August 20, 2011

Preserving the life of Laptop Batteries.

No, it is not just you! Your laptop battery is not lasting as long as it used to. Yahoo! News just released an interesting video about the life of laptop batteries. Included in the video is not just nifty facts about a laptop battery, but there is also tips and tricks to diagnose and restore a lot of the lost life in your laptop battery. The link to this helpful video is at the bottom, and here's the quick synopsis if you don't want to watch the video:

  • Laptop batteries  last 3 years on average.
  • Signs of a dying battery is a noticeable decrease in battery performance after a full charge
  • A free/helpful Program called "Battery Eater" for Windows helps diagnose your battery life problems.
  • Recalibrating the battery meter will sometimes enhance performance. (To learn this you will have to watch the video.)
  • Never toss your dead battery in the trash! Batteries contain toxic chemicals that is bad for the environment.

August 6, 2011

Big Box Tech Support: "G-Squad" and "EZ- Tech"

First! The First Blog that is! I'm Tommy, a PC Tech from B-quick PC Repair, and in my first blog I come out swinging against Goliath (a.k.a Big Box Tech Support)! What is "Big Box Tech Support?" Well I won't be too technical with the actual  names of competitors, but think of "Big Boxes" as retail stores. Furthermore, Think of a certain Big Box retail store that sell computers, electronics, games, various entertainment devices, and a PC Tech Support service called "G-Squad." The other Big box retail store sells office supplies, printers, STAPLERS, and a PC Tech Support service called "EZ-Tech." Throughout my first blog I will uncover some of the secrets about most of the employees at the aforementioned Tech support places as well as their secret techniques. Although I am biased for tech support places in retail stores, I hope you see that the people who work there are not really computer professionals, but rather automated magicians in the following Q&A style of writing.

I take my computer to "G-Squad" because something is wrong. When I get to the counter, who do I meet?

Chances are you could meet someone with next to no PC experience just as much as you would encounter a person actually capable of fixing your computer. After review of other qualifications from tech support job openings, it appears the necessary qualifications such as industry certifications and degrees are only preferred and not required. Although there are many un-certified computer geniuses you will meet along the way, the fact that the company only prefers degrees/certs indicates a minimal desire to hire knowledgeable employees. Not only are the requirements for a trained PC professional only "preferred," but the pay that these tech support places offer is merely a summer job's pay. Having a college buddy work at one of these big box tech supports, I did get a little personal by asking how much his pay was as a technician there. The reply I received was merely a few dimes over minimum wage. Although a job is indeed a job, and an honest living never-the-less, the lack of pay offered by the big box raises concern on the knowledge and experience they expect give a paycheck to. Overall, the fact that experience and knowledge is only preferred by big boxes, coupled with a lack in pay, truly shows that "G-Squad" and "EZ-Tech" are merely entry level opportunities for someone to repair your computer at an expensive cost to you.

I Just dropped my computer off at "EZ-Tech," so what are they actually doing?

The short of it is your "EZ-Techs" are clicking mouse buttons on your computer and then walking around helping other shoppers with purchases. I've had a look into what these retail tech support people do; their business process in both software AND hardware. For software solutions such as computer virus, PC clean ups and performance boosters, these companies run an automated program on your computer that automatically checks for errors, useless files, updates, and viruses. All the "EZ-Tech" has to do is press buttons with his or her mouse in order to make this happen. The techie might not even know what actually is going on because they are just trained to follow the business process of “point and click” with the mouse (kind of makes sense with how much the paycheck is). Go ahead and quiz these people next visit you make! Ask them what all is involved in the PC tune up package. Go further to ask them what a Registry is, and what type of keys in there does what. Ask them where temporary files are normally stored on the file system, or the difference between a cookie and spyware. You might be surprised in the number of "um" and "uh" you get as they stumble along to answer your questions.

If you are wondering how "EZ-techs" are geniuses with diagnosing problems with your computer, then the answer is the same as much of the above: Point, click, and run program. The program they run usually performs tests on hardware then reports back to the tech what is wrong. Based off the test’s results, they diagnose the computer, usually quote you a high price, and send the computer off to a third party because they hardly fix the problem themselves. I do not agree with using the method of programs to make a hardware diagnosis for a couple of reasons. One, most hardware components can be physically tested by the PC tech themselves should he or she possess a technical mind. Programs aren’t perfect. Therefore, hardware components that can be troubleshot physically ought to be the main diagnostic technique, and then test programs should be used to back up physical diagnoses. Many technicians at big boxes don’t know how to physically troubleshoot and rely on programs alone to do the work for them.  Secondly, both tech support services charge to run these diagnostic programs despite the fact the user could download a freeware program to accomplish the same task.

Finally, another secret practice at these tech support places is the "backroom." The backroom is there for two reasons. One reason is for the privacy of the customer. If you don't like your desktop exposed to rest of those in a big box retail store, then you'd appreciate the backroom. For this reason, I understand such a secretive place to click mouse buttons. Sometimes, your computer will secretly hide in the back room while you're there. Your computer is secretly hiding because the technician doesn’t want you to see how they fixed your problems, they don't want you to see the difficulty (or in most cases ease) of fixing your issue. They want you to walk out the big box in relief of a problem solved without a sense of being overcharged. It has been brought to my attention that these big boxes will usually charge $40 just to turn on your wifi if you bring your computer in thinking the internet is broke! You will not know they turned on your wifi (by stroking a few keys) to fix your “internet outage” because they were out of your sight in the "backroom." Times $40 by twelve and that is how much you were paying them at an hourly rate to “repair” your computer.
In conclusion, the technical support expert you meet at a retail store IS NOT guaranteed to be a professional. The nerdy looking uniform is merely smoke and mirrors because the job requirements is no where near those of a help desk support position in other places of business. The low pay only shows the type of experience the company is looking for. The reason behind the low pay/no experience hiring approach is because the tasks these technicians perform are automated while the harder computer solutions are shipped out to third-parties at an overpriced cost to you. Some of the automated tasks are really simple and done in a private room, and the only thing you will know is the overcharged price.