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  Tales from the Trenches Vol. 1  
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Tales from the Trenches Vol. 1 (TTID #35)

Author: Max Emtea Ewe   Views: 5,381 /  Created: January 1, 2001
This article is for those of you who are technologically challenged. You know who you are. You think modems actually connect at a 56K BAUD rate. You think TCP/IP is something to use in the bathroom. You think PKZip® is a brand of plastic baggie for the freezer.

I could tell many horror stories of the relatively simple things, people get wrong about their computers. I work in technical support for an ISP (if you find yourself asking what ISP is, you've just discovered your membership among the technologically challenged). ISP stands for Internet service provider. Some examples of ISP's are AT&T World Net & CompuServe.

I would like to pass along a few secrets that may help you appear a more computer smart the next time you need to call your ISP for help. I’m going to call these secrets "The 10 Things to Do to avoid having a support representative laughing at you behind your back."

1.) Know your username. The act of not knowing this information or the password is pure laziness on your part. It only takes a couple mesons in your brain to store this information. Write them down in a secure place. It will save you a lot of time.

2.) Know what type of account you have. In this modern age of dial-up, hosting, DSL, cable-modems and ISDN lines, not knowing what you're paying for is extremely unwise. You wouldn't buy a car without at least knowing what make, model, and color it is. Purchasing a service is no different. You can apply this tip toward buying a computer as well, by the way.

3.) Know which Operating System you have. It's not difficult, it just requires you to read the paperwork that comes with your computer. If you want to stun the tech senseless, know which software you are using that is pertinent to the problem. For Internet connectivity that would include your browser and email program. It helps to know the difference. I cannot even count the number of times I've asked for the email program name and had someone respond with the ISP's name. This is really basic information. Trust me.

4.) Don't try to impress the tech with your credentials. How many computer degrees you have is irrelevant. If you had all the answers, you wouldn't be calling for support.

5.) Check the obvious yourself. If your modem isn't getting a dial tone, check the line first. It goes in the jack marked "line". Really! Plug a phone into the line to listen for a dial tone. It's not that difficult. If the computer isn't coming on, see if the power cord to your modem or PC has come loose. This will save you from being laughed at. I'm not kidding.

6.) Learn to crawl before you try to run. I've taken calls from people who can't figure the Internet out who haven't learned how to use their computer first. If the tech asks you to close a window and you have to ask "How do I do that?" you will be laughed at, after the phone is hung up. It took me years to learn what I know. Don't expect to do the same in a weekend.

7.) Mice have two buttons (some have three). Learn to use them all.

8.) Lose the tunnel vision. Learn to see the entire screen, and not just the parts you use. This is very good advice. Really.

9.) @ means "at". Seriously. Your email address is joe@isp.com. Your email name is Joe. Remember this.

10.) Stop believing every error message Windows gives you as gospel. When it says the site is busy, this is the least likely actual cause for the error. Many other Windows errors bear only a passing resemblance to what actually went wrong. I don't blame Windows for this very often, though. Windows knows something didn't work and it has a limited selection of error messages to display. Besides that, computers really aren't very bright, anyway.

Try not to be too offended by these tips. They're only intended to make you better able to use the electronic toy that has come to dominate our lives.

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