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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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May 2002, Week 4 -- Fear of Tech Support and How it Grew

    

 

   Nothing comes close to the number of reader appeals we get for tech support. But ... despite years of self-denial, we still don't know the answer to every computer problem.

 

   Technical support used to be provided by companies that made the pertinent product. But then they hired MBAs (Masters of Business Administration) who said to them: "tech support is not a profit center." Everyone nodded. The upshot was that technical support was reduced to two guys or gals who read from prepared pages with questions and solutions like: "What operating system are you using?" "What does the error message say?" "Try rebooting the system." And so it went. The solutions seldom worked, but they conveyed the appearance of concerned support.

 

   Well, this diatribe is not going to go on forever, because we have found the answer, but it will cost you.  It's a new service for Windows users, called "PC Pinpoint" www.pcpinpoint.com. The cost is $50 a year for individuals, or $15 for a one week trial. Business users have to call and work out a price that depends on size.

 

   We used PC Pinpoint for the last few weeks and they were able to solve every problem we presented. They have three approaches:

 

-- You can go on the web and use their diagnostic program to figure out if it's a hardware or software problem and see some possible fixes. Or ...

 

-- You can get live tech support through a chat service online. Or ...

 

-- You can call them up. (Because after all, your problem may be that you can't get online, or you can't even boot up.) Tech support is an 800 number. The service is live 24 hours a day, every day. Company phone: 303-439-8650.

 

Boring meetings

 

 

   Sitting through presentations made with Microsoft's PowerPoint software is becoming a corporate ritual. At least they darken the room and you can catch a few winks. But if you actually want people to stay awake through these presentations you can try some tricks. One of the latest is animation.

   "VoxProxy" from Right Seat Software lets you enter cartoon characters that can be animated and offer comments in several languages. This may not be Disney but the competition is nil. Characters are generated and controlled by simple drop-down menus when putting the presentation together.

 

   List price for Vox Proxy is $199, from the web site: www.voxproxy.com.

 

A real-world address book

 

 

 Any Time

   "AnyTime Deluxe 8" is out for Windows, costs less than $30, and provides what practically anybody wants or needs in an address and appointment book.

   Very few people need the complexity of ACT or GoldMine or other so-called "contact management" software. AnyTime is easy to use and fulfills most needs. It opens on the screen like a loose-leaf book and the fields for typing in appointments and personal contact information are blank and waiting. The calendar function lets you add birthdays, anniversaries, important events, etc. You can easily view blocks of time that are occupied and scheduling conflicts are highlighted.

   Like the expensive address management programs, you can add notes of your recent interactions with business contacts, family, friends, etc. Other features let you maintain to-do lists, expense accounts and control printing. You can use the program to print envelopes with addresses from contact lists. Information can be synchronized with most handheld PDAs (personal digital assistants).

 

   AnyTime Deluxe 8 is from Individual Software www.individualsoftware.com. Phone: 925-734-6767.

 

The best little pop-up in the world

   The problem is this: You need to get in touch with someone right away, and you can't get them on the phone and they may not look at their e-mail for awhile. Or maybe you need to notify a whole group, and you can spend hours calling everybody. Here is a way to send a note that immediately pops up on their screen. It's kind of like those annoying pop-up ads but this time it's something useful.

   The program is called "QuickPopup," $25. There's a free trial for 30 days. The pop-up notes are cross-platform, as they say, meaning they can be sent or received between PCs, Macs and older Macs.

   Any incoming message can be automatically popped up or can be set to give a warning buzzer or light up a small flashing icon. Incoming messages do not interfere with whatever else you're doing on the computer and ready-made templates make quick work of sending many notes.

 

   Business and academic users seem to love this program, because they can get in touch with everybody immediately. The program lets the note sender know who has their computer on or not, and logs those who acknowledge receiving the message. Neat stuff. Find it at www.quickpopup.com.

 

Books

  Windows XP Headaches

   "Windows XP Headaches: how to fix common and not so common problems in a hurry," by Curt Simmons; $25 from Osborne-McGraw/Hill www.osborne.com.

   Wait a minute. Wasn't XP the version of Windows that was going to be  completely stable and get rid of all those annoying problems that other versions had? You bet. And if you believed that one, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. This book is one more example of why I never buy new operating systems. If you bought Windows XP, you probably need this.

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.