Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Life Teaches Me Another Lesson

Let me share with you an experience I had the other day. As you probably know, I am an independent Support and Repair technician.. or what you might think of as a “Help Desk” type (but, no, I don’t wear thick-framed dork glasses). And, I have been helping people with their computers for a long time. Since the Early Days, really.

I mention that last part, because I want you to understand that I thought I had come to meet, over the years, pretty much every type of “end user” (aka, you people) there was: from the true beginner, to those who thought they knew their stuff because someone had shown them Ctrl+Alt+Del, to those who really did know enough to make them dangerous, and all the way up to top-tier IT Pro’s.

Anywho, back to my story: the other day I get this call on the phone asking for help getting an update to Flash Player to install. (the installer would download and run, but fail with no error message.) The person’s wording describing the problem, their ability to answer my questions, etc., made me think they were an “average” user type. Due to the fact that it was late, and they wanted me to also look at “other things”, we scheduled a home visit.

So this tale doesn’t go too long.. I’ll try to be brief. I get to the home and we go to their computer, and I ask them to sit at their machine and recreate for me the steps they had used. I look at the client’s screen, and saw a problem right away.

They said, “Okay. Let me get this out of the way..” And they clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Underneath was a huge Word document filling the screen. I watched as they File > Save-ed, and clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Underneath Word was Outlook, opened to their Inbox.
Filling the whole screen.
They clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Underneath Outlook was an Excel spreadsheet.
Filling the whole screen.
I watched as they File > Save-ed, and clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Finally, we were at the Desktop. “Okay. It happened when I went on YouTube“, they said. And they clicked on Internet Explorer’s blue “e” icon. Which Open-ed. Filling the whole screen.

I asked the client to hold up a minute. And I said, “please don’t be offended at such a personal question.. but do you have to wear glasses? Or have trouble seeing smaller things?

No. I have excellent 20/20 vision.

I asked, and received permission, to “try something”. I sat down and right -clicked on a blank area of the Taskbar, and clicked Properties.


And placed one check, in one checkbox, “Keep the Taskbar on top of other windows”.

And changed their world. I gave a tutorial on Taskbar tabs, and switching back and forth between open programs (without have to Exit and re-launch them each time) and told my client they only need to  ‘red X’ a program when they were all finished with it… My client was so delighted at this “miracle”, I went further, and demonstrated ‘windowed mode’, and how they could have Internet Explorer and Word (or two different Word doc’s) open side-by-side. This tickled my client pink, and they grasped right away how that would make Copy > Pasting between applications 100x’s easier.

.. I uninstalled the previous version of Flash Player, rebooted, and this time, the installer worked, and they could watch their YouTubes. And I fixed a few other small things. I left a delighted client.

They were quite surprised when I rang their doorbell a short while later.. and even more surprised when I handed them this..


Don’t be fooled by the title,” I said. “This book is the same as taking a computer class; better, you can learn at your own pace. Think of it as your very own personal tutor.

I think they should be required by Law to issue it with all new computers, because there are so many things about computers we are simply expected to know.. but nobody shows us or tells us.”

I smiled at them and said, “knowledge is power, and the knowledge is in there. I would recommend reading one section a day, skipping the things you know.. they’re little, take 5 minutes. Or using the Index to look up answers as the questions come to you. Enjoy!” …

This person had adapted their computer use to what they believed was how that machine operated.. because it had somehow been set that way. (I was reminded of an article I wrote some time ago now, My Number One Piece Of Tech Advice*.)

I wrote today’s article because maybe I have just described you. And I think you would really benefit from either purchasing such a book, (about $20) or going to your local public library and checking it out. Maybe I’m not describing you — maybe I described one of your family members.. or friends. Maybe this would make a good Holiday gift?
You know.. so they can stop calling you with novice questions, and just look it up themselves?

Related; Quick Tip: How To Change Window Size.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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December 2, 2010 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Paul,

    Terrific article!

    Despite the spin from the technology industry, there is an unavoidable learning curve involved in computing.

    IT professionals often forget, that “average users” frequently need help with what may appear to be “no brainers” to more experienced users.

    Good to see you address this important issue.



    Comment by Bill Mullins | December 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Bill,
      This person was rather “advanced” in Excel (even knew ‘pivot tables’) and Word, and pretty savvy to the Web, yet was living a “workaround” due to their lack of knowing some fundamentals. I really do believe the for Dummies series is one of the best ways people can quickly and easily fill any gaps in their computer know-how.

      Thank you for your support!


      Comment by techpaul | December 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. Paul,
    I’m not an average user, but even then sometime I would just get into some silly things. To me it is a a never-ending cycle,,,keep learning>>more to come..



    Comment by Grr | December 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Grr,
      That is an excellent point. Just when you get to know a tech item, tech item v2 comes out.. and while you’re sitting and wondering if you should go ahead and get tech item v2.. tech item v3 arrives…
      Tech is a “dynamic” arena. It can seem overwhelming, and feel daunting.

      You are 100% correct: the learning should never cease.
      The evolution isn’t going to (at least, not anytime soon).

      (And .. I just hit on why IT types “specialize”.. there’s too much to learn to try to keep up with every change, in every area, of technology’s [exponential] growth and spread.)


      Comment by techpaul | December 2, 2010 | Reply

      • Thanks Paul..

        Have a nice weekend.



        Comment by Grr | December 4, 2010 | Reply

  3. I love your blog lots of useful information. I’ve added it to my favorite bookmarks and subscribed in a reader.

    All these issues are important, and that’s why I just started blogging a while ago and it feels great.

    Kind Regards


    Comment by Evelina | December 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Evelina,
      Thank you for the words of support!


      Comment by techpaul | December 3, 2010 | Reply

  4. I will post a link to this page on my blog.


    Comment by Crazyupload | December 16, 2010 | Reply

    • Crazyupload,
      Thank you for your support.


      Comment by techpaul | December 16, 2010 | Reply

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