Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Computer Woes

My father studied Engineering and has always loved gadgets. So it was natural that when personal computers came along, he was one of the first to have one. My husband and I were also early adopters of technology and our children were raised on PC's.
I am not certain what it is about Engineers, but it seems they can't just let things be. They have to tinker with it, and change settings and dig down into the nuts and bolts to see what happens if.....
Computers are no different! My father would often go into something like the registry and change settings, and the computer would come to a screeching halt. Or, he'd go into Explorer and move things and then not know where to look for them. Or he'd delete items because he thought they were superfluous. As our sons became better at understanding the workings of computers than my husband and myself, they became the 'go to' guys when Grandpa did something to his computer. They became very adept at finding the solutions, but they were always very frustrated and would make themselves scarce when it came time to bail Grandpa out of his latest mess.
I think we were all somewhat relieved when my dad switched from a PC to Apple. We could honestly say that we couldn't help him because we were unfamiliar with Mac computers. But recently, that has changed. I have been getting an increasing number of phone calls about problems my father is having using his computer: about his printer not working, about a document he can't find, about having trouble using the Internet, or about an email problem. I try to talk him through each step to help him proceed, but with my inability to 'see' his screen and his difficulty understanding what I'm asking him to do, and my failure to break things down into small enough steps, and my unfamiliarity with the Mac platform, it just doesn't work. We both get extremely frustrated. I am forced to put him off for usually until the next day, before I can get up to his apartment to try to help him.
I was talking to my oldest son, who works in the computer industry, asking if he knew of some reasonably priced software that would allow me to have remote access to Dad's computer. My son let me know that Mac's have video chat and screen sharing capabilities built into them. Wow! A perfect solution. I purchased a MacBook computer and it has been worth every penny I spent on it.
Today was yet another example of the power of these applications. I received a call from Dad because he wanted to send something to a friend, but his all-in-one printer/fax/copier wasn't hooked up to fax. I began a screen sharing session with him. From the comfort of my living room I was able to access his computer. I was able to help dad scan the documents he wanted to send, open and write an email, attach the scanned documents and send them.

Earlier this week Dad called because he 'lost' his address book. Again, in a matter of minutes, I was sharing his screen and could search for the address book and place the icon back in the dock.
The iChat feature of the Mac has given us many opportunities to work together to solve problems through screen sharing and to simply chat, face to face. We have been loving it!

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