Computer errors for beginners… tips and tricks for getting help

Man pressing error button - ©Depositphotos/ra2studio
©Depositphotos/ra2studio

In the realm of computers it is definitely not uncommon to get the occasional, or sometimes annoyingly regular error. However, one thing that many people do not know is some simple steps that can be taken to make a support team’s life easier in diagnosing the issue.

First and foremost it is important for both you, and who will be supporting you to realise that it is possible that your level of knowledge surrounding the error will be lower than that of the support team. While this is not always the case, (I will happily admit I have had clients teach me a trick or two before) it is the general rule of thumb.

A good support person will gauge the level of knowledge of the person who is seeking assistance and balance their explanations to a level that can be understood. However if you find someone is talking to you on too low, or too high a technical level, never be afraid to let them know and try to get them to talk to you on your level of knowledge. By doing so you can work more effectively together and also learn things which may help you in future.

The Checklist:

The checklist is something that those of us in support use day to day. Even as a systems administrator, I collect this sort of information to pass on to vendors for support and so on. However whatever your level of knowledge of computers, or level of support you are liaising with, this list can be of great use.

So next time you have an error on your computer note down the following information, it will make support’s life easier, result in a much faster resolution for you and assist support in documenting the issue for future reference.

  1. Take a screenshot: this may sound simple but so often people don’t do it. If someone says “I got an error” and we can’t tell exactly what the error is, it makes it impossible to trace down what the problem may have been. Taking a screenshot saves the need for you to try to interpret or note down the exact error and greatly assists support teams.
  2. Note down the exact time and date of the error or issue (including any subsequent occurrences): knowing the exact time and date that the error occurred allows support teams to investigate other factors that may have been occurring at the time. They can also look at logs of related systems surrounding the time your issue occurred to gather additional information.
  3. Note down exactly what you were doing leading up to the error occurring: in some cases errors can be triggered by an exact sequence of events that occur leading up to it. Knowing what you were doing that lead to the error can help to reproduce the error.
  4. If you are using a web browser, note down the browser you are using and the browser version (usually under Help –> About), also try a different browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox, see if the same error appears, note down if it works in a different browser.
  5. If it is a website that is having problems, try a different web site as well, note down the original web site URL that was having problems, as well as any other sites you tried.
  6. Try to note down any related information to what you were doing: for example if it was an email that you sent that was never received, provide the exact subject line of the email. If it is a file on a shared drive, provide the exact name and file location to the file. The more information you can provide, the less likely that support will need to come back asking for the additional information, leading you to a faster resolution.
  7. Let support know if you are on a PC or a Mac and what version of the operating system you are using (such as Windows XP, Windows 7, Mac OSX Lion 10.7.4 etc), if you are unsure of the version at least letting them know if you are on a Mac or PC is a great start.

Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Most of all, don’t be afraid of telling support exactly what happened, we all start out somewhere and often support will come across an issue that simply needs user training, by us being able to pass knowledge on to you it is likely that you can do the same for someone else to make all our lives easier.

However if it is something that you have done wrong, often it will save support a lot of time and effort knowing exactly what has occurred, I am always of the mindset that if you do something wrong, then tell me so that I can fix it faster I will be a lot less unimpressed than if I have to find it out the hard way.

By noting down these details, whoever will be helping you out with your issue will be able to far more easily diagnose what occurred help you out. If you are having an issue with a problem you purchased on the internet, don’t be afraid to contact their support too. By providing the information above you have a great start to finding out exactly what problem may have occurred and should be able to work towards a resolution.

So whether you are a beginner in the tech world or a seasoned veteran like myself what are your thoughts. Have I missed anything out here?

Stuart

Posting a project to vWorker or Freelancer.com

After having a good handful of projects that I have put up on vWorker (formerly RentACoder.com) I thought it was time to put together some information on lessons that I have learned, some gotchas that could be useful for others to know and things that you should look out for.

The document was written with my experiences from vWorker in mind however the same processes and ideas could be applied to any such project site including sites such as Freelancer.com.

I look forward to feedback, if you have any other experiences, hints or tips please let me know and I will incorporate them into the document.

Guide to putting projects onto vWorker/RentACoder/Freelancer.com

Stuart 🙂

 

How to run two versions of Firefox on Mac OSX concurrently

Running two versions of a browser on one machine is something that should be easy… but not always. Recently I needed to assist with deploying a fix to a slightly larger userbase than normal and provide the ability for Mac OSX users to concurrently run two versions of Firefox.

Therefore after researching this in my own time this weekend I have thrown together these simple launchers to make the process far more easy for everyone. If you follow the steps below you should be up and running in no time. Before we begin though PLEASE back up your existing Firefox Profile.

Firstly download the two versions of Firefox you want, for the latest build see the Latest Downloads page, or for the previous build see the Older Downloads page. Following that get your hands on the launchers I have created: Firefox Workaround Zip File.

The Easy Way:

Assumptions: You already have one version of Firefox installed on your machine and that you would like to run Firefox 3 and Firefox 4.

  1. If you have the older version of Firefox installed on your machine open the applications folder, click the existing Firefox Application and rename it to “Firefox 3”. Then install the new version of Firefox in the applications folder.
  2. If you have the newer version installed and want to install the older version along side, rather than dragging and dropping the old version to your applications folder to install. Drag it to your desktop first, rename it to Firefox 3 and then move it to the applications folder after it is renamed.
  3. Open Terminal and run “/Applications/Firefox\ 3.app/ContentsOS/firefox-bin -profilemanager -no-remote” this will load the Firefox 3 Profile Manager.
  4. You will have one profile already showing. If you wish to keep this for the latest version rename it to “Firefox-4” then create a new profile along side this called “Firefox-3” the names and case are important as the scripts use these to auto run the different versions. It should now look like this:
  5. Extract the Firefox Workaround Zip File to a location of your choosing. The two launchers can then be dragged onto your dock to use them for Launching the two versions of Firefox concurrently.

The Hard Way: so the assumptions above don’t apply?

OK so I am a realist, the above will only work for the aforementioned versions of Firefox and we would like to give you the ability to make some changes, or you want to name the folders differently (or whatever issues you may have).

  1. After you have downloaded the Firefox Workaround Zip File extract it to the Desktop
  2. Run Applications –> Automator
  3. Choose to open an existing workflow
  4. Open the Firefox 3 file extracted from the above zip
  5. In the script there are two things you can edit the ‘-a “Firefox 3″‘ defines the application name so if you wish to change the application name you can do so there, the ‘-P “Firefox-3″‘ defines the profile to use.
  6. As an example if you wish to call the application Firefox Old with a profile name of Original Firefox you would write:
  7. Save the scripts and they can now be used.

Because I am nice – A generic version of the loaders:

I figured that it might be nice to have a version of the loaders that will load any version of Firefox, one old and one new. Therefore if you download the Firefox Workaround Generic you can use the following settings:

New Firefox:
Application Name: Firefox
Profile Name: Firefox Default

Old Firefox:
Application Name: Firefox Old
Profile Name: Firefox Old

This should allow you to not have to continuously overwrite the loaders if you wish to have this available as a permanent solution. Then when a new major version is released, before you upgrade just replace the application names.

Let me know if you have any feedback or ways of improving this.

Stuart