An Open Proposal, pt. I

For those who weren’t aware, I do in fact work for Best Buy. Specifically, I work for a wholly owned subsidiary called Geek Squad. If you haven’t at least heard of Geek Squad, you are probably from a country where Best Buy has no presence, or you don’t know anybody with a computer.

I originally started working as a repair agent (Geek Squad employees are called “agents” instead of “technicians” because not all of us are technicians, and we also aren’t salespeople) but now I am more of a logistics and operations specialist. I still am a repair agent, and specialize in Mac (which should not be a surprise). I also do minor things like in-store set-ups and data transfers/backups. Primarily, I’m supposed to do shipping and receiving and call people when their stuff is ready for pickup.

My job is complicated by the fact that I am frequently the only person working in the back of the “precinct,” which is what we call the Geek Squad area. It’s not really an office, and it’s not really a department (at least not at the Best Buy at which I work). It’s attached to the customer service desk, which means I see and hear a lot of stuff that really makes me lose faith in humanity. Think racist comments to the black customer service girl(s) because they can’t do a return without the customer’s ID, or calling my boss (also black, and with long dreadlocks to top it all off) “the devil.” And where I work, the closest towns are mostly blue-collar or middle-class people, and a lot of minorities. We also happen to be situated such that we are the most convenient Best Buy for Philadelphia residents, even though it’s an hour or more by bus. You know, the kind of people who don’t have a car because they can’t afford one, or they just don’t need one because they live in a city. The other area Best Buys require transfers and stuff, but we’re a straight shot from Center City. So we have a very large reach.

Before I started working here, I actually told anyone who asked that no, I wouldn’t want to work for Geek Squad because “they charge too much.” After only two and a half months of working for them, I’ve realized that we actually charge very little for much of the services we perform! Sure, $30 for a software installation (yes, we actually do that) is a lot, but think about it. People who actually cannot comprehend the concept of inserting a plastic disk into their computer, following the steps printed on the box, and entering a product key that is also on the box really have no other option. I’ve seen many instances of people buying collections of software that end up totaling more than the cost of the computer! Often, though, they are bundled with a new laptop, so you end up with a laptop plus Microsoft Office and your choice of Webroot SA or Kaspersky Lab for not much additional charge, if any, and if you have a Tech Support plan, the AV program is included and software installations are free…and also unlimited.

But it’s not all smooth sailing. In fact, every day is a struggle against red tape and restrictive – and sometimes horribly, painfully outdated – standard operating procedures.

As I am a current employee, I obviously won’t say anything to compromise trade secrets. For example, I can say that sometimes (not always, despite what Geek Squad critics might have you believe) client’s machines are hooked up to a program that allows a technician to work on them remotely. Those people are, in fact, Geek Squad employees, and because they are located all over the world, they can work 24/7. If you have heard of our Tech Support plan, you have seen the whole “We’re here to help, 24/7” tagline. Well, that’s because the 1-800-GEEKSQUAD help system is staffed all around the world! They’re not random outsourced laborers. They’re certified technicians.

If we have twenty or more computers checked in at one time, it’s physically impossible to have one person work on them all at once. That’s why it takes 3-5 days for in-store repairs. There’s only ever one repair agent in at a time. There are plenty of reasons for this, but mostly it’s physical space. If we could have two of them on the clock at once, we’d need a precinct literally twice the size! Plus, toe-stepping would be an issue.

Also, you can’t reasonably expect one person to work on twenty computers simultaneously. Trust me, you don’t want that anyway. Even though we write notes on what we do, how can you keep tabs on twenty machines at once, each with their own issue – virus, viruses, hardware problem, this diagnostic, that diagnostic, etc? It’s possible, but you run the risk of making mistakes the more workload you take on. The same is true for any profession!

I’m allowed to say that we use a classified set of tools to aid us in fixing computers. It’s classified because it’s Best Buy’s property, and Best Buy is a privately held corporation. It’s classified like the source code to Microsoft Office is classified, or the blueprints to the finely-tuned engine of an Infiniti G37S. Or any car. You get the idea. Unless it is open-source or public domain, it is classified and thus legally protected. When people push for details, we ultimately end up saying that our tools are trade secrets, and they are more than welcome to use whatever freeware utilities they’d like on their own time, but since they are coming to us, we assume that they don’t know what they’re doing and are paying us because we do.

“But I have Norton! Why don’t you just remove the viruses with Norton?” Well, for one, you fail to see the sad irony there – you have both viruses and an anti-virus “program.” Something’s not right there. Also, no, we will not use Norton on a client’s computer, nor will we ever recommend it as an anti-virus solution. Norton is terrible. It’s obtrusive, intrusive, confusing, and worst of all, behaves more like adware than anti-virus. It’s also far too expensive. Sure, if you’re dead fucking set on Norton, we’ll ring it up for you, and install it if you pay us to do so, but we are obliged to push the brands with which Best Buy has contracts – which also happen to be much, much better programs, especially for people who want something that stays out of the way and doesn’t cause more issues than it solves. They are also free with a Tech Support plan. Without one, they’re still only fifty bucks. You can’t even buy the latest and greatest PC game for fifty bucks anymore.

But I digress!

The programs we use are not usually freeware. In fact, they are very rarely freeware. Things like hard drive integrity tests and memory tests are usually free (though not always open-source for security and anti-tampering reasons) because it would be doing everyone a disservice to charge for a program that can potentially prevent a catastrophic failure well in advance. We are allowed to use any OEM-provided tool – so if you have a Seagate hard drive that may be on its way out, we can investigate with SeaTools, or DFT for Hitachi, and so on. If the machine will boot, a diagnostic often starts with the basic vendor-provided (read: built-in) tests, provided the client didn’t totally re-format the hard drive and/or somehow remove (or break) the recovery partition. Some are crap. I’ve not heard much good about HP’s or Dell’s memory test utility, for example. ASUS’ is good, but then again, it’s got the ASUS logo after all.

We always double-check everything. Even if a computer passes its hardware test, if it’s still running really slowly or experiencing BSODs or other weird errors, we assume there’s some underlying cause (because what’s the alternative? defective unit? that’s still very rare).

We’ve been criticized for having an arsenal seemingly limited to “nuke and pave,” or restoring the OS or the entire unit to factory specifications. Couple things on that point:

  • It can be reasonably assumed that the computer will be 100% functional at factory specifications, and if it is not (which is very rare), it is defective or there is an unseen hardware problem.
  • Sometimes, the OS gets extremely corrupted for a number of reasons. The only real way to fix a corrupted OS is re-installation. Manually correcting errors is extremely time- and labor-intensive and has a surprisingly low success rate due to the countless combinations of Windows versions, driver versions, system architectures, and individual platform requirements and compatibility issues.
  • Sometimes, there are so many viruses or so much damage from them that simply removing the infection only prevents the system from getting worse, rather than healing it. Reversing damage done by malware or rootkits on the system level often involves registry modification, and if the OS was damaged, there is (see above) no guaranteed way to repair it without re-installing the OS.
  • Would you rather get your computer back in a week or a month?
  • For some stupid reason, the people who make viruses are typically smarter than the people who write the software the viruses infect. That means that the operating system and friends are sometimes impossible to fix.
  • Getting your computer infected with serious damaging viruses or malware is kinda like totaling a car. No one ever means to, but you can’t reverse it and you don’t want to pay more than the value of what you’ll end up with. So you have to deal with it.

A lot of software problems are not actually as complicated to fix as some might think. It’s hardware repair where things get difficult, and we don’t even do that in-store with a few exceptions:

  • If it is made by HP, and is no more than three years old, we can easily order the part required 95% of the time, and then install it in-store. Yes we have to wait for it to be delivered. No it does not cost extra (unless you have no warranty coverage!)
  • If you don’t have a hardware warranty, you can buy stuff like hard drives or RAM, or really any component you can buy in a store like Best Buy or Micro Center (who are not actually competitors of ours) and bring it to us to install. It’s $60 and up, but we eliminate the guesswork and also do all the initial testing to ensure you can just use it without thinking about it. We can also write down exactly what part you need to buy, even if we don’t sell it.
  • Soon, we’ll be trained (or in my case, certified) to replace the screens of certain smartphones in-store in a half hour or less. iPhones, for example. The parts are easily obtained from authorized manufacturers or resellers, surprisingly inexpensive compared to the cost of the phone, and are easily and quickly installed by anyone but a very beginner technician. We don’t offer this service YET. It’s no secret that we’re thinking about it. Some precincts tell clients they’re implementing it soon. Others already have because they are better-staffed or simply higher-traffic.

But there are too many more bullet points on which I could complain rather than defend us as an organization with regards to our practices and policies. I’ve written enough for now, but rest assured I am far from finished.

As always, remember that neither my words nor any of the content of jaska.me is in any way sanctioned or approved by Best Buy or its subsidiaries in any respect. If they were to read what I write, they’d have to take it as constructive criticism and nothing else. I am not risking my employment in any way, nor am I really saying anything that people experienced with Geek Squad don’t already know…!

 

 

Sine Wave Reality

Sometimes, I wish it was even remotely acceptable to say “Sorry, my autism is acting up.”

See, that’s not really a thing. At all. It doesn’t flare up or die down, it doesn’t spread to other body parts, and it certainly doesn’t go into remission. It’s just always there.

But I view Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as autism and ASDs in general, as subtractive conditions, as opposed to additive ones. Granted, “additive conditions” are more commonly referred to as “beneficial genetic mutations” or simply “evolutionary traits.” It stands to reason, though, that a kid with polydactyly who has a fully formed and functional “extra pinky” on each hand might be able to do things on piano or violin or guitar that most people cannot. But most conditions, especially those on the autism spectrum, do not add tangible benefits so much as they subtract from what is generally accepted to be neuro-typical brain function.

Indeed, most (possibly all) currently diagnosable mental conditions are subtractive in nature. After all, you’re likely not to notice something is there until it’s missing. Did you wake up this morning and think “wow, I feel healthy?” Probably not, but if you were in fact ill, you’d almost certainly think “wow, I feel like shit.”

Asperger’s Syndrome, or AS, like everything the general public doesn’t understand one bit, manifests itself differently in every person* who has it. Some are very withdrawn (my friend Ivan**) while others make extra effort to live behind a hugely extroverted, often larger-than-life façade in attempts to “blend in” (this girl I knew in college).

In my case, it comes and goes. Some days, it’s more noticeable than others. Since AS is like a non-removable filter for emotions right before they are displayed, the degree to which mine is apparent is influenced by the same kinds of things that generally impact or affect all peoples’ moods:

  • amount of sleep I got / have been getting recently
  • hunger
  • hydration
  • stuff I’m worrying about
  • how people treat me
  • proximity of cat(s)

So pretty much, if I have a decent amount of energy, I’ll be able to make it pretty far.

It took my boss and co-workers nearly two months to learn I have autism, although they found out (from me) by accident when I had an emotional breakdown after an extremely rude lesbian couple said “this Aspie doesn’t know what he’s doing.” Context: I had told them that I can’t simply unscrew their laptop and remove the battery in a consultation (because that is labor, and a consultation is free). They were demanding from the moment they walked in (“Can you help us? Please fix this. It’s our only computer and it’s extremely important!”) but right off the bat I knew I didn’t owe them jack shit. Extremely important? Only computer? No warranty, coverage, or support plan to speak of?! Fuck off and go learn how to set a better example for your two young children so that people will be more willing to let queers adopt legally.

Other times, nothing fazes me at all. Sure, things anger me, but surprisingly little upsets me. You can call me a bunch of gay slurs, but I won’t have a breakdown. I’ll get more and more angry, which is admittedly a problem in itself, but I’m not actually gay, so go fuck yourself. But everybody has something they’re sensitive about. It’s not necessarily something immutable about their identity, either. Obviously, you should never use the “n” word around a black person anybody, but I’ve known plenty of blacks who joked about not being able to see them at night unless they smile and stuff like that. I worked with a guy once who was confined to a wheelchair for some sort of physical developmental defect, and he made “cripple” jokes fairly often, probably because he found our sometimes visible discomfort very amusing. I’d probably do the same thing, to be honest…

But you should never, ever make light of something about which the person is very upset or depressed. If your black friend is worried about being harshly profiled, the correct response is not “haha let’s see what they think if I’m also wearing a dark hoodie and sweats!” A Marine who lost his leg(s) in Afghanistan is not a good choice for Lt. Dan jokes. And so on.

But it’s a double-edged sword. If my AS were not as visible as it happens to be at times, people might not even believe I have it, as was the case with a longtime friend of mine when I told her. And on the flip side, when I do feel a bit more encumbered than usual, I seem to notice more and more instances of people simply not being sensitive to my various triggers.

It’s a sine wave, and I’ll explain what the hell I mean by that sometime in the future.

* I object to the use of the term “patient” in this context. It’s not an illness or a disease!

** Referenced with permission! Ivan will soon write his own blog detailing his own unique experiences.

Temporary VSC Database Problems

In case you haven’t noticed, the Interactive Alch Table has been acting up lately, displaying incorrect prices and, in some cases, a price of 0!

Obviously, a price of 0 indicates something is wrong code-wise, but a price that’s just slightly inaccurate – I think they were a day or two behind at some point – can cause major headaches and potential loss of cash (very negative profit) if you don’t pay close attention and compare values between the table and the game, just to be sure.

As I write this, it looks like well over a quarter of the items in the database are listed as having a price of 0, and therefore a “profit” equivalent to exactly their alch value. This is obviously not the case.

I don’t think this problem is on JaGEx’s end. I am able to execute the automated download/update script on my local machine, but can’t test the insertion/update functions without being connected to the database itself. I cannot currently do that remotely, but even manually running the scripts (via ssh) doesn’t work. If anything, it looks like it makes things worse!

The problem is almost definitely this:

auto update daemon fails to parse decoded JSONs, or fails to decode them at all.
auto update daemon fails to parse decoded JSONs, or fails to decode them at all.

The guilty bit of code in question (line 103, to be exact) is

$price = end($obj['daily']);

where $obj represents an ephemeral memory object of the decoded JSON data. In PHP code, the decoding is done in nanoseconds and is hardly resource-intensive at all. What’s strange is that it’s the same collection of items every time, and they’ve nothing in common. It’s also not consistent. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.

Of course, this only started after I expanded the database (doubled the count of items, just about) and used a new “expanded” table for queries. Not sure where the issue lies at present. It’s not permissions, I checked that all out as well.

Also, there’s a slew of (minor) JavaScript and CSS issues, mostly the obvious one where hovering over an item’s name displays a graphic of it, except that graphic replaces EVERY image tag on the page. Also, clicking the little squares to change the stylesheet doesn’t work to begin with. Well, it does sometimes, except not really.

At first, it crashed my rendering engine, so consider yourselves lucky, I guess.

There’s a decent chance, unfortunately, that the entire mySQL backend was corrupted – at least in the VSC database – when I ran out of disk space last week. I had messed up a crontab such that instead of dumping the databases to files on a thrice-daily basis, the server was tarballing snapshots of the ENTIRE web-facing directory and pushing them to Dropbox – also thrice daily. Bandwidth usage was still low enough that no alarms were raised, but the disk eventually got so full that the system was unable to log error messages stating that the tar operation failed because there is no disk space. Yikes.

That’s what you get for selecting the default 7GiB root volume. Oops!

I’ll have to investigate this more in-depth. Until then, apologies for the inconvenience!

Skyrim Silliness

I’ve finally found a decent image gallery template. Yay!

Currently, there’s the gallery, but that’s using Juicebox. That’s nice and all, but it’s not the most lightweight option and unfortunately also not the most customizable. It looks good, though. That’s some of my own original works. Just some samples.

But at any rate, I made a Skyrim gallery now too. It’s a repository of silly Skyrim screenshots. A lot of those screenshots are also just scenes I thought were breathtakingly well-done, graphically-speaking.

For the record, I play on a machine with an NViDIA GT 650. It’s not the best, but it’s not crap either. That said, this is low detail. The original resolution of my screen is 1650×1050, but very few people have such resolution unless you’re using a native 1080p display, so I shrunk the full-size images just a tad in order to have them fit on the screen completely. XD

Check it out! I put new photos in on a fairly regular basis. 🙂

SKYRIM IMAGE GALLERY

Flying through the aurora
Killing everybody ever.

 

Priorities, and Why Yours Probably Suck

These days, practically everybody is dependent on motorized transportation. The lucky handful who aren’t are either city-dwellers or people who actually thought Thoreau lived as a hermit for years and was onto something.

Chances are, if you have a driver’s license, you at least know something about cars, or you did at some point (say, between the ages of 16 and 21). Most people retain their knowledge of cars for their whole lives. Some people even learn as they get older.

The point is, if you depend on your car to get from A to B on a regular basis, you probably also have to take care of it on a regular basis. It’s one thing to have mommy and daddy pay for your gas, but it’s another to have them go get it for you because you can’t work a fuel pump without bringing about a situation of clear and present danger.

What if you get a flat tire? Instead of waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for whatever “Roadside Assistance” program you happen to have been grandfathered into, wouldn’t you rather sacrifice your “dignity” for just a moment and change the tire yourself? It certainly doesn’t take between 30 and 60 minutes to do so.

Other things you can and should probably do yourself include changing a taillight (or headlight, or fogcutter) bulb, provided your car still has bulbs and not LEDS, changing spark plugs, and putting air in the tires. Some people even change their own oil, which is admittedly something a professional does faster and less messily 95% of the time. Hell, some people even go filling in dents and dings and touching up scratches!

Do you know how to jump-start a car? Hmm…and yet people look down on the inner-city kids who know how to start a car without keys.

That all said, people who depend on their cars daily know how important it is to keep them in good (or at least passably legal) running condition. That kind of upkeep involves a certain degree of knowledge readily available. A lawyer with a BMW and a plumber with an F-150 are both licensed drivers, and they became licensed drivers in pretty much the same exact way!

SO then…

Why not computers? Why not smartphones? Why not technology?

You can’t seriously expect to get by without adopting some technological knowledge. It’s called “moving forward.” If you think about it, it’s the same kind of pseudo-logic used by people who stubbornly refuse to use terms like “black” instead of “negro,” or “Asian” instead of “Oriental,” simply because that’s the way they were brought up. Also, PSA: the word “queer” is not an insult, nor is “homo” or “gay.” Technically, neither is “colored,” although I believe the preferred term is “people of color.” Yeah, I know, so many more damn syllables.

Fact: You cannot escape technology. Sorry. You can’t.

How can people still get away with not knowing really, really basic computer stuff? How can someone with a Ph.D still have to pay someone to install an anti-virus program because they can’t do it themselves?

“But there’s no CD drive in my computer!” So? Have you realized how much cheaper certain software is now? That’s because there’s no cost overhead of shit like plastic cases for the plastic discs and plastic wrap for the plastic cases and labor costs for the people who drive the trucks powered by fossil fuels and loaded with nothing but copies of a software program that are actually entirely worthless and of absolutely no use until you “purchase” a string of random alphanumeric characters to make it work.

Hence you now get Microsoft Office the same way you get a few bucks from the lottery if you’re super lucky.

And your home internet connection should be fast enough to download the average *insert category here* program.

Yet…it’s too much to ask. Why?

If it’s so important to you, why can’t you take care of it? These days, many computers ship with utilities that either hold your hand through the “preventative maintenance” process, or else do it for you entirely. And yet people still don’t know what they’re doing.

So they come to me, and don’t like what I say, or how much it will cost, so naturally I don’t know what I’m doing.

So I said “Sorry, I guess I can’t help you. My co-worker will take a look as well, but he’ll probably tell you the same thing.”

“Oh, you want to speak to a manager? Get in line. But since you seem to think so little of my / my co-workers’ knowledge, I doubt you’ll find my manager’s input very helpful, considering he hired us, and he’ll say the same thing I said anyway,” is what I should have said.

Or I should have said something like “The utter lack of respect you’re showing me, a complete stranger, in a public place and in front of your young children is the exact reason people don’t want to allow us to adopt or raise children.” It would have taken a bit to sink in, but it’d work. I’d get fired, but whatever.

You don’t want my services, or don’t want to pay for them, fine. Shut up and leave so I can help the next clueless jerk in line.

Oh…and if you don’t have a warranty, protection plan, or indeed any support plan whatsoever, do yourself a favor and don’t follow up with “this is our only computer and we need it fixed ASAP.” Congratulations, you now look like even more of an ignorant, reactionary twit.

We don’t sell $200/year hardware protection plans because we’re out to leech your money. We do that so that when we have to send your computer to the service center because you dropped it off your bed (again), we only get five minutes of “but why will it take so long?” instead of twenty minutes of “this is unbelieveable, I’m not paying that much.”

Okay. Fix the screen yourself. It’ll take about five minutes for you to realize the amount of time and (skilled) labor involved in doing so, and maybe then you’ll begin to think that it might also not be something that should be rushed, and finally it’ll dawn on you that going to people who are professionals styled as experts and acting like you know better makes you look extraordinarily dumb.

You rely on lights to see, so you know how to change a bulb. You (hopefully) can reset a circuit breaker, replace a fuse, unclog a toilet, temporarily patch a leaky pipe, and so on. Hell, people decide to have babies, and learning to take care of those is like four years of college in nine months.

You rely on cell phones, smartphones, iPhones, laptops, ultrabooks, tablets, desktops, netbooks, and GPS units every day, whether you know it or not. Even if you aren’t car-dependent, your walk or bike ride to work would be much more difficult if the data-driven, sensor-based, dynamically scaled computer systems running the traffic lights stopped working.

It’s kinda sad that there are people who, without a smartphone or tablet or something else to keep them constantly connected (or tethered, or plugged in, or whatever you prefer) would have no idea of the time, date, day of the week, weather, or, really, anything at all. There are probably people who feel like distant strangers to others, no matter what, unless they are Facebook friends.

And yet, even those of my generation who grew up with this technology evolving and maturing as they did themselves are sometimes completely and totally clueless as to how to keep their computers safe, up-to-date, physically clean, and running well. People who wonder why their hard drive is so full but have no idea how to delete things like Firefox Setup 3.5.3 and its two dozen copies because they want to have two windows open at once. People who don’t understand that they don’t have to keep all of their downloaded mp3s in the Downloads folder once they drag them to iTunes, provided they know how to do so. People who don’t understand that the Recycle Bin is not a folder and not a good place to store stuff. People who don’t understand that their anti-virus won’t work unless it and the system on which it’s running are up-to-date. People who don’t understand that Windows Update is not annoying, but often critical even if they “don’t notice any changes.” People who don’t understand that having only one copy of your family photos is as careless as developing them and then discarding the negatives. People who don’t understand that “www.watch-online-movies-now-123.info” is not a better choice than Hulu or NetFlix “because it’s free.” People who don’t understand that the fact that “toolbar” has the word “tool” in it doesn’t mean it’s useful at all. People who don’t understand that “sponsored” downloads aren’t actually ten times faster than what your ISP provides, or that if “trusted” downloads were actually safe, you wouldn’t need a “free trial” to access them. People who doesn’t understand that “DoctorWinRegFixer.exe” is neither a doctor nor a registry fixer, provided they have any idea what a “registry” is. People who don’t understand that if the program you downloaded is trying to install another program you didn’t ask for, you should probably select “No,” as though you invited only Steve to your party and he shows up with some random guys and about five girls of questionable occupation and you happily let them all into your house and are shocked when you wake up to an empty liquor cabinet, an utterly destroyed bathroom, and possibly a subpoena.

You get it?

It’s not acceptable to say you know nothing about computers or technology. It’s even worse when you say things like “omg i just got this iPhone and like i have no idea how to use it lolz,” because then not only do I know you somehow find ignorance entertaining and humorous, but I also have more than adequate reason to question your spending habits, impulsiveness, and self-confidence.

It’s not “cool” to be stupid, and it never was. It never will be, either, contrary to what the creators of Idiocracy humorously envisioned. I understand why it happens, though. People think that if they continuously emphasize their lack of knowledge, or even basic understanding, two things will happen. One – others will be reassured and reminded constantly that you aren’t smarter than they are, heaven forbid, and they don’t want to sound arrogant or *gasp* smart. Two – you’ll ultimately feel bad for them, solve whatever issue for them, and send them on their way with a repaired computer and absolutely no understanding of what broke it, what fixed it, and how to avoid it happening again – just a receipt and a link to a survey to rate the person who helped you because you’re so “technologically retarded.”

Fun fact: Using that particular phrase when opening a conversation with a repair technician who is, in fact, autistic is not starting off on the right foot. You’re not retarded, you’re just lazy. I’m emotionally retarded, if you think about it, but at least I make conscious effort to understand. I make the effort to process your facial expressions, tone of voice, and so on in order to better understand you and communicate like a normal person. You see the phrases “Microsoft account” and “product key” on the same screen and instantly declare you have no idea what you’re doing.

Fuck off. Seriously. The worst part about you people is that we can’t just sigh and tell you to look it up, because you probably can’t use the internet, at least not without crapping up your system with thirty-five different well-known adware and phishing programs. But if we try to teach you, even just basic stuff, then we’re instantly arrogant, know-it-all, smart-ass “kids” (even my one co-worker who is thirty gets called a kid) who are just trying to confuse you with all this technical jargon mumbo-jumbo.

“I’m a lawyer, but I wouldn’t drown you in legalese to make a point!” Okay, that’s nice and all, but what if I asked a specific question? Sure, you could just say “yes, that’s fine,” but you could just as easily say “yes, the right to do/say XYZ is guaranteed under the ABC act, and if someone tried to restrict that, they’d be violating the 56.5th Amendment and you’d be able to sue them for three million dollars.” I’d feel a lot better than if you just said “yes.”

So, what if you follow the instructions in the little pamphlet about Windows 8 instead of whining about “there’s no start button omg wtf how do i open google” and complaining that you can’t use the computer and demand a refund because we won’t just instantly downgrade it (and we would charge you $140 for Windows 7, which by the way we don’t actually sell)?

Or…read the README file of your anti-virus program…or, actually, any program. Microsoft, for example, has about three terabytes of online help documentation, and chances are you can search for your question instead of coming to complain to us about it and then telling us we’re useless, because clearly we are the same thing as Microsoft.

And stop asking why you can’t run *insert program or game* on your Mac even though you downloaded it from the publisher (the “legit” version, if you will) when that *insert program or game* is an EXE and you are using a Mac. And please don’t ask why you can’t use Office on your iPad. Please don’t ask if we can recover data from your SD card because you thought “format” meant “clean.”

And for the love of all that is digital, please please please stop finding excuses to rely on technology you don’t care to understand.

-JB