Why we do this…

That’s a Good Question

13 years now, spending a ridiculous number of hours in the Lenovo forums.  I’m not the only one.  Mods, gurus, a legion of engaged “civilians” both asking and answering questions.

Plenty of mod/net nanny chores.  Binning spammers, moving threads to the appropriate forum, the occasional spanking issued for poor deportment… but it’s the tech stuff that’s the most interesting and gratifying. From the deep-in-the-tech-weeds booting and performance issues to the trivial-seeming and almost silly stuff:  New Member: “my webcam doesn’t work!”  Me: “Is the security shield over the lens?”  NM: “There’s no security shield! … Oh, wait… there it is.  D’oh!”

So I guess that’s it.  Not the fat pay check or the bennies  – no such, we’re all volunteers. The occasional tech swag is fine and appreciated, but that’s not it either.  Admittedly, the once-in-a-while attaboy or -girl is nice but that’s not the whole story.  For me, and I suspect many of the others, it’s the compulsion to be useful.  Sometimes that urge gets us out over our skis with a hasty reply, but there’s almost always someone around to add nuance, or even a correction.  Usually taken with good grace.  We’re a team of friends and strangers 🙂

Mostly remote via the web, but recently I had occasion to do some tech help in person.  It was almost literally eye-opening.

The Tech Stuff

Got word via the grapevine that brother-in-law’s desktop wasn’t performing.  Nearly unusable.  He – like me – is well into retirement age, but unlike me he’s still working.  A high-school teacher who loves his work and is respected and well liked by staff and students.  He needs a properly working machine.

This was a ThinkCentre M91p that I had gotten for him 10 years ago.  Fine in its day, but barely functional now: i7 – that’s OK – but 4GB of RAM and a 7200RPM HDD – those are not.  And Windows 7 – really not.  No support, no ongoing security.

Thanks to COVID-19 and circumstance I haven’t seen bro-in-law or the M91p for a couple of years.  A family memorial had us making the 1000 mile trip so I grabbed 8GB of DDR3 and a Samsung 1TB SATA SSD and off we went.

Installed the RAM and borrowed the internal SATA and power cables from the DVD drive to connect the new SSD.  Samsung provides free migration software and 20 minutes later we were booted up on the new drive mounted in an inexpensive 2.5-3.5″ bracket.  Machine is practically snappy now 🙂

Now the software: uninstalled the grab-bag of (probably conflicting) security software and installed ESET.  That took some hackage since it didn’t want to install in Windows 7.  (I hadn’t decided to try upgrading the OS at that point) An older version of ESET would install and activate with my key, and then happily updated itself to the latest version.  Yay.

Ran the Windows 10 upgrade assistant (not the media creation tool) in place and brought it up to Win 10 with no fuss whatsoever.  Activated without asking for a key. Nice. One last issue: a few months ago the machine had started refusing to shut down with the dreaded “operations are in progress…” message.  That’s an Acronis bug that requires some serious digging to fix – and the version of Acronis on the machine wasn’t going to work with Win 10 anyway.  Unless we purchased new software the backup to external drive wasn’t going to be an option any more.  Set him up with Google Backup-and-Sync with its free 15GB of cloud storage and Bob’s your uncle.

[Side rant] He didn’t ask me about the shutdown issue when it happened.  Had a well-known tech support company come in.  Their “fix” was to change the drive letter of the external drive so Acronis would error out and not hang during shutdown.  That left him with no ongoing backup, and the clowns left without warning him.  *bleep*

The Real Stuff

Brother-in-law has a history of serious eye problems.  Corneal transplants years ago, and again recently.  A detached retina that didn’t heal properly. Now cataracts that couldn’t be treated with lens replacement until the latest transplants healed – and one of them suffered considerable delay and challenging complications.  (TMI, I know…)

Hopefully there will be some positive resolution in the next few months but as it stood – even with the decent performance of the updated ThinkCentre – he couldn’t see what was on the display well enough to do much of anything.

I had never looked into ease of access/assistive tech before but it was readily available, and had been even in Win 7.  Got the resolution set to where it should be, found a scaling factor that increased visibility considerably without introducing other issues (some scaling factors cut off part of some applications) and most important: put the magnifier in the task bar.  Showed him that and got a smile… and maybe a tear (mine, when I realized how bad things were and how much this little bit of tech could help) and he was up and running.  So simple and yet so important and useful.

You know, maybe that new forum member with the trivial camera issue wasn’t silly.  That little lens cover is so well integrated these days it’s hard to spot if you don’t know to look for it. And maybe that camera was the difference between making it to an online job interview or not, or being able to attend a remote class or not.  Not so trivial after all.

Well, back to the forums.  See you there 🙂

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