Monday, December 01, 2003

Computer Repair #1

I thought it might be interesting to document the time I spend in the month of December keeping the computers running at the Brain household. I'm curious how many problems arise and how much time it takes to resolve them. I'll just drop a blurb about each repair into this blog as it arises. [I eventually ended up logging 21 errors in December -- for a complete list, click here.]

The first problem comes from my mother. This one technically started during the Thanksgiving weekend and now is spilling over into December. Her main problem: she had a hard disk crash recently and had to replace the disk/reload the operating system, applications, etc. (Right there you are talking about a 2-day process... She had a person from church who was nice enough to assist her). Her lingering problem: Her printer still doesn't work. The conversation:

Mom: "My printer doesn't work"

Me: "You need to reload the driver."

Here, in this little two-sentence conversation, you realize just how wide the gulf is between "computers" and "most of their users". My mother does not know what a driver is, nor (in the history of the computer world) why drivers evolved and why they are needed, nor where to find one, nor how to download it. She just wants the printer to work, and she's not being unreasonable to expect that it will work automatically when she plugs the printer into her computer.

We walk through the process of going to the Epson site, selecting the country, finding the download/support area, finding printers in the support area, finding her printer, finding the driver she needs, declining Epson's offer to spam her (there's a whole screen for accepting or declining Epson's spam), reading and agreeing to the End User Software License Agreement...

Let's pause on this step for a moment. The screen for the End User Software License Agreement says, "Notice to User: This is a legal agreement between you (an individual or single entity, referred to hereinafter as "you") and Epson America, Inc. ("Epson") for computer software product, fontware, typefaces and/or data, including any accompanying explanatory written materials (the "Software"). BEFORE INSTALLING, COPYING OR OTHERWISE USING THE SOFTWARE, YOU MUST AGREE TO THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT. If you agree, click on the Accept button below. If you do not agree with the terms and conditions of this Agreement, click on the Decline button and you will not be able to download the Software." Then the agreement looks like this:We've invoked the United Nations, International governing bodies, the United States Export Administration Act, DFARS 252.227-7013, CFR 52.227-19 and its amendments, etc., all to use a printer... It's also interesting that you can buy alcoholic beverages, pharmaceuticals, big hunting knives, all sorts of toxic pesticides, automobiles, cigarettes, etc. without having to agree to anything. How much longer will that last?

Having accepted all of that (what choice do you have? All printer drivers from every printer manufacturer have these agreements), it is now possible to go on with the process of downloading the driver, installing it, praying that it works... And really she needs to download three drivers. When you look at the download page, there is Printer Driver v4.5CE (the actual driver), Epson Stylus Driver USB Updater (fixes a bug in the USB version of the driver) and then the Status Monitor v2.5bE ("After installing this EPSON printer driver, it is highly recommended that you download and install the EPSON Status Monitor 2 v2.0DE to allow monitoring of the ink usage and printer status.").

We download the first driver, unzip it, let it load temporary files, let it install, let the hardware wizard try to recognize the printer... And it doesn't work. We try various things in the control panel. We uninstall the driver and start over from scratch. Nothing works. And it's hard, because she's looking at a screen that she doesn't understand and I am 400 miles away trying to imagine what is happening over the phone. We work on it for 45 minutes and then give up. We'll try again tomorrow, hopefully with my sister on the scene, since she knows more about computers.

And I suppose I should be thankful that Epson even has the drivers on it's site, and does not charge for them. Charging for drivers seems to be becoming more common. Even so, this is way too hard for such a simple thing... especially since (in any normal user's eyes) it should all happen automatically when you plug in the printer.

Online Hack

Sinema Burda
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