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Serviceman's Log

You've got to have a good system in place

by the Serviceman

Items Covered This Month

• You’ve got to have a system
• Doppler VOR fault
• Intermittent TV repair
• A mouse in the house
*Dave Thompson, runs PC Anytime in Christchurch, NZ.

It’s been my policy to ensure that my stories in Serviceman’s Log are not too “computer-centric”, which may seem odd since my days are mainly filled servicing computers. However, I adopted this approach because unless you are specifically interested in computers, it is probably the most boring service field known to humankind.

With plumbing or washing machine repair, you at least get smudges on your overalls and dirt under your finger­nails to indicate that something has been accomplished. You might even have to remove the odd foreign object from workings or pipes. Whether urban legend or not, we hear no end of tales of appliance repair people finding deceased rodents or other wildlife bunging up the works, all of which equates to excitement and variety for the person doing the job.

It’s different servicing computers. Apart from the extremely rare instances of a mouse or a snake (well, perhaps not in NZ) inside a computer box, computer repair is typically mind-numbingly mundane and trying to dress it up any other way is a waste of time. In fact, the only thing most people outside the business want to know about computer repair is do we ever find any porn on clients’ drives (the answer is yes, by the way).

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The biggest problem with computer repairs is customer relations – in particular, who is responsible for any remedial work that may be necessary. Take car panel repairs as an example – you get a dent removed, the tin-basher does a great job, you pay him and off you go. Now consider what happens if, later that day, someone in the local supermarket carpark backs into you, creating another dent. You certainly can’t go back to the panel shop and tell them the dent has come back and that they should fix it all over again for nothing.

And yet, this type of situation all too frequently happens to computer repair people.

No, I’m not talking about us fixing dents in cars (though given the quakes and the current economic climate, give us a call and we’ll see what we can do!). No – with us, it’s the scenario where we fix something and within days (or sometimes just hours) the client is back complaining of “the same problem”.

The problem here is that even if it is a different problem, the client believes it to be the same problem. That’s a problem for us because it usually is a completely different problem and not the same problem at all. But because they claim it is the same problem, it then becomes our problem, regardless of the original problem.

My apologies if I’m starting to sound like Sir Humphrey Appleby but . . . well, you get my drift.

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The easiest way to illustrate this, er, problem, is with virus removal. We get an infected machine in, remove the virus and return what we know to be a totally “cleaned-out” machine only to have the client return the very next day and claim that we haven’t done a very good job because the virus is still there. The attitude is invariably the same – we’re sorry excuses for “technicians”, we have ripped off the client by charging for doing nothing and any further remedial work must be done free of charge.

Now there are only two viable scen­arios here: (1) we actually didn’t do a very good job of removing the virus and the machine is still infected; or (2) we did remove the virus and the client has simply revisited the same porn or warez website as before or has downloaded and run the same dodgy program or email attachment and re-infected the machine.

Believe me, it’s the second scenario that’s invariably the correct one. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years now and do know something when it comes to defeating virus infections and removing them without destroying everything else on the hard drive.

It usually isn’t hard to prove that any subsequent infection has happened after the machine has left our care but explaining this to a by now somewhat hostile client is usually difficult and fraught with, well, problems.

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