I received a frantic call from a client just the other day.  He had just returned from a trip and had not used his computer in three weeks.  He told me he was able to print out the contents of an email, but when he tried to print the attached PDF file, nothing happened.

I went to see this for myself, because I could not understand what was wrong.  Sure enough, nothing happened when I tried to print the PDF file; not a flicker, not an hourglass, and nothing in the print queue.

I approached diagnosing the problem in a logical manner.  I restarted the printers (there were two – and neither one worked), rebooted the computer, and tried to print the PDF file.  Still nothing.
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One of my favorite “guilty pleasures” is to turn on the HGTV network on a Sunday evening, and watch Mike Holmes renovate a house.  For those who don’t know who he is, let me explain.  Mike is a professional contractor, based in Canada, who demands that others in the building trade live up to their word.  He often appears at a lovely house where the homeowners describe some kind of problem that they have experienced with their builder, contractor, or building inspector.  Mike investigates the problem, turns up more horrors than the owners had imagined, and then – with a large, very skilled, crew – proceeds to demolish things and fix them up better than new.

I revel in this kind of reality television because it resonates with me.  In my job, people often call upon me to fix some kind of computer mess.  For me, there are two kinds:  home computer users and small businesses.

When I work with home computer users, it is often a matter of asking a few questions, and then working through a series of decision boxes.  Does the computer have this or that software, problem, or malware?  Does the computer respond when this setting is used or not?  Has this selection been checked in the program properties or not?  It gets to be repetitive sometimes, but there is a basic flow and I can resolve most problems in about an hour.  It takes me longer to clean up malware because I use three different system scans.

On the other hand, small businesses present a greater challenge for me because more of them resemble “Holmes on Homes” situations.  At this point, the reality show becomes “Larry on Laptops.”

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