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Dr Spinola's top ten tips

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Technical support is possibly the simplest area of the IT industry. Some organisations would appear to have got hold of the wrong end of the stick and introduced a call centre located in Bosnia, Scotland or Northern Ireland staffed with willing, knowledgeable people who unfortunately cannot speak a word of English.

Others seem to go for a fun-packed, caring, sharing chat room approach where you discover (after an hour at 1 a minute) that you are talking to a sad widower from Helsinki, a serial killer from Detroit, a Tory member of parliament, an alien from the planet Zarg and absolutely no one from technical support.

The golden rule of tech support is that you always know more than the poor sucker calling in.

Let's look at a few examples.

1. Hello, I seem to have forgotten my password.

Well, let's see if I can help. Just tell me your credit card numbers, your pin, your mother's maiden name, your bank account details and any other secret codes you use. Now simply ignore any unusual transactions on your bank and credit card statements for the next six months. These will be insignificant errors caused by the clearing of your password.

2. But what is my password?

I think you'll find it's 'password'.

3. My monitor is blank. What should I do?

Monitors can display blankness for a number of reasons:
Are you looking at the wide end with the big grey bit in the middle? Do you have a visual impairment such as total blindness? Do you still have a bag over your head from a dimly-remembered sleazy encounter last night? Are you a Guardian proof-reader?

4. My PC is making strange gasping noises. What could be wrong?

You have probably stumbled across an erotic Web site. Simply forward me the URL.

5. Last week I bought a Cape Cod motherboard because Intel said there was absolutely nothing wrong with it despite 27 reports to the contrary in that sleazy online rag, The Register. Now I discover that it is as useful as a copy of Windows 2000 to a committed game player. What do you recommend?

Keep the mobo. You will find a myriad of uses for it. You could try hanging it over the front door to ward off evil spirits; possibly as a mouse mat which will help you avoid RSI due to its uneven surface; or even as security against a bank loan – "this CC820 may only be worth $100, but if I send it back to Intel, they will send me a replacement motherboard, $1000 worth of RDAM and a no-questions-asked hush money payment in excess of five figures."

6. I have recently taken the advice of a charlatan going by the name of Dr. Spinola. What should I do?

My best advice would be to avoid pressing charges. We know where you live; we have your bank details; and we have no conscience.

7. What is the best way to choose a new PC?

Go for a beige one.

8. How do I know you are a reliable source of information?

Ha ha ha! If you need to ask such questions, you are probably a senior Intel marketing manager.

9. I have a number of small but niggling problems with my computer. It seems to work fine, but occasionally it seems to display the wrong font. What should I do?

Simply boot your system from a floppy disk and type "FORMAT C:" All your problems will be different, if not actually solved.

10. I have a sneaky feeling that you have at least two different personalities. One would appear to be a disreputable old drunk from Aberdeen and the other a disreputable old drunk from just north of London. Occasionally you also seem to turn into a, feathered American law enforcer who pretends to live in Wales who is also almost certainly a disreputable old drunk. What should I believe?

You should believe in death, taxes, Larry Ellison's loathing of Bill Gates and Intel's inability to ship a working chipset. ®

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