There may well come a day when the data centre/IT manager says "What's that server doing, it's consuming resources and not providing income - Finance say we must have $$$$ profit to show for every device, shut it down and replace it with a marketing spam server"

        At this point (when finance and marketing truely have control over business) anything FOSS on corporate resources will cease to be. Slowly things will begin to wither and disappear and once the origin in the link chain goes there's a whole branch gone since no-one these days bothers to host it themselves, they just link to it. (ever wondered where all of the dead links go to?)

        True it may well take considerable time for things to get to this state (if we're considering Micros**t & Apple going as well it could be within the same time frame), but it will come.

    6. Diogenes

      Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

      My copy of Wordperfect 5.2 still runs perfectly

    7. Sudosu

      Re: One thing people tend to forget about FOSS.

      If the corporations die someone will buy up the IP and continue on if there is a market for them so I would disagree with your analysis...and don't call me Shirley.

  14. Naselus

    Personally, I like the adorable way that my elderly relatives and their friends think offering me a tenner for doing 2 hours work on their PCs is generously 'helping me out'. They don't appear to have entirely understood that while that was great when I was an unemployed 18 year old, now I'm a 40 year old IT consultant it's not quite as tempting an offer, and I mostly take the money just so they don't feel like charity recipients.

    One of them even suggested I could maybe charge as much as £20 per callout.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Maybe you should gently suggest that back when you were that unemployed 18 year old that money meant so much to you that now you're really doing it out of gratitude for the help they gave you then and not now for the money.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe

        Probably not so easy to do, but if OP were to find someone sufficiently competent who *could* do with the money, they could just pass the work along.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Maybe

          Probably not so easy to do, but if OP were to find someone sufficiently competent who *could* do with the money, they could just pass the work along.

          To my son £10 is good, so he is getting skilled up, plus grandparents get to see him and he views going to see grandparents as not a total waste of time.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Another point of view.

      A little over 15 years ago, my Dad jokingly suggested that I re-install XP on my techno-phobic Mom's computer, because they never see me anymore now that she's running Slackware. I took it as a non-joke, and now the Wife and I make sure we alternate visiting my 100+ year old Great Aunt (also running Slackware) and my parents (mid-80s) on a regular basis. The only difference is that I get to visit with them, instead of working on their computers while my wife visits ...

  15. Norman Nescio

    Cognitive decline

    I'm very scared of cognitive decline as I get older - I would not be surprised if I am already showing symptoms: so my issue is how long I can support myself on all this technology. I look at one of my older relatives who has trouble driving an iPad, and mixing up the WiFi password with the PC account password and the Gmail password and wonder if/when I will get to the same state with the then current technology.

    My father was simply Not Interested, and paid bills by cheque at the bank, and never used the web or sent an email in his life.

    So I need younger victims who will be able to support me (and understand my IT set-up) as I get older. Their experiences will contribute to future columns like this one.

    <glum emoticon>

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Cognitive decline

      Cognitive decline will be when you can't see a reason why you shouldn't use the same password everywhere because it's easier.

      In the meantime, there's Keepass.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Cognitive decline

      I have similar thoughts. Older people I know, some retired academics, are still sharp as razors on their own area of knowledge. On the everyday life navigation stuff they seem to do OK just going a tad slower and more deliberate.

      I'll probably move sideways to a chromebook with Ubuntu/Debian in a chroot/crouton session (whatever the proper name is) for applications.

      Icon: needs to be a mullet for the lockdown look

  16. TWB

    Customer with Vista

    A neighbour/customer recently reported that her laptop kept blackscreening on wake or start up. I went to check and we managed to get it awake again - she did not know the hold-power-button-down-for-7-secs for force a shutdown. I then found it was running Vista and said it might do to update to Win10. I also found out that the machine probably had a stock MB fault. Luckily the HD was/is fine and we've got her old emails (had been running POP3) and I got her email working on her phone. Fortunately the machine has now permanently died and so a long overdue "update" will have to happen and I will not have to keep saying how Vista is probably somewhat risky to use. If the machine had been OK, I suspect she would have continued using it as it ran fine and had loads of HD space and no malware (found)

  17. DutchBasterd

    A 286 running Netscape? Yeah right.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Hey don't knock it! I managed to get Netscape running on my old Amiga A4000 many moons ago (mid 90s).

      Granted this was using the Shapeshifter emulator, so MacOS, and on a 25MHz 68040 CPU.

      It did work, although granted it was a tad slow ;-)

    2. idv

      Absolutely.

      Windows 3.x in Standard Mode, with an old-enough Trumpet Winsock and the 16-bit Netscape (up to 4.08).

      (I've got a Tandy 3000 somewhere around here with exactly that setup.)

      ...not that it'll be able to access pretty much any modern website, between TLS and current JS/CSS.

  18. Marty McFly Bronze badge
    Pint

    Fond memory...

    My uncle built small block Chevy race motors for boats, one of his motors even held a class world record in the 1970's. Fast in his world was 7000 RPM screaming through open headers. He could not understand how a computer could keep up with such a beast. Even when I explained that motor is only really operating at around 115 hertz and computers (at the time) were just starting to crack a billion hertz.

    I miss my uncle and his genuine old school knowledge, so icon chosen accordingly.

  19. ShortLegs

    Well, thats just pants.

  20. Kev99

    When I a job in 1990 with a certain county that was just moving off green terminals to desktop pcs, I was the only person in the office who had any experience with pcs. I began with an Amstrad 8086 in 1984 and the moved up to a 80286 box in 1986. My Amstrad had more RAM and storage than the file cabinet sized Burroughs mini. Most of the IT staff refused to believe what I already knew including Novell, Quattro Pro, pfs:Professional Write, Ask Sam, Paradox, etc. The also didn't like it when I solved pc problems for others in the office instead their going through our tiny IT department (4 people serving 150 people from pcs to minis).I even got dressed down once for helping from my immediate boss who was barely able to turn his pc on. At each succeeding job, I've been in the same boat. I actually got perverse please out of proving the IT head of a state agency was wrong on several occasions. Ah, the thrill of actually knowing shit about what you're doing.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Software Bloat.....

    ......primarily in the browser although it will also be in what's they call the 'operating systen'.

    I know its 'urinating towards the wind' but websites have to have their Javascript and their core-hogging busy/wait loops in the network access code ("but what do we know, we just make an API call"). A lot of modern software is a mess, a great festing blob of stuff that's trying to permeate the world of 'things'.

    You can get a lot more useful life out of a computer by installing Linux on it. You really don't need a huge amount of horsepower for day to day computing tasks.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am privileged to be an Apple customer

    And therefore get a bit twitchy when my kit is older than around 3 months.

    On a related note, I am having some difficulty getting my bank to understand that some things are more important than the mortgage payment. Why is the financial industry so blind to customer needs?

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I am privileged to be an Apple customer

      Did you buy the wheels?

      You could re-sell them and pay off your mortgage.

    2. timrowledge

      Re: I am privileged to be an Apple customer

      I’d offer a down vote for feeble & just plain silly ‘sarcasm’ but it really isn’t even worth it. I have a bunch of circa 10y.o. Macs and several 15+ y.o. plus 10y.o. iPhones and almost as old iPads. All doing their job quite contentedly thank you.

  23. Blackjack Silver badge

    16 years

    Is how long my Compaq computer that had Windows 95 lasted, not without an upgrade to 16 mb of ram and some repairs but still lasted that long. Unfortunately that model had the bios on the hard disk, so when the hard disk died so did the computer. I still took out the floppy disk drive and the CD ROM reader out if it and put them in another computer because they were quite good.

    And my Media Center Windows XP laptop finally died last year, I had got it a year after Windows Vista got released.

    286 computers could literally last decades, last time I saw one still in use it was 2005 or 2006.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: 16 years

      I keep my Vet's blood machine running. It's an original Idexx Vettest 8008, and is about 30 years old. It is essentially a PC XT clone, with enough kit grafted into it do do blood tests. It's up-to-date, though ... it runs a version of FreeDOS, because MS-DOS is no longer supported.

      I know of about fifty of these things still in use here in the SF Bay Area, because I have worked on them. I suspect there are several hundred more. (I bought a bunch of used units 23ish years ago from Vets with Y2K worries ... I was speculating on the need for spares in the future. It was a good guess on my part. I have since augmented my stock by purchasing them whenever I run across 'em.)

  24. John Geek
    Windows

    I'm *OH* so glad my ivy league liberal arts parents, may they RIP, never EVER touched a computer in their life, so I was never called to do any family support such as this. My dad used a vintage Underwood full sized mechanical office typewriter, probably 1950s vintage, right up until he couldn't write anymore in his 90s.

  25. David Pearce

    Desktops last longer

    I had a 2010 I5 machine that lasted ten years before hardware death and the end of Windows 7 support.

    Reasonable specification ie enough RAM, meant that the only issue was the early I5 cache security patches crippling multi-threading and making it struggle with anti-virus

  26. Dan Watson

    It was only ten years ago I stood in a primary schools IT Room with the schools Chair of Governors. In response to my pleads for him to find some money in the budget to upgrade their provision, he was leaning on his stick telling me that these 2002 Pre HT Pentium 4s with 256mb of RAM were ‘state of the art when we put these in’ (and so was the server that was still running server 2000 and the backup tapes were the originals so hadn’t actually backed anything up for years).

    I asked him how often he changed his car, even though they’re state of the art each time he buys them.

    “Good point.” He said, before asking me if I could help him install his state of the art HP Inkjet onto his home Windows 95 PC.

    It was a further three years before that network would be upgraded.

  27. razorfishsl

    Apple have started locking the OS down.

    you can no longer install previous versions, an if you think keeping an "old" version will work...

    they lock, plus they have key components stored on the apple servers.

    enforced upgrades...

  28. Noodle

    Mum gets it

    Quite impressed with the (presumably non-IT literate in those days) mother's saw-based analogy. Spot on!

  29. Richard 36

    Best not to keep wearing the same underpants

  30. Juanguanomo
    Boffin

    Easy peasy japanezy

    Phase 1: Collect PC components.

    Phase 2: ?

    Phase 3: Profit.

  31. Nicodemus's Knob

    486

    We're still running 486 processors with DOS 4 at work and to be perfectly honest they are as fast as a modern processor running a resource hungry OS for their particular very specific non internet connected use case. Although I don't actually use it I still have my Zx81. I just wish I'd kept that Perkin Elmer mini computer with its core memory from the 70's

  32. my cats breath smells like cat food

    Pentium

    I did just retire a pentium system last year, not because it wasn't up to the task of serving up files as an nfs server, but because I had a spare Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU system to replace it with.

    Her uncle would have been a proud linux user.

    My various desktops are now aged between 15 and 7 years old. But my son's new gaming rig (AMD Ryzen 5) blows them all out of the water. Of course, the little bugger is running Windoze on it though. Such a waste, I could compile kernels in minutes on that boxen.

  33. Toni the terrible
    Holmes

    Pants and PCs

    I only replace my home PC, or upgrade it, when it will no longer run the Games I play. I then sell the old one which I really can't do with my trousers/pants. but I do upgrade 'pants' with 'repairs' when possible. Then again I don't always wear trousers, it's too cold without pants.

    So, some of my trousers are very old, much more than my PC

    1. Sudosu

      Re: Pants and PCs

      For me, I find that my gaming PC's last about 8-10 years before games start having issues with them.

      The last one I did was from my E5500 (brand new at the time) to a not cutting edge at the time i5-6600k about 8 and a half years later due to a good deal.

      The E5500 got a new video card every 3 or 4 years and still functioned quite well for most of my games.

      Upgrades do happen, GPU (mainly), RAM and occasionally drives but the MB and CPU stay put.

      Once I build a replacement I dump the old one into my lab as additional virtual or NAS capacity. That is why when i build a new one I make sure the MB can handle a lot of RAM, even if I don't populate it while it is a desktop.

      Most of my laptops are over 10 years old, though I did splurge on a new one just before the lockdown in case it went on for a while so I would have a dedicated work machine.

      I really find that, from a real world usage standpoint, upgrading a desktop processor does not display that much of an improvement, even after 10 years of advancement.

  34. CrimsonAvenger

    Never ever build your own PC. Even if you tell no-one and it's only been in the spare room, people will know. People from three streets away will know. People are coming from Gdańsk to have their shit sorted out

    1. jake Silver badge

      They are welcome to ask :-)

      Sadly (for them), I don't do Windows. But if they want Slackware ... I'll happily put them into a computer that'll work for a long time without needing any maintenance to speak of.

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