My inspiration to write this post comes from something stupid I was just doing in Photoshop. But first, let me share a story with you. I promise it’ll be brief because I don’t remember any of the details.
When I was in tech school, my instructor shared this story with our class. He had been doing something on his computer, putting it together, I think. I don’t remember. Anyway, something on his CD-ROM drive wasn’t working. He tried all sorts of things but he was ready to pull his hair out so he had to call tech support. (There’s always someone out there that knows more than you!)
The tech support went over the usual basics, which he confirmed he had already tried. They had to send someone out to his home.
The tech person that answered the call came out, looked at a couple things, then checked a box.
Just like that – his problem was fixed. For $50.
The tech still had to charge the minimum fee for making a house visit. But my instructor could’ve saved the money had he just tried a few more things to fix his problem. It wasn’t that he didn’t know about the box to check – it was that he simply forgot to even take a look at it.
Back to my stupidity, mere moments ago. I was reading a Photoshop tutorial to try to learn how to do something. I tried it at least three times before I started searching for another set of instructions.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on! The instructions were written pretty clearly, and I was following along step by step. Yet I wasn’t getting the same results and wasn’t seeing what the example pictures showed.
I was convinced that the person who wrote the instructions had simply missed a step.
This was a tutorial involving layers and masks. If you aren’t familiar with them, think of using a stencil. Our stencil itself is the white mask (opaque), and the paper you are writing on is the black mask (transparent).
In short – you have to draw white on a black mask to get a part of the picture to show through. Despite having done this multiple times now, this is what I was having trouble with. I was coloring white all over my black mask and it wasn’t showing up at all!
I tried fooling around with a mask apart from going through all the steps and lo and behold, it didn’t work because I wasn’t on the paintbrush. DUH!
I went back through the steps one last time and whaddaya know – they worked perfectly.
The same instructor that made this $50 mistake also drilled it into our heads that the first course of action for a tech support is to ask “Is it plugged in?” This may sound overly simple, to the point of insulting. But much of a tech support person’s job isn’t fancy or high-tech. It’s knowing what sorts of things someone might be forgetting to do.
Even at work, we have contracted tech support personnel. They work somewhere else in the building and I have no idea where that is, but there are only a few people supporting our entire location (fairly large). That said, if there is a problem, they want to know how urgent it is.
One of them told me one day that he has received frantic and angry calls from people essentially saying their computer isn’t working because the screen is black. They need it fixed “NOW!”
In an effort to help the person more quickly as well as save time for themselves, they try to go over a few basics with the caller to see if they will really need live help. The caller will get frustrated at the implication that they may be able to (and should, if possible) fix their own problem. They staunchly refuse to go over the basic steps.
The tech comes out and what is the problem?
Take a guess: Fried computer? Needs a new monitor? Nope.
The monitor was off. A simple press of the power button and – problem solved.
The point in all this is that even for the best-paid, most knowledgeable tech support personnel, many problems have very simple solutions that someone has overlooked.
In the interest of this being a tech blog for beginners, let me assure you that I am not suggesting you should know these things if you do not. If you need help, then you absolutely should ask for it. And, you should never feel bad for asking.
But if you are comfortable with your computer enough to do a little bit of investigative work, make sure everything is plugged in securely and check any basics you do know about.
That way, hopefully you won’t end up paying $50 for someone to come check-mark a box for you. 🙂