How To Be a “Technical” Whiz

I’m going to give you the secret to going from a techno-dud to a techno-stud, suddenly understanding computers and being able to be regarded as intelligent by the computer trogs at work. It’s a big secret we keep from the rest of you, but heedless of my own safety, I’m going to break ranks and share it with you.

Are you ready?

Can you handle The Big Secret??

Do you want to know!?!?!!?

Read English.

WTF? Yeah, I know. You think you can do this already, but here’s the secret: even though you can, you probably don’t. Many instructions and warnings and labels go by on the computer all the time, and if you don’t read them, it gets very mysterious. Some are extra mysterious–like the idiots who simply give an internal code number as if that’s supposed to tell you anything.

But I can’t count the number of times somebody has told me that they got “an error” and provided no explanation, like I had psychic powers to extract the truth directly from their brains. Hint: if there’s an error, it probably has text associated with it. And most of the time, it’s going to be in English. Even if you don’t know all the big words, you can probably figure a lot of it out if you actually just look at it, read it, and think about it.

At first, sure, you’re going to see lots of unfamiliar terms. But frequently inserting the error message into Google will get you a big discussion of it. And over time you’ll figure out “duh, I need to plug in my drive,” or “hey, this is just a notice, not an error,” or even, “Oh, it tells me if I don’t want Bad Thing X to happen, I shouldn’t do what I just did, and it’s giving me an option to not do it.”

That’s it–that’s the sole difference between me and you: I take the time to read what’s on my screen and figure it out. That’s really all there is to it.

Now, go forth and use your newfound power to fear the machines no more.

And wink at the trogs. They still haven’t figured out human faces yet.

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2 Responses to How To Be a “Technical” Whiz

  1. Stevo Darkly says:

    All good advice, Sandy.

    I have, however, encountered a couple of practical problems that would have kept me from implementing some of it in the past.

    1) I often unwittingly make the error message window/dialogue box go away before I get a chance to write down what it said.

    2) The error message is long and cumbersome to write down without possible making errors — e.g., “Unable to load module fraooorfdxxmmnrrnnnwhhds.dll – check sysupd” or something like that.

    However, I’m slowly getting smarter. Sometimes if I hit the “Print Screen” button on my keyboard I can the paste a screenshot of the error into my image viewing software and save it as a JPEG. I can then even e-mail the JPEG to a help desk guy and ask, “Can you tell me what this means or whether I should be concerned about it?” (Assuming my computer doesn’t crash before I can make and save the JPEG.)

  2. JD says:

    Ah yes. I admit that the average (read “unskilled”) computer user is probably understandably freaked out by all the different messages they get, and they don’t know what’s important and what’s not. But what they don’t get is that the rest of us get exactly the same messages, we just bothered to learn what they meant instead of shrieking, “Jimmy! This computer thingmabobber is driving me nuts again!”

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