Maybe you can help me with my computer… ?

A beautiful trail on Tiger Mountain

People sometimes complain about older people in their lives asking them to fix their computer, but I actually love that question. It intrigues me.

This past weekend my friend and I stayed with her friend’s mom up in Washington state. She was so delightful and hospitable. The mountain biking up there is spectacular and the only thing that could make it better would be coming home to a table of cheeses and avocado, doing laundry for free, and sleeping in a comfy bed with a view of Puget Sound — pretty sweet.

So, when she asked us if we might help her with her computer, we didn’t say no.

She had been daunted by the task of creating a photo album that combined her photos and a folder of photos a friend had emailed her. So, after a short debate about Photos (formerly iPhoto) vs Google Photos. My friend patiently problem solved with her, made sure all the photos were imported, set up a “smart” album, and then figured out how to filter some photos out of said “smart” album.

I almost showed her how to display the album on her TV but she had moved her Apple TV upstairs and the downstairs TV’s built-in wireless communication was too much even for me. I think I’m going to mail her an old Apple TV — or on second thought, I’ll bring it to her and go mountain biking some more.

Next up: The topic of passwords…
The way she brought it up was something like, “I know that I’m supposed to do something with my passwords. I have this spreadsheet that I know I’m not supposed to have but I don’t know what else to do …and I’m worried that somebody is going to break into my accounts.” (A valid concern given that she was using the same 8-letter password for just about everything.)

My friend and I included her in a moment of discussion about different password vault options and quickly decided that they were all good but since both of us use 1Password that it would be best for us to help her master the same app.

(While we were waiting for it to download we did some troubleshooting on her router and helped her pick out an ISP for her future home in the desert where she will live by a whole new set of awesome mountain biking trails)

My friend set up the app, a trial subscription, and the browser plug-in while I did laundry (for free). Then I set up the iPhone app and started going through her spreadsheet with her to replace old, weak passwords with passwords so strong that even though I saw them I have no idea what they were. I transitioned the first few while she looked over my shoulder. Then I stopped driving and let her have a turn crossing things off the spreadsheet. We fortified her bank passwords, including her PayPal account, and agreed that she would attack the others as she used the services.

While we were at it, we strengthened her Gmail password with something that she could actually remember if she needed to and turned on two-factor authentication. Very satisfying.

My friend and I then took a break to go follow some “Tourist Activity” signs on the freeway. When we returned, we were delighted to find she had been busily working away adding a strike-through to lines of the google sheet as she transitioned each of her accounts to a unique, strong passwords like “TFZZQnmL@dkt;v4fwM,” stored in a synced and encrypted password vault — yes!

Taken while doing a “Tourist Activity”

As we were leaving she asked me if I might help her with automating the dental hygiene billing system she had crafted with spreadsheets for her friend that does discounted teeth cleanings for the mentally disabled. Unfortunately, we were out of time. I’m going to do a little thinking on that one and plan a trip back.

So, what’s the point of this rambling story? The next time an older friend or relative asks you if you might be able to help them with their computer, consider all the free satisfaction you can get from helping somebody do the simple things that you already know how to do.