Back from vacation, part 2

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The downside to these vacations, especially ones with lots of other people, is the age old one Doctors know all to well.

"Oh, you work in computers?"

Those of you in the industry know the dread that phrase incurs. It means that you will shortly be asked a question about a computer problem, usually software. Or a strange error messages. Or a thingy that worked last week but just suddenly stopped. Any ideas? And in this age of laptops everywhere, even on vacation when there is zero WiFi coverage, the offending hardware can be whipped out for some on the spot troubleshooting.

The real demon of it is that while I do work "in computers", 95% of the questions I get from friends and relatives are for the part of "in computers" I don't do. Specifically, desktop OS and application support. I used to be able to do that sort of thing, but at the time I worked on a helpdesk doing that every day. Not any more.

What I do every day could be called "enterprise". One question I did field this weekend actually WAS near my area of speciality, someone wanted to know how to connect to a service hosted on a desktop machine behind their NAT router from the internet. For the rest, especially the Vista questions, I was singularly unhelpful.

For the OSS advocates out there, one guy did ask me about linux. His son had set him up with linux on a desktop system he gave him. Very nice, shows advocacy. Unfortunately, printing mysteriously stopped last week and did I know how to get it back? Um.... no. He didn't know what distribution he was using, or even if it was KDE or Gnome. How do you explain THAT? As with all things linux there are three completely different ways to set printing up, and each distro seems to configure it, or skin the configuration, its own way. It is much much harder to troubleshoot these things from the remove of a user who doesn't know the interface trying to describe it. In this case I'm pretty sure it was Ubuntu, and I've never used that distro.

So I'm considering revising my answer to the statement, "oh, you work in computers?" To, "no, I work in networks. Not the same thing." They'll still pitch their problems at me, but perhaps the expectation of getting a resolution will go down.

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I get that too. The worst thing is, even when I know the answer, I always have a problem articulating an answer that leads to anything other than a blank stare.