Friday, March 9, 2018

"I will now take control of your computer"

Technology. It's great when it works.

As much as I obviously harp about the future, I also tend to harbor a desire to keep things simple. I don't need to have the latest, top of the line everything. I just need what I have to work.

Last December, I ended up buying this new Lenovo Ideabook when my other laptop crossed the rainbow bridge to where good computers go for rest and cleansing ("The stuff he put on me...the stuff...") The Lenovo was real cheap. It had to be because of my current situation. But that's all right. After all, what does a guy like me really need? I need Word and I need an internet connection to watch Duran Duran videos.

That last task became difficult when the sound no longer worked on the Ideabook. Granted that's not really an essential feature for a writer, but I love music and I write better if I can hear Arcade Fire's "Everything Now", Portishead's "Over", and Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" (did I say that last one out loud?) I was most vexed. I ran a diagnostic and checked a few online message boards and came to the conclusion that the sound card needed an updated driver. No problem. I'll just download and install.

Except that it didn't work. Nothing worked. For an Ideabook less than a month old, it was a problem I should not be having. What was worse, it became clear that I would not be able to solve the problem with my wits alone.

I was going to have to do it, wasn't I? I would have to venture into that gnarled krummholz filled with tepid responses, frustrating language barriers, and outcomes with questionable benefit. I swore I would gnaw my own leg off before doing it again, but Arcade Fire waits for no man.

So I made coffee, settled onto the couch...and called tech support.

I made my way through the menuing system and surprise! I got a live human fairly early on in the process. He told me his name was Mark, but due to his accent, I couldn't shake the suspicion that the name was a pseudonym given to him by corporate so as not to frustrate/alienate culturally illiterate Westerners with his given-name. Kinda felt bad for the guy.

Anyway, I gave my serial number and told Mark the problem. He then said "I am now going to take control of your computer."

Say what?

This was a new one for me. Was this for real? Did I call the right number? Was this tech support or some guy operating out of a storage unit as part of an identity theft ring? This could only happen to me.

"If at any point you feel uncomfortable in the process, there is a killswitch in the upper right corner of your screen," Mark told me. "Click it and the connection is terminated immediately."

Interesting. There are so many situations in life where I would like that same convenience.

It wasn't like I had any idea what to do and there was indeed the big, shiny, red, candy-like killswitch button should things go awry. I turned the controls over to Mark. I watched as the cursor went into Windows, clicked a few things, downloaded a file, and then rebooted.

"Try it now," Mark said.

It worked. The melodious strains of Salt-n-Peppa's "Push It" did indeed stream from my tiny speaker. I could almost see Mark dancing on the other end of the phone. I thanked him, promised to fill out the customer satisfaction survey, and hung up. I did, however, keep reflecting on the experience:

-The surrender of control of the computer was, as I said, new to me. I presume it happens for efficiency's sake. Having talked someone through a computer procedure on the phone, it can get frustrating. On one occasion, I likened it to one of those movies where someone in a control tower has to guide a non-pilot in landing a plane. The "remote control" way was much easier. didn't teach me anything. I'm no good at coding, but I'm decent with tech. If something goes wrong, I'd like to learn how to handle it so I can do it myself next time. Didn't get that in this case. Which leads me to...

-Is "just fix it for me" now the approach people have to tech support? Much of tech support is outsourced, hence the issues with language barriers...and hence another likely reason for remote control. I wonder though if it's more than that. We seem to want to outsource even our own participation in the troubleshooting.

-I have a sneaking suspicion a writer like Kurt Vonnegut would have found this whole occurrence quite amusing.

I'm still having problems with the Lenovo. The hard drive is so cheap and tiny, that MS Office and McAfee were enough to fill the whole damn thing. Now, Windows can't install updates (8 gig needed). What to do? At least I can still write. And listen to music.

Up next: Mojo Nixon. "Poontango."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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