Next Day

Since my previous post got ScriptDotted (thanks Dave!) I'll continue the story...

So last night I was up until at least 2:30 a.m. trying to help Mom out via the phone. They're 6 hours behind me in Northern New Hampshire, so it was still early evening when I called it quits and we'll start again today. We had a plan. First was to get the new computer up and running and on the Internet. Secondly to get all the stuff connected: printer, scanner, webcam, optical mouse. Third is to transfer her data over to the new machine.

The computer - like I said before - is definitely Not Bad. I've had eMachines before and I can say they give you a lot of value for your money. They did the wise thing and didn't get the cheapest, but spent a little more money and got something that will last them a few years. I'm not sure whether this machine is the absolute price/performance winner, but I think the ease of buying it and bringing it home is worth something right there.

And the machine is definitely a nice box! It's better than my machine by a lot right now. It has 8 (count 'em) USB ports which is going to RULE in the future for my parents. With their old machine they were pretty limited in terms of what extra stuff they could buy. For example, they've seen my digital camera and want one for themselves, but without USB it'd be a bit hard to transfer the files. But now I think it'll be a lot easier for them.

I got a comment about a Mac. I would've LOVED to encourage my parents to buy a Mac (I'm not in the financial position right now to buy anyone anything), however I don't have a Mac (yet) so I can't play technical support it's as simple as that. And PCs still beat Macs on price/performance/ease of purchase. My parents live in the middle of nowhere and had to drive 40 minutes over a mountain to get to WalMart as it was. I don't know if Wally sells Macs, but even if they did I would have no way of helping them from here and my Mom is Windows-literate now as well and would take a lot in terms of retraining in order to move over. A Mac would be nice, though, wouldn't it? It would Just Work...

Anyways, on to the tasks at hand... It's too bad the old machine doesn't have ethernet. I'm ALMOST tempted to tell my parents to go get an ethernet card and we'll install that and transfer the data that way. But there would undoubtedly be a bunch of problems so I'm not sure if that's a great solution either. This is definitely the challenge of the day, getting the old data on the new box. I'm still working out the best way to do it.

But I'm getting ahead of my self. The first thing is the internet connection. My Mom has an account at Earthlink (or actually, with a company that Earthlink bough called TogetherNet) and I've already played THAT set up game a million times by telephone so I figured we'd start there. What a nightmare!!

Do you read Matthew Thomas' weblog? It's great because he works at a Kinko's or an internet Cafe or something like that and has to deal with newbies on a daily basis. The stuff techies take for granted completely bewilder non-techies. He's got a daily rant or so about usability and makes me feel that EVERYONE in the tech industry should have to go back where he's working right now to get a reeeeaaaally good understanding of how normal people think and work with computers.

I'm reminded of MPTs weblog because that's what it was like last night. I would've been able to connect to the internet in 45 seconds, I'm sure. I know I've seen that New Internet Connections box a hundred times. But somehow last night it was just IMPOSSIBLE to set up. I'm working blind from here, my Mom is choosing the best options she can based on what she's reading, but the sheer number of options and confusing windows, pop-ups, etc. is ridiculous. We got to a point somewhere where she could enter in all the information, but the "next" button just would not work. I kept on asking (screaming?) for her to tell me what was going on on the screen. Some sort of error? A highlighted message? A red flag? A question mark? Something! But she couldn't see it. We did this for AT LEAST an hour before we finally restarted enough times to work our way through the labrynth of choices to get the Internet working.

Then there's the normal hastle of all the MS garbage like Passport prompts, and stuff from eMachines, and AOL pre-installed, etc. but that's par for the course. I'm ready to machete through that stuff. The stuff that SHOULD be simple, yet takes an hour is what gets my blood pumping.

Then I got her to download VNC that I placed on my server so she'd be able to type in the URL without much effort (unlike most people, my Mom knows how to spell my name without much trouble). Here's a tip for you non-techies out there: My mom NEVER uses the address bar. Only when I call her and tell her to use it for one thing or another. Whereas I am constantly typing in web addresses, she uses Google (which she discovered herself a year or so ago and which I added to her tool bar) and her favorites. I'm taking serious note of this.

Okay, so VNC sucks on XP. I have NO idea why. There's no broadband in her area so she, like 9 out of 10 Americans, is on dial-up. Normally this isn't a problem with her other machine, Tight-VNC on Best Compression normally makes it so I can work through the problem from here. But no deal on XP. Slllooooowww. This is a major problem as being able to VNC is the only way I can see what's going on sometimes. For example, last month a million empty application buttons started showing up in the task bar of Windows 98. I've never seen anything like it, so I first didn't really believe what she was saying or that they couldn't be closed by right clicking and choosing close. Once I VNCed in, I could see that yes, indeed, somehow a hundred empty task-bar buttons would appear once she started and not go away. I temporarily fixed this problem (not sure how) but then it reappeared again, and this is what prompted the "go buy a WalMart PC, will ya?" comment..

So today Mom's going to call in a few hours (it's still 6 a.m. on the east coast) and we're going to go through the installation stuff. I'm hoping this isn't too painful, but we'll see. We have the internet up so if I need to go find a new driver, I can have my mom download it. This should be tough but doable.

Then the data. This is a real toughy. I'm still not sure which is the best route.

Okay - lots to do today and I'm sure I'm going to be on the phone for several hours. Like I said, it's a good thing I'm on vacation so I'm not stressed for time.


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