The computer fairy

I received a strange text from my brother a couple of weeks ago.

‘Password wont work. Tried putting in everywhere. Still won’t work anywhere.’

For those of you in the know, a few month’s ago I gave my brother a laptop that I had cleaned up, so that he could make his first tentative steps into cyber space and talk to his friends around the country on Skype. His sarcastic comment that I was ‘dragging him kicking and screaming into the 21st century’ didn’t really hold much weight, as he accepted my free offering eagerly and managed to wrangle a ‘Windows XP For Dummies’ as a part of the deal with the promise of a free lunch that I ended up paying for half of anyway.

I was confused and bemused by his text, as I’d given him a password after he’d invented a hotmail name for himself and set up the hotmail icon on the desktop so that he could find his way there and login without too much trouble. There was only one place to put this password. Not ‘everywhere and anywhere.’ I started to wonder exactly what he was accessing. I took a wild guess and sent him back a text telling him not to try and click on the little envelope with the arrow around it on the bottom of the screen, but go to the big hotmail icon on the top left of his screen, and he would go straight to his hotmail account.

‘Everytime I try to send an email. Michael’s name comes up.’

Michael is my husband’s name. Bingo. I sighed. I had forgotten to take his email account out of Outlook express. Now I knew he was on the wrong track.

As my brother was too tight to make a phone call from the coast, texting was his only available medium, and impossible to get any real legible information across for him to understand.

I was digging my heels in this time though. He’d gotten a free computer out of me, and a free book. I wasn’t paying by the minute to give my brother tech help, which knowing him as I do, would have gone on for more than an hour or two if he wasn’t paying for it.

I consulted my mother, the good advice guru of the family. ‘Send him a text and tell him to bring it up here. He has a prepaid modem.’ Mum was a veteran of prepaid modems since I’d gotten her an old laptop a couple of years ago, and since we’d gotten her a more modern offering recently, she was getting acquainted with ADSL. Compared to my brother, she was an expert.

We met at dad’s place on the mainland, ten minutes away from me and an hour away from my brother, and mum made lunch. My brother arrived with everything he thought he needed, except his prepaid tech help number. I needed that to call them and set up another email account from their end and get the settings from prepaid to put into Outlook Express. He’d also forgotten his prepaid customer number. We were off to a great start.

To cut a long story short, and once again it was a long story, I was on the phone to the Telco’s tech help somewhere in the Philippines for well over an hour, and I was bounced around to 8 different foreign sounding persons, each telling me that there would be ‘no worries’ and that they ‘would be helping me very much as soon as possible.’ To each and every one of them I had asked a standard question:

‘I’m ringing on behalf of my brother, who has a prepaid modem through your company. As your prepaid settings may be different from your ADSL, I would like to set up an email address at your end and get the settings from you for Outlook Express operating in Windows XP.’ Simple enough for tech help to answer? Apparently not.

Until I got to the 8th foreign person.

‘You can’t be setting up an email address with a prepaid account, madam. You can only be setting up an email address with us if you have cable Internet or ADSL Internet.’

This was news to me, as I’ve had experience with another Telco, who shall remain nameless, who can do exactly that.

‘Why not?’ my voice was starting to rise. ‘It’s the same darn company that handles both prepaid, cable, and ADSL. It’s  just under two different names.’

‘Yes, that is true, madam, but you can’t be doing it.’

‘Can’t do it?’ I was bouncing around the walls. My family moved into the other room. ‘I’ve been on the phone for over an hour! I’ve talked to 8 of you people. And you’re telling me this now?’

‘I am sorry, but perhaps you could be setting up a hotmail account for your brother, madam.’

‘I’ve got two words for you and your so-called can’t-be-setting-up advice,’ I pointed to the receiver for effect. ‘Telecommunications Ombudsman!’ and slammed the phone down in his ear. Cop that.

My brother looked at me. ‘I’ve already got hotmail on my computer.’

‘That’s right,’ I pointed repeatedly to the large hotmail icon on the desktop. ‘And I would like to advise you to be using it, because next time it will be you playing phone tag with the filipinos.’

‘Not a chance. I wouldn’t last as long as you did.’

He then proceeded to tell me all about RAM and how he’d figured out how to look up the computer’s specs by going through the book I’d given him. And he couldn’t find the hotmail icon?

I deleted all reference to my husband’s email account and Outlook Express before he headed out the door, just in case. I told him to read the book again, because he’d obviously missed something.

I managed to get home at a reasonable hour that day, relatively unscathed, but unimpressed by more than my brother’s indifference for my efforts. It took a mighty effort to elicit even a small amount of useful information out of a cast of characters that should have known better.

I’m thinking about opening up my own small offering of basic tech help advice here on the island for some of the senior citizens.  Don’t quote me on that, however. My brother is planning on buying himself a bigger computer in 12 month’s time and I might go and live in another state.