Thursday, February 23, 2006

Me and computers

I admit it. When it comes to computers I’m a retard. Someone explains how to run a program, I nod, it all makes sense, then the minute he leaves I’m the guy from MEMENTO. I’m completely helpless over a skill that every 14 year old in America has mastered. And I can work a TIVO so I’m still ahead of most of my friends (you’d think those Masters degrees and Doctorates would account for something). But even if I knew the first thing about using Pro Tools or how to log onto a porn site without getting a raft of spam, I still contend computers are just too complicated.

Case in point: I switched internet providers this week. I’d been having terrible trouble with my DSL provider. In fairness, the culprit was really the phone company (You can call it Verizon now but it’s still General Telephone – the string-and-two-Dixie-cups of telecommunications). But my internet was down every two nights and finally I decided to switch to cable.

I know a lot of internet providers will provide you with a box of equipment and instructions. To me that’s like buying a car from Ikea. A big box arrives on your front lawn that says Toyota. So I of course opted for the installation package. It took this guy (a “trained” professional) two hours at which time he had managed to completely screw up every computer in the house, the router, and my microwave is now on the fritz. He threw up his hands and left, I had to call my computer guy (at “you need a loan” hourly prices), and it took him another two hours to fix things. And there’s still a problem with my email that he says can only be rectified if I upgrade my entire system (which would be a whole day, the cost of a year’s college tuition, and would probably wipe out my Tetris high score results). For a good part of the afternoon this guy (who really knows his shit), recalibrated, reconfigured, pulled down menus and pop up boxes I never knew existed, hooked things up from modems to bay stations to power outlets, typed in IP addresses, user names, passwords, codes, clicked yes and no to thousands of options, and still had to call tech support twice. When I asked if the tech support guys were helpful he said the second guy was. Jesus, even the tech support people don’t know what they’re doing.

There has to be a simpler way. They can invent ipods and blue tooth and instant messaging complete with video – there has to be a computer even I can use. In the meantime, there’s a guy with a perpetual runny nose, lazy eye, and thinning hair at 22, toting around Natalie Portman stills from STAR WARS – and I’m his bitch.


Anonymous said...

There is a simpler way. It's a Mac. :-D

Seriously, sorry to hear about your frustration. Computers should assist and enable your creativity, not get in its way.

Alex Epstein said...

You're on a PC. Aren't you.

CharlieDontSurf said...

It's called cable internet.

Anonymous said...

Macs are the friendlier path. You would lose your Tetris scores, though.

It's a tough call, I know.

Anonymous said...

yes, that guy is probably bittorrenting high quality divx versions of stuff you wrote. ah, the world.

By Ken Levine said...

I do have Macs and I am now on cable. Instead of four hours to install the cable broad band it would have taken eight if I had a PC.

Whaledawg said...

Macs are for people who like to pay more money to not have the option of upgrading.

And they are no simpler to configure for cable internet. Everyone has the same settings they have to specify.

Here's the real problem with computers. They are inherrently complicated and they follow the same rule as everything else on the planet. 90% of evertything is pretty half assed and shitty.

If it makes you feel better at least you can't see why nothing works right. Looking at other peoples code makes my eyes bleed. And I work somewhere they make computers that fly planes!

mahlzeit said...

In my experience, people who have trouble using computers are usually afraid of them. The trick is to simply click on every button until it works -- that's what the so-called experts do too. ;)

Al said...

Hey, there's nothing wrong with thinning hair in your twenties!

Or carrying around a picture of Natalie Portman.

Orlando C. Harn said...

Oh no! It turns out that he actually IS ALREADY USING A MAC!

I have seen a lot of posts like this, and usually at least 95% of the responses tell the person to get a Mac. But now what can commenters say?

Anonymous said...

We can say: "Get a different computer guy, this is an easy process and shouldn't take four hours."

albert braun said...

Jesus, even the tech support people don’t know what they’re doing.

i feel your pain. i've encountered plenty of tech support people who don't know what they're doing. and if you happen to stumble across one with both knowledge and compassion, you'll never be able reach them again.

to make matters worse, the ISP organization is usually even more confused and dysfunctional than its tech support people. (perhaps causality is at work here.)

inexplicably, the tendency to spread tech support staff around the globe in the last five years hasn't reduced the chaos. i just can't figure it out.

By Ken Levine said...

For the record, I love my Mac. What little I do know how to do with it works great.

Anonymous said...


You just KNOW I was having a great time scrolling through the early "Get a Mac" comments before you let 'em off the hook!

Anyone who criticizes Windows or Macs right out of the starting gate is obviously not working with both. I am. They're both insane in their own special way.

My sole defining argument: I can't build a Mac from scratch. That's about it.

Anonymous said...

By the way, if any of you Mac fans can recommend a decent Usenet newsgroup reader/decoder, PLEASE do. Windows has Xnews. Macs need a equivalent.


Anonymous said...

Ken, I've used Protools on a Mac since 1989. Switched to Windows XP two years ago. The PC wins hands down.
Lose the Mac…. besides there are many more PC savvy people in the world in which to help you.

Bill Nesbitt

Anonymous said...

Ken -
great post as always.
as a procrastinator, ahem, writer, i have played my share of tetris (i even bought a gameboy for the sole reason of playing tetris while in line (the wait for concert tickets and at the post office is now almost fun. almost). so, what's your highest score? i hate to reveal my highest score - it's pathetic either way: i'm either way too into tetris with a ridiculous high score, or it'll turn out that my highest score isn't all that high. so, let's just say my highest score, starting from level 0, is around 600,000.

oh, and good luck with your computer issues. just remember that no matter what, they have you by the cajones, sorry to say.

-- sascha

adamdoesit said...

You have a genuine computer guy. Take it from a fake who has spent ten-plus years in the business of giving people the business: every genuine computer guy the world over has a lazy eye. It's their masonic handshake, the genetic quirk of the strange town they're from. Be grateful, and look away.

Anonymous said...

Ken...this is serdendipitous. I just got my Mac back from having it upgraded to OS 10 with Mozilla (and Firefox as a backup). Your words are no longer squished to one side of my screen. And like you, sometimes I think technological things move just a little faster than one can comprehend. I stood there at the Apple Store, looking amazed at an iPod with 60 GB of memory. My Mac's 20GB hard drive is roughly slightly smaller than a VHS tape. This thing, just half an inch thick and only a little larger than a credit card, can hold triple that. Still...I can't quite see the point in being able to watch an episode of THE OFFICE (American) on a postage-stamp screen, or to have a personal soundtrack while snowboarding, to turn reality into a Warren Miller movie.
Note to Howard Hoffman: I was using Microsoft Outlook Express for Usenet, but a couple of weeks ago I got an "end of file" message--and it wasn't deleting older posts, even though I thought I set it up that way.
That is something I expect to have help with at the Procare session on Sunday, to show me all the new wonders I now have. I asked, and they said if I want, I can watch THE OFFICE on my computer even without an iPod--but I'm more likely to get DRAGNET 1967.