Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Maybe not actually a genius after all

When it came time for my mom to buy a new computer, I talked her into buying an iMac because a) I thought it would be more user-friendly, less prone to crashing, and b) to prevent well-meaning meddlers from messing it up. So far, my strategy has been a dud on both counts.

As for the meddlers, thankfully they can't download viral software or questionable "upgrades" to the iMac, so that's good news. But they can get themselves in front of it and start changing preferences and generally messing with the set-up that I have so carefully coached my mom to be comfortable with. One of my relatives yelled at me for "setting up the mouse wrong". Despite the fact that I set the primary mouse buttons to mimic a PC, she complained of stuff popping up on the screen when she was operating the mouse.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that the Mac mouse has two extra buttons on the side. Squeezing them makes the widgets dashboard pop up over whatever you were working on. My relative has a variety of tics, including hand spasms. She was squeezing the mouse, maybe without even being conscious of it. Although if she insists on yelling at me again about my faulty mouse set-up, I'm going to have to break the news to her. I promise I'll be gentle.

As for ease of use, well... I'm used to being a computer know-it-all. I taught computer basics and networking at a private post-secondary school. I was certified as a Novell network administrator and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. I worked in I.T. for years. But... that was pretty much all on Microsoft Windows platforms. I pick things up quickly on the Mac, but I don't know every little shortcut off the top of my head like I do for a PC.

As far as my mom knows, I advertised myself to her as a computer super-genius, but I've been earning a big old FAIL in some of the basic operations I'm supposed to be teaching her. For example, I'm not even going to tell you how much trouble I had figuring out how to format bold text in the iMac e-mail program. It's a no-brainer. Apparently I have less than no brain.

I'd like to think that part of it is the pressure of having my Mom right there, expecting an immediate answer. When she's looking over my shoulder, I lose my most basic problem-solving capabilities.

For example, someone sent her a file in .pdf format. She wanted to know if she could open the file in Word to edit it. I told that this was an impossibility, which is true. She asked me if her only choice would be to retype all the text into Word manually, and I told her Yes. At the time, I was firmly convinced that I was right.

Later, I heard that one of her friends showed her how to copy the text from the .pdf file into a blank .doc file. Now she can edit the text! Her friend is so smart! I got a marker and wrote FAIL on my forehead. I mean, honestly, that's not a foreign concept to me! I've been copying and pasting text since the early '90's.


Fortunately, my mom is patient. We'll get there eventually. If it means that we bumble through together rather than with me confidently leading the way, we'll still get there.


girlinterrupted1218 said...

Not to make you feel any worse but even on a PC you can copy text from a PDF to a word document. But I love ya anyway! :) I am still a firm believer that Macs just work and they are easier to use but I am bias. I have been a Mac user for almost 10 years. Don't fret, you and your mom will get it. I know it is tough coming from a PC mind going to a Mac. Because when I have to use a PC I'm all thumbs!

ConverseMomma said...

If you are a failure, then I'm in trouble. I needed teach manual crib sheets just to read your post. Seriously, I'm a total neophyte.

unsigned said...

Microsoft Word?!? What is that? Some kind of quiet rap music?

whatigotsofar said...

I think with some versions of Acrobat, a user can make a PDF that is copy-proof. But for the most part, pretty much everybody gets to laugh at you a little bit for that one.

nancypearlwannabe said...

After my Mom's last computer purchase I told her I would never again, under any circumstances, be her IT girl. Every other day she was calling me with some random complicated way she had messed up her computer. AHHH!

Leighann said...

Hang in there, it might be a learning experience for the both of you but I still think you're great for helping her out so much!

Warped Mind of Ron said...

LOL, you have more patience than I do. I live by the rule that it's best for them to break it and then figure out how to fix it themselves. Sort of a survival of the fitest in the computer world. But it is your mom so I guess I can see why you would want to help her.

Karen said...

I find that I cannot tell my Dad anything. He is doubtfull of my abilities even when I know exactly what I am talking about.

So. when it comes to computers or anything that I would need to teach him, I suggest he take a class at the adult school or find someone else to help him. It saves us the energy of arguing.

jameil1922 said...

y'all are wearing me out.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Gah, yeah, those side buttons on the mouse. I disabled them. If I want my widgets, I use an F-key.

Whoa, you use formatted text in e-mail? I swear by plain text, myself. Shortcuts (as you've no doubt discovered now) are a lot like Windows', except it's with the Apple-key rather than the CTRL-key. Shortcuts are also displayed in the menus.

That PDF thing trips a lot of people up, so don't feel bad. I didn't know you could just copy-n-paste, either, and I'm the Mac know-it-all at work (I've used the things since 1989). I thought I had to have Acrobat's OCR feature. :-)

Sparkling Red said...

GirlInterrupted: Thanks for the love! ;-) If we know two languages we're bilingual. We should make up a word for being fluent in two operating systems. Bi-operant?

Conversemomma: Do you want to sign up for computer lessons with me? I'm taking reservations for next year and I'm very patient. ;-)

Unsigned: More like the gospel of Bill Gates.

Whatigotsofar: Go ahead, laugh... It won't stop me from humiliating myself again next week.

NancyPearlWannaBe: Yes, the tech support phone calls are definitely a challenge. Especially when I don't understand the problem... "I want to blow up the screen, but only the e-mail part, and I don't mean making the print bigger." Say what?

Sparkling Red said...

Leighann: Thanks! It probably won't be long before the teacher becomes the student. My mom wrote me in an e-mail that soon I'd eat her dust. Awesome!

Ron: That wouldn't work with my mom. She has a very low threshold for frustration paralysis when it comes to technology.

Karen: That's a sensible solution. My mom has already employed additional help by way of a university student with word processing experience. I just don't have to time to be there as much as she needs, so I'm grateful that she found more help.

Jameil: Indeed!

Keera: Well there you go. I hadn't thought of disabling the side buttons. I can do that next time I'm over and prevent further tangles with the mouse-squeezer. Thank you!

Nilsa S. said...

So, now you must share how do you convert a PDF into a Word document? Because I must also belong in that "less than no brain" club.

Aurora said...

Today we [a bunch of TAs] were joking that we give "F" for frustration. I think you may be giving yourself F for frustration but it sounds like you're being a good daughter who deserves A for effort. And your mum is learning to learn for herself :-)

p.s. I don't like Macs. I don't eat cheese.

Jenski said...

I had a hard time adjusting to a Mac when I went to grad school. Luckily the files are more compatible now than they were years ago, but some things are not obvious between platforms. It's good that you can't answer all the questions - sounds like your mum then goes and figures some stuff out on her own (even if it means asking someone else)!

Stupid open-apple.

Sparkling Red said...

Nilsa: The trick is to select the text from the .pdf file, copy it, and then paste it into a brand new Word document, and save the Word document. Presto change-o! Whatigotsofar says that some .pdf files are copy-proof, but not all.

Aurora: Thanks! Re: your post-script, I'm not clear on the relationship between Macs and... cheese... wait, is this a joke about macaroni and cheese? I still don't quite get it.

Jenski: I remember the days when there was no Office for Apple and you had to convert all documents between the two OS's. What a pain! It is so much easier now, thank goodness. I didn't have a Mac back then, but I knew people who did, and they were always having compatibility issues.