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Ask Slashdot: Good Subscription-Based Solution For PC Tech Support? 193

New submitter byrddtrader writes: My parents are getting close to the their 70s and neither one of them is particularly tech savvy. Since my teenage years I have been tech support for the family, but now that I am older I can not be at their beck and call every time they inadvertently download something they should not, or the printer stops working. Given the amount of time that I have worked with them I don't feel that it is realistic that I will be able to convey the information they need to become self-sufficient. What I am looking for is a service that will be able to assist with any software PC related issues, viruses, printers and the like. Currently they are using a tech firm out of India (iYogi) that does unlimited support for a few hundred per year per machine -- which is fine, though they are big on the up-sell. They tend to push their own virus protection software, and attempted to sell my Dad, who has 500Mb of documents, a 3Tb external hard drive because they said he needed it. Currently the computers they use are ones I have built. Maybe the best solution would be store-bought PCs that offer additional tech support at a price. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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Ask Slashdot: Good Subscription-Based Solution For PC Tech Support?

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  • by brausch ( 51013 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:12PM (#50755429)

    Look in your local yellow pages or equivalent. I live in a small metropolitan area and know of three or four local firms here that I would consider reputable.

    And "a few hundred per year per machine" would cover a lot of local support.

  • by blahbooboo ( 839709 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:15PM (#50755451)

    Best money I ever spent on my parents (and me). Apple handles EVERYTHING -- their tech support is amazing for people. Don't subject your elderly parents to a Windows PC offshore tech support experience where they play the blame game (MS says call manufacturer, and then manufacturer says call MS). Or better yet, just get then iPads...

    • Agree. I'm writing this on a 12 year old laptop running Linux Mint. But if you are tired of being IT get a mac. Money well spent.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yep. A Mac is the way to go. If there is an Apple Store near by they can take a used MacBook in. You can get some cheap. Most of the time they will not even need support. Just make an appointment with the Genius Bar. A mini or a iMac I'll work too but the laptop is easier to take in.

      I hooked a MackBook pro up to the existing keyboard, monitor and mouse.

    • Because Apple isn't big on the upsell. Noooo...
      • by cvdwl ( 642180 )
        Not entirely accurate; they're big on the NEXT sale. OTOH, for better or worse, Apples are a real PITA to upgrade, and external attachments are generally eschewed as they ruin the shiny silver apple aesthetic. And I say all this as an owner of more Apple products than I care to admit.
      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        Not during support sessions. Never had anyone upsell me anything when having problems with Apple systems.

    • Yep, this. If they can handle just a screen then an iPad is pretty hard to break (software-wise).
      If they need a full computer, get a Mac with AppleCare and One to One.
      Have the Mac set up with Parental Controls to lock down some of the more confusing aspects of the machine (i.e., make sure the icons you need to stay in the Dock are absolutely going be in the Dock).

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      Really, if all they do is interwebs and e-mail and simple word-processing and Skype chats, there's no reason to stick with Windows. Even Linux could probably do all they need. I myself only use Windows for specific things, mostly playing games and embedded development.

      I think the most annoying thing about "Ask Slashdot" is that the people who ask stuff never seem to consider that their status quo isn't as important as they think, and the real problem is that they're Doing It Wrong. What's the point of payi

      • I think the most annoying thing about "human beings in general" is that they are self-important and thus, never seem to consider that their status quo isn't as important as they think, and the real problem is that they're Doing It Wrong.

        Fixed that for you. Until US society can figure out this "doors to public buildings are shared spaces, stop blocking them" deal, the problem you mention won't be solved anytime soon.

        • I think the most annoying thing about "human beings in general" is that they are self-important and thus, never seem to consider that their status quo isn't as important as they think, and the real problem is that they're Doing It Wrong.

          Fixed that for you. Until US society can figure out this "doors to public buildings are shared spaces, stop blocking them" deal, the problem you mention won't be solved anytime soon.

          i've come to the conclusion that we are programmed to congregate in narrow spaces; doorways, narrow spots in hallways, middle of the street, etc. There is no other way to explain the universality of the behavior.

    • Agree 100%.

      About a decade ago I got my dad an Apple desktop because I was tired of reconfiguring his Windows PC every few weeks. (They live ~80 miles from me and I would have to go a couple times a month at least. Difficult to do and keep harmony with the wife and kids with their weekend schedules.)

      Now he manages his own photo library, emails, watches videos his friends send him, and my support calls are down to (at most) once a year.

      If anything, my mom complains that now that the computer works all the ti

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just get them an iMac or MacBook and be done.

    • Re:Seriously??! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chipschap ( 1444407 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @12:11AM (#50756245)

      Have to agree. I don't use Apple stuff myself but I've watched them doing support with a 78-year old friend and they were amazingly patient and helpful.

      There's another way, if you're willing to do some support .... a well set-up Linux box, which you update from time to time (maybe monthly?), should perform well. Non-techies have relatively simple needs and don't get into much trouble by clicking on "bad" stuff. Train them to avoid phishing and the like, and they'll be good to go.

      Today most basic users just need a browser and something to view photos with.

      My wife, the ultimate non-techie, uses a Linux box that I set up and she doesn't even know it's Linux, nor does she care.

      I do limited support, like updating software every few weeks, and other than that nothing is really needed except on infrequent occasions.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:23PM (#50755479)
    my thoughts: don't do it. don't get a service. you are their service. you are their health-care. you are their lawyer. yeah, it's like that. it's YOU.
    • Yes. Keep in mind that services like this can end up taking advantage of your parents. And it's likely to get worse as they get older. There'll likely be a point they won't be able to use the computer at all, much less maintain it. As they get older they may start getting befuddled at basic operation they knew how to handle before. At some point it just gets too difficult, best be ready for that possibility. Paying bills can be a problem. And watch out for sharks all too ready to step in and take adv
  • by CAOgdin ( 984672 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:24PM (#50755487)

    I offer free service to many older folks in my community (56 years in the business; you do the math), and don't charge them for calls less than 30 minutes. 80% of the time it's helping them figure out what to do, not fix something like a broken drive. The other day, a friend (a year older than me) asked for help, I started CHKDSK, he bought me lunch, and we had a great time. I DO charge for heavier stuff (like people who consistently do the same dumb thing...like acting as if they understand what an "Active partition" is, for example, and try to make every partition "Active"), and for initially configuring a new computer so it will remain reliable for a long time.

    These off-shore services always break something that will force a new, billable call in a few weeks, so they can boost revenue. I've NEVER known any reliable, phone-support, reputable organization, unless you have an annual contract.

    Kudos to you for taking care of your elders; so many adults don't.

    • Switch to Linux (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My 84 year old father uses Mint Linux. So does my 67 year old mother-in-law. There are several advantages:

      #1 Neither has ever had virus issues
      #2 "Windows" support scams do not work on them
      #3 They don't screw up the OS
      #4 Everything pretty much just works (printers, cameras, etc.)

      It has been this way for many years. They rarely have any issues.

      • by CAOgdin ( 984672 )

        Nonsense! You're just trading one O.S. for another, and one that--in the wider world--is more obscure and harder to find support for. I build Windows systems that are as reliable as Linux systems...and a LOT more secure because of regular Updates. (P.S.: I use both Windows and Linux; I don't use Mac because I don't like closed eco-systems any more than I like Monsanto's GMO seeds for the same reason: It's harder to determine what is happening inside.)

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Do you really use Linux? 'Cause I get updates daily. Sometimes multiple times a day.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Setup remote desktop so that you don't have to explain fixes to them, you can just fix it yourself...

    and realize that when it comes to computer literacy (not downloading viruses or buying hardware they don't need is still probably going to rely on you - nature of the family tech support beast).

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      It doesn't matter much if they download viruses when they're not running Windows. I would laugh inside every time I saw a malware file on the desktop of my mom's (PPC!) Mac. I think the whole point of most of the responses here is that there's no reason for them to need Windows. Sure, they can probably still get crapware toolbars installed into the web browser, but that's a lot easier to nuke and pave.

      The recent fiasco with Microsoft desperately trying to push Windows 10 on everybody just shows how irrelev

    • by CAOgdin ( 984672 )

      A bit harder to change a disk drive, 'tho, wouldn't you agree?

  • chromebook (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:29PM (#50755511)

    For me the calls from mom didn't stop until I got her a Chromebook and an iPad to help her dump the virus-ridden PC.

    • Re:chromebook (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DarkKaplah ( 861495 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @10:04AM (#50757775) Homepage
      I'm going to have to second this. I've gotten my older family members PCs in the past and it's always turned into a major headache for me. Your best bet is one of two solutions:

      1) Apple everything: Macintosh based computers, Ipad tablets, iphones (if they are cellular users), and apple TV streaming devices. While many rip on apple (including me. I was a mac fan in the apple 2/ mac 2 era, but got burned in the shift to OS X) once your completely in everything just works. If they need help applecare or the apple stores are there to assist or you can use something like Teamviewer to log in remotely.

      2) Google everything: Chrometop based computers and Chromebook laptops, Android tablets and phones, and finally Nexus players for TV's and stereos. Much like the apple ecosystem Google equipment works well together. Maybe not as much at the local level, but once you tie them to your Google account everything is tied nicely through web services. Unlike PC (and even apple equipment) Chromebooks and Chrometops are immune to viruses as each time you hard boot they get a fresh OS from ROM. Use their existing PC to push their music and photos to Google Music and Photos.

      As for the printer get a networked hard wired multi-function printer. I've found issues with WiFi printers including poor sleep states and difficulty getting them to resync to the WiFi after a power event. A hard wired printer is more reliable. By hard wiring it you make sure everything is in one location. Cable modem, WiFi router, and printer. Tie it all into the same surge protector and if anything goes wrong your mom and dad just need to know to turn off the surge strip for a minute then kick it back on.

      As for your dad's 3tb drive I'm not sure what he would be storing on that. In the Apple ecosystem he could either just attach it as a external to what ever mac he chooses to use, link it to his router and use it as network attached storage, or plug it into a real NAS box like a synology. On the Google ecosystem you are limited to just external storage. You probably could push the files to google docs if he wants to pay for more storage (unless it's all photos and music then the basic account would probably do) and just hang on to the 3TB drive as an emergency backup.

      Hope this helps. While windows is the primary OS, I'm finding older relatives who are less technical are better served by other technologies. Especially since these "Indian tech support scams" are becoming more commonplace. I've had to remind all of my relatives that "Microsoft will never call you". The ones who have Macs and Chromebooks usually just hang up because they already understand that Microsoft wouldn't provide support for their device.
  • Install Ubuntu and Teamviewer on their computers and give yourself access. Ubuntu should take care of most of the problems and you can remote in for the odd problem that comes up.

  • I just use team viewer. I live 150 miles from my parents, but make trips to visit about once a month. Both in their 80's. If it isn't something I can fix via RDT, then it waits til I get there. I don't want ANYONE touching their computers.
  • try chat.hostgator.com. free online live support for a variety of technical issues. no upsell.

  • iPad pro (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:34PM (#50755539)

    i'll probably get modded down for this, but whatever...

    get them an iPad or a new iPad pro. stay within the ecosystem, also get an apple wifi point and a printer that supports AirPrint. they'll be delighted and their calls to you will drop 90%. easiest purchase ever, trust me. Note you can set up the apple wifi directly from the iPad, you don't need to deal with a pc or mac.

    • Re:iPad pro (Score:5, Insightful)

      by UPZ ( 947916 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @09:43PM (#50755823)
      ^^I second that. Apple's walled garden 1) Just works (97-99% of time) 2) Keeps malware and viruses out 3) They can always take it to Apple Store for support (and those guys tend to be honest - because Apple manages its public image well). I am an electrical/computer engineer and converted my folks to iPad/Macbook. I get a call about once a year (last year it was about how to do some Word formatting). No more complaints of junk toolbars, pop ups, weather bugs, wireless not working, etc.
    • On the cheaper side, I just installed Ubuntu on my mother's Windows computer. She was having constant problems with spyware. That was years ago, there hasn't been a single issue since then.

      I imagine a Chromebook would be even better.

  • How about chromebook (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:34PM (#50755541)

    I have five for my family. I do zero maintenance. The only thing that I still need to do occasionally is mess with the printer (I had to do this more frequently with windows). Chromebooks can only print over cloudprint. If the maker of the printer stops supporting the protocol (such as Canon did for several printer models), it can get messed up. If you have a printer that can print in many ways (mail, usb key, cloudprint etc.) there are more options.

     

    • Second this. Absolutely maintenance free and easy to use if all they want to do is check email, Facebook and the web.

      For the Chromebooks, I typically stick with Epson printers since they never seem to change and are well supported. You can pick up an Epson XP-420 usually cheaper than buying ink for a 5 year old printer.

      As for the Chromebook, stick with either a big screen notebook or go for a chromebox/chromebase model and use their existing monitor or TV to use it.

      Setup Chrome remote desktop so you can rem

  • About 6 years ago... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I told my mom that if her next computer wasn't a Mac I wouldn't provide computer support any more. So she bought a Mac. She hasn't needed my help since, and has 3 in the house now (her desktop, her husband's desktop, and a laptop for the motorhome).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Buy them a chromebook, or a chromebox. There is pretty much no maintenance; recovery is power-wash.

  • I've been wrestling with the same thing. Neverware is a USB boot Chromebook solution that works with older legacy hardware. You can try going Chrome without changing out their OS and still boot to the old OS by removing the USB stick if they need something that way. ChromeOS is updated automatically and has AntiVirus.. so it might be an option.

    You might even think of transitioning to a Full Chromebook if they like the Chromebook and can live with Office 365 and Gdrive. My Mom regularly asks why her desktop

  • by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:41PM (#50755577) Journal

    I know you're asking to pay to offload this duty, but I have a suggestion that perhaps you should consider. I would encourage you to consider keeping those duties for yourself, and add a new application to help protect them all the way around.

    Deep Freeze by Faronics - http://www.faronics.com/produc... [faronics.com]

    This product will let you create the perfect configuration for your parents, then 'freeze' it in place. They can have places for documents to go that you can edit and change and so forth. But, if you get infected with something, or an application installs something extra you didn't want, or your browser gets fouled up, you reboot your computer and Deep Freeze makes your system revert back to what it was before those changes took place.

    If they aren't changing or updating their system regularly, they just wait until you can do that for them, on your schedule. If they have problems, they reboot and get a working computer back. You'll still want to backup their documents, but you can use a cloud solution for that, so it'll be set-it and forget-it, except when it's time to pay the yearly bill.

    It's juts something to consider. Again, I know it's not the hands off solution you're thinking about, but as your parents get older, they'll appreciate your help all the more. It lets you still use this to be connected to them, and feel more like you're taking care of them than pushing that duty off on someone else. Your time is worth way more than the money you spend on them.

    • by fisted ( 2295862 )

      Yes, let's spend money on something that is trivially achieved by using free software!

      • by nbauman ( 624611 )

        Yes, let's spend money on something that is trivially achieved by using free software!

        Medicare-aged non-techie here.

        What's the trivial solution using free software?

        I was trying to figure out how to do something like this myself. My idea was to save a disk image in a separate partition or drive, with something like Clonezilla, and then if anything goes wrong, restore the image back again to its original configuration.

        I assume that's what these programs do, although there must be a more efficient way to do it.

        • by dissy ( 172727 )

          Actually deep freeze uses copy-on-write files that store all changes post-boot, and that file gets deleted upon booting.

          That way a reboot only has the additional time of a file delete (usually an unclean unlink as well, which is much faster) instead of however long an image restore would take.

          I've been on the lookout for an open source solution to take the place of deep freeze for almost a decade now, and I've never found anything available for Windows or that is generic for any OS.

          If restores-on-demand are

        • by fisted ( 2295862 )

          My idea was to save a disk image in a separate partition or drive

          That's the general idea. What I have done with a number of machines i'm non-voluntarily supporting is:
          1. Figure out how much storage a freshly installed windows takes up on the partition it is installed to. It was around 2-3 gig in XP times, these days it's probably more like 10.
          2. Split off a new partition of roughly that size
          3. Install windows to the big, and a small unix (or Linux) to the small partition
          4. Fill up the free space on the big partition with repetitive data that compresses well, e.g. by crea

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Clonezilla does a bit of compression on every file system it understands so it's fairly quick in most situations as well as being easy to use in most situations.
          It even has "photorec" as part of the software in case you want to restore deleted files.
  • by Karlt1 ( 231423 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:46PM (#50755589)

    Why not get an iPad? They don't have to worry about viruses, or system corruption.

  • Create a new account for them which doesn't have admin access, and then change the admin password. Even if you give them the admin password, at least they will think twice before installing malware

  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @08:56PM (#50755629) Homepage
    Yes it can be annoying to have to deal with their constant tech troubles, but you probably owe them (I have 3 young kids, and they definitely owe me big time). Let's face it, while people are still very active in their late 60's, you should enjoy it while it lasts because most people will really start to slow down in their early to mid 70's. As people age they become much more susceptible to scams (as you've noticed), so the only person you can really trust is you (or your siblings). I think that in 5 or 10 years you might have wished you could have spent more time with them.
    • Yes it can be annoying to have to deal with their constant tech troubles, but you probably owe them (I have 3 young kids, and they definitely owe me big time). Let's face it, while people are still very active in their late 60's, you should enjoy it while it lasts because most people will really start to slow down in their early to mid 70's. As people age they become much more susceptible to scams (as you've noticed), so the only person you can really trust is you (or your siblings). I think that in 5 or 10 years you might have wished you could have spent more time with them.

      Even if this is true, what about the aunt, or the lady across the street, or the friend from high school you barely know or the person in the nursing home who doesn't have any family? Saying he's the right one to do it doesn't really answer the question of where the best place to send someone who has a computer problem.
      I think what most people who don't have a friend do is go into a computer shop and pay several hundred dollars to get it fixed or they ask a neighbor, random people on facebook, etc...

  • by C0L0PH0N ( 613595 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @09:18PM (#50755709)
    I'm a retired computer guy (71), and I do a ton of work for my senior citizen neighbors. I suggest a $20/hr "donation" to the R&R fund for me and my wife, for an hour or two of services that would cost them $80-$150 at any computer shop. If the person is really poor, or doesn't tumble that I accept "donations", then I just do the work for free. I go to their homes, and fix their problems (all over the map :). I am viewed as a local treasure by all the old folks I know, as most of them haven't a clue how to fix their problems. I don't advertise because I get enough by word-of-mouth to keep me as busy as I care to be, as I do other things too :). But if your parents have a retired computer guy in their neighborhood, perhaps they can establish a relationship with him/her. I would work for free, as I don't really need the money, but on the other hand, it gets old, and the $20 helps pay for a dinner out or a movie for me and my wife. She used to complain about my being gone, so I came up with the brilliant idea, I split the money with her. So if I'm gone for a 2 hour computer call, and I come home with $40, she gets half. Now when someone calls for help, she smiles and says, "off you go". Bottom line, a little bit of money makes everyone happy :).
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @09:53PM (#50755851) Homepage

    Buy a new PC every 6 months, It's cheaper than paying for tech support.

  • The AARP crowd can vary: (1) A previously competent individual whose mind has deteriorated and now needs help.
    (2) An older person that never used computers, and now that he is retired he wants to get on the scene; and
    (3) An elder that used computers for a long time, but never mastered them, and has needed help all his life. (4) Someone
    that knows how to use computers, but needs handholding from time to time.

    These are all distinct types, the first three types are difficult and frustrating because things will

  • +1 for local support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @09:58PM (#50755877)

    Only twice in 10 years have I encountered people who didn't have the money to pay for service, elderly/retirees included. One, a small rural shop that would have required a 40-minute drive was surprised that I wanted $95/hour, and the other actually called back after ringing around for a cheaper rate/faster service. I even get the followup calls from customers of another guy who charges almost half my rate, but can't cope beyond a GUI.

    My experience is that retirees/elderly are more than happy to pay for a house call - just like it was half a century (or more) ago. They don't like burrowing under desks to unplug or re-plug cables, and they see value in service at their home. They also have a network and I get lots of work by referral. When they ask for 2 or 3 of my business cards, I know I'll see some new customers within a week or two.

    Ask your parents to ask their friends who looks after their computers, then pick the one with the best reputation, and don't try to beat down his/her hourly rate.

  • My parents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrsam ( 12205 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @10:11PM (#50755921) Homepage

    My situation is exactly the same. My parents are also retirement age, and have no IT knowledge; and I am an IT professional with a demanding, full time job.

    I solved the same problem in a much simpler way. I am always happy to help them with some stupid IT-related problem, any time, day or night. Even though they live several hours away, I will get into the car at a moment's call, and come on over, if it becomes necessary.

    It's the least I could do. I could never hope to repay them for giving me the gift of life, and for all the love they raised me, from birth to adulthood. I consider helping them, with some stupid computer issue, the least I could do.

  • I'm sure your parents were busy when you were growing up, yet they still made time to feed you, cloth you, and teach you how to use simple technology. Your parents taught you how to use a toilet, and you can't make time to help them? Image if they took the same model as you are now? We don't have time to potty train our kid, lets outsource it to some strangers.
    • This is all fine and good until one of your parents can't access their email at 3am to get the latest cat pics.

  • by Edis Krad ( 1003934 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @10:39PM (#50755981)
    Find the local nerd kid, give him a part time job as computer fixer. Shouldn't be that hard to find.
  • by slasher999 ( 513533 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @10:47PM (#50756003)

    They are your parents. They aren't going to be around forever. I know you've heard that already. Here's my true story. My father never took to computers. My mother had been around them for decades. When the home PC craze started in the 90s I started getting her a new machine every year or so. Tried all kinds of things to simplify support - OS/2 instead of Windows 95, auto dialers to initiate connections. I was doing it all myself and it was frustrating at times. Remote access software made things easier as I was living about four hours away.

    So once I updated something on my mother's computer - browser I believe - and she couldn't figure out how to print since the UI had changed. She called me on a Friday and I meant to call her back over the weekend but didn't get around to it. That Monday she got in her car to go somewhere and had a massive heart attack in the car in the driveway. She made it to the hospital but not much more than an hour maybe beyond that. I've always hated that I never called her back even though it was for something so small. I still feel a bit disappointed in myself now almost five years later.

    The bottom line is you never know when, but at some moment everything is going to change. For your own sake I suggest you do whatever you need to but take the time to support them yourself. Most parents would,care less their computer is fixed and more that they are spending time with their child.

    • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

      You raise a good point, but constantly fixing someone else's computer problems is draining, especially if the help is one-way and never reciprocated. It does nobody's relationship any good if you dread every call for the hour it's going to take to fix whatever broke.

      Imagine instead if their computers actually worked, and you could therefore instead talk about whatever you wanted instead of why the printer isn't working. "Spending time with your child" is one thing, but I'm welcome to visit even when the I

      • You raise a good point, but constantly fixing someone else's computer problems is draining, especially if the help is one-way and never reciprocated. It does nobody's relationship any good if you dread every call for the hour it's going to take to fix whatever broke.

        Imagine instead if their computers actually worked, and you could therefore instead talk about whatever you wanted instead of why the printer isn't working. "Spending time with your child" is one thing, but I'm welcome to visit even when the Internet isn't broken; and, when visiting, I'd rather spend the time with them instead of their computer. Likewise, my folks are welcome to visit me even when I don't have a busted clutch slave cylinder or leaking fuel tank; and, likewise, the time is better spent on discretionary projects we want to tackle for the purposes of fun and/or bonding as opposed to helping with an emergency.

        Work smarter then, not harder. I support my parents from across the United States. I have my own machine running on their network with a VPN configured so that I can jump on and see exactly what the problem is. It saves me a lot of time and frustration that way. The only time that doesn't work is if their internet isn't working properly. Then I have them reboot all their network gear and I'm usually back in business. I spent about $700 on the hardware - $200 to replace their networking gear with high

        • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

          My parents tech support needs are very little, even without reboots and Mac Minis, and I help them readily, thankyouverymuch. That doesn't mean I need their computers to break before spending time with them, or that I wish their computers broke more often.

          • My parents tech support needs are very little, even without reboots and Mac Minis, and I help them readily, thankyouverymuch. That doesn't mean I need their computers to break before spending time with them, or that I wish their computers broke more often.

            Who said anything about needing their computers to break to spend time with them? The GP complained that he wanted to do other things when he's at his parents. Like spend time with them. The point of the VPN is that you can fix their computer problems at your convenience and when you are not trying to do other things with them. I'll jump on the VPN while I am waiting for a build at work, or am doing things around the house. They get the the help they need and I don't feel drained by the process. I sti

  • http://www.onesupport.com/ [onesupport.com] is a service that started in the last year or two. $15/month plus a $50 sign up fee, or no sign up fee if they pay a year in advance. (Disclaimer, I am partially associated with them. Never worked for them, but worked with their techs in the past). They do phone/remote access troubleshooting/virus removal/tuneups/basic software support/printers/networking. They always seemed fairly competent from the chats I had with them.

    Also most ISP's, or at least the 4 or 5 that I've worked fo

  • I have no idea what you can expect from big box phone support, or if "good" phone support even exists. There are a bunch of things you can do to make tech support easier, however, if you haven't done them already.

    1. The best thing you can do (again, if you haven't already) is take away the Administrator account. I used to get weekly calls about my grandparents' PC, which saw a lot of use by relatives and grandchildren, until I did that. Suddenly, all the toolbars, viruses, Bonzi Buddies, random driver iss

  • To the geek who can't resist the suggestion that the right solution in this situation is to migrate Mom & Dad to Linux, the Chromebook or Apple:

    a reminder that Windows 95 launched 20 years ago.

    Long enough for even the least tech-savvy of users to become comfortable with a broad range of skills, programs and services that are not easily transferable to other platforms.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      Windows 95 launched 20 years ago

      And Microsoft keeps changing everything around every three or four years. So what was your point, again?

  • ...no really. Teach a man to fish and all that. Some of the best resources can be found at the local library for learning this stuff, as well as community colleges. On one hand, it helps that they are willing to learn this stuff - but on the other hand, it helps that they understand that you're not necessarily going to be available 24/7 for their needs.
  • I'm a senior also, but had a leg up on computer technology, and so that's one of the things I do now -- serve the senior community (in addition to small businesses). I provide a range of tech support contracts, as well. I'm sure there must be many others out there that do the same. The key is to find someone to do onsite support. Another option is senior centers, where there is often a significant range of computer courses and information available for free. And as you might have noted from some of the mor
  • My father, always a smart man, wanted to go into computing in his late 60s, dropping hints he was not keeping up with ages. I was an expat at the time, gave in my old PowerBook (old Mac). He learned to use it on his own. Later he got an old MacBook Pro, and last year I have him a brand new iPad. Support calls are far and between, how do I do this and that, and the upgrades when I visit. Nothing draining. Sis also has an iPad nowadays, in the Mac era they were pretty clueless how to help him too. Has for fam
  • Not a big fan of tech support, the ones who are good at what they do tend to move on or move up wry quickly.

    I have no idea what the Windows equivalent is like (sccm or something). But I have used Casper from Jamf software to manage several Macs, and it's a pretty cool tool. They also have a simpler option called Bushel, with a free option for three devices, which I haven't tried. Install either, lock down their Macs, and manage their machines with a remote management tool, which also lets you get some learn

  • Seriously, if the only problem you have with your parents getting older is their IT support, then you're unbelievably lucky.

  • Mine is the same story as the others, but a bit further down the line...

    When my parents were in their seventies, I had bodged together various Windows PCs for them, but they never were stable. My Mum wanted a new computer, so I suggested they got a Mac, and that is the one she learned to use. This was good for me because I also worked on a Mac, so I could replicate what they were doing. It has had a repair - the modem blew when the house was struck by lightning - and I probably will not be able to updat

  • In one of my jobs I saw one of these in the field. It's completely locked down; the user doesn't have root privileges. I don't know how much they cost though: http://www.mywowcomputer.com/ [mywowcomputer.com]
  • Giving birth to you entitles your mother to lifetime tech support. That's just the way it is.

    Feel free to guide them to a Mac or an iPad or a chrome book, or whatever both meets their needs and lessens this burden. But you need to be there for the if they need you, on this and other things too.

  • The simplest solution is to create a customized full system restore DVD. All they have to do is insert DVD and reboot the machine. For hardware related problems they can take it back to the shop.
  • Get them Chromebooks, Google handle pretty much all the maintenance , and they are more than adequate for most people's day to day use...

  • How much does being a shill on /. with throwaway company mention pay? Is it better than doing "Instance Panda" comment spam on political websites?

    Ah, the "make money at home on your computer" lifestyle.

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