You know what really kills me? When people assume that I actually went to school to learn how to remove spyware from their fucking computer. An average person seems to have absolutely no clue what can you possibly need to learn to attain a Computer Science degree. It’s just irritating to constantly have to explain to people that no, I did not learn this stuff at school. At school I learned about algorithmic complexity, programing language theory, creating compilers, operating systems, parallel processing, writing mathematical proofs for your code, software engineering principles, relational algebra and all that fun stuff. None of the stuff I’m helping you with has anything to do with my formal education. It’s not something fun, interesting, worthwhile or educational for me. I’m fixing your computer because I’m a nice guy, and probably because I either like you, or pity you a little bit. And mostly because I do have some IT background so I can’t really say I don’t know anything about this stuff.
Seriously, general computer maintenance stuff people ask me to do for them on a daily basis is really not rocket science. It’s not something you learn in school, or something you have to be trained for. The only thing you need is a little bit of critical thinking and an internet connection.
In fact, let me tell you a little secret. I will show you exactly how we “computer guru’s” do our stuff. I will actually make you into one of us, in 4 easy steps. Ready? Sit down, buckle up and write this down:
Step 1: Identify a Symptom
This is the first and most important step. A lot of people get this wrong, so pay attention. Note that I said “a symptom”. Not the symptom, not the problem – just a symptom. If there are several, pick the most annoying one.
If your symptom is an error message copy and paste it onto something, or write it down on a piece of paper. The whole thing. Not half of it, not just the heading – everything!
Also (and this is crucial) write down when does this symptom occur. What was the last thing you did before you saw it. Does it happen every time you start your computer? Does it pop up when you run a certain program? Try to replicate it if possible. There will almost always be something that happens just prior to the occurrence of the symptom and there is almost always a pattern to it. That said some issues may be weird and intermittent so don’t loose sleep over it.
Step 2: Type it into Google
Yep! That’s what we do. We just take all that information we collected, trim it down a little bit and then paste it into the Google search box. For example, you could do something like this:
Error 12345 when logging into Windows
Obviously you want to be specific enough but keep the number of keywords low. If you flood Google with too many words, you will likely get a lot of garbage mixed in with the relevant results.
Step 3: Read Suggestions and Follow Instructions
This is where the critical part comes in. You have to sift through the Google results and see if any of them contains a description of a problem similar to yours. Forums, blogs and mailing lists are your best bets. If you find a post that describes a similar symptom read it, and try following the workaround/fix/removal instructions.
If you can’t find anything relevant to your issue, revise your search query or pick a different symptom. Rinse, repeat.
That’s it kids! That’s all we do. Granted, some of us have more experience at it than the others. These days I can diagnose and resolve a lot of problems without the help of the mighty Google. But that comes with experience. I got mine working in the IT field, but when I started Google was my best and dearest friend. It still is. Most of the stuff I know comes not from books, training or courses but from online research and trial+error troubleshooting. Do this type of light IT work (computer maintenance and etc..) for a few months and you will not only learn a lot about your chosen operating system, it’s quirks, common issues and best maintenance practices – you will also start to resent the whiny little bastards who can’t google shit for themselves.
Asking a person with a computer science degree to fix your desktop is like asking a hydraulic engineer to fix your leaking sink. It’s like asking an automotive engineer to change the oil in your car. It’s like asking a graphical designer to paint your bedroom wall. It’s like asking zoologist to walk your dog while you are at work. Does that make sense?
So keep that in mind next time you approach a “computer guy” for help. Chances are they will be willing to help, but will likely resort to the method above since it almost always gives good results and makes them look like heroes. Some of us do have some IT experience and might be more willing to help. Others however may even feel a bit insulted.
Also, here is a question for the comments: have you ever offered to help someone you were attracted to with his/her annoying, difficult to fix, tedious and boring computer issue hoping it will improve your chances with that person, despite knowing full well that it wont? Bonus points if it actually worked.