Family IT help desk calls over the holidays


Like most IT pros, I suspect that I am the de facto CIO-and-support desk for others in the house. And so it proved over Christmas, with a variety of calls for assistance to resolve various IT issues.

First up was to get my son’s Windows RT Surface up and running. I bought this after reading of Mark Minasi’s good experience with the device as I know that Mark needs a good device on which to generate content. My son is doing a master’s degree that involves a lot of Word and PowerPoint generation. Other needs include an awful lot of PDF reading and some email. He doesn’t use Outlook so the lack of Outlook in the Student and Home version of Office 2013 packaged with the Surface didn’t cause a problem, so all-in-all the Surface RT seemed to tick a lot of boxes and would be more productive than an Apple iPad.

The Surface RT makes a nice impression out of the box. Clearly Microsoft has paid attention to the lessons of packaging excellence as practiced by its Cupertino competitor. The hardware makes a similarly good impression. It seems well designed and manufactured to a nice quality level. The only issue we had was where to locate the update for Office 2013 as the device comes with the preview edition preinstalled. Bizarrely, Windows Update seemed incapable of detecting that Office needed to be updated. At least, the super-duper Metro version of Windows Update failed in the task. The traditional Control Panel version worked and fetched the update without a bother, so that was task one of of the way as the Surface is now all set to go.

Next up was to address a strange problem with an HP dv6 PC that I had upgraded to use Windows 8. There’s always the potential for problems when you upgrade a PC to use a new version of an operating system, if only because manufacturers tend to tweak device drivers and other components to make them work well with the version of Windows that was preinstalled, in this case, Windows 7 SP1. The problem showed itself when viewing videos as the replay stuttered and definitely was much less smooth than on any other Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC that we have in the house, not to mention the MacBook Air.

Browsing HP’s web site for updated drivers for the dv6 didn’t turn up anything. The problem seemed to be with the PC’s graphics. In fact, this particular dv6 had two AMD Radeon graphics cards, with the idea being that the PC could switch between the cards depending whether it was on battery power or plugged into the mains. One of the cards (AMD Radeon 4200) was highlighted in Device Manager as having the infamous “Error 43” problem. As it turns out, there doesn’t seem to be a driver available for the 4200 for Windows 8 on AMD’s web site, so this is likely to be where the problem lay.

With no driver available, the best course of action seemed to revert to Windows 7 SP1 (64-bit Professional), which is what we did without a hitch. And lo and behold, Windows 7 cured the problem and restored video to full replay capability. This just goes to prove that sometimes a new operating system isn’t as good as an old one is, despite the best efforts of Microsoft.

Apart from dealing with new and old PC operating systems, most of the rest of the IT calls related to Apple stuff. The  directions for an Apple Magic Mouse are printed in an unbelievably small typeface, so a magnifying glass was used to figure out what had to happen (enable Bluetooth on the MacBook Air) to make everything work. Finally, an iPad had to be configured for connectivity to an Office 365 mailbox (easy because of Exchange’s Autodiscover feature).

And just when I thought the family IT infrastructure was stable,  Skype refused to connect on my own PC because Norton Internet Security took it upon itself to decide that Skype was a rogue application. Of course it wasn’t, but it is irritating when this kind of thing happens. Surely Norton knows that Microsoft spent an incredible amount of money to buy Skype and as such, it should be trusted?

This is my last post for 2012. I hope that everyone has a wonderful New Year and that you’ll come back and visit this blog in 2013.

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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About Tony Redmond

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
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