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Friday, December 26, 2008

The Family Holiday "Geek Squad"

Ok, you know who you are. The geek of the family. The one everyone goes to for tech support during family visits back home. C'mon, you know it's true. know you love it too! It's nice to fill a need.

A little preparation can go a long way when getting ready to support your relatives and their new tech gifts or long overdue computer maintenance. Let's take a look at some easy things you can do to get ready...

The new Windows PC
Sometimes letting family members simply set up the new family PC with the default settings is recipe for disaster. Most new PC's come with a lot of "crapware". I urge you to save your family from this scourge. I have published a guide to assist you with setting up a new computer. You can find it on the Flubbernuggets site by clicking the link "Your New Computer" at the very top of the page. This guide tackles such things as removing bloated anti-virus programs and replacing them with lighter less expensive/free versions. It also highlights removing crapware and the better programs to use.  Check it out!

The new web cam
Many of you have encountered this one already.  I did a couple years ago.  Your parents or in-laws got a new web cam so they can keeps tabs on you and the grandkids.  First of all, tell them NOT to install the software that comes with the camera.  Drivers...maybe, but all that other crap...NO!  Simply download and install Skype or GoogleTalk.  Both will allow you to use the camera and talk to family members on the other end.  They are easy to set up and use.  I recommend Skype simply because it's simple to use and very popular.

The new MP3 player
If it's an iPod...that's easy....iTunes.  Download and install iTunes and you're good to go.  You can also give Songbird a try.  If it's another brand of MP3 player, check and see what it will work with, but 90% of the time it will work with iTunes or Songbird in some fashion.  Both programs do an excellent job of simplifying music management.

Preparing ahead of time
If you are able to find out about some of the tech products your family members may have gotten prior to your arrival you can better prepare for what you may need.  If you have an external USB hard drive or a large USB flash drive (or even a CD/DVD burner) you can easily download many of the programs and drivers you may need before you leave.  This is especially helpful if your relatives have a slower internet connection.  I usually download all sorts of Windows updates, Adobe Reader, Flash, and a bunch of the programs mentioned in the "Your New Computer" guide.  That way I'm armed and ready and not spending all my time downloading files.  If you know what you're going to be dealing with, try visiting the hardware manufacturer's website ahead of time to read up on any potential pitfalls and to snag the latest copy of the drivers.  Even signing up your relatives for a Skype account or Google account ahead of time (be sure to tell them the password and have them change it) can speed things up.  If you're installing something, don't forget the tools!

Enjoy the holidays and enjoy your moment in the spotlight with your family  :-)  Geek On!


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