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Editorial

Mandated Regulation/Certification for Computer Repair? 839

Posted by Cliff
from the it's-still-a-young-industry...give-it-time dept.
josquint asks: "Does the Computer Service/Repair field need to be regulated? This is a question I asked myself after spending a day off from my position as Lead Technician at a local computer shop, in an auto repair shop and a hair salon. In both places, I noted that all the employees had their trade credentials displayed for all customers to see. They are not only displayed as a matter of pride or to gain customer trust (as my A+ and Network Security certificate is) but as a matter of law. This regulation, to me, makes sense. If you're going to pay good money to have your automobile repaired, it better be by someone trained and proficient at doing it (otherwise I might as well do it myself!). Also, there is a matter of safety --an error in repairing a car can easily result in injury or death of quite a few people, so some accountability is needed. The salon regulation, to me at first, seemed like the usual overkill large government regulation. However, it too is a matter of safety to the clients, as the chemicals and equipment (tanning beds especially) can also do harm if used incorrectly. Would you view regulation or mandatory certification as a good thing in the computer repair/installation/maintenance world? What kind of regulation would you like to see, if any? How and at what level would it be implemented and enforced?"

"I personally would like something that requires certain basic certifications for the techs themselves, and possibly something to do with retail shop areas (use of static mats, data backup procedures, etc). And enforced at the State level similar to most small business type codes.

I wouldn't have a problem following some such type of regulation, and probably wouldn't need to do much if anything to make code. I do a fair share of cleaning up after fly-by-night companies/consultants/johnny's-14-year-old nephew-that-really-knows-computers. It costs a lot of the local businesses serious money to replace lost data and sub-standard equipment. I just completed a total system replacement at a clinic that had the system replaced about 2 months ago. It cost them over $10,000 for a system the should have been close to $3,500, but they had to replace the first replacement due to a consultant that had no experience or knowledge in that type of system trying to put one in.

While regulation wouldn't solve everything, I think it might cut down on the riff-raff and wannabes in an industry that many businesses can't do without as they can't do without electricity."

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Mandated Regulation/Certification for Computer Repair?

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  • definitely (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by twisty7867 (542048)
    If you can't fix my $100 sink without a license, why should you be able to fix my $3000 computer?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why would you actually pay someone to fix your computer? Can't you do it yourself?
    • Re:definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Faggot (614416) <choads@ga[ ]om ['y.c' in gap]> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:39PM (#5049690) Homepage
      Because if your $100 sink gives way, you can have $50000+ of water damage to contend with.... whereas on a computer the stakes are usually much lower.

      For important systems, get certified techs. For Joe Everyman, there's usually no need -- esp. with all the cheap underage (high school) proficient labor around. :)
      • Re:definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cutriss (262920) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:48PM (#5049796) Homepage
        Because if your $100 sink gives way, you can have $50000+ of water damage to contend with.... whereas on a computer the stakes are usually much lower.

        We could argue back and forth about the monetary value of my personal data and files, as well as my user account credentials for online services, which could be damaged/destroyed/compromised if I were to take my system in for service. I'd say that's a fairly large liability, wouldn't you?

        Suppose I run my own legitimate business at home from my computer? That's a pretty hefty burden to deal with if the shop I take my system to screws it up. You could say that it's my responsibility to keep backups of my data, but I'd just as easily say it's the shop's responsibility to make sure that they don't break what isn't already broken. You know...the ol' Hippocratic oath - "First, do no harm."
        • Re:definitely (Score:5, Informative)

          by spencerogden (49254) <spencer@spencerogden.com> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:56PM (#5049909) Homepage
          Yes, you data does carry liability, but you can remove all risk by backing up before the work is done. No one should loose more than the cost of their equipment when it is service. If you trust you data to some else who is going to be banging around inside you computer you are going to get in trouble.
        • Re:definitely (Score:5, Informative)

          by wilburdg (178573) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:07PM (#5050023)
          I've worked in PC repair, and I'd like you to show me a single shop out there that doesn't make you sign a nice long release of liability saying "No matter what happens to your data, it isn't our problem"
          • Unfortunately, I could show you a few... but those were a few years ago. I hope everyone else learned from their mistakes :-)

            We would of course tell everyone in advance, and when it came to reformatting someones drive to reinstall windows, 9 out of 10 people would say "Yeah, go ahead, it's just the kids games anyways".
        • Re:definitely (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sloppy (14984)
          We could argue back and forth about the monetary value of my personal data and files
          ..Which is exactly why you should choose how important it is to you, instead of the government choosing for you.

          Your files are important? Then only have competent people work on your computer.

          You can easily just reinstall canned software and don't want to pay $100 labor to have that peripheral added? Then choose less selectively.

          • Re:definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Blkdeath (530393) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @07:30PM (#5051215) Homepage
            Your files are important? Then only have competent people work on your computer.

            Exactly!

            I too fix dozens of computers every month for people who had their friend who "really knows computers" work on it, and the work ranges from slightly to extraordinarily incompetent in most cases. Businesses get roped into bad deals with incompetent computer techs, too, and it's entirely preventable.

            Some steps to ensure the integrity of your data;

            1. Ensure that this is a reputable business location. Visit the location in person. Is it a garage/basement/spare bedroom/dingy concrete box with a desk and a DSL line? If so, you probably don't want to do business with them. If you want to help out the little guy, take it with a grain of salt.
            2. If they are in a professional location - does it LOOK professional? Do they have a clean location, or a dingy store with piles of old junker computers and dusty peripherals as big as small appliances?
            3. Check their vendor's permit. Find out how long they've been in business. (At the very least, ensure that they have a gov't approved vendor's permit available on display)
            4. Ask questions. I can't emphasize this enough - ask questions.
              • How long have you been doing this?
              • Have you worked at and/or operated any other businesses recently?
              • What do you know about {insert system configuration here}?
              • What are your labour rates? (Hint: established, knowledgeable businesses will tend to have firm, hourly labour rates. Joe Computer Guy will work for a coffee, a cheeseburger, 'like 20 bucks', etc.)
              • How long have you been in this location?
              • What steps would you take to ensure the integrity of my data?
              • What type of warranty do you offer?
              • Do you guarantee your labour? How?
              If the company wants your business, they'll take the time to answer your questions and make you feel confident. Some will even invite you, if you don't feel comfortable, to take your business elsewhere. If they seem like they really, REALLY want your business, be wary.
            5. Talk to neighboring businesses, friends, aquaintances - anybody in the area who may have dealt with this establishment and ensure they're on the up and up. Word of mouth can come in really handy.

              There are any number of things you can do to ensure that you can trust the people you're leaving your computer with; a lot of which can be asessed in about 30 seconds when you walk in the door. Caveat Emptor has to apply, and if people are going to blindly trust someone on their word (hint; smooth talkers aren't neccesarily the best people for the job!), then IMNSHO they deserve whatever perils they may encounter.

              I have real trouble symapthizing with someone who entrusted their computer to a 14 year old whiz-kid and wound up losing all their data and had components blow up on them shortly afterwards. Even businesses who aren't computer savvy should be able to recognize a snake-oil salesman when they see one coming. They should also have a firm contract, reveiwed by their lawyer if they're large enough to warrant, that spells out exactly what the technician will and will not do, and gives timeframes for completion of work. All too often I've seen incompetent contractors charging hourly rates for weeks on end for a three day job, just because they can't figure it out. Are you paying for someone's learning curve? Have someone stay in the room with them and see what they're donig. If they're reading manuals more than they're working, or if you hear an excess of profanity with little positive result, chances are you're funding their mis-education.

              I really don't want to see government, who (from personal experience) have clue #0 about information technology, mandating certification levels for computer stores. While it would be nice to see much of our local competition shut down, it would also add a lot of additional headache to an otherwise low margin, slumping industry.

        • Re:definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Angst Badger (8636) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:29PM (#5050245)
          You could say that it's my responsibility to keep backups of my data.

          Well, yes, that's exactly what I'd say. If you ever give critical data to anyone without having a backup, then you're probably going to screw yourself long before a careless tech has a chance to do so. Of course, if you engage in that kind of negligence while working for someone else, you'll probably be finding work in another field, anyway.

          Personally, I think certifications for computer repair are meaningless. Given that assembling computers is only slightly more complicated than assembling Legos, and the cost of simply replacing a motherboard (or whatever) is often less than the cost of having a tech spend a couple of hours performing diagnostics, the additional cost imposed by "licensed" technicians would be pointless.

          This is for PCs, mind you -- for high end machines like Sun servers or IBM mainframes, the vendor supplies trained technicians and no outside agency would have the expertise necessary to even design a certification program.

          Perhaps more important than any of this is the painfully obvious fact that you can easily have crappy work done on your car in garages full of certified mechanics, and you can get excellent repair work done by shade-tree mechanics. Certification programs exist mainly as a marketing tool and a bar to entry for competitors, and utterly fail to address the main problem with auto mechanics, which is endemic fraud. There is no reason to believe that computer repair -- another field where fraud is endemic -- would be any better served by bogus certifications than the auto repair industry.
        • Re:definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Asic Eng (193332) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:46PM (#5050424)
          One of the differences between fields like auto repair, hair dressing etc and computers, is the pace of change. There is of course change in all these fields, but if you've been trained as an auto mechanic 5 years ago, you should still have the required skills today. (Even though you may have to read up on some things.)

          For a computer tech that's probably no longer the case. Unless he stayed in the field and continued his training, his knowledge is now up to date.

          Also for car repair or hair dressing you need motoric skills (welding, cutting precisely etc) - once learned they can probably be adapted for new styles, or new tools fairly quickly. For the computer field that's usually not the case - unless you want to get deep into using soldering irons, the motoric side is trivial - what's important is to be able to pick up new knowledge quickly and to understand complex systems. Something which is very difficult to measure with certifications. They are only checking a snapshot of current (and soon out of date) knowledge.

          Setting up a certification body, which then has to continually update the skill set measured is going to be a lot more difficult, in this case.

          The best computer techs are often students, who know a lot of about computers and are quick to pick up new knowledge. They are good in that field because of these skills, and because they have these skills they will not stay in that field. They are training for other professions, and won't have time for getting these certifications.

          So what I'm worried about, is that these certifications will effectively preclude the best suited people from actually working in the field, removing a good job for students to earn money for their tuition, and will not noticeably raise the minimum standards either.

      • by ackthpt (218170)
        Because if your $100 sink gives way, you can have $50000+ of water damage to contend with....

        Besides, it may violate zoning ordinances or homeowner association rules to have a waterfall running out your front door.

        whereas on a computer the stakes are usually much lower.

        Oh, I dunno, I suppose it's only a matter of time before you have to get a building permit to construct one of those super dual overclocked PC's with all the lights and stuff.

        "Where's the environmental impact report on waste heat, you can't overclock without one ya know, and don't let anyone catch you watercooling without a master plumber's oversight."

    • Re: because (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Your $3,000 computer isn't hooked to the public water delivery system on one end and the public sewer system on the other.
    • Re:definitely (Score:2, Informative)

      by swb (14022)
      If you backflow from groundwater or the sewer system, you can poison and kill hundreds of people.
    • Re:definitely (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ergo98 (9391) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:07PM (#5050027) Homepage Journal
      You, as a consumer, have every right to request and require whatever certifications that you want when you get your computer serviced: There are plenty available to pick from, so don't be so damn lazy and do some due diligence.

      There are others of us, though, who see certifications* often as nothing more than an artificial limitation on a task that does absolutely nothing to improve quality or accountability, and instead requires a costly certification board that effectively becomes a union fee on the members, increasing costs on the consumer while reducing competition and consumer choice. No thanks. Keep the government out of this.
    • Re:definitely (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Matthaeus (156071) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @07:44PM (#5051295) Homepage
      First let's have (voluntary) software warrantees. Then you can make it illegal for Jimmy the neighbor's kid to fix my parents' computer.

      Also, there's an issue of practicality: the computer industry moves at a breakneck pace compared to the automotive industry (in part because of the safety issue). Government agencies move notoriously slowly, so we'd still have people being certified on Windows XP when everybody's using Windows: Next Dimension 2008. Same with hardware.

      If you want decent tech support, do your homework and see if your tech has a good reputation. Don't make me pay more taxes so the government can do your homework for you.
  • by chimpo13 (471212) <slashdot@nokilli.com> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:36PM (#5049656) Homepage Journal

    Computer certification would be GREAT! We've all seen that there's no dishonest mechanics.
    • Re:certification? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dnoyeb (547705) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:52PM (#5049856) Homepage Journal
      Too True, mechanics are no smarter because they display a certificate.

      As one who fixes his own car, _EVERY TIME_ someone else works on it, they mess something up. If I didnt fix my own computer, I am sure I would see the same.

      A certificate is just a piece of paper that reflects a persons reputation. It does not reflect knowledge or skill.

      if you screw up, you can loose your certificate, but its too late for those who trusted that it had value in the first place.
      • Re:certification? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zurab (188064) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @06:16PM (#5050695)
        A certificate is just a piece of paper that reflects a persons reputation. It does not reflect knowledge or skill.

        What reputation? A certificate is simply a piece of paper stating that someone attended or completed some half-assed course he took at who-knows what establishment that makes money giving out these pieces of paper.

        I don't think legally requiring some certification to repair Joe Sixpack's PC is (a) feasible, or (b) will improve anything, including responsibility. If anything, it will make simple PC repairs more expensive, and they'll make you sign off your firstborn when you take in the PC for a repair. For businesses, it makes sense to have service agreements with companies that are, e.g., Sun certified, or HP certified, etc. Private sector handles it fine. However, for mass market there are no benefits, and most of all, no incentive.

        Comparing this to plumbing (like many posts do) is a disaster. Obviously, it's not well thought through. Realize that in any kind of construction, real estate job, there are many more interests involved. These are - land owners, banks and credit institutions, architects, one or more construction companies, property management companies, the city, lessors, lessees... all this is big business and a lot of liability. Legally required certification in these cases provide for defined responsibilities, reduce risk (or at least expose risk), lower deviation in prices, and create a plain field for somewhat competitive market, among other things. In a simple scenario, if a plumber screws up and ends up damaging your property, not only have you suffered, but potentially your neighbors, your property management company, the city, and the bank who gave you the mortgage. If banks cannot rely on, or know the risk and liability of property repairs (e.g. electrician burns down the whole house), they would have to incorporate that risk in their services.

        No such interests exist when repairing Joe Sixpack's PC. Usually what you are dealing with is a $600 (or less) computer and a more or less simple problem. The data on the computer consists of few mp3s, couple of documents, some e-mails, and a lot of porn. In other words, nothing remotely close to a multi-billion dollar business. Therefore, no support for legislation.
      • Re:certification? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ortholattice (175065) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @06:38PM (#5050875)
        1Timothy6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil:which while some coveted after,they have erred from the faith

        Yeah, I hate auto mechanics who love money. Damn them.

        Ecclesiastes 10:19 A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.

    • Re:certification? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @06:18PM (#5050711) Homepage
      I have my favorite mechanic that is NOT certified.
      and he is the best there is within a 500 mile radius. He fixes things right the first time, does it fairly and honestly. and I'm not the only person that feels this way, his walls of the office are papered with letters from happy customers, and if you look at the dates they are no older than 4 months, except for a few gem's that are framed... and if you want to see the boxes of old praise letters he has just ask..

      it is not REQUIRED for you to be a certified mechanic. you have to notify the customer that you are NOT certified.

      Me? I'll stick with my non-certified mechanic, and hiring non-certified IT professionals.. I dont get burned by making them demonstrate their abilities instead of trusing some piece of paper.

  • Simply because a location has gov't approval you'll assume they're qualified.. which is really harmful to the consumer. (because guess what, they're not!) We should rely on a shop's reputation built up over many years of good service to decide.
  • by AlphaOne (209575) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:39PM (#5049684)
    An automobile mechanic is certified and licensed because there are safety issues that can be fatal when a mechanic performs their duties improperly.

    Similarly, a hair stylist has sanitation concerns that must be met to provide a germ-free and safe environment.

    A computer technician normally troubleshoots and diagnoses systems that do not have concerns of this type.

    Granted, there are occasions when a system is critical to the functioning of a system of this type, such as elevators, but most of those functions are licensed anyway, so the technology must be certified, rather than the technician.
    • by Shamanin (561998) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:47PM (#5049794)
      "An automobile mechanic is certified and licensed because there are safety issues that can be fatal when a mechanic performs their duties improperly."

      Yeah, well when I am playing BF1942 and get shot up due to a poorly responding NIC driver or a fragged drive I want some sort of accountability. It IS a safety issue.

      If for nothing else, do it for the children.
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:48PM (#5049795) Homepage
      I agree. These things involve health and safety hazards -- chemicals, in the case of the salon, and your brakes in the case of cars.

      Computer repair is pretty trivial, by comparison.

      What you've got in those cases might be protections in the form of implied warranties of merchantability ... I don't know what the specific equivalents for services might be, but you might want to look in the Uniform Commercial Code.

      Also, whenever I sign a freelance contract, there's often a clause in there that says something along the lines of, "the vendor (me) warrants that his services are competent" -- in other words, if I screw up completely and they can satisfy a court that I didn't really know what I was talking about from the get-go, then they don't have to pay me at all. In fact, I may owe them for what I screw up. Rather than looking for the government to pass more laws regulating independent businesses, you might want to look for more along these lines when you sign an agreement with a repair guy.
      • by SerpentMage (13390) <[ChristianHGross] [at] [yahoo.ca]> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:02PM (#5049960)
        You are right, by default contract law dictates that you should know what you are doing. And myself as an engineer I have that problem. I can be held legally liable if I give advice, even if it is free.

        BUT and this is what I also see. If people are not satisfied, then no matter how much we know it is a bad idea it will happen. In industry, when there is a problem that cannot be managed by the industry, regulations start. They start because people want some quality and control. And no matter how much we whine, the law makers will not care.

        THEREFORE, it is up to us to fix it!
    • by nolife (233813)
      I believe the ASE (the main auto cert system) has their best interests in mind when they offer their certifications. If they can impress on the public that having their certs makes a difference then the public will look for those certs. Techs and businesses now have to have a program in place to get those certs to meet the publics demands. Not many of the ASE certs are even remotely related to safety, okay, maybe the brakes but the braking system is not complex by any means. State run vehicle inspection mechanics do not have to be ASE certified, they have to be certified from the state, it is not hard test. Remembering the states or regions requirements and specifications is 95% of the test. IMHO, the ASE certs are a solution to a problem that did not exist. There was never an outbreak of saftey issues from non certified mechanics that this system was needed. Understanding all of the automotive systems from various companies is no easy task, specilized training is definately a plus and experience is a must but the claim that certs are required for safety if FUD.
  • by Mustang Matt (133426) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:39PM (#5049691)
    Is this article flamebait?

    There are too many idiots working in PC repair. If it were regulated they'd all be out of jobs.
    • Re:No regulation. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wandernotlost (444769) <[slashdot] [at] [trailmagic.com]> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:37PM (#5050323)
      What makes you think that regulation would put them out of jobs? Government regulation certainly hasn't protected me from idiots working on and screwing up my car, so why would anyone think that it would have that effect on the computer repair industry?

      The bottom line is: buyer beware. Find someone who seems intelligent and trustworthy, and let them do the repair. If they don't do a good job, find someone else. Government regulation wouldn't guarantee anything but that someone working in the shop you take your computer to has completed a minimal, half-baked certification process and paid someone a fee. I.e. it won't get you better service.

      The very nature of a government certification guarantees this. It can't be any kind of guarantee of excellence, because that would exclude the un-excellent from working in the field, and that would be counter to government's purpose. If you want excellence, evaluate the person's intelligence by talking to them. They should be straightforward, honest, and not shower you with a deluge of jargon and technical information you don't understand (unless, of course, you understand it, in which case they should be able to show an understanding of the jargon they're using, rather than spitting out complicated-sounding terms that don't mean anything). If they can't speak with you clearly, don't trust your important data to them. It's very simple.
  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:40PM (#5049699) Homepage Journal
    Personally I'm against any kind of legal controls on business unless there is a huge case that those controls are necessary (not nice to have).

    The things I see in the cases above are people who make bad choices and ignore the simplest of common sense when hiring someone to do any kind of work.

    This would just add costs to those who want to do the work- which would get passed on to the customer and drive out the little guy who doesn't have the time or money to get a 'license' to fix computers.

    Not to mention the possible legal hassles for helping someone out.

    Nope.
  • I'm gonna ramble a bit here...

    Should we have a congolmerate authority?
    Or perhaps a list of accepted certs?
    Or one cert to rule them all...?
    Will there be a hierarchy or certs (my cert is better than your cert.)

    In the end you may open up a can o' worms. But some regulation is needed, yes. How about a union? (but I don't want to pay dues, cuz that sux, so perhaps that's out as well.) I'd also like to see a unified pricing code as well.
  • If the gov't is going to require certification, all you need is your A+ and Network Security certs. You know how "advanced" the A+ is with all of it's DOS and Windows 3.1 questions.

    Anyone who passes these tests is definately qualified to repair my computer running my favorite flavor of *BSD or Linux!

  • WELL, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by _ph1ux_ (216706) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:42PM (#5049713)
    I dont think the actual maintainance needs regulation as much as customer service in general - for all industries.

    Frys for example has horrendous levels of bad/returned equipment (because the purchase and resell refurbs and returns and bad equipment side-by-side at the same prices as real brand new equipment) and they tend to have very very poor customer service.

    I would rather have a level of customer service that should be expected from any and all customers - maybe even regulating the return/exchange policies....

    If all companies were required to have their customer service entities live of to an expected level of performance/satisfaction it would do wonders for trust and consumer satisfaction in general.

    I cannot tell you how angry it makes me when I deal with difficult, deceptive or rude customer service agents.
  • Think about it: Do you really want an MCSE fixing your computer? Licensing mandates a certain minimum competency, but in practice it means that all people fixing computers operate at that minimum competency. And you know that the big players like CompUSA are going to get involved in the licensing process in a way that makes their employees get the certification easier than independents.

    Even if it means I have to be an informed consumer, I'd much rather have choice and make my own decisions. With choice there will be reasons for the good people to stay in the field.
  • In your car, it is critical that your car be fixed properly. If it is not, it may explode and kill you and your family.

    As you mentioned for the salon also, there are safety implications. Chemicals used wrong could hurt you. Tanning beds could have severe consequences.

    Now, your computer won't explode and kill you're family. You're keyboard won't start glowing and irradiate you and give you cancer, like a tanning bed can easily.

    A mechanic must do his job right or else you may die. If I screw up your computer, you may lose information. You may not be able to forward chain letters. You may not be able to talk to Aunt Millie on AIM.

    But you won't *DIE*. That's a massive difference that should be recognized.
  • by reaper20 (23396)
    to gain customer trust (as my A+ and Network Security certificate is)

    "Certifications" like A+ are the reason our industry is plagued by morons.

    An auto mechanic cert has to be half-way decent, since lives depend on it. But as long as you can buy a computer cert from an infomercial on TV, they're worthless.
  • Many tasks that are done recreationally and for hire have different laws.
    You can do first aid at home, for someone in an emergency without legal problems. You shouldn't be a paid first aider without proper training/certification.
    A private pilot license is much cheaper then the commercial license.
    Anyone can work on their own car, only a licenced mechanic can sell their service.
    You can cut your own hair, you can cut your friends hair. You can't open a salon without the certification.

    I think computer repair should be regulated similarly. To sell computer repair, you need to have a license/certification/training.
    To fix your own, or to "help a friend" you don't.
  • I think that instead of making people display such accredidation it should be optional. BUT, there should also be some central form/way of distinguishing an accredited IT person from another. If you do this and make it known to those who will make use of their services then it is in the IT persons best interest to get and display their accredidation.

    I think this should apply to software engineers as well as system maintenance people.

    The biggest problem being that there is little centralization and validation of such accrediation, at least for software.
  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:44PM (#5049747) Journal
    I don't think regulating mechanics, hairdressers, or computer repairmen does much to help the public. If a "professional" doesn't know what he's doing, he's not going to be in business very long. If he makes a mistake that injures you phyiscally or financially, you can sue him.

    These sort of regulations are sold to the public as "protection." In fact, they're put in place by politicians in the pockets of established businesses to remove the lower rungs from the ladder of success for others. They make it cost that much more to get in business and compete with them.

    Try this some time. You've got a car, and you know how to drive. There are people without cars, who need to get places. Put a sign on your car that says "Taxi," drive around, and offer to take people to where they need to go for a reasonable price. Be safe, courteous, and take good care of your car. See how long it takes before the cops shut you down. There are some cities where the fees to get a taxi cab medallion are in the tens of thousands of dollars. Hairdresses may wind up spending $5000 on completely unnecessary certifications. Protecting the public? A little, maybe...protecting bigger, already established businesses from cheap competition? Oh, yeah...
    • How many people want to wait for an unlicensed and unregulated mechanic to cause them injury just so they can sue the mechanic to put him out of business?

      A mechanic who has been required to be licensed is garunteed to have a minimum of training that raises the safety of his work for all of his customers.

      Same goes for hairdressers and just about anyone else required to get a license.
  • by CFBMoo1 (157453) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:44PM (#5049749) Homepage
    There no ordinary dust bunnies in computers! They have a mean streak a mile wide and big, nasty, pointy teeth!! *Puts fingers to lips* ... Look at the bones!
  • by TerryAtWork (598364) <research@aceretail.com> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:45PM (#5049752)
    They ALSO need 10 stars on eBay and excellent Karma on /. !

  • Scenario (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CommieLib (468883) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:45PM (#5049756) Homepage
    Hey Jeff, could you come over and take a look at my computer?

    Sorry man, I could get in real trouble if I work on your computer. I don't have a license...
    • Re:Scenario (Score:4, Funny)

      by RealAlaskan (576404) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:54PM (#5049890) Homepage Journal
      Hey Jeff, could you come over and take a look at my computer?

      Sorry man, I could get in real trouble if I work on your computer. I don't have a license...

      I was against it until you pointed this out.

      This sort of idea amounts to restraint of trade, the sort of thing that IBM and Pitney Bowes and Microsoft have all been slapped for. These stupid, mandated, credentials devalue the experience and reputation of the truely competent, and do little to protect the public from the incompetent and the fraudulent. They DO help keep wages and prices up for the people who have bought the certifications.

      Still, if it lets me get out of repairing folks' computers, it might be worth it.

  • Regardless of saftey matters, some sort of licensing might be a good idea, if only to prevent people being charged outrageous prices by people who are incompetent and cause more damage than they fix
  • won't work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wantedman (577548)
    How can we tell how well a computer science person is?

    Just because I do OpenGL for a living, does that make me A+ certified? Or because I cannot do Linux Admin to save my life, am I not qualified?

    Computer knowledge requires too many differnt areas of knowledge, since, by nature, they are a general purpose machine. The things that need certifications, do already, (MSIE, SUN security, Java, C++). I don't think there can be a law that requires me to be certified in computers, because ultimitly it would be a certification in many general subject that most I will never use in my Job or any job in the future I may have...(or forgotten by the time I get my new job :))

  • Regulation of computer repair, ah, the possibilities...

    "Your computer doesn't support Palladium, sir, you must 'upgrade' or we'll have to notify the government."

    FATAL ERROR - THIS UNIT WAS OPENED/MODIFIED BY NON-CERTIFIED PERSONNEL

    "Oh, back in them days we just handed your server off to an available teenage nerd and charged $50/Hr for repairs. Now that all our technicians are board certified it'll be $250/Hr for repairs, but you can rest easier at night."

    UNSIGNED DRIVER INSTALLED - U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been notified, please turn yourself in to reduce expense of taxpayer dollars in tracking you down and hitting you repeatedly with a bat, you filthy terrorist!

    It's a brave new world...

  • Its about money going to the cert companies, training companies and testing companies. Which I wouldn't mind if it really meant something. These guys have pushed certs for so long just to make sure there was support for their product and to pocket a bunch of change. Does it really cost $500 per student per day to put on a class? Don't think so. Does it really cost $150 per hour to run a testing station? Don't think so.

    And the license that you need to run a business is all about money that the local government wants.

    So count me out on the added taxes hassles and overall mess.

    PS: I could I get a little off the top, trim it so the hair is off the ears and trim up the back. ;)

  • I don't feel the need to pay some govt organization for the right to call myself qualified if I am already qualified. This is just as bad as the "Microsoft Tax" of getting an MCSE or something similar. If someone makes mistakes on the job, then they answer for it like usual. Certification doesn't change that, and accidents will happen anyway.

    With the way the computer industry operates, this will just become yet ANOTHER tax. You will have to pay every so often for a piece of paper that says you are good-to-go. You are being taxed to work in this industry. Don't fall for it. It's hard enough to have to keep up with new technology, do you want to have to pay even more than you already do to keep up?

    Besides, I'm unemployed and broke. I can't afford it right now :)
  • by deadsquid (535515) <asx@dead[ ]id.com ['squ' in gap]> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:46PM (#5049774) Homepage
    I've taken my car to certified service centres, and been taken to the cleaners.

    I've had many bad haircuts.

    I've met lots of people who are MCSE's who are clueless.

    All the certifications mean is that someone has demonstrated to someone else that they can regurgitate material that has been laid out for them. It doesn't mean they can apply the knowledge to real world situations.

    I go to organizations that have a good reputation, I've had good experience with, or my friends/peers have had good experience with. If I have a bad experience with them, I move elsewhere.

    I like the system. It works. Sometimes I get burned, but for the most part I'm happy because I use common sense.

  • As a consumer I should be looking for people who have certification or experience in the fields they represent to ensure that I have the best that my money can buy.

    However, mandating by law that you need it before you can do it is just a restraint of trade obstacle put up by people who want to limit the competition they have. Look at the legal field, for example. A lot of legal work can easily be done by experienced non-lawyers, but not legally.

    The same is true of the medical profession. I'm not interested in non-PhD medical attention, but I don't think that means that some people shouldn't have that option, especially if someone with lesser credentials can treat minor health problems for a lot less money.

    Instead of mandating certification, I'd be more in favor of a "malpractice" solution. If you claim you can do X and are in the business of doing X and you screw up, then you owe me double damages or something that would provide a strong disincentive for dishonesty or incompetance.
  • by bziman (223162) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:46PM (#5049781) Homepage Journal
    Granted, I work in software, but we've got a bunch of yahoos here with degrees in CS, and some with Masters and PhDs who are just too lazy to code well.

    Then we have some people with no formal training who know there stuff and work hard and produce great work.

    Similarly, we have folks who have "certifications" that are absolutely meaningless.

    Same with our hardware people -- our 17-year-old interns know more about this stuff than the MCSEs.

    All this does is make it harder for an independent artisan to make a living -- I don't want Intel's stamp of approval. The only approval I need is a legion of satisfied customers who tell their friends and colleagues and word spreads and reputation builds -- like in the old days before you could "buy" a certification.

    While you're studying for A+ or MCSE, there's some 14-year-old with a soldering iron, learning the hard way how to fix a faulty IDE control, and a 12-year-old decompiling the NT kernel to figure out why his graphics card causes a BSoD. And in ten or fifteen years old, your certification will be obsolete, and if you're lucky, you'll be working for the now-29-year-old VP of engineering.

    • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:14PM (#5050101) Journal

      All this does is make it harder for an independent artisan to make a living -- I don't want Intel's stamp of approval. The only approval I need is a legion of satisfied customers who tell their friends and colleagues and word spreads and reputation builds -- like in the old days before you could "buy" a certification.

      At the risk of being modded a troll or offtopic, I wanted to draw an analogy here. The statement that you don't want a stamp of approval and that your satisfied customers is all the "proof" of your competance bothers me a little. I see it coming dangerously close to the current state of alternative medicine. Like you, those practioners do not particularly care if they are recognized by the medical community as a legitimate treatment -- they proudly point to their satisfied customers as "proof" that their methods work. I'm not going to go into a long diatribe of how people can be mistaken in their belief that alternative medicine has helped them here (check out QuackWatch [quackwatch.org] for a more detailed explanation). People can be easily fooled. In the process of repairing someone's hard drive, you might actually wipe out the data through your own negligence. Then you simply tell the customer that the hard drive and all the data on board could not be salvaged. Hey, it's not your fault, you tell them, it was simply fried that bad when they brought it to you. Because the customer doesn't know any better, they simply take your word for it. If you do a speedy job of replacing their hard drive, they might very well end up being satisfied customers, completely unaware that YOU were the reason the data was lost.

      I'd just like to point out that this attitude that I hear in so many fields about "I don't need credentials. My customers will vouche for me." kind of spooks me a little.

      GMD

  • Absolute nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Caractacus Potts (74726) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:47PM (#5049786)

    My 20+ years worth of non-licensed troubleshooting is far better than any certification, in my opinion. I routinely fix systems that I have never seen before just because I have a knack for it. I think certification is great, but not necessary.

    What are we going to discuss next? How about "should all programmers have CS degrees?".
  • I vote No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KGIS (307368)
    I can definitely understand where you are coming from but I tend to think that government should stay out of private business because legislating something like this can only lead to hand holding and unnecessary costs.

    Now, after I say that, I would not be comfortable walking into any old shop and getting them to work on my computer without either having a recommendation or very visible credentials. This applies even more strongly if I was to blow 20K, 30K or more on computers for my business.
  • Considering that basic certs like the A+ are easy to pass just by memorizing a braindump from the many websites they exist on, I don't think that having one really means that much. Don't take offense if you have it, I have one as well, but it's at the point where it's no different than getting a health card to work in a restaraunt. It's easy to pass the test, but once you have it, you can still pick your nose on the job.
  • by WPIDalamar (122110) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:48PM (#5049800) Homepage

    Cars aren't broken out of the factory. But a PC with Windows on it? Doesn't seem to fair to me.

  • But I don't have the answer. I can say that I have met a lot of very pissed off people who were burned by computer repair shops large and small, and many had gotten a sour taste after that. However, I also know many people who are or have been burned by lawyers, dentists, auto mechanics, and hair dressers, to name but a few regulated, certified, and supposedly educational requirement driven professions. Then there will always be those who ignore the laws and licensing requirements.

    That's Just a Burglar Alarm -- Ignore It! [xnewswire.com]

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tall Rob Mc (579885) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:48PM (#5049808)
    Consumers should bear some responsibility for their actions rather than putting even more laws on the books. You shouldn't hire somebody who has no experience setting up certain type of system to build one for you. Period. Sometimes, the burden for getting something done should be placed on the person who needs it, not the government. If you need a computer system, research local consultants and ask for references. There's no reason why the government should have to spend time and money doing something you should be doing yourself.
    • by Goldenhawk (242867) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:25PM (#5050215) Homepage
      • "Consumers should bear some responsibility for their actions rather than putting even more laws on the books."

      And if you think back, to when you actually had to PAY ATTENTION to who was fixing your car, because Uncle Sam was not involved in the decision, you probably got much better service for your dollar, and knew a lot more about the work.

      For years I took my car to a shop far from home, because they did good work, knew me personally, even occasionally let me use their tools to do a job myself, etc. I selected them based on reputation, and service, and their record with me personally. Not some license on the wall. And just as importantly, when they started screwing up my car every time it went there, I stopped going. Despite the license on the wall.

      We Americans are a lazy bunch. Hey, the gu'mmint says they're licensed, must be okay. Here, Joe, fix my car. I trust you because Uncle Sam does too.

      Back in 'the day' when the consumer had to actually pay attention, I'll wager the service was a lot better. Sure there were ripoff artists, and bad stuff happened, but those shops didn't stay around for long.

      Just so, today, I'd bet that the overall service is better on computers, BECAUSE there is no regulation.

  • by rtphokie (518490) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:50PM (#5049831)
    ...the gubmint sticking their noses into an area that changes so often. How often would requirements change I'm guessing not all that often which would make the whole process nearly worthless

    ...another state government agency

    ...differentiation between states on certification

    ...and in the long run, some 3rd party certification company getting rich on certifications that dont mean a hill of beans.

  • by mustangdavis (583344) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:51PM (#5049845) Homepage Journal


    PCI card swapping

    Case assembly

    IDE installation

    PC case fan installation (I'm working on CPU fans)

    SCSI hard drive installs (but not SCSI CDROMS, tape drives, RAIDS, or other SCSI devices)

    AGP video cards

    PCxxxx memory (but nothing before 1997) and not Rambus memory

    Currently working on CPU install and LRF support (little rubber feet)


    GIMME A BREAK!!! Fixing a PC is simple ... why should people be forced to waste money on education and licenses for this kind of thing! Do you have to be certified to repair TVs, VCRs, DVD players, toasters, blenders, or dust busters???

    All this is going to do is make silly tech schools (like the infomercials as seen on TV) more money and make people invest into a career that already doesn't pay that well .... lets face it folks (I'm not trying to insult people, just tell it how it is) ... PC repair is EASY!!!!

    I hate it when educational institutions make extra money just because people HAVE to be TRAINED to do something that is REALL easy! ... that idea is absurd. If you know how to do the job, and if you do the job well, people will come back to you in the future (or refer their friends to you). If you do a crappy joba nd don't know what you are doing, especiually in such a competitive field, then you'll be out of business in no time! Let our economic system decide who is qualified and who isn't!


    Taking a deep breath now ....

    Just my $0.02 cents ...


  • by pcraven (191172) <`paul' `at' `cravenfamily.com'> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:52PM (#5049860) Homepage
    This would not work. The goverment is not a fast agency. If they did this we'd be proving we could repair Applie //e computers, not Intel P4's with RAID and fibre channel components.

    And can you imagine the politics? Microsoft would want training for people to repair their hardware spec. Hollywood would want people to take an oath not to disable their copy protection devices that might be enabled some day. Homeland would want a quick scan of the hard drive for those terrorist keywords.

    I think we are better off with the unregulated way things are now.
  • Word of Mouth (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:53PM (#5049864) Homepage Journal
    Where I work, we are strictly a word of mouth company. We don't have to advertise because the work I do is impeccable. When a customer comes with a broken machine, and I get it fixed quickly and save his data, I have a client for life. Furthermore, he will tell his friends, and so on, and so on.

    I have more work than I can handle, and our company is growing carefully. I am ultimately responsible for any work performed on a computer, whether it is done by my boss, or my co-workers, because I take pride in what I do.

    Regulation wouldn't help in this regard, but it *might* remove some of the shady/incompetent places, for example Gateway stores.

    Not ten minutes ago a new customer came in crying that Gateway had formatted her hard drive to remove a virus. Data backup? What's that? Gateway didn't bother to tell her they were going to do this, they just did it.

    As I said, regulation *might* remove these guys from the business, but I think word of mouth will do it faster.
  • by simi-lost (639853) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:56PM (#5049908)
    I've been both a mechanic, and now a computer tech, and in both fields I've seen people with all kinds of certs that meant nothing because they couldn't do anything right. Most anyone can take a test and pass it if they study hard enough to remember all the right questions and answers. It's the person that builds off their past experiances and is able to think critically that will be of the most value. If a person can't remember something they have had to deal with in the past, the kind of problems you will never find answers to in a book or manual, no matter how many certs they have hanging on the wall, they are useless. I'm not impressed by paper, I'm impressed by a job well done.
  • by Unknown Poltroon (31628) <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Thursday January 09, 2003 @04:57PM (#5049917)
    Fine. As soon as software companies have to meet certain basic requiremnts when the sell the software. Like, yes, they may be liable if their poorly written crap shreds my hard drive. If youre gonna start hastling the poor bastard working in the back room of uncle bobs shop, you damn well better be hastling microsoft first.
  • by MickLinux (579158) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:06PM (#5050016) Journal
    Let's see: I had a Mac Powerbook 180c, and the surface-mounted powerplug pulled off the board. Anyhow, I brought it in, they charged me to replace the board, opened it in front of me... everything was fine except for that. It was an Apple-Certified Repair shop. So I got it repaired. Took it home, it worked. So then I set it aside. Later on, I pulled it out to use it: the fix lasted less than 2 weeks. They said "sorry, you waited too long. No warranty." So I got out my soldering iron and did a job myself. In the process, I also noticed, though, that they had busted the hard drive mounts, and just *set* it back in place. It was loose.

    I said "no more of them". I went to CompUSA next, which was both Apple Certified *AND* CompUSA Certified. The problem was my PB3400c: the trackpad button was failing. So they got it (opening the computer: $180), and said "Well, the trackpad needs replacing, but we can't get another one for another month or so. We can close it up, and let you have it back, or we can hold onto it for a month. But meanwhile, we jury-rigged a sortof fix that might last for a while."

    Hmm. It lasted for about a year. I went back; they said "well, it'll be another $180 to open it up again..." I needed it. They opened it. They replaced the trackpad -- but used a missized screw, so it failed again within 4 months. Tough. It's a 3-month warranty.

    You know, certification really means nothing. I've repaired each of my powerbooks since then, I've done a better job, and the cost was a 2-3 hours of labor at most.

    Requiring legal certification is just going to ensure that the people who are really good and cheap don't get jobs through us users stumbling on them and then sticking with them.

    I say leave it to random chance, and just let people publish like crazy on the web who is good, and who isn't worth the screwdriver they wave around.

  • A+ regulation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xchino (591175) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:07PM (#5050024)
    I'm against any sort of requirement for being a tech, if it's based on the A+. This will give people a false sense of security about the expertise level of the tech. Being able to pass the A+ doesn't even make you a capable Junior Tech, although it might help you if you're in sales and having trouble explaining what the features of a computer are.

    When I lost my job a year or two back I had to take a job as the lead tech at Best Buy. On my staff I had 5 A+ Certified "Techs", not one of them worth the paper their certs were printed on. "New Motherboard" was their universal fix. They had NO trouble shooting skills. They knew the difference between the white slots and the brown slots and that's about it.

    If there was to be an industry regulation, a new test would have to be developed, one that required basic tech skills, rather than multichoice "What is figure A. called?"

    If I've offended any techs proud to be A+ out there, then you're probably one of the ones I was talking about anyways.
  • by Petronius (515525) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:15PM (#5050108)
    Arthur Andersen was full of these Certified, official people. Yet, they screwed their customers, employees, broke the law, cost investors billions.
    I think everyone gets the idea. Why should it be any different in our industry?
  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:17PM (#5050130)
    I'm a political consultant, and I'm not sure whether to laugh at the ignorance implied by the proposed solution or calmly explain why things work the way they do. I'm trying hard to remember that some people actually believed the garbage they heard in seventh grade civics classes and that they haven't actually dealt with real politicians enough to know what motivates such laws.

    Laws requiring people to be licensed to do certain things (such as repair plumbing or cut hair) are sold to the public as protection for the public, but, in reality, those regulations are about protecting the people already in a business and keeping prices high for the service. If you honestly think that regulations such as you're proposing will keep out incompetent people, you clearly haven't seen some of the bad haircuts that I've seen from fully licensed haircutters. Do you think the licensing keeps incompetent plumbers from working? Do you think that licensing keeps incompetent people in almost ANY field from working?

    Government licensing is popular because it provides barriers to entry into a profession. It makes it harder to compete with the people who are already doing it (and tends to make prices for those services HIGHER than they otherwise would be). But all those things do is create hoops for people to jump through. Any idiot can memorize enough basic facts long enough to get a real estate license, for instance, but that doesn't mean that person is going to be a competent agent. A licensed haircutter isn't necessarily a good haircutter. And a licensed plumber isn't necessarily a good plumber.

    The market is what works. If somebody is good at something, you recommend him or her to your friends -- and that person gets more business. If somebody is lousy at something, word gets around and the person has trouble getting work, until he's getting work only from people who are more interested in a cheap price than a quality job. The same is true in ANY field -- even things where we like to pretend that licensing provides a level playing field for everyone, such as with physicians.

    Politicians like licensing requirements, because they allow them to tell the voters that they're protecting them, while they're really taking contributions from professional groups of union groups which are eager to lock out competition.

    Giving the government the power to decide who is competent to do ANYTHING is crazy. The longer I'm around politics, the more I think that anarchy is a darn good idea. :-)

    David
  • The problem is that sinks, hair salons, and even cars all tend to be (relatively) standardized. I know I'm on thin ice with the cars, but I think we can agree that most cars will not be different in radical ways from most other cars. They will all have internal combustion engines, sensors, brakes, etc. - and these will certainly vary to an extent, but I would argue that PCs are much, much more customizable, especially on the software end. This means that a certification for an auto mechanic, plumber, stylist etc. indicates at best mastery of a mature, relatively static technology. That isn't the case with computers, where the most important factor in a technician's skill (to my mind) isn't just an encyclopedic knowledge of PC parts and old windows versions, but the mind-set that allows you to pick up on how a computer is supposed to be working, and fix it, even if you've never used that particular software before, because you have a broad enough experience and knowledge to have a feel for how things are supposed to be.

    My A+ certification says that I have mastered such-and-such skills, identified by bullet points on the certificate. And that's great, but a monkey could pass the A+ exam, it could easily master the specific, exact issues the exam measures. What it doesn't measure is good, ole-fashioned tech-savviness, and I don't think any certification short of a CompSci degree can. The best tech I've ever known is forty years old, former French teacher, just got his cert last year on a whim. And I've known A+ certified techs who couldn't install a hard drive.
  • by Dannon (142147) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:19PM (#5050146) Journal
    1) How and at what level would it be implemented and enforced?
    Constitutionally, the Federal Government has the authority to regulate interstate commerce, and other transactions are left to state and local governments, and to individual citizens. That's the model followed in regulating most industries: Licensing of Professional Engineers is done by each state, and it just happens for convenience that all states have chosen to recognize the standards set forth by the non-governmental American Board of Engineering and Technology. Licensing of local businesses is generally done by county or city agencies.

    2) What kind of regulation would you like to see, if any?
    As inclined towards libertarianism as I am, I'd tend to say as little as possible. It's a 'buyer beware' world, and if someone other than me is working on my home computer, I'm going to make sure they have a good reputation, even if they are still working their way through college, as my roommate is.
    Now, if the people in your community overwhelmingly want some sort of government-imposed consumer protection in this regard, that's up to you. Get your city council or county commissioners to deal with it. But I don't want it imposed on me.

    3) Would you view regulation or mandatory certification as a good thing in the computer repair/installation/maintenance world?
    Not if it prevents people from entering freely into business deals of their own choosing. As I mentioned above, my roommate uses his computer-building and computer-fixing skills to help pay for college, but it's not something he plans on doing for his life once he graduates. He's damned good at building and fixing computers, and he could pass any certification test you could throw at him, and there are plenty of people who would be willing to vouch for him on personal experience with his work. But would it be worth the money a government or private accrediting agency would undoubtedly charge if it's not something he plans to use for more than a few years? Not likely.
    • by Dannon (142147) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @06:27PM (#5050778) Journal
      I do a fair share of cleaning up after fly-by-night companies/consultants/johnny's-14-year-old nephew-that-really-knows-computers. It costs a lot of the local businesses serious money to replace lost data and sub-standard equipment.

      So why are you complaining? The fact that you're trusted to clean up these mistakes shows that you evidently have the experience/credentials/word-of-mouth-reputation that these fly-by-nighters, consultants, and nephews lack. On your part, you'd make less money if it weren't for two things:
      1) Some of your customers were at one point careless with their money.
      2) You have something better to offer than their previous servicefolks. Something that allows you to charge more, and forces them to either discount or get Darwinized out of business.

      And on the part of your clients, they gain the benefit of wisdom (good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement). Plus, it is worth the money they pay you to have you around to clean up their mistakes.
  • by mlknowle (175506) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:19PM (#5050152) Homepage Journal
    Take a look at Milton Friedman's discussion of professional licencing in Capitalism and Freedom. His contention is that licensing is simply another barrier to entry in an industry, and as such is almost always supported by those IN the industry as a way to keep new firms out, and prices up. He points to government licensing of pedicurists, a move which was lobbied for by (you guessed it) pedicurists, as a way to keep immigrants out of the industry (because they were willing to work for much less.

    Would this benefit the customer? Or would it simply make things more expensive?
  • IMHO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Znonymous Coward (615009) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:19PM (#5050155) Journal
    I see lots of people ranting about how certifications are worthless. Most certifications are worthless, however some are not.

    Worthless:
    MCP and MCSE
    A+ and *+ (everything else +)
    CIW

    Value:
    CCIE
    RHCE

    Just MHO

  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mao che minh (611166) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:31PM (#5050273) Journal
    I was building computers when I was 16. I used to help my high school computer guy after basketball practice when I was 18. I know about 15 other people with similar backgrounds. None of us have ever even thought about getting an A+ cert. Why? Because building and troubleshooting PC hardware has always been extremely easy, straightforward, and demanded very little technical knowledge. It is a hobby for many. Such a lax and intellectually undemanding trade shouldn't require some form of regulation. Basic contractual agreements already protect a consumer enough.
  • by fudgefactor7 (581449) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:32PM (#5050281)
    I figure, give Windows 100 questions; the *nixes get 100 questions; 100 hardware related questions; and 100 networking questions. That's 400 questions, let them have 5 hours for the exam, charge them $500 to take it. Set the pass score at something like 87% and get the thing recognised. Then all the other certs get relegated to the backburner.

    Ok, I'm crazy, nevermind...
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday January 09, 2003 @05:41PM (#5050358) Homepage Journal
    I don't care if they are licensed, as that would only increase the cost of doing business, and cut out a lot of the smaller shops.

    However, one should be insured for reasonable liability..

    This goes for any industry as far as I'm concerned. My Auto mechanic isn't licensed, but his work IS guaranteed.

    If they are incompetent they don't stay in business anyway. Sort of self-policing.

  • Double Edged Sword? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chunkwhite86 (593696) on Friday January 10, 2003 @02:07AM (#5053058)
    I think there are tangible benefits to come of such regulations, however there are also potential drawbacks.

    I do All my own maintenance and repairs on my 18 year old Audi, and on my GF's 19 year old Audi. I would definitely NOT trust Joe mechanic at the corner gas station or auto shop to fix it. If there is a task that needs completing, and I find that it's too cold outside, or I don't have time - I take it exclusively to my local independant VW/Audi Mechanic. The guy has no education or certifications to speak of, but he's been working on these cars for 25+ years out of passion for these brands. He knows more about them than any "certified" mechanic I've ever meet or heard of. Point being that a certification is not needed to produce a competant technical worker.

    On the other hand, I used to work with a guy who has an MCSE (no I'm not bashing all MCSE's here) who didn't know a screw driver from a bus driver. I mean, this guy couldn't even create a simple DOS batch file, was unable to successfully implement a 2-node microsoft cluster in 2 months time, and was clueless about settings in IIS. I also knew a fellow that was an aspiring auto mechanic. Despite having 8 different industry certifications, he was an awful mechanic - and he admitted it. Point here is that a certification definitely does not equal competancy.

    I think however that industry regulations would definitely weed out some of the wannabe's, though if it is an expensive or lengthy ordeal, it may deter potential talent.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • by zero_offset (200586) on Friday January 10, 2003 @07:18AM (#5053747) Homepage
    The ONLY reason I'm in favor of this is because all the repair shops in town tell everybody they have a virus. Many of my computer-using friends aren't all that PC-literate, and they've learned that with each passing year I get a little more grumpy about fixing their machine AGAIN. In actuality I'm getting more grumpy about them still not learning a damned thing about the machines they rely upon so heavily. Sigh. But I digress. :)

    I've noticed that when they call a repair shop, no matter what silly little problem they might be seeing, the shop almost always concludes that the person may have a virus, and should bring it in right away (oh, and there will be a nominal $25-$50 fee to check it out). In the past two years I have seen the virus scare tactic used when people's machines:
    (1) ran out of disk space -- I've seen that one three times now,
    (2) had a dead modem,
    (3) had an AGP slot going on the fritz,
    (4) had a power switch that was flaking out,
    (5) had a spent inkjet cartridge -- my favorite... oh yeah, it's a virus...

    So that's seven incidents in two years with responses from everything ranging from CompUSA to the local nerd-on-the-corner. Usually I'd start out just recommending they call somebody else, but when they hit the third or fourth place claiming it was a virus, I'd break down and fix it for them -- and hopefully educate them a little in the process. (So far I've only seen one case where somebody actually had any actual mal-ware, and in that case her moron boyfriend had downloaded a fake porn EXE which proceeded to delete files. Idiot.)

    On top of the virus scam, I've seen a number of very minor problems in which the shop told the person they needed a whole new computer, when it was really just a bad video card or something equally simple. I think they reserve the Big Whammy of a new machine for the scary times when the computer doesn't seem to do anything at all when the user hits the power.

    These experiences have forced me to conclude that most computer repair people are either fantastically (and improbably) incompetent, or they're just outright con artists looking to scam money from people who don't know any better.

  • by FJ (18034) on Friday January 10, 2003 @08:44AM (#5053939)
    Just think, by the time the government comes up with a standard, you'd be certified to support a 286 PC with Dos 3.3. And the certification would probably only cost $200.

    What a bargain.

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