As someone who knows how to hack computers well enough to put words on this website (Cracked's IT department have been trying to stop me for years), I'm often approached by family members seeking help with their computing problems. And although it's nice to feel useful, as John Cheese has sexily pointed out, fixing computers also kind of sucks. If the problem is straightforward, sure, I don't mind taking 30, even 40 seconds to look at a relative's computer and lovingly stroke it back to life. But man do I not want to sink two or three hours into these issues, which is so often what they take.
"When you're done, the grout needs scrubbing, and we could also use a new wing on the house."
I suspect many of you are in the same boat, our computing expertise forcing us into the ranks of guys with pickup trucks who are asked to help with a move every weekend, or doctors obliged to investigate weird moles at every social function. With middling power comes great responsibility, and it's one we rightly want to shirk.
And shirking? That I can help you with.
#6. Develop A Reputation As Someone Who Breaks Computers
This is a problem of reputation as much as anything else -- no one asks your idiot brother to help fix their computer, because everyone knows that isn't one of his skills.
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Knowing where to find drugs. That's basically all he's got, but boy does he have it.
So how do you shake your reputation? By making everything worse. When asked to fix a computer, click on every "free virus scan" flashing banner ad you can find, install every toolbar you see, and visit every website Russia has ever made. Your goal here is to make the computer start to smoke. If software can't do it, you'll need to investigate hardware solutions, which in this case means power tools. Ask your relatives if anyone's pregnant or trying to get pregnant, mumble something about fumes and "evil spirits," then get to work with an angle grinder and a forge. Empty an entire can of bacon grease on the monitor, then disappear for two weeks to "get parts" and "reevaluate." They'll get the point.
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That your two-time loser brother is still several losses behind you.
#5. Teach Them
Computers are complicated tools, and there are always going to be ways to use them improperly. Yet you never need help fixing your own computer, or even need to fix it much in the first place, and you're a pen-sniffing idiot.
Our web statistics tell us that 74 percent of you involuntarily shuddered when seeing this picture.
But if there was some way to impart your computing knowledge, you could help your friends and relatives avoid these problems themselves.
Perhaps by some kind of hands-to-face mind meld technique.
First, figure out what keeps breaking for them. Is it their wireless network? Teach them a bit about how wireless networks work. Show them how to reboot everything and the order in which to do it, and tell them what all the flashing lights mean. Or is their problem malware and dodgy toolbars? After scrubbing that shit off their computers, go on a field trip with them. Visit some shady Tamogatchi-snuff-streaming websites and point out all the banner ads and scams and other virus-laden things they should never ever click on.
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"Don't click that. Or that. Or that. Don't click anything, actually. I'm just going to take your mouse. Just read Google. They change the doodle most days, so it's still fun."
And here's the important bit: Make them listen. They're not going to want to, so use basic grappling techniques to make them. Explain clearly that this is a necessary part of computer ownership and to quit struggling. It's like knowing how to change a flat tire. Even if you hope you don't need to do it, it's kind of reckless driving without knowing how.
#4. Turn It Into An Appliance
You don't need to know how some devices work. Like microwaves -- they use pretty small waves? You just press the "Popcorn" button and wait.
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Doesn't matter what you're cooking. Just keep hammering on Popcorn.
But that's simply not the case with computers. People wearing turtlenecks and frameless eyeglasses have been improving the usability of computers for the past couple decades, and have only made marginal progress: they're still incredibly complicated machines with incredibly complicated interfaces. Any time they've tried to make a computer too much like an appliance (re: Microsoft Bob, or even Windows 8), this has necessarily limited the things those machines are capable of doing or hid important features, angrifying the users who need them. The fundamental problem here is we're trying to sell the same box to both Grandma and a Level 49 HyperNerd, and that's kind of insane.
"Yes, Tommy. Grandpa and I are using the beta drivers on our SLI'd GTX 980s and seeing no stability issues, so give it a try. See you at Easter."
So if the turtlenecked have failed, what can we do? Installing a modern browser, virus scanner, and malware screener helps make a computer a little more appliance-like. You could even follow the route of corporate IT departments and remove programs your relatives should never use, strip the administrator privileges from their account, or install website blockers. Though this is just as likely to get you more phone calls for help when they keep banging their heads on your efforts to keep them safe.
"Tommy, did you HAXXZ0R my box?"
Replacing their computer with an iPad or something is another option. Or if their needs are particularly minimal, give them a doctored-up digital picture frame playing a loop of grandchildren, cat memes, and, just so they don't get confused, error messages.