Giving tech support by long-distance Help Line

November 16, 1998|By James Coates | James Coates,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

I recently bought my mother a new computer. Since this is her first computer, she has no clue about operating it. I was thinking of purchasing the program PC Anywhere because it makes it easier for me to fix the errors she gets, do the general maintenance (clearing the cache, etc.) and show her where certain things are until she gets a better understanding of her new toy. Will this work? Or should I just continue to be her help desk until she gets the hang of it? I'm in Chicago and she's in Arizona.

As a battle-scarred veteran of the long-distance help wars, I must toss cold water on your thoughts about using PC Anywhere to get your mother over opening-night jitters. I am assuming here that your mother has one phone line for a modem and another to talk to you while you're helping.

Although the excellent PC Anywhere software will, indeed, let you take over control of her machine in Arizona from your PC in Schaumburg, I fear doing this will cause more confusion than it fixes.

She might see you change something like the margins in WordPerfect with a few deft mouse moves 1,000 miles away, but she still has to remember how to do it on her own after you hang up.

My approach is to make sure I am running the same software on my machine as my children are running. I walk them through move by move over the phone with them making each mouse click and thus learning as they go along.

jTC I was wondering what the best Internet service is. I have Juno for e-mail and I keep getting messages to try Juno Web for $14.95 a month for three months. But then it costs $19.95 a month afterward. My husband can't imagine spending that much for the Internet. Is there a reliable Internet service for less?

Just as in the real world, there is no free lunch in cyberspace, but if you're in the mood for a deal along the lines of Juno's free e-mail service ( only for dial-up Web access, click on over to, an outfit that offers a somewhat (underscore somewhat) free service in exchange for viewing commercials and opening yourself up to junk e-mail.

The FreeWWWeb model calls for you to pay $99 up front in exchange for free access via a local phone number from then on. Early reviews have been fairly positive about system reliability but you are taking a big chance that if this outfit catches on as big as the free e-mail program did, there could be big traffic problems down the line.

Several companies have bombed trying free ISP gimmicks and I wouldn't make any long-range plans hitched to a free supplier.

Pub Date: 11/16/98

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