My husband is what most people would call a “computer guy.” He’s been a programmer, systems analyst, database administrator and network administrator. When someone in the family has a computer problem, they typically call my husband-the “Information Technology professional”-for help.
To me, a computer isn’t much more than a glorified typewriter, encyclopedia, newspaper, magazine and virtual shopping mall rolled into one. And it gives me the cool ability to communicate with friends without actually speaking to them or looking at them! I have absolutely no idea how it works. Whenever I have a computer question (and I have lots of stupid computer questions), guess who I ask? Thank God he’s my husband and he answers my stupid questions for free and doesn’t make fun of me too severely.
I asked my husband, Dan the IT Professional, to help me create a list of common bad habits and annoying practices of average computer users. Turns out, it’s incredibly easy to drive IT professionals crazy, whether you’re using (misusing?) your work or home computer. Here’s how:
Refer to your desktop as your “screensaver.” Call your entire computer your “CPU,” or your version of Microsoft Office “Windows 2007.” Note from Dan the IT Professional: “We don’t get mad or confused by these incorrect terms; we just find it funny. We most often always know what you’re talking about. Imagine taking your car to the shop and telling your mechanic you have a flat steering wheel while showing him your tire. We usually sneak in the correct phrase in our response, to help illuminate the user without humiliating him/her.”
Don’t give a rat’s ass about file management. You might have MP3s stored in 40 random folders. Or you store every file you ever created or downloaded onto your desktop. And when you save to a program’s default save location, you have no idea where that default location is.
Use Internet Explorer (if you click on a lowercase “e” to connect to the Internet, you’re using Internet Explorer). Even worse, you use Internet Explorer with numerous add-on toolbars (read this article on how to avoid “toolbar hell”). Note from Dan the IT Professional: “I understand why you use IE. It’s the default browser on machines and most people don’t know of alternatives.” But Dan recommends switching to a better browser. Try Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox instead.
Whine whenever something changes, or refuse to change altogether. A system or program is upgraded, so your icons change place or the layout is different, and you freak out and declare the new version to be “worse” than the original. Note from Dan the IT Professional: “The world of computers changes…and sometimes changes fast. Nature of the beast. But this change is usually for the better and allows people to do incredible things quicker or more efficiently. A lot of people are still using Internet Explorer 6-a horrible browser, wildly inefficient, full of security holes, one that Microsoft is almost pleading users to ditch-because the newer version changes to a tabbed-browsing experience, which they see as too ‘weird’ or ‘different.'”
Ignore error messages. You call your company’s IT department to complain about a program not working, and don’t bother mentioning that you’ve been getting error messages for the past two weeks. Note from Dan the IT Professional: “Read what the computer is telling you. Not everything is written in cryptic geek-speak-even if it is, jot it down and type the exact words into Google; you may be able to resolve the issue quite easily. Sometimes that error message from the program will tell you exactly why it’s not working. When you install programs, read what ‘additional’ stuff it wants you to install by default (you don’t need to install that Yahoo! toolbar every time you install Adobe Reader). When you start a new program, read the part that mentions how it’s going to change your computer’s settings.”
Choose ridiculously simple passwords, such as “12345” or “abc123.” Stick Post-It notes with your sensitive user name and password information to your desk or to the side of your computer monitor. And you’re still shocked when a criminal “genius” hacks into your account! Dan the IT Professional asks, “Do you tape your house keys to your front door?”
If at first you don’t succeed, click, click again! And again…and again…Your computer should respond immediately-like, within half a second-to any and every command, right? Your page doesn’t print out immediately, so you click the “print” icon 500 times. Firefox doesn’t open immediately, so you push the icon 20 times, and then wonder why your computer is so damn slow.
Don’t appreciate the power in your hands. Note from Dan the IT Professional: “This bugs me quite a bit. Users have machines more powerful than the servers that put a man on the moon, and they get frustrated or mad when something is not Fisher-Price simple. Your computer is not a simple tool; it’s a very complex machine. Don’t expect it to be as simple as a Speak-and-Spell to use. Learn how to use it. Explore. And if it breaks, understand that it’s not always a simple fix. Fixing a complex machine can be a complex task. Appreciate the fact that thousands of programmers work many hours to try to hide the complex stuff and make it appear to be Fisher-Price simple.”
TYPE IN ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME. For God’s sake, people, turn off your caps lock!
Forward chain letters indiscriminately to your coworkers, friends, and family. Think before you forward. If an email is truly funny or unique, that’s one thing, but most people don’t appreciate the messages with threats at the end (“forward this message to 50 friends within the next five minutes, or else all of your teeth will fall out and you’ll develop severe body odor”).
Refuse to back anything up, and then tell your IT friend that your world will fall apart if he isn’t able to restore your files when your hard drive inevitably crashes. Multiple backup options are at your disposal, but you don’t utilize any of them. This is Dan’s biggest pet peeve. Dan recommends backing up to an external hard drive, like a Western Digital Passport, or using an online backup service such as Mozy or Carbonite. Better yet, use an external hard drive and an online backup service.
Ignore the advice of computer-savvy people. Note from Dan the IT Professional: “We usually don’t give advice just to hear ourselves talk. We’ve seen what can go wrong and we know that certain bad habits can lead to big problems. Back up! Back up! Back up!“
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re guilty of some of these bad (or just plain annoying) computer usage habits. Now you can change-improve your computer habits and boost your confidence as a computer user-and become every IT professional’s dream user. Or not. Dan will tell you that I have the file management skills of a 4-year-old. And I admit to calling him at work whenever a dialog box pops up on my screen, without even reading the silly thing first. Hey, we can’t all be like Jimmy Fallon’s old SNL character, “Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy.” (Watch a classic “Nick Burns” clip-with Jennifer Aniston-here.)
Oh, by the way…you’re welcome!
Daniel Roth, the most generous and patient Information Technology professional I know
http://www.wdc.com/en/products/index.asp?cat=5http://www.sugarloaftech.com/index.php/2009/11/04/just-say-no-to-toolbars/ , http://www.google.com/chrome , http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/ , http://mozy.com/ , http://www.carbonite.com/ , http://www.hulu.com/watch/19050/saturday-night-live-nick-burns
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