back to article Sysadmin’s worst client was … his mother! Until his sister called for help

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s reader-contributed tales of tech support tension, terror and technical tragedy. This week meet “Calvin” who told us that “For many years our small family business had run on paperwork, but increasing amounts of government red tape meant we had to go digital.” “After sharpening my …

  1. m0rt Silver badge

    "“The first task, that took about two years, was to stop her saving everything to the root of C:/.” "

    Isn't that root of C:\?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      No its C:\'s evil brother...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "No its C:\'s evil brother"

        No, C:\ is /'s evil brother.

        1. Chris King Silver badge

          Okay, which one's wearing the dark glasses and sporting a goatee (or a "Hulk Hogan") ?

          THAT's the evil twin.

        2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Isn't that the root of all evil?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't the "root" bit superfluous as C:\ is the root.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Well, to be honest, C:\ is the root of the C: drive ...

      2. m0rt Silver badge

        Depends.

        If I am speaking and saying 'Go to the root of your C:\ drive." the ':\' is silent.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Or, to put it another way, there is no such thing as \ sans modifier.

    3. Dr.Sommer

      its a folder named "C:"

      So evil ;-)

      He really could give her the hint that

      ls -la ~

      would have showed her the documents. :-)

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        I thought C ran MI6?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Shanty...

          A sailor went to C++.

        2. PNGuinn
          IT Angle

          I thought C ran MI6?

          No, he runs El Reg.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      On a more serious note, on a dos fs once you exceed 512 files in the root directory, the chances of catastrophic loss start skyrocketing.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "On a more serious note, on a dos fs once you exceed 512 files in the root directory,

        the chances of catastrophic loss start skyrocketing."

        Old school.

        But sadly true.

        But surely that has been fixed in Windows 7/8/10 already?

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: "On a more serious note, on a dos fs once you exceed 512 files in the root directory,

          But surely that has been fixed in Windows 7/8/10 already?

          Let me just test that.

          (If you don't see a second comment from me here, you'll know it's not been fixed.)

      2. Steve the Cynic

        On a more serious note, on a dos fs once you exceed 512 files in the root directory, the chances of catastrophic loss start skyrocketing.

        It's more complicated than that.

        On a FAT-12 or FAT-16 hard disk partition, the root directory has a specific maximum size, and that size is (wait for it) 512 entries (including the ones uses to store the UCS-2/UTF-16 "long name" characters if there are any).

        On a FAT-32 partition, the root directory is, in effect, just like all the others (as it is in a UNIXish filesystem), and does not have a fixed limit.

    5. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      From an Amiga 1200 to a Win95 box? That's one hell of a step backwards.

  2. Dave K Silver badge

    Ahh, parents

    My mum wasn't especially computer literate either, but as a primary school teacher she increasingly started to use the PC at home for creating work sheets, reports and various other bits of work. Incredibly, she did manage to get the hang of selecting the "Sue" folder in "My Documents" when saving the files, but had a nasty habit of simply accepting the default filenames that Word suggests (ie, usually the first sentence of the document). She also did not get the hang of subfolders.

    Result, one single folder after a couple of years with about 400 documents in it, all called things like "Chapter 1.doc", "Chapter 1 (2).doc", "4+3=.doc", "Ben and Sarah went to the shops to.doc" etc. And then she wondered why it was difficult trying to find some earlier work she'd done so that she could modify and update it...

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Ahh, parents

      "...the "Sue" folder in "My Documents" "

      Is she a lawyer too?

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Ahh, parents

        Sue, Grabbit and Run?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: Dave

        If she couldn't figure out document naming, right clicking and looking at the modified date is going to be a stretch.

        Plus, can you remember what date you created a certain set of worksheets last year? Helps to narrow things down a bit I grant you, but still hardly a perfect solution!

        1. frank ly

          Re: Dave

          A conversation from about 20 years ago, when we got our first computer in the 'product development' department:

          Colleague: What shall I name the file as?

          Me: redgiraffe17

          Colleague: That's a stupid name!

          Me: Can you think of a better name?

          Colleague: (long silence)

          Colleague: How about 'specification.doc'?

          Me: That might cause problems later.

    3. Bob Wheeler
      Unhappy

      and also Ahh sub folders Re: Ahh, parents

      Sub Folders are a double edged sword.

      I've seen too many examples of 30 or even 40 levels of sub folders and each folder name and different variation of the folder above

      reports/annual reports/2017 reports/hr reports/finance/2017/directors reports/finial reports/ etc etc etc

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

        directors reports/finial reports/

        Do they have pilaster reports too?

        1. agurney

          Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

          "directors reports/finial reports/

          Do they have pilaster reports too?"

          Of course, spreadsheets are full of columns.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

        Oh I spent a while working out why a program had ceased to work with some files at an employers. Nothing had apparently changed but the damn thing did not like the files anymore. Other files worked fine and it was bizarre that just these ones were causing it to throw a hissy fit. Someone then pointed out that they'd added a few sub folders and moved the files there the day before. The program couldn't cope with that many subfolders and just had given up.

        1. Daveytay

          Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

          Having to use the subst command, good times...

      3. ridley

        Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

        I've seen so many sub folders it became impossible to save anything with a meaningful name without hitting the 256 character limit.

        1. bobajob12

          Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

          Google Drive on Windows chokes on this all the fscking time. Even with the long path registry hack. If you have a gdrives synced to your PC and try and open a file in some moderately nested folders from the Explorer, it claims the file doesn't exist.

          It's got so bad I've started using SharePoint. Reg readers know that to make that decision means I am at DEFCON 5...

          1. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

            if you are using share point I suggest you see a a shrink. TGhat's the same as giving an over worked, suicidal person a a load gun.

          2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

            Re: DEFCON

            DEFCON5 = like, totally chilled out (lowest state of readiness)

            DEFCON

        2. LewisRage

          Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

          Just set them up with a mapping at the end of the folder structure and then they can add another 255 characters to that.

      4. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

        I saw the sub folders issue on early macs. Iv'e seen rare cases it crash the unit.

      5. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

        Had a user with nested subfolders containing archives of the previous years, nested with the same archives saved once again further down.

        Or the Legal executive with every contract that this large oil & gas company were working on, stored on her desktop in folders. There was little to no real estate available on her desktop.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

          "There was little to no real estate available on her desktop."

          Conveyancing is a different department.

          I know the feeling. When the files get half-way across it's time for a tidy/clear-out. I'm just about there now.

          1. 404 Silver badge

            Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

            -"There was little to no real estate available on her desktop."-

            Have a client that I've been warning that if I go into some kind of seizure due to all the files on her desktop, I'm suing... this was a while back, recently I noted she only had one more space on the grid for docs.

            Suggested one of those big curved widescreens to increase storage space... I'm just tired of talking, you know?

        2. Lilolefrostback

          Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

          "Or the Legal executive with every contract that this large oil & gas company were working on, stored on her desktop in folders. There was little to no real estate available on her desktop."

          Surely you got her a second screen, thereby solving the problem?

      6. LewisRage

        Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

        I used to support an environment that had, amongst other astonishing stuff, a folder structure that looked something like this

        Operations\NOC\

        Operations\NOC\NOC OLC\NOC NEW DO NOT USE\NOC\

        Operations\NOC 2012\

        Guess which was 'live'

        I also made the mistake of mapping a drive for end users that already had a 40 char folder name, so where they saw U:\ the server saw \\server\share\some folder name\some other folder name\accounts

        The users then built out a folder structure that used the full 255 char limit from where they were mapping too. Of course when it came for me to do any work on that server I'd hit this huge chunk of files that windows was no longer able to deal with thanks to the fact the file names were too long.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: and also Ahh sub folders Ahh, parents

        I know a company who's web root is something like /usr/local/www/data/www.company.co.uk/www.oldname.co.uk/www/site.company.co.uk

        (where oldname is the company's name from about ten years ago)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ahh teachers

      Are you one of my stepdaughters? You've just described my wife's behavior perfectly.

      for the rest of you If you don't understand why AC then you are not married to a teacher

    5. GtBFilms

      Re: Ahh, parents

      I've seen worse in a professional situation - we delivered a suite of reports to a Banking client once and were called in again 2 months later to offer support. The original reports were there, but they'd added some new versions. They had decided the best way to differentiate these versions was to use a space at the end of the original report name.

      Hence about 60 reports named:

      'Monthly Transactions.rep'

      'Monthly Transactions .rep'

      'Monthly Transactions .rep'

      'Monthly Transactions .rep'

      "Which version's causing the trouble?"

      "Oh I think it's version 17, or it might be 21, hold on I'll count the spaces."

      1. Ivan Headache

        Re: Ahh, parents

        I've posted this once before - but it fits here perfectly.

        I got a call saying "I can't find the right page 2."

        Pop round and find a desktop full of 'Page 1s' and 'Page 2s'

        Turns out that she hadn't realised that when you reach the end of page 1 page 2 follows automatically.

        For several months she had been treating every page as a separate peice of paper.

        As some of the docs (all progress reports and assessments) were only 1 page in length, her filing went right up the shute when page 2-5 actually married up with Page 1-8. (Or was it Page 1-11?)

  3. malle-herbert
    Joke

    Have you tried turning it off and on again ?

    Have you tried sticking it up your arse ?

    Ooohhh.... I just realised that was my mother...

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Not to add the mayhem ctrl+alt+up/down/left/right arrow would cause with a multi-monitor setup. Single monitor's bad enough, but multi... *shudder*

    Or holding ctrl down whilst scrolling up/down with the mouse's scroll button (or brushing by accident on the touchpad's scroll section)...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Rubbish touch pads on cheap laptops cause all sorts of strife and user confusion. Some parts of the unmarked pad result in scrolling, some selecting. In these cases, it is not the user's fault if they want to throw the machine out of the window.

      Thankfully, market demand is finally beginning to result in decent touchpads on laptops. There isn't always a mouse around.

      (And indeed I'm reluctant to lend out my carefully chosen mice since someone threw one against a wall - it's handy Forward / Back navigation buttons caused to lose a long rant he was writing on a forum.)

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        (And indeed I'm reluctant to lend out my carefully chosen mice since someone threw one against a wall - it's handy Forward / Back navigation buttons caused to lose a long rant he was writing on a forum.)

        Beautiful!

        Pity about the mouse though.

      2. Chris 125

        "Some parts of the unmarked pad result in scrolling, some selecting."

        And incredibly, some (I'm pointing at you, HP. Well, jabbing you in the eye) have an area you can tap on to turn the whole touchpad off. So on a new machine where you can't rely on muscle memory to always tap in the middle, you end up disabling the thing. I've had to fix many, many of those "issues".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Some parts of the unmarked pad result in scrolling, some selecting."

          Or the user disables it and then demands IT come down and fix it, despite me telling to double tap the little orange light. Too complicated apparently......

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Some parts of the unmarked pad result in scrolling, some selecting."

            "Or the user disables it and then demands IT come down and fix it"

            Laptops are portable. Perhaps a rule that for all laptop issues the laptop should be brought ti IT, not the other way around. It might have a substantial effect on the effectiveness of telephone support.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Rubbish touch pads on cheap laptops cause all sorts of strife and user confusion. Some parts of the unmarked pad result in scrolling, some selecting. In these cases, it is not the user's fault if they want to throw the machine out of the window.

        Fixed by uninstalling the proprietary touchpad driver/control panel bollocks.

        If I came across one which translated Morse to text I wouldn't be surprised.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "If I came across one which translated Morse to text I wouldn't be surprised."

          Just for shitz'n'giggles I think I may just have to write an app for that......

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Never mind the touchpad, its the damned eraser end between g and h that gets me.

          First thing I disable to avoid having my cursor jump randomly arou d when I'm typing.

          1. JJKing Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Eraser end.....love it!

            Never mind the touchpad, its the damned eraser end between g and h that gets me.

            Oh no, you mean the thing IBM or the early Lenovo adverts called "A way cool joystick"

      4. Andy 68

        > Forward / Back navigation buttons

        If they're the ones I'm thinking of (just at the right place for your thumb to hit) they have caused me, many a time, to toggle Silent Running on - usually when in the middle of a pitched battle that I'm losing, with no shields and 40% hull.

        I really should change those key bindings one day..

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        (And indeed I'm reluctant to lend out my carefully chosen mice since someone threw one against a wall - it's handy Forward / Back navigation buttons caused to lose a long rant he was writing on a forum.)

        Hey, it pisses me off to lose a long, carefully crafted rant as well. I usually yell at the dumbass, dickwitted website designer instead.

        1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

          Mentioning no names, but there is a website not a million miles from here which doesn't regularly autosave draft posts.

          1. MichaelBirks

            Website Autosaving Draft Posts.

            Rule 1 of writing content - Don't do it in the Grawlixy Browser.

            THe number of people I've had to train to that - even those who otherwise use Word for everything else is both frustrating ad saddening.

            Don't get me started on levels of expertise in word, that's a differenent rant.

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Flame

            And even if your browser saves it, the website helpfully replaces what the browser saved with "Type your comment here — advanced HTML and hotlinks allowed".

  5. 0laf Silver badge

    My Mother never got past lifting the mouse off the desk when I said "move the mouse up". Luckily touchscreens were invented and she can manage that ok.

    1. littlesmith

      From my experience: Choose the right words. I had this situation also once. But I realized that is was my fault. As an experienced PC user I see the words mouse and pointer as synonyms. If I want to move the pointer, I subjectively directly move the pointer - the hand movements on the mouse come only to my conscious mind if something is not working right.

      But for a newbie this is different: In the mind of those people the mouse and the pointer are two different things, even if the already know that they have to move the mouse to move the pointer.

      You can do the experiment: First explain that the mouse moves the pointer. Then let the person play a little bit to get accustomed to the mouse and pointer concept. If you then ask the person to move the pointer up, the person will not even get the idea to lift the mouse. If you ask the person to move the mouse up, the person may think you want to explain something new and will lift the mouse to see what happens.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        That's why even 2 or 3 year old children can just grab a tablet and start using it. Pretty soon they can find the icons of the games they like and use the thing with minimal supervision. Whereas with a PC they've got to get the hang of keyboard/mouse input doing stuff on the screen that's over there.

        With tablet it's see shiny thing, point at shiny thing, shiny thing does something.

        Adults have the intelligence and experience to think this out of course. But that doesn't come automatically, so they have to stop and think a lot. And also, when being shown something on the computer they switch off brain and just half listen and robotically do as they're told. Plus the odd random mouse click, to screw things up.

        Which is why I now do explaining in a two step process. Step one with me sat at PC. Slowly showing them how to do stuff, and telling them to take notes for stuff they won't remember. Step two is making them sit at PC, and not telling them how do do things, only what to do. If they can't remember, ro didn't write it down, then I explain, get them to do it, and then suggest they add it to their notes this time, as they clearly didn't remember it last time.

        This mostly works. As most times they don't take a note of anything when I show them - but realise that they'd forgotten it just 30 seconds later, and so do the second time. Which then also means they've got notes in a language we've agreed between us. Also many (if not most) people remember something for longer just by the act of writing it down.

        1. John H Woods

          As my old boss used to say ...

          ... I learned two very important things today. I can't remember what the first one was but the second was "write everything down"

          1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

            Re: As my old boss used to say ...

            They say memory is the second thing to go. I forget what the first is.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "Adults have the intelligence and experience to think this out of course"

          Sometimes. Not always.

          "Slowly showing them how to do stuff"

          The key word is "slowly". Far too often people demonstrate stuff too fast. The watcher needs to be able to watch what's being done, what the consequences are and also take in the explanations of what and why. That's a lot of information to assimilate and it takes time.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Doctor Syntax

            I also note that some people showing users ( or running training) will omit steps, because they are "obvious." In reality they're only obvious to someone who if totally familiar with them.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              I also note that some people showing users ( or running training) will omit steps, because they are "obvious."

              I used to find this was a problem with schoolteachers. If it was a subject that fitted your thought patterns, no problem. If it wasn't you got left behind trying to puzzle out one thing when they'd moved to another.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Doctor Syntax Yes 100% true. It's an area I used to cover and experienced ( when I was receiving training ) in both parts of my work. Whether training teachers and support staff to help kids with learning blocks, or working with trainers who had to pass on instruction about how to use some new software package I had to put in a bit about making sure that every step was explicit. But it goes beyond that. I like reading books about (popular level) maths and science. But the books about maths almost always seem to lead me to a place where a sequence of steps is illustrated, and somewhere in the sequence I'll find myself scratching my head because there is a sudden jump from one line of calculation to the next, which is totally different, - and where it's within my capabilities I'll have to actually work through the calculations myself instead of just reading them. And inevitably there will be a line that's been omitted as (presumably) too obvious to include, as in a couple of pairs of terms that cancel out after a little bit of manipulation. It almost feels like a conjuring trick, sometimes. Except that it isn't intentional misdirection, just the writer doing that bit automatically in his head. I always told people I was training that "If you haven't said it they don't know it".

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Also many (if not most) people remember something for longer just by the act of writing it down."

          What I see, I forget.

          What I read, I remember.

          What I do, I understand.

          An education mantra I read (and remembered!) from many, many years ago, sadly mostly forgotten by the so-called educators who create most on-line training courses.

      2. drunkbobnopants

        Shop Manager to doddering grey-hair lady: "Just move the mouse around the screen"

        Doddering Grey-Hair lady dutifully lifts mouse to the screen and moves it across the display surface.

        Cue hungover me in the back office burying my face in my desk.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          ""Just move the mouse around the screen" Doddering Grey-Hair lady dutifully lifts mouse to the screen and moves it across the display surface."

          Which is why I keep refering people to this.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Which is why I keep refering people to this."

            Nice. But needs a trackpad adding to it.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Then let the person play a little bit to get accustomed to the mouse and pointer concept."

        Wasn't that the rationale for including a number of games in Windows?

    2. onefang

      "Luckily touchscreens were invented and she can manage that ok."

      Touch screens have their own problem. I was sitting at a large touch screen Dell computer, working on a document with my manager. I was busy typing away, and every now and then she would touch some part of the screen to indicate which part of the document she was talking about, which would move the text cursor, so my typing ended up spread at random parts all over the screen.

  6. TonyJ Silver badge

    My Dad...

    Now I should point out that my Dad isn't daft. Among other jobs, he used to train electrical apprentices for British Coal so a fully trained and qualified engineer to boot.

    But I've lost count over the years of how many times he's handed me his computer and only half a browser window is visible below all of the various add-in bars and other shite he's managed to install.

    Or random software.

    All to the response "It wasn't me".

    Thankfully he now uses a tablet for most of his regular computing (browsing) tasks.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: My Dad...

      That one's the worst (web browser add-in bars, especially if you have the add-in from hell that just keeps on coming back...

      By the way, what happened to Ask Jeeves?

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: By the way, what happened to Ask Jeeves?

        Dunno. Why don't you do a GOPHER search for it?

    2. Andrew Moore

      Re: My Dad...

      That's my dad too. I keep having to tell him that computers don't do things on their own, so now his current defense is that he didn't knowingly do it.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Mike Pellatt

      Re: My Dad...

      My Dad (RIP) was worse on a touchscreen than a kbd/mouse, unfortunately.

      He appeared utterly incapable of just tapping the screen without touching it for ages and sliding his finger across, thus generating an entirely different gesture from the one intended.

      Also, I couldn't remote in with teamviewer to clear the mess up/show him what he needed to do. Still, on the upside, he was doing he banking online until he reached 95 years old or so. Was even persuaded to give up the paper statements.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: My Dad...

        Double clicks on everything. Every. Fucking. Thing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My Dad...

          Double clicks on everything. Every. Fucking. Thing.

          and my wife does exactly the same thing.....

          buts what's worse, for about five minutes after saying don't double click everything, its single clicks on everything, even things that need a double click !!!! but then back to double click on everything again....

          AC,,, well she may see this

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: My Dad...

            Single click to select, double to open. Very easy to remember, at least it was until Web 2.0 came along.

        2. GrahamRJ

          Re: My Dad...

          Having just been to see Avenue Q...

          "Grab your dick and double-click for porn, porn, porn!"

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: My Dad...

        When you see grandads prodding at a touchscreen, it's for a reason. When you get older your fingers become less conductive.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My Dad...

          When you see grandads prodding at a touchscreen, it's for a reason. When you get older your fingers become less conductive.

          And here I thought it was my Insignia Flex tablet being a piece of shit. Well, it IS a piece of shit, but perhaps I can't blame it's screen unresponsiveness *entirely* on that then.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: My Dad...

            When you get older your fingers become less conductive

            Or you are in a trade like, say, tree surgery or farming where the skin on your fingers end up 10 times as thick as normal..

          2. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: My Dad...conductive fingers

            Some tablets and phones are less sensitive than others.

            However I have had to resort to licking a couple of fingertips to get resizing or horizontal scrolling to work (after first mentally checking back to when I last washed them and what I have touched since).

        2. J P

          Re: My Dad...

          In fairness, the reason my 79 y/o Dad spent ages prodding at the touchscreen on the laptop he'd borrowed to check his email when staying with us, before finally declaring that Windows had crashed, was because it wasn't a touchscreen - unlike the Surface Pro he'd treated himself to and got entirely used to.

          (Not in any way a technophobe either; he spent most of the 1970s writing operating systems for IBM mainframes, and has spent most of the last 30 years complaining about code bloat in PC operating systems/software)

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: My Dad...

            was because it wasn't a touchscreen - unlike the Surface Pro he'd treated himself to and got entirely used to.

            I've tried to scroll the text up the page of my book, while tired, when reading before bed. Which is how used to reading on my iPad I've become. So am in no position to comment...

            Tablets are brilliant though. We got Mum an iPad, and I've barely had to touch it. Saved me a bit of walking, but cost me a few free dinners. I still have to do stuff like transfering stuff across when she got a new one - but most of that's just because she's forgotten her gmail and/or itunes passwords.

            But I'm grateful, because helping Mum is far worse than Dad was. She'll say things like, "that can't be what's wrong with it." To which the only answer is, fix it yourself then. Which I'm too nice and fluffy to say. Although it's close sometimes...

            1. bobajob12

              Re: My Dad...

              Lucky. My SO downloads apps and spaffs them all over the screen, in random folders and generally accepts all the defaults so that using the tablet is like a hallucinogenic walk down the Las Vegas Strip under a cloud of notification popups from three weeks ago. Aargh.

        3. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: When you get older your fingers become less conductive.

          Well I'm in my sixties and while fiddling with some net-type fairy lights in the front garden last night I located a bare wire with the pad of my ring finger.

          A few seconds hopping around the lawn shouting "aggle-aggle-aggle" have given me the encouraging sign that the old fingers are pretty much as conductive as they used to be.

          True, the net lights were torn from the deck rails and dragged around the lawn before being ripped out of the supply outlet in a contra-indicated manner, all to the cruel laughter of the neighbors, but the lights were faulty anyway, the neighbors are gits & can suck my manservant and you can't have everything.

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: When you get older your fingers become less conductive.

            Stevie, I hope you take your ring(s) off when messing around with 'leccy ... Beer. Sounds like you could use one :-)

      3. bobajob12

        Re: My Dad...

        Tablets can be hard on the elderly. They're not easy to hold, and quick taps on the screen are hard for arthritic fingers. Just a thought.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: My Dad...

        "Was even persuaded to give up the paper statements."

        Never really understood the benefits of that. I get a printed statement in the post, a quick glance down to check all is well, job done. "Paperless", turn on computer, wait for it to boot, open browser to bank, enter log in name, enter password, go rummaging for the key-code dongle thing, enter 2fa key code, click a few links to get to statements, manually scroll down because the wide screen isn't long enough to show a whole statement, log out, shutdown.

        The only likely benefit is that it saves the bank money. Or does it?

    5. Bob Wheeler
      Big Brother

      Re: My Dad... - installing stuff

      My brother used to by two or three monthly PC magazines with the free CD full of stuff to try out.

      One day he called me to ask how to re-install "file explorer" on his Win XP machine as it would no work. I started to explain that you can't just re-install it, I would need to d a complete OS install.

      Anyway, I went around and after a bit of head scratching found that he had installed three different AV products at once. When the machine booted up, each AV scanner was fighting with the others to scan the disk etc.

      Took me the best part of the day to fix his machine and I never even got lunch - bastard brother.

      1. T-Bo

        Re: My Dad... - installing stuff

        Back in the day, my brother loaded up his Win 95 clone PC with every bargain-basement, shoddy-drivered expansion you could think of ... crap SCSI adapter for knock-off scanner, TV tuner card, FM radio card, you name it. No name brands, all stuff bought cheap from back-page ads in magazines.

        Every time I would get the mess sorted, he'd add something else or load another crap app and one or more of the drivers would break. Always claimed he'd done nothing at all ... It was obviously some mistake I had made. He had just innocently rebooted one day and it had all gone wrong.

        So -- I took a day and rebuilt it from the ground up, finally found an install and config sequence for all of the sh*t drivers that allowed them to coexist, and then called him to check it out. He verified that all of the sh*t peripherals he'd installed were working with the sh*t drivers and sh*t apps they required.

        Made him shut it down and restart it, cold. Three times. Each time repeating all of these verifications.

        When he grudgingly agreed that all was well, I told him never to load anything else, and never to call me about it again. Family are the worst customers.

    6. FuzzyWuzzys
      Facepalm

      Re: My Dad...

      Ha ha! My Dad taught me the basics of computers and electronics back in the 1980s. However if I have to breathe a sigh of exassperation one more time when I'm round his house helping him and he closes every app and window in order to open a new windows I will deck him!

      "Just put that window to one side, click the minimize....no Dad, just click minim..."

      Word exited.

      Open Excel.

      Copy text.

      Exit Excel.

      Open Word, load doc.

      Paste text.

      "Dad, just ALT and TAB to the other app..."

      Copy text.

      Exit Word.

      Open Excel, load doc.

      Paste text into cell. Save and exit.

      Open Word.

      Argghhhh!!!!!!

      Then God forbid this is over the phone. Sometimes it's just easier to jump in my car, drive 5 mins to his house and sit with him for 30 mins while we work through a database problem or his latest craze, buying and playing with wireless CCTV cameras, apps and software. I love him to bits, he taught me to love tech and to be patient with people who can't get it and now at the age of 78 he's taking his revenge out on me for all the years he spent trying to calm me and his other students down! Ha ha!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: My Dad...

        "at the age of 78 he's taking his revenge out on me for all the years he spent trying to calm me and his other students down!"

        You take your pleasures where you can.

    7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: My Dad...

      "But I've lost count over the years of how many times he's handed me his computer and only half a browser window is visible below all of the various add-in bars and other shite he's managed to install."

      In my case it's SWMBO and tabs. "I keep on clicking [the close tab icon] but nothing happens". That's because there are way too many tabs open for the one with current focus to be seen closing.

  7. RogerT

    Reverse problem

    My friends children often messed up their computers and I frequently got called over to sort them out. They were clever children and not afraid to add extensions or change various settings or try anything else. Their redeeming feature was that they usually had a good idea what they'd done to mess it up and knew their limits so would call me sooner rather than later in case they made it worse.

    Their parents were always annoyed with them but I took the view that they were learning and learnt from me as we always worked together to resolve the problems.

    They've now left home and their parents have a computer to keep in touch with them. They don't get such an easy as they gave me!

  8. Inspector71

    Walls can be useful

    As the comments for this will probably show, we all have one or more of the family or friend war stories. Let the downvotes fly but in my case the best cure for this I have seen over recent years has been that tablet thing from that company from Cupertino.

    For some walled gardens are the safest solution, for them....and us.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Walls can be useful

      Indeed.

      I've often wished my friend's PC was similarly walled; he has enough knowledge to screw things up but not enough to fix them. Unfortunately he's wilful, too, so will insist on doing things his way and not mine.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Walls can be useful

        "I've often wished my friend's PC was similarly walled; he has enough knowledge to screw things up but not enough to fix them. Unfortunately he's wilful, too, so will insist on doing things his way and not mine."

        When you say you wish his PC was walled, you presumably mean a wall placed between him and the PC?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Walls can be useful

          "you presumably mean a wall placed between him and the PC?"

          WEBCAK!

      2. Lilolefrostback

        Re: Walls can be useful

        For folks like that, I fix it and then tell them how to avoid the same, or similar, problems. Thereafter, they are welcome to take it to Geek Squad (or similar). I'm not your Huckleberry.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Walls can be useful

      Indeed. They're there to bash your head against once your desk is broken.

      (mostly required for cow-orkers though; family computer matters don't give me much grief)

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Walls can be useful

        You still get a phone call, but the solution is:

        "Yes, Microsoft office is another £/$100 purchase for those"

        "Yes, the CD drive is another £/$100 purchase for those"

        "Yes, a new one at £/$100 is needed for those, no they don't do repairs/replacements"

        "Yes, that is what they are suppose to do..."

        I don't get calls from people with Windows 10 either anymore... as I cannot "help" them either (it would be Linux, MacOS or 7 that "helps" them, not me)!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Walls can be useful

      The best part about the walled-garden stuff is that I know SFA about it. But my sister supports them for her work. All questions about them get the answer of "I dunno, call [sister]."

      Anon, 'cause she reads El Reg too.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Walls can be useful

        My brother's a professional IT bod - though has gone to the dark side and become a programmer. But he took the precaution of moving to London. I can walk to Mum's in 15 minutes - so that means I get to do the tech support.

        Although last time, that also meant I got roast lamb, strawberries and cream and a piece of fruit cake to take home. So it's not all bad.

        But iPads are great. Mum has a laptop, I think it gets used weekly. Everything else can be done on the iPad, sat on the sofa.

        The only problem is, my brother gave her his old Macbook Air. Which gives as many trouble as her old PC, with the additional advantage that I have to work out how to use it, before I can fix it. Just having the window controls on the wrong side of the screen annoys me every time.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Walls can be useful

        "Anon, 'cause she reads El Reg too."

        But can put two and two together. You're in trouble.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Walls can be useful

      well I see your ipad and raise you a Facebook plus dial up internet.... ....

      since family started using facebook and the use of email declined, no longer do I have to fix the broken mailbox is full issues with sending 800mb scanned photographs at 1400dpi...

      even better since the rise of broadband, when said photographs would break the internet connection over a 56 flex modem....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bob Newhart

    Comedian Bob Newhart would have made a good monologue out of this sort of story.

    Here is his famous one about Walter Raleigh and tobacco.

    1. Andrew Moore

      Re: Bob Newhart

      "And then what do you do Wally? You stick it in your mouth?!?!?"

      1. Tim99 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Bob Newhart

        Bob had it right - "You set fire to it!".

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Bob Newhart

          There's a very droll Wizard of Id strip on the same lines.

          "A gift from the Redmen across the sea. You roll it up, stick it in your face and set fire to it, thereby deriving great pleasure"

          {Frame shows king with burning cigars up nose and in ears}

          "Stupid Redmen!"

  10. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Retro computing...

    Approval this end for the mention of the venerable Commodore plus 4.

    1. phy445

      Re: Retro computing...

      Given that venerable means worthy of respect, I'm guessing that you missed the <irony></irony> tags off your post.

      I seem to recall the plus 4 was often referred to as the minus 60...

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "I seem to recall the plus 4 was often referred to as the minus 60..."

        It was a bad executed attempt to make a business computer out of the 64 architecture. Despite some hardware improvements (i.e. more memory available) they removed some of the most useful game features, and added "4" (or better 3+1) limited office application in ROM.

        Despite its more modern look (and better layout for cursor keys), it wasn't good for games like the C64, wans't compatible with its software, nor good as a business machine, its wp, spreadsheet and database application were too limited.

        I know it very well, because I got one. I couldn't play much, so I had to learn programming instead <G>. One nice feature though was its built-in "monitor" application, which opened to me the realm of assembly and low level programming...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "I seem to recall the plus 4 was often referred to as the minus 60..."

          "One nice feature though was its built-in "monitor" application, which opened to me the realm of assembly and low level programming..."

          That wasn't a new feature. The original CBM PET had that too.

    2. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

      Re: Retro computing...

      I loved the commodore plus 4...

      It should have been the replacement for the 64, but they crippled it at the last minute for marketing reasons.... If it had been released in its full glory then it would have been one of the all time great home computers...

      1. RodHull

        Re: Retro computing...

        Get on the BUS. The TED range was supposed to replace the VIC and compete against the 48k spec. funnily enough the C128 and Amiga where supposed to replace the C64.

        The TED chip was designed for be a low cost, low end.. Then all of a sudden they thought they'd turn it into a business computer with the preloaded roms. Arses and elbows are mostly unconnected at CBM (They were dev'ing the C65 when the frigging Amiga was out FFS). And thats why we had to wave goodbye to them in the 90's. (Escom does not count)

  11. m0rt Silver badge

    "Has doing tech support for your family ended in tears?"

    Pretty much every other time.

    For some reason, I was expected to know their passwords to things until I insisted they wrote their passwords down. Or develop a system for generating passwords.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: "Has doing tech support for your family ended in tears?"

      Every other time?

      To be fair, I probably do know the password... it's the old trap of password reuse. The problem is knowing which password they've reused for which site...

      I'm pushing a password manager, but it's not getting much use yet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Has doing tech support for your family ended in tears?"

        My friends often forget the password to their rarely needed administrator user. I usually have no idea what I set it to - but I know that the reminder phrase on the device will mean something to them. All I have to do is guide them to the point where Windows offers the phrase.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: "Has doing tech support for your family ended in tears?"

        What are your login details?

        I don't know, your the IT expert.

        A variant on this is,

        XYZ application isn't doing X (Whatever its supposed to do).

        Never heard of it, can't offer much help at this point!

        You are supposed to be the computer expert.

        I did a setup for a older gentlemen years ago (The setup & configuring was supposed to be done by his son later - Nobody told me).

        After being expected to know all his ISP settings, account details & licence keys & not knowing them I got told to go forth, he wasn't asking me to teach him programming by that point.

        Never been so glad to receive that verbal sentiment.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "Has doing tech support for your family ended in tears?"

      Nope - fortunately all my siblings are pretty competent in that regard. Even the one who uses a Mac all the time..

      (I too use a Mac all the time. Mostly for doing web stuff or ssh to the linux or freebsd VMs..)

      If the one who owns his own company (and is paranoid about data loss and so has backup arrangements that even I find slightly over-zealous - but hey, it's his livelihood) phones me up and says "can you help me with..." it's not going to be a run-of-the-mill problem.

      More usually an "interesting" one.

      The other brother is a programmer and uses linux all the time and so fixes his own problems.

  12. Roger Kynaston
    Linux

    Parents (in law)

    Thankfully my brother provides all the user support to my Mother. My wifes though. They live in Jamaica and are probably the only ones in their family to have broadband. Explaining across the Atlantic that you have to patch it when she struggles to correlate the movement of the mouse with the movement of the funny little arrow on the screen.

    The Windrush generation were never taught to type so getting an email sent takes quite a while as well. Sadly, the broadband provider in Jamaica has decided to jack their prices through the roof now and it is not in use at all. That will be something else to fix next time we go down there.

    Penguin because I have always had her on ubuntu. Still I will look forward to the rum punch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Parents (in law)

      Penguin because I have always had her on ubuntu

      Is "ubuntu" suddenly a euphemism for "the kitchen table"

      Coat ?? Where are you ??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Parents (in law)

        If that's true, the rum punch must be a euphemism for when the husband knocks the cr** out of you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Parents (in law)

          Nah, it's a bit like the donkey.

  13. Baldrickk Silver badge

    Rebuilt my sister's machine

    Put in one of the drives from my PC after clearing it of content.

    Clean install of windows, set it all up. All is well.

    Three days later, performance drops through the floor. Talking six hours to boot, about an hour to load the start menu after that... HDD light is continuously lit.

    With a lot of patience, and some cursing, I finally manage to kill the indexing service which is responsible for 99% of the I/O access (despite being an almost perfectly clean install of windows). Computer speeds up somewhat.

    A lot of knashing of teeth later, I'm finally able to run a SMART diagnostic on the drive. There's one warning flag... For some reason Windows ****s out because of this. Linux doesn't, it's perfectly happy using the drive (but does flag up the warning, just in case)

    Of course the whole thing is my fault. - I mean, I had to have done something to it, "problems don't 'just happen'"

    Happy ending though. New drive and it all works fine

    1. Paul Shirley

      Re: Rebuilt my sister's machine

      My brother bought a cheap laptop running Vista, despite being warned to avoid it. It took so long booting he just gave up after 10-20min and powered it off every time. Told him to just leave it for a couple of hours to get whatever it was doing done but that just gave a machine running incredibly slowly. Unusably slowly.

      I still remember the pain waiting minutes for settings to open after the POS finally started, and the horror of disabling indexing not quite fixing the problem. Never got boot below 5min and it still ran sluggish. Vista was bad all by itself but certifying totally incapable machines for it was just criminal negligence. He never got far enough to break it.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Rebuilt my sister's machine

      "Clean install of windows"

      "Friends don't let friends use Windows" also applies to family.

  14. JakeMS

    Family business

    I run a family business, and being the family IT guy, I used to get things like this all the time.

    Though somewhat less than I would should that business be running Windows, thankfully we run Linux which cuts down a whole heap of possible issues.

    It's become rare to have to offer technical support now, usually I only get calls when something has broken.

    For example the other day cups and saned were arguing over who should control the network shared AIO printer and I had to shut cups down entirely (and systemd kept starting it again when printer was powered on again causing me to curse at it and move the cups binaries so it couldn't as systemctl disable didn't even stop it!!!!) to allow the printer to scan. This broke after an update, and seemingly adding udev rules no longer fixes the issue.

    Working on it(tm) though. I've tried all the usual tricks.

    But aside from that, it's been over half a year since the last incident[1].

    So overall pretty good.

    [1] LibreOffice crashing, fixed by downgrade, bug since fixed and updated again.

    1. onefang

      Re: Family business

      "For example the other day cups and saned were arguing over who should control the network shared AIO printer and I had to shut cups down entirely (and systemd kept starting it again when printer was powered on again causing me to curse at it and move the cups binaries so it couldn't as systemctl disable didn't even stop it!!!!) to allow the printer to scan. This broke after an update, and seemingly adding udev rules no longer fixes the issue.

      Working on it(tm) though. I've tried all the usual tricks."

      Have you tried the usual trick of not using systemd? Sounds like it was at least part of the problem.

  15. Eclectic Man

    RESULT!

    Ah yes, good old Mum, and her Windows PC (the one that the nice Mr Gates insisted was 'upgraded' to Windows 10), and now she cannot find anything on.

    She was insistent that I, as the person in the family who actually works in IT (I write Information Assurance Policies for organisations to comply with ISO27001) must be the one to get her computer working again. She got so stressed with the constant updates removing the games she liked to play (various types of 'Patience', she is 85 after all) that it became unbearable. I did tell her that frankly buyer her an iMac would be worth it just to never have to sort out the latest 'updates' for Windows 10 ever again.

    So I bought her one.

    And even better, my brother in law uses Macs and lives closer, so he is now Sysadmin :o)

    I call that a RESULT!

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: RESULT!

      So long as he sets Appstore up to ask before installing updates. I installed a system update the other day which required a reinstall. It stalled at startup. I eventually just left it and went and read a book for 40min, came back and it had loaded, finally. Doing that while you are in the middle of an urgent missive would not be good for the blood pressure.

      Mid 2010 Macbook Pro, the one where using the graphics card instead of the motherboard graphics chip causes a kernel panic so gfxcardstatus has to run and be set on Integrated only. It is stable like that, provided I can do it on a restart before Thunderbird starts . . .

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: RESULT!

        This is another, unsung, reason why smartphones are great. If the PC dies mid crucial email, I can just grab the phone (or tablet) and finish it on that. It's not as easy to work, but it's fast enough to get the job done.

      2. Eclectic Man

        Re: RESULT!

        "So long as he sets Appstore up to ask before installing updates."

        Sage and sensible advice, Muscleguy, but as I'm no longer my Mum's sysadmin, I am steering as far way from giving my Brother-in-law advice as possible.

        I do, of course, love her dearly,* its just that she drives me nuts.

        (*Or I just want to inherit, callous, heartless ungrateful child that I am ;o) )

  16. Andrew Moore

    Ahhh...

    My family has evolved from asking me to sort their computers out, to sorting their smartphones/tablets out. I've resorted to telling them that I am a computer tech and I don't know anything about phones/tablets. When they tell me that they are the same thing, I've been countering them by pointing out all the obvious physical differences ("see how the screen is separate on your computer, but it isn't on you phone? Do you notice how you can put your phone in your pocket, but not your computer?") so that they can't be the same thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ahhh...

      I don't tell them I fix computers any more... I tell them I look with my eyes, read what it says and don't act like an idiot.

      Strangely, they stopped calling for IT assistance... well, they stopped calling all together.

      Possibly a win!

      1. Swarthy Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Ahhh...

        I have been known to send people this link (XKCD) for how to become "computer smart"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ahhh...

          Sent that to my mother. She was not amused.......

          My parents live in Spain, so Teamviewer is great. When ever I go there I get all the other jobs that can't be sorted out remotely. Like change the time in the car. Apparently, they couldn't do it, the car dealer couldn't do it. I read the manual and did it in about 30 secs.....

          1. My Alter Ego

            Re: Ahhh...

            Ouch, even my German mother doing that one funny!

  17. bigphil9009

    Skool Daze

    Back in the mists of time, when I was a young'un and things were still in SD, I was sitting in class one day working away when the headmaster poked his head in the door and said to me those fateful words "your mother is on the phone". As some here will remember, in those pre-mobile days these words were code for "someone you love and care for has died and your life will never be the same again" so it was with a sense of foreboding that I made that long walk through the corridors to his office to pick up the receiver.

    "It's gone! The whole thing is gone and all I have on the screen is a white page! All my bloody work has gone!"

    She had pressed CTRL+N by mistake.

  18. Richard Gray 1
    Pint

    Remote tech support..

    Oh yes.....

    Many years ago my father was working abroad (either Turkey or India I can't remember which) when I had a call that he had broken his new laptop.

    He had saved up for a Toshiba Satellite laptop with windows 95 on it. now there was a "big black border around the screen".

    Luckily I actually knew this was a known driver problem (I certainly counldn't have looked it up on the internet in those days). I now just had to talk a new computer user through going into device manager removing the display driver, restarting and letting it find it again , restarting, all from memory as I couldn't afford a PC of my own at the time.

    After the last reboot there was a massive sigh and a "I never really what you did until now - Thank you" which was nice.

    Scroll on a few years until last Christmas. We had persuaded him that his 12 year old PC was really out dated and should be renewed, which he did (SHOCK!).

    I get a phone call Christmas day evening (we had already exchanged the morning Christmas calls) saying the computer was broken and couldn't access the internet.

    Turns out my Niece who is "Studying to work in IT" without actually saying what she is doing in IT had "sorted it out for him".

    She managed to install McAfee over the top of the original AV to such an extent that it restricted ALL network access.

    Cue an hour on the phone to actually figure out what was going on (it was only later I found out about the help), and hour or so trying to talk a user on how to uninstall McAfee manually enough to get some network access, followed by another hour on Team viewer to fix the bloody thing.

    Lord preserve us from half trained IT wannabes

    Beer for what I needed after I finally got off the phone (Where is the large whisky icon?)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remote tech support..

      Sent my nephew a router for his new ADSL connection - with express instructions not to set it up until I was on the end of a phone to supervise it.

      Came that point and he couldn't login to the router. Eventually transpired that his teenage son had decided to set it up - and had now forgotten what new password he had given for the router.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remote tech support..

      >Lord preserve us from half trained IT wannabes

      Oh - so you've met my co-workers then?

  19. jake Silver badge

    Dad & I ...

    ... started MeDearOldMum out on a dumb terminal attached to Dad's AT&T 3B1 (so-called "UNIX PC"). A simple menuing system (sh and curses are your friends) worked for her for years. Then a couple of her friends got Windows 3.x boxen ... Dad & I just shrugged and went with the flow. What followed was several years of support hell, with MDOM constantly moaning about how awful modern computers were. Finally, I installed the variation of Slackware that I built for my Wife on Mum's machine. She still had the GUI "like her friends" (fvwm then, KDE now), but the complaints magically disappeared. She's been a Slacker for over 15 years, and support calls have been pretty much non existent.[0]

    My sister uses Redmond and Cupertino and constantly gripes about them. For some reason she can't believe that Slack can work, simply because it's free. Mum & Dad have stopped trying to convince her otherwise. Me, I just gently remind her that I no longer support those products when she starts bitching about them. My brothers use Slack, but they roll out their own.

    [0] I have to plug in new hardware for her ... but I'd have to do that regardless of OS. She's absolutely terrified of adding anything new by herself, and won't let Dad do it.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Dad & I ...

      Ooooh, reminds me of the fun I've had with Slack on an 386 yonkers ago... having to prod and poke all over the place to get TCP/IP working etc.

      Was real fun :)

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Dad & I ...

        Slack on an 386 yonkers ago... having to prod and poke all over the place to get TCP/IP working

        It wasn't *that* hard. It can't have been because I managed to do it..

        (My first PC was a 386sx25. Came with DOS 5 and I migrated it to OS/2 eventually. Once I'd bought my *MASSIVE* 330mb ESDI drive (and the interface card for it) at a computer fair I was able to dual-boot between OS/2 and linux (slackware 0.99pl15).

        And, after trawling through the Demon internet FTP site, I managed to grab details on how to implement PPP dial-on-demand and set up sendmail.

        Those were the days - when I could stay up to 3am working on setting things up and still manage to get up for work at 7am. If I tried that now I'd probably end up hospitalised..

        1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

          Re: Dad & I ...

          Ahhh, those were the days... OS/2 and Slack... fun!

  20. ' DROP TABLE users;
    Windows

    All these years later

    Is she still looking for the "Any" key?

    1. Dr.Sommer

      Re: All these years later

      In such cases it really help to use a permanent marker to correct one of the CRTL keys as such :-)

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This call may be recorded for training and security reasons.

      Blame El Reg; they re-wrote my story and changed my name "to protect the innocent".

      Either that, or they know how scary both my mum AND sister can be when roused.

      I now have a step-dad who is equally hard work when it comes to computers; he decided to clean their PC today; and been in and out asking for help ever since; with each visit revealing more PEBCAK behaviour.

      I'll have to go around and replace some broken parts in the morning, and hope he hasnt cooked the cpu.

      I'm taking a lot of spares with me....... just in case he tried another fix before I get there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This call may be recorded for training and security reasons.

        Well, I went around and replaced the cpu (90+C probably didnt do the old one any good, and it was so old, a Furby is more powerful); managed to clean and refit the cpu cooler; although I hate those crappy plastic lug things and will get a proper metal with back-plate job to fit.

        On switch on, it all made a really horrible noise; lying it on its side had disturbed all the gunk in the psu, and it had clogged up the psu cooling fan; a quick vacuum and.....

        It works, the new, faster cpu gets boot up time down below a minute, and a stress test shows the (2) cores not exceeding 45C, so the crappy old Intel cooler is just about managing, and not too loud at 100% rpm.

        Next job is sorting out the SIX outbound malware warnings that occurred during the burn test. MWB says the machine is clean, but.................

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I recommned

    something like DeepFreeze for the really tech illiterate for those that need to use Windows. It's a wonderful life saver.

    I used to use SteadyState on XP, but alas, they couldn't be arsed to create it for 7/8/10/

  23. Chris King Silver badge

    Don't tell my mother I work with computers...

    ...she thinks I play the piano in a brothel.

    Who else has to lie about their job to avoid being "free unlimited tech support forever ?"

    1. Old69

      Re: Don't tell my mother I work with computers...

      "...she thinks I play the piano in a brothel."

      Is she expecting you to be the new Brahms?

      1. hammarbtyp Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Don't tell my mother I work with computers...

        "Is she expecting you to be the new Brahms?"

        No, but they are often Liszt....

        1. onefang

          Re: Don't tell my mother I work with computers...

          So now, instead of expecting you to fix her computer, she expects you to entertain her with some brilliant piano playing.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worse than a mum

    My job, ( the main non-IT part, which is important in this incident) meant going into schools to talk to the Special needs staff. One day, not too many years ago. I had a 10:00 appointment, arrived punctually at the Coordinator's office and was told, very grumpily to wait outside. Which I did, for ten minutes. There was a sound of typing. Then printing. Then I was allowed in.

    She explained that she had to finish typing a report and printing it so that she could turn the computer off, before she let me in, because it was confidential. I must have looked puzzled ( or cross or both) because she explained that every time she got interrupted for a meeting or because she needed to leave her office she had to turn off the computer if there was anything confidential she was typing, and lose all her work. So I asked if it was not saving. And she told me that she didn't know how to save. So she wasted vast amounts of time retyping documents whenever she got interrupted. I didn't offer to help her - I was being paid to be a Special Needs Expert in that role, not an IT coordinator. And she was in a school chock full of people she could have asked. Fellow teachers, the school's IT guy, the admin staff - and most of the kids come to that. I still shudder to speculate at how much of her valuable time was wasted retyping documents instead of helping kids.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Worse than a mum

      /inserts wat granny meme here

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worse than a mum

      In our IT network department I was surprised how many of my colleagues didn't know you could hibernate Windows XP on their laptops for a quick shutdown/start when moving location.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Worse than a mum

        you could hibernate Windows XP on their laptops for a quick shutdown/start

        My current Win7 work laptop bluescreens if you try that. Or loses the group policies relating to the corporate wifi.

        Or just sits and sulks until you turn it off.

        I think it needs some quiet time alone with a build USB stick.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: Worse than a mum

          Or a 5th floor window and handily in-range skip...

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Worse than a mum

      Or she could just have turned the monitor off or put it sleep or activated the screensaver (with login required to wake from it). So many solutions.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Worse than a mum

        "So many solutions."

        None of whichare going to occur to someone who doesn't even know how to save a document.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Worse than a mum

          "None of whichare going to occur to someone who doesn't even know how to save a document."

          It sounds more like she didn't know you can save a document, and therefore didn't know she even had a question to ask let alone who to ask.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want a nailed-down-by-default

    VM image that kids can't tamper with too much. Noted there are some "kid" Linux distro's but never looked yet. That could be a good option (no flames as I really have never installed one to take a peek).

    All sorts of talk about family though, even doctors can be this bad with technology, resulting in mess that can be hard to distinguish from their handwriting...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I want a nailed-down-by-default

      Three groups I refuse to do IT work for, in any capacity:

      Doctors, Lawyers and Politicians.

      Life's too short, I have better things to do with my time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I want a nailed-down-by-default

        Yeah gods, I've done two of those. Haven't had a case of lawyers yet.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I want a nailed-down-by-default

        "Doctors, Lawyers and Politicians.

        Life's too short"

        It could be even shorter if your doctor's IT isn't working.

        1. onefang

          Re: I want a nailed-down-by-default

          "Doctors, Lawyers and Politicians."

          I've had both extremes with doctors.

          My current doctor, until recently the only non medical technology in the office was the fax machine, now they have computers.

          An old doctor, on my first visit to him, we quickly dealt with what ever medical problem I was visiting him about, then spent an hour chatting about the technical intricacies of the Ubuntu server he had installed by himself in his office. It was friendly geek chat, not "how do I fix this?".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I want a nailed-down-by-default

          "Doctors, Lawyers and Politicians."

          I learned in horror that Doctors, Lawyers and Politician use Windows 10, and Micro-shaft is slurping our personal data from their Work-PCs. (and they use non AD-managed Windows 10 Home or Pro, so all spyware and automatic updates are active, and all data all documents scanned by Defender and incl microphone and keylogging is slurped!) Like Facebook, but 150% more horror: When will Senators, Congress and the EU go after the privacy scandal that is Windows 10, when will the Indian born Micro-shaft CEO face jail time?

    2. Lilolefrostback

      Re: I want a nailed-down-by-default

      I usually tell friends to buy a separate computer for their kids and do not give the kids the password to the parents' computer. And to warn the kids that even dreaming of touching the parents' computer would result in a six-month suspension of smart-phone privileges.

      If your computer matters to you, do not allow kids to use it. They are far too brave.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like the bootnote, I learnt something new!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Haha. Over the years on PCW Tech Support I've heard many names for the computer

    Modem was a favourite, but also The Internet, Power Supply, Hard Disc, CPU, Driver, or Disc Drive. Most of which are highly confusing when reporting a fault - "the hard disk won't turn on" etc. What?

    Or they'd refer to it as what was written on the front - "my Pulsar is dead" for example. One lady was insistant she had a "Twenty-Four-Ex" model computer - it was a totally blank fascia with just the "24x" written on the CD-ROM drive.

    Once had a call from someone who complained they kept losing their work because the machine would reboot when he walked away. Much diagnostics later (including having him keep walking away from the PC in case it was a lose cable moved by his desk or something) and he mentioned something about a sleep button. These don't have sleep buttons.... "Well it says REST on it, which is like sleep".

    So he's found the Reset button then, that's good. Someone had told him about putting the computer to sleep and theirs had a suspend button on the front, as was the trend in the late 90s. Squiffy eyesight meant REST was the nearest thing he could find.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My sister picked up the word 'puter from somewhere - probably an AOL social gardening forum.

      1. Justin Case
        Flame

        She may be your sister, but...

        >>>My sister picked up the word 'puter from somewhere

        That just drives me mad. Worse than errant apostrophes. Willful arrogant ingorance.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: She may be your sister, but...

          "That just drives me mad."

          Another commentard has probably correctly written it as a neologism of "pooter". Not really any different from the evolutionary shortening of "omnibus" to "bus" - or "telephone" to "phone".

          Languages change over time - especially English. Once a concept becomes established then the descriptive words often become abbreviated in the appropriate context.

          Language is the relatively efficient tokenising of shared concepts in speech or symbols - whose etymology may not be apparent.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Squiffy eyesight it may be for misreading RESET as rest. However, I bet that's because it was etched/embossed onto a beige (now black) PC case with no attempt to bother with contrasting colours. Or any reasonable font size.

      Got asked by HP the other day for the serial number of our duff printer. God Bless smartphones! Could just shove that down the back and take a photo, then enlarge it - and get something readable. It used to be a torch, a magnifying glass and lots of swearing sorting the cables out to pull the unit far enough out that you could get even some access.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Could just shove that down the back and take a photo, then enlarge it - and get something readable."

        Our gas service man tried that with the pilot assembly the other day. Still couldn't read it and went to get his torch. Took my glasses off (short sight) and found it perfectly readable by Mk 1 eyeball. Sometimes you can go over the top with technology.

  28. Geekpride

    I'm now much more grateful for my parents. They don't fully embrace computers, but don't get themselves in trouble with them. The main use of their laptop is looking up information on soul & Motown discos, holiday destinations and things like that. The only quirk is that they will text me to tell me they've sent me an email - they seem to think it might get lost in the post.

    Peculiarly, my mum has embraced text speak, but nobody else in the family does, so I've got no idea where she's picked it up from. It's quite amusing to get messages along the lines of "Hope u r OK. Will we c u soon? Know u have ur own plans but would be good to c u. xoxo"

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Peculiarly, my mum has embraced text speak"

      Rather like SiL. Back in the days when I had a Nokia Communicator (full but minuscule keyboard) I made a point of sending replies which were not only in regular English but also had upper and lower case as appropriate and punctuation.

    2. peter_dtm

      That’s telegraphese

      Long before txt spk was invented we had telegraphese or telex (tlx) or morse or shorthand.

      Nrmly done by drpng vowels

      Important as tlgrms charged by the ltr & usng no vwls cud save a fortne

      Nw fangld txt spk is less obvs & cn b v obscr

      There was life before txt, complx rich & jst as bzar

  29. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Users ticking the "use proxy" for FTP check box, and then wondering why FTP delivery is not working... GAH.

    It is a tick box and it must be ticked for some "speshul funkshun" to work, right. Right??

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are two types of family members:

    - Those that want to use you and appear friendly while feeling nothing but contempt for a techie idiot.

    - Those that use Chromebooks and phones & tablets.

    The trick is to move the family to b and prevent them landing on a.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Those that use Chromebooks and phones & tablets."

      Several of my friends have gone down that route. Which means a steep learning curve for me when they ring up in a panic because something has stopped working.

      The latest was: "Norton won't install on my daughter's laptop". Some questioning finally teased out the information that it was a replacement laptop her boyfriend had bought her. It was made by Google. It was a ChromeBook - which apparently has its own antivirus system.

      The Apple ones are predicable - to which the answer is "They don't have a usb port - or headphone socket".

      1. peter_dtm

        Obsolescence : free with chrome/Windows/Android

        The Apple ones are predicable - to which the answer is "They don't have a usb port - or headphone socket".

        To which the reply is

        For the jack socket : Why do you want 19th century technology on your nice modern kit ?

        As for the USB port, what do you need that for ? I actually have a USB to lightening memory stick. Can’t remember when I last needed it though, files, Dropbox, OneDrive. Airdrop. Email, iMessage etc etc etc all just work.

        1. Gordon JC Pearce

          Re: Obsolescence : free with chrome/Windows/Android

          > For the jack socket : Why do you want 19th century technology on your nice modern kit ?

          How do I attach my headphones then?

  31. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Decided that I wanted to get my dad online. Built a PC from him and gave it to him for Christmas.

    Came over set it up and showed him how to use it.

    Cam back 3 weeks later, and asked whether he had used it "No he said, I didn't want to turn it on in case i broke it"

    As far as I know he never used it and 5 years later I found it hidden under a ton of other stuff when clearing his house out

    There was also the time when he bought a digital camera even though he had no way of uploading the photos..

  32. FatGerman

    Tech is not elderly-friendly

    Both my parents, now getting on a bit, have Macbooks. Both of them like the '3 finger drag' gesture because they can move things around one handed, and it must be good because they've actually remembered it, unlike the screen zoom or two-fingers to right click, or.. I could go on.

    Anyway, the problem is that, with their now shaky hands and reduced motor control, just moving the pointer around the screen often results in 3 finger dragging happening unintentionally and unobserved. 'I've lost an email folder!' is the latest one - yes, you've accidentally dragged it onto another one. Again...

    Bless 'em

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Tech is not elderly-friendly

      My reading glasses are 5x magnification. And focus at about 8 inches from my head. I can read either the screen or the keyboard, but not both. Which is fine - I can touch type.

      Until I come to use a fucking laptop, with the fucking trackpad that's 2mm from the fucking spacebar and has all the fucking keys in the wrong fucking positions so the fucking cursor runs away every time you fucking hit space and randomly types the end of words in the wrong box.

      And breathe...

      Can you tell I was fixing someone's laptop today? Me I like desktops. or well designed laptops with well placed trackpads. Or, in an ideal world, my old HP laptop that had a big blue button that turned the trackpad off, and then turned red so you knew you'd done it. Then plug a mouse in.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re:Until I come to use a fucking laptop,

        Try a usb Logiteck k120 keyboard.

        Nice action, hard-wearing and can be had for as little as $13 when Staples, OfficeMax or Amazon have a sale.

        I use one on my "lab" Dell Latitude that has all the problems you cite PLUS two sets of TP mouse buttons, one two-button aray and one three button. Type space, hit button, annoy self. Originally bought K120 for my Raspberry Pi experiments. Liked it so much, bough a second so I would have one at home, one at work.

        Noticed my Mother-in-Law (who suffers all the OAP behaviours quoted in other posts) using an HP external keyboard with paper squares stuck on to type on her laptop. The keycap labels had worn off. So I bought her a K120 and job done.

        1. My Alter Ego

          Re: Re:Until I come to use a fucking laptop,

          Seconded. We have a stack of them (and the MK120 mouse/keyboard combo) in the office.

  33. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Worse when they don't

    My late mother bought a PC. But instead of asking me she asked a "friend"- and so called friend got her to buy a PCworld machine ( not too bad as it went) with a shit load of other crap she didn't need. Said friend then abused the machine for her own purposes. Nothing too terrible, but when I visited I spent most of a day clearing clutter, locking things down and putting an icon on the screen that said "help" and launched teamviewer.

    My sister, who lives 5 minutes away got one of those scam "tech support" calls and let them into her machine.

    Then, realising what she'd done took her machine to a local computer repair shop who replaced her HDD and lost all her data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worse when they don't

      "[...] to buy a PCworld machine ( not too bad as it went) with a shit load of other crap she didn't need."

      Several of my friends have started to feel guilty about depending on me for their PCs and upgrades - so they did their own thing with the intention of saving me trouble.

      A young friend said he wanted to replace his desktop PC with a laptop - but needed to sell the former for a good price. I bought it off him to recycle to a new user at some future point.

      Eventually he showed me his new acquisition from PC World - another desktop PC and monitor that only had a marginally better video card compared to his old PC. In spite of a one year guarantee - they had also sold him an immediate breakdown policy costing him about about £15 a month. I stopped that immediately.

      He also took advantage of the "no interest for six months" deal. Of course when it came to that point he was broke - and I had to pay off the deal for him before the prohibitive interest payments kicked in.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Worse when they don't

      got one of those scam "tech support" calls

      We keep getting calls at home where the CLI says "International/Out of Area". I'm assuming thet they are tech support scams[1].

      One day, when I'm feeling bored and malicious[2], I'll answer and see if I can get the person at the other end to cry or swear at me.

      [1] My Welsh-speaking brother got one of those. He spoke Welsh to them. After about 20 minutes they gave up and he hasn't had any more calls..

      [2] Well - I am a cat-person. I can channel 6-month-old kitten fairly well after a few glasses of wine.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worse when they don't

      My late mother bought a PC.

      Might that be why she had trouble using it?

  34. TRT Silver badge

    I sometimes dread going home...

    because when I do the family rounds, I get to spend only 50% of the time on seeing my relatives, the rest of the time it's fixing stuff. Like last weekend... my father (a retired CNC lathe operator and metallurgist, so not a dunce) complained that the printer now wouldn't work from the laptop. It was fine from the desktop still, though. Had they made any changes to anything computer related recently? No... well, (eventually) they had received a new box from Virgin, but they just swapped out the old one, and typed the new password into the laptops and phones and it was all working, so that couldn't have been the cause. I spied the Virgin box sitting behind the television, in a different room to the printer.

    Had they put the new password into the printer, then?

    No, because the desktop computer worked with both the printer and with the internet after the Virgin box was changed, so that couldn't be the problem.

    Well, that would have been a reasonable deduction; except the desktop was plugged into the printer by USB, and it had been originally set up so the printer managed its own queue and was connected to the WiFi as well as the USB so they could print from the laptop without having to turn the desktop on.

    Problem fixed, I then drove back to my mother's house to see how that Windows 10 Creators Update was coming along so that she could pick up her Yahoo! mail again after the OAuth2 update issue which had "frozen" her computer. By which she meant it hadn't picked up new email since early February rather than the mouse and keyboard didn't respond with a visible change on the screen.

    At least my aunt next door is totally technophobic and without a single PC, Mac, laptop, smartphone or anything like that in the house. And no... that scratch on the kids favourite DVD isn't repairable, and yes, it is the reason the disc won't play properly anymore.

  35. Secta_Protecta

    What Server?

    My mother would pick up random IT related words and start referring to "servers" for example, when there clearly was no server anywhere in the picture. Being a sysadmin these conversations drove me insane and me screaming "what f&*#ing server?" down the phone was not an uncommon occurrence. And don't even get me started on the time Outlook stopped working but she of course hadn't done anything. Apart from change her mail password via the web interface, as she finally admitted after much diligent telephone and onsite support from yours truly...

  36. Zola

    Fingerprint scanners... and brothers.

    My brother just bought a Yoga 520 i5 laptop which has a touchscreen, and also a fingerprint scanner just below the keyboard. It's actually a very nice laptop.

    Anyway, after he'd had it for a day he brought it round to me so I could finish setting it all up and I enquired if he'd set up the fingerprint scanner.

    Brother: "No, I couldn't get it to work".

    Me: "Why not, did you put your finger on the scanner?"

    At this point I pointed at the anonymous looking fingerprint scanner below the keyboard.

    Brother: "That's the fingerprint scanner? I spent an hour yesterday touching my bl**dy finger on the screen...!"

    Oh how I laughed. Hahahaha. Families. I swear he's not related to me, there must have been a mix-up at the hospital. Yep, that's got to be it.

  37. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Dad wanted a PC

    I recommended a Windows 7 one from PC Specialist. He got a Windows 10 one from PC World.

    Cue avalanche of problems, although to be fair he did get through a lot of them himself.

    But what can you do, people won't be told.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Dad wanted a PC

      Had he previously used a non-TIFKAM system? Because if you're going to end up there anyway, one might as well start there instead of having to change. Mind you... Pissy World???!!!! WTF was he thinking?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Dad wanted a PC

        To be able to take it somewhere if the hardware went wrong and badger them until it's fixed. I guess there's still a lot to be said for that.

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: Dad wanted a PC

          There _is_ a lot to be said for that.

          But if that's what you wanted, it would be a mistake to get it from PC World.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Dad wanted a PC

        "Had he previously used a non-TIFKAM system? Because if you're going to end up there anyway, one might as well start there instead of having to change."

        No you don't have to end up there. Just sayin'

    2. DJV Silver badge

      "people won't be told"

      Yeah, absolutely.

      Some years ago a friend of a friend showed me a laptop he'd borrowed off someone else. The "someone else" had said he could buy it off them. I looked up the spec: not exactly new and used a Pentium 4 CPU. My advice: "Don't touch it with a bargepole - what he's asking for it is too much and, being a P4, it will probably overheat and die at some point" (as a lot of P4s had a habit of doing).

      Of course, he ignored me and a few months later asked me to look at it as it was no longer turning on. As far as I could tell the CPU had died. "Told you so," I said, handing it back.

  38. oiseau Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Hello:

    Has doing tech support for your family ended in tears?

    No ...

    Not for family or wife/girlfriend either.

    Why, you ask?

    Because it never started.

    I preferred to keep my sanity.

    Have a good week-end.

    O.

  39. Andy Taylor

    I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but when I was working at the fruit store, I told my mother I was contractually prevented from supporting her PC.

    When she finally got a MacBook (just before I left), I made her buy AppleCare and deflected all questions with "but you have AppleCare (that you paid for), you can ask them."

    Meanwhile, here's a nice summary of what it's like trying to teach a parent about computers from the brilliant Foil, Arms and Hog.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFX3Ju6cl-k

  40. ashton

    Sigh some people just don't care so long as they can ask you...

    My father runs to me with every friggin notification popup, you'd think he'd learn after few years to read the damn thing and think what it does..

    Also teaching your parent total commander and assuming he'll understand explorer after that doesn't work. Learned it hard way.

    Also quite often rather than try to understand things they make up their own imaginary ideas and rituals thinking it makes things better.

    For example closing browser tab before opening new page/typing adress...

    My mother on the other hand sticks to tablets and phones, sadly because those are limited and she's the one that actually asks me when something really unexpected happens... or when she can't do something.. often that something is damn annoying to do on tablet.

  41. Emmeran

    iPad to the rescue

    I spent a decade trying to help my wife (Ex) work with a computer. Finally I wised up, bought her the first iPad and pointed her at the Apple Store whenever she called.

    While I hate to see Apple products on my support list at work they seem to be the perfect solution for the "less technically inclined" family members. Kind of like the iTunes/iPod/iPhone combination, buy it and play it from the same place, annoyed me but worked for my wife and daughter.

    (To this very day I still swear that iTunes was the true genius of the i-Fad decade)

  42. Fading
    Linux

    I served my time....

    as family tech support for both my mother (RIP) and father (RIP) so when my better half asked if her brother could have one of my still working laptops I said yes. On one condition....

    The condition was agreed so her brother is now a Linux Mint user.

  43. Hans 1 Silver badge

    Me, mine, not the late mother or father, nor the wife

    It's her friends .... as a lawyer, she gets all the cast outs that need help ... and that are rubbish at computers ... like one, YESTERDAY, wants to print out an email attachment, has an android phone, email is two weeks old, cannot remember gmail password ....try to reset it ... after a notification on her device, on my gmail, entering her mobile tel number, and answers to various questions google refuses to reset her password (the only question she did not know was her 4 yo landline number that she had when she created the gmail account) ... not sure about the answers, but ... come on ... and default Android mail client is useless, brain dead (it is 2018, she has 64Gb of space on her device, AND the mail client does not want to sync more than 3 emails on her device, YES, I tried ALL sync options and I am patient) ... the email we wanted was I guess the ~8th ... she had written the password into her notepad, as I had instructed her ... and misplaced that at home ... she is a pensioner ...

    1. Ian K
      Headmaster

      Re: Me, mine, not the late mother or father, nor the wife

      Handy punctuation tip; if you stop hitting the "." key after single press the ellipsis becomes a full stop, and you can end sentences ready to start a new one!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Me, mine, not the late mother or father, nor the wife

        "you can end sentences ready to start a new one"

        But that means using capital letters.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Me, mine, not the late mother or father, nor the wife

      "wants to print out an email attachment, has an android phone"

      Ah, the old email on someone else's computer thing.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Support for family - no problems.

    I seem to have had almost the opposite experience when supporting family and friends. My parents are fairly tech-literate; it's usually questions like "how do I disable the touchpad I never use?" and assistance in changing their email from POP to IMAP without losing anything. In other words, good, intelligent questions. (Still haven't convinced them to go Linux, or at least LibreOffice.) Considering they fixed our 486 (when my brother and I bricked it installing a sound card without asking when we were young) with only a minimum of grounding us, giving them free support is perfectly reasonable.

    As for friends, I have a simple policy - questions and (quick) phone calls are free, but if I have to interact with your machine (in person or TeamViewer), you're buying me a meal. Except virus removal, which costs cash.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Support for family - no problems.

      " [...] , you're buying me a meal."

      Friends used to invite me for dinner - then apologise that one of their PCs needed attention. Now the kids have all left the nest I still get occasional very nice home cooked dinners - but rarely have to fix anything while I'm there.

    2. Old Used Programmer

      Re: Support for family - no problems.

      I got my wife to switch to OpenOffice 9and then LbireOffice) when Word for Windows 2.0 wouldn't install on Win7.

      On the other hand, she has absolutely no difficulty logging in (remotely) to our "alarm clock" (a Pi2Bv1.1 running Raspbian) to start or stop the streaming the local classical station. She really doesn't want to change the "alarm" time by modifying crontab, though.

  45. adam payne Silver badge

    Calving says that to this day he’s never received a word of thank and his sister denies the whole incident ever happened.

    Oh the denials are always funny.

    We know what happened and that's enough.

  46. NXM

    How to solve a problem

    I used to get calls from my mother whose laptop settings, icon placement, and email account and so on had randomly changed since she used it last. I'd painstakingly help her through it over the phone, and sometimes I'd have to go to sort it out in person - an entire afternoon's worth. Though spending a bit of time with her is always worth it, this would invariably happen when I had no spare time at all.

    Then I realised it was always be after my brother-in-law, also a techie, had visited. He'd piss about with the machine to suit himself or kids, and leave it in that state without telling anyone. Then I'd have to fix it. All so he didn't have to bring his own laptop.

    I sorted it out by putting a password on it and refusing to tell him what it was.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: How to solve a problem

      That really pisses me off. People who change the defaults of non-techy's (well anyone's) pooters. Suddenly Chrome has appeared on the machine and become default browser - and all music is automatically playing through whatever their prefered program is, rather than iTunes. Where I put it, because the person who owns the damned computer uses iTunes, so it was logical.

      The office is now nice though. Everyone is now on a PC set up from new by me. Which means they're all set up more-or-less identically. We all use the same stuff. So any time there's a problem, I can just sit down, and know where everything is. I've offered changes to my set-up to everyone, but they're all happy and don't know how to change stuff themselves. We outsource everything but basic IT, as it's not my job - but in small companies you do a bit of everything.

    2. keith_w

      Re: How to solve a problem

      fI set up my machines with 3 accounts. One for Me, One for the Wife, both passworded, and one for everyone else, unprotected, and no rights.

      As for providing support, my parents lived 250 miles away from me, but close to my brother, a technically sophisticated police officer so he provided all the onsite tech support for them.

  47. simon_c

    I wish my mum's IT problems were as simple as that.

    At 65 her problems tended to revolve around getting her NAS working with her MAC, and PC at the same time, keeping imap folder in sync, how to have multiple versions of MS office, so she could help different organizations she was part of with different office macros. Database normalization etc. Pffft.

    These days (at 70) she's given up on PCs as it's getting too confusing for her to remember how to do things on Windows and Mac at the same time. It's the more "normal" support of "well, $ISP said to reset the router and I did, and now my mac can't see the nas box "

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      My Mum occasionally springs something like, "how do I use a braille embosser?" She'd got it for a blind kid she was supporting - for the charity she helps since retiring. First, find software. Specialist stuff like that doesn't tend to be user-friendly either, the companies that make it don't have the money.

      If you're nostalgic for the racket of old daisywheel printers, you're in luck.

      1. techdead
        Devil

        Oh massive PITA, Braille printers, sent from Hades and noisy as hell, had to put ours in cupboard so it didn't wake up floor of 250 staff

  48. Maty

    mouse golf!

    My father-in-law has a tablet, and constant training has got him to use the basic functions through pure muscle memory.

    However, it's a joy to see him at the computer, where he moves the mouse by delicate whacks until the cursor is where he needs it. Actually holding and moving the mouse involves gestures so extravagant that if the pointer wasn't limited to the screen, it would end up in the next room.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: mouse golf!

      My mother in law has the same mouse technique, with the addition of a furious stabbing action when a button click is needed, one so aggressive that it causes the mouse pointer to move off target for the second of the double clicks.

      I took one look and bought her a trackball. Job done and she loves it.

      Now we have to come up with a way she can use her digital point-and-shoot camera without switching the field of view to everyone's kneecaps.

    2. Old Used Programmer

      Re: mouse golf!

      Get him a trackball.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: mouse golf!

      "However, it's a joy to see him at the computer, where he moves the mouse by delicate whacks until the cursor is where he needs it. Actually holding and moving the mouse involves gestures so extravagant that if the pointer wasn't limited to the screen, it would end up in the next room."

      Your Father in Law is Magnus Pyke and ICM£5

  49. GtBFilms

    My best (worst) call ever was from my Dad.

    "Help! The moon's all covered in walnuts wrapped in paper"

    WTF?

    Turned out he'd changed his desktop wallpaper to a photo of the moon, and the walnuts wrapped in paper were the Windows config file icons (cog on a sheet of paper) that some software he'd installed was dumping on the desktop every time he ran it.

    He also used to 'forward' interesting emails by printing them out, scanning them in, and sending the resulting jpg as an email attachment. Great fun in the dial-up days.

    When their grandson was born I emailed some photos. My mum asked for me to sent them all again. "Have you deleted them by accident?" I asked. "Oh no, but we want another copy to forward on to your Uncle".

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      "Help! The moon's all covered in walnuts wrapped in paper"

      It's not easy trying to explain to SWMBO what I'm laughing at when every attempt results in a fresh outburst.

  50. psychonaut

    this, several times a month, in 2018

    At which point Calving explained the screen was a screen and the computer was another box entirely.

    “What?” was the next retort, followed by some insistent commentary to the effect that Calvin’s sister was not stupid and knew just what was what and which thing was where.

    Calvin resolved to be a supportive sibling, so asked his sister if she’d ever noticed “that big, beige box under the desk?”

    “That is the computer,” he explained. “The screen is just a screen.”

  51. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Painful memories of a dr (who shall remain nameless) and a stinkpad (when IBM was still IBM and OS/2 was available) with win95 installed - and no free IRQ's... It was a delicate juggle to get things to work perfectly, then you'd bugger off post haste - only to hear that he've purchased another doohicky for his stinkpad and need to get it to work...

  52. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge

    New folder > New Folder > New Folder

    and then some:

    New Folder

    New Folder (2) along the way after a few years of updated Windows...

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: New folder > New Folder > New Folder

      Gotta look at a powershell script to create this iteration :)

  53. bobajob12

    What would it take...

    I have a vision of Family GPO coupled with LastPass family accounts coupled with app blacklists. Mum, Dad and Idiot Brother have their own PCs, but live in the bounds of group policy to stop the most egregious abuses they might think up. they set whatever passwords they like, but a pw manager stores them elsewhere (and protected so one sib can't see another's entries unless granted.)

    There's got to be a better way to support family members PCs than the "retail" 1-on-1 model.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: What would it take...

      "There's got to be a better way to support family members PCs than the "retail" 1-on-1 model."

      With the ubiquity of broadband, I suppose if you have enough family members to make it worthwhile you can set up a policy server and whatever else remote management/support tools and then limit what they can do without your prior approval. It should cut down the support calls but impact what you get at Xmas.

  54. kain preacher Silver badge

    I love my mom

    If 'm 1500 miles away she can fix just about any issue she has with out calling me. If I'm with in a mile I

    get pestered to death with simple questions. Lord help me if I'm five feet in front of her.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: teachers

    My relatives seldom call me for tech support because I live far enough away (thankfully) that if I say "I need to be there to figure out what is going on", they can find someone much closer to handle the situation. Also, perhaps I have said that often enough that they doubt my abilities.........

    But as a general rule I have found that over the years the worst customers to try and help have been grade school teachers and real estate agents - but I can qualify that now to say that the teachers are finally getting better - real estate agents not so much.

    1. sisk

      Re: re: teachers

      As a tech in an educational environment, yes. A thousand times yes. It boggles my mind how they can do so many online classes to maintain their teaching licenses and still be so utterly helpless with computers.

  56. sisk

    Several years back I had recently built a new computer for my dad. My dad, while probably not as competent as most of the El Reg reader base, is pretty handy with a computer. He calls me for anything that involves opening the case or for especially stubborn software problems, but generally speaking he's comfortably in the 'power user' category. My mother, on the other hand, would never touch a computer if she had a choice and is really only able to run the few programs she needs for her job as a nurse, none of which would be likely to be found on a home PC.

    The case I had gotten for dad had a huge power button, a 3 inch circle on the front of the case, with a much smaller reset button inset into the edge of it. For some reason mom needed to get on the computer - a circumstance that already trips the "what is going on here" response - and called me in a panic.

    "This computer won't turn on!"

    "Ok...you're hitting the power button on the tower, right?"

    "Yes, I'm not quite that hopeless."

    "Which one?"

    "What?"

    "Which button on the tower are you hitting?"

    "I only see one."

    "There's a big one and a little one and they're right next to each other."

    "All I see is a button and a logo."

    And at that point it became obvious what she was doing.

    "Push the logo."

    "Oh, it's turning on now."

    "Yeah, that was the power button. The little one you were pushing was the reset button."

    I love my mother to death, but I thank all that is holy that the computer room at their house is my dad's domain, especially after that call.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "a huge power button, a 3 inch circle on the front of the case, with a much smaller reset button inset into the edge of it"

      You're describing the effects of style over function, the bane of the IT world over the last few decades.

  57. Mandoscottie

    subfolders hell

    heh I have a user from the olden days who inists on creating subdirectories in a numbered format starting with 1. <longwinded product string>\then1.1 <longwindedproduct string + validation product string>> right up to folder 12. (1.x\1.1 - 1.10 then that right up to ripe 12 and subdirs) She literally sees it as a filing cabinet on the screen..........

    And she wonders why we just sit and bubble now, when asked, its claimed, so the folders sit in order....

    Doesnt explain the 1. bit though! I suggested perhaps let them sit in alphabetical order, then every product folder she creates from this template (i even built her framework folders empty and ripe for copy & pasting for each new product) will sit in the same order.....but no not good enough....she renames each folder after copying and pasting........

    Its got that bad and no-one call tell the stubborn dinosaur the error of her ways, weve started to deploy a sharepoint solution just for her depts paperwork :P

    ;o)

    1. sisk

      Re: subfolders hell

      A common problem for us is files with file names so long that they can't be deleted through normal methods. I've yet to figure out why Windows will let you give a file a name over the length that it can handle when you later want to delete it or why a user would WANT a file name that's 300ish characters long, but we see it all the time.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: subfolders hell

        I seem to remember, some years ago now, I'm guessing Win 98 machine, deleting characters from within a file name until the name was short enough to delete the files. And it wasn't one file. But, in my memory at least, a job that seemed to take an awfully long time.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Can you come over ?"

    I get this regularly from an elderly friend; usually it is the ONLY way to sort out even the simplest problems, as she seems incapable of doing anything that involves electricity (she even cooks on an oil fired Aga).

    Normally, this meant a 20 mile round trip; but today was a bit different, despite telling her repeatedly, she had forgotten where I was.

    "Coming over might be an issue", I replied.

    Why??

    "Well, it is a 2 hour taxi ride to the train station, then a 15 hour train ride to the nearest city with an airport........"

    "But you only live up the road!!" (still not clued in).

    "But I am not home am I, I am in rural China; I am surprised you even managed to get a phone call through; it must be costing you a fortune".

    "Can you come over when you get back?"

    "OK, I will see you in about 3-6 months".

    Next day she phoned back; her Husband was expecting an important email, and email hadnt been working for several weeks on her iPad.

    After making sure she knew the cost per minute of the call, I started going through everything; starting with the obvious (turn it off and on); when that failed, can you read the emails on the PC?

    Oh, the email isnt working on that either.

    Hmmm.

    Another 15 minutes (most of which were spent waiting for the ancient thing to boot), and we had established that they had no internet access, rather than no email; OK, check the router is ok.

    Now I wont bore you with the details, but it took me about 20 minutes to explain what the router looked like, even though it had been sat next to their phone for about 5 years; and what lights it should have glowing on the front.

    It turned out none of them, it was either dead or switched off; power button duly located (another 5 minutes), and pushed a few times, as was the rest button, dodo.

    Is it plugged in??

    (10 minutes of rummaging noises)

    "No."

    "Well plug it in then."

    "I cannot possible do that; I will call "x" (who lives about 5 miles away), and get him to come over and look at it next week".

    "X" is an elderly Greek farm labourer; nice bloke, but with all the tech savvy of plankton; HE couldnt figure out how to plug it in and switch it on, so they actually paid BT to send an engineer out WITH A NEW ROUTER.

    Alas, they forgot to get him to set up the wifi, so that task fell on me when I returned to the UK 6 months later.

  59. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    I must be blessed

    The only problem I've been asked to fix on behalf of a non-tech savvy relative in recent memory was for my dad. He has a Mac and an HP printer which he (usually) keeps loaded with paper. But recently, his printer ran out in mid print job. After loading paper and clearing the on-screen pop-up, the printer would not resume working. A quick trip out revealed that he has placed the printer on a high shelf. So the top of the printer, with it's own flashing warning light and resume button are not visible.

  60. CentralCoasty
    Happy

    I solved this problem - according to dear old google I am 17,216 km from my parents house, so I luckily never have to deal with parental IT woes.

    I do hear the "oh we had problems but luckily your sister came down and fixed it".... my sister has the (mis)fortune of living 4 houses away from them.

    For two reasonably smart people (mum was a teacher and dad an engineer) I am still struggling to get them to buy a cordless phone (when we call to talk to them we have to wait while Dad crawls off up the stairs to the spare bedroom where the second phone is located).....

    ..... the computer is stuffed in a small box room - so again, using it is a nightmare. Mum hardly ever does as she hates tackling the stairs. I suggested they get a tablet... they thought about it but decided they didnt want to because then they would have to leave the modem/wifi router turned on!

  61. SZJX

    What a jerk his sister was though. Quite unfortunate to have such a family member and having to put up with her for many years for sure.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once helped an aunt setting up a newsletter for an "old ladies" club. I advised her to store her files in directories named after the year. We started with a classic My documents\2006.

    A few years later, I found out she was working in My documents\2006\2007\2008\2009\2010.

  63. EmleyMoor

    If I've left it like that, it's for a reason

    I'd gone away for a few days, leaving my computer, which was also the family fax machine (which may or may not have been relevant to the issue) on. I'd also left the top cover *off* the trackball as there was a problem with one of the optical parts which meant it wouldn't move well horizontally with the cover on. I intended to obtain a new one as soon as I could find a suitable one.

    For some reason, my sister needed to use my computer for something, so she called me (either on my mobile phone or possibly where I'd gone) for some guidance. During the call, she complained that the trackball was difficult to move horizontally. I thought "Oh, it's worse now" - no, I got back to find she'd refitted the top cover!

    If I've left a cover off, there's a good reason for it. However, I'd now *hide* such a cover because of this incident.

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