Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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April 2008, Week 4   

dogGETTING INTO TECH SUPPORT


There isn’t a tech support person in the world who knows how to solve all the problems that come up in Windows. But somebody, somewhere, probably knows the answer to your particular problem. 

There’s a new community of more than 7,000 helpers gathered on a web site called CrossLoop. Anyone who thinks they know their stuff can list Tech Support Kenny themselves. Some charge a dollar a minute and others offer help for free.  

We clicked on “Kenny,” a guy in Greece we selected more or less at random from a list of hundreds; he noted he was good with Vista problems. He called us up and solved the problem in less than a minute. It was simply a pesky photo that defied all our efforts to delete it. He told us his international calls were free, so we shouldn’t feel guilty about that, and he was solving problems for free to get started and hoped to be able to charge later.  (Note: His service was free when we wrote this, but he now charges $25 for most problems.)

You have to be willing to provide remote access to your computer to get this kind of Internet help. If you think there’s something wrong as you watch someone doing searches on your screen, you can disconnect at any time. YouTubeThe helpers on CrossLoop are rated by people who have used their expertise. Kenny had four ratings from helpers and they all raved about how good he was. Other helpers available at the web site are from professional tech support services. That’s all right; they say so right up front.  

You start out by downloading some software from CrossLoop.com.  Then if you want help, click the “share” tab. That generates a number that you need How to Use Crossloopto give to the helper. If you want to be a helper, you click an “access” tab and type in the code provided by the person seeking help. This feature can be extremely useful for people who do not want to become general helpers available to the whole world, but are simply willing to help a friend or relative with a computer problem.  

The site already has more than 600,000 users in over 190 countries and lots of people are using it.

CrossLoop has advantages over other tech support services we have tried, such as YourTechOnline and PlumChoice. Those services are fine but they tend to focus on the most common kinds of problems, such as spyware, viruses, setting up networks, speeding up a slow computer, etc. CrossLoop has such a diversity of knowledgeable people that they can help with unusual problems, such as mechanical drafting or high-end photo editing. We think this is an optimum use of the power of the worldwide web: no matter what the problem, someone out there probably knows the answer.  

Internuts 

  • SpaceTime.com  has a free program that shows you pictures instead of text descriptions when you search on any topic. Normally, a browser SpaceTimesearch comes up with brief descriptions of sites that match your key words but with this add-on you get views of the home pages for those sites. As you use your scroll wheel, the pages appear to fly into view from a stack in the background.
  • AddOns.mozilla.org is for users of the Firefox web browser, which is the browser we use most of the time. There are many add-ons here, including the helpful “ErrorZilla,” which suggests other places to look for similar information when you go to a web site address and get a “site not found” message.

 Books 

There’s a lot more to the social networking site Facebook  than meets the eye and it’s all here in “Facebook, the Missing Manual,” by E.A. Vander Veer; $20 from MissingManuals.com. 

We learned about the games, quizzes and fun little applications: there are Facebookabout 10,000 of these! We learned you can create Facebook Groups, which can be for your company or organization as well as simply a circle of friends. You can then use that group to exchange photos, documents, upload videos and collaborate on projects. The book also covers posting ads and taking polls on Facebook. 

Watch out when creating groups, however. It sounded like such a good idea at first that Joy immediately created one for her woman’s club. The next thing she knew, people in the club were complaining about so-called “related groups” whose descriptions included sexual remarks, filthy language, etc. You have to be real careful about this. It turns out there’s a little box in every group profile that says “show related groups.” The default setting for that that the box is that it is checked and wide open for others. This was not immediately obvious. You may want to uncheck it.  


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