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12/18/2014
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7 Excuses To Avoid Family Tech Support

Are you the family's unofficial IT person? The holidays are a dangerous time: Here's what to say when you're asked to fix messes.

8 Tech Turkeys To Avoid As Gifts
8 Tech Turkeys To Avoid As Gifts
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Minutes after the last present on Christmas Day is opened, the phone calls start. They won't stop until late that night or possibly the middle of the next week, depending on the size of your family and circle of friends.

"Hi. Yes, happy holidays to you, too. Listen, Granddad picked up his new laptop by the screen, and now it's black. No, no, the laptop is white... more of a beige, actually. The screen is black. How do we fix it?"

"Hi, it's me, Allen. Your cousin. Remember, we met last year at Uncle Paul's funeral? You still work in technology? That's great. So my kids sent me a Roku. Funny name, right? Looks like the thing shipped without a keyboard. Can I plug a WiFi keyboard into it?"

"Hi. What's my Apple ID? What? Well, that's just ridiculous. Just help me guess it!"

If you know a scooch more about computers, DVRs, smartphones, printers, or routers than the general public, you will eventually be dragooned into troubleshooting for friends and family.

[Tell your gadget-loving friends: 3D Printers: Why Nobody Needs One For Christmas.]

Sometimes your obligation is clear. Say your mom's Window's PC is infected with a ransomware virus. You should -- and, ultimately, will -- spend several days unsuccessfully trying to decrypt her files, only to learn what security experts now advise ransomware victims: "Pay them the damn money."

And only a monster would refuse to help an eight-year-old nephew restart his Internet service on Christmas morning or disregard your significant other's anxious Facebook message asking how long to leave an iPhone in a bowl of dry rice following an incident in the bathroom.

(Image: Gus Bus)
(Image: Gus Bus)

But for those times when you'd rather have that third glass of wine than look at the error message on your host's spare PC in the basement office/bunny habitat, we offer the following excuses:

"The first half hour is free. After that, it's $125/hour for me, or $30/hour for [insert name of middle school-aged child]."

"Hummm, that sounds bad. Time for a clean install of the operating system. You have a complete backup of all your data, right?"

"I'm happy to take a look, but the last time I fixed a [insert computer brand], it caught fire later that night."

"That bottle of Ketel One in your freezer isn't going to walk over here by itself. Go get it while I get started."

"As Bill Gates told me once, [insert endless, meandering, made-up story; don't forget to keep drinking their vodka]."

"You've always told me Macs don't break. So you are mistaken. You're welcome."

"If I find porn, and we both know I will, I am going to tell [insert name of significant other]."

But here's a bonus answer -- the best we've seen. Dan Moulding posted the following on Programmers Stack Exchange in 2010:

  • If it's a Windows box say, "I only know how to fix Macs."
  • If it's a Mac say, "I only know how to fix PCs."
  • If it's a Linux box say, "You're a Linux user... fix it yourself!"

Have your own canned responses? Post them in the comments below.

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Ellis Booker has held senior editorial posts at a number of A-list IT publications, including UBM's InternetWeek, Mecklermedia's Web Week, and IDG's Computerworld. At Computerworld, he led Internet and electronic commerce coverage in the early days of the web and was ... View Full Bio

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impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
12/23/2014 | 4:48:54 PM
Tech vs. people

Depending on the family and the dynamics spending time with technology may be a welcome respite from the family squabbles! I do like the statement about the laptop catching on fire --I may use that one!!!

Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/23/2014 | 2:36:06 PM
Got drafted early
My parents launched a sneak attack request for help over the weekend. Luckily they were easy problems. Good luck this week on the tech support front, everyone.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/22/2014 | 8:50:49 AM
I'd have to resort to the truth
The truth is any tech that's not a WordPress plugin is pretty much a mystery to me. Like trying to understand why my Android phone kept running slower and losing battery faster until one day it spontaneously healed itself, after resetting to factory defaults (no user intervention required). Hardware works in mysterious ways.
Charlie Babcock
IW Pick
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 5:52:42 PM
How about some Windows 9 help?
I've got a lot of expertise in Windows 9, but otherwise I can't help you.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 5:33:09 PM
I Owe My B.I.L
We bought my parents a Roku 3 for Christmas but, since we live in FL and they're in SC, my brother in law was drafted to install the device if my parents run into trouble. I think my dad will be fine; he's pretty savvy (figured out Windows 7 just fine without much phone tech support from me), but I did draft Seamus, just in case!
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 11:43:26 AM
Networking vs. PC, PC vs. Networking
Riffing on the I do PCs, not Macs/I do Macs, not PC's theme, you could say, "that sounds like a networking issue, which is not my area," or "that sounds like a PC issue, whereas I specialize in network infrastructure."
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 11:24:03 AM
Paging Tim Cook's Crew
"Uncle Joe, the Genius bar is open tomorrow at 9 AM."
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