Monday, December 13, 2010

Playing Tech Support for Your Family? Google Wants to Help

If you work in the technology field, or if you even have a smartphone and know how to use a web browser, you have probably been pressed into service by family members to help them do a web search, adjust the time on their computer clock, or even do something as simple as cut and paste text from one document to another. Well, the geeks at Google would like you to know that you aren’t alone — and as a kind of early Christmas present, they have set up a special site just for you, so that you can send a video to your parents (or anyone else for that matter) about how to do these and other things on the computer.

The site is called Teach Parents Tech, but it could just as easily be used to teach your aunt or uncle certain technology tips, or your grandparents, or your older brother or sister who isn’t terribly swift when it comes to using the computer. Obviously, Google would probably like them to become a little more familiar with the PC, so that they are more willing to install Chrome as their default browser, or do a Google search, or maybe even go whole hog and buy a notebook running the Chrome OS when they finally become available.

Each task that you choose includes a helpful video prepared by Google staff, along with a somewhat sarcastic message (Dear Mom: I’m shocked/impressed/worried that you’ve been using your computer). You can choose tasks such as cut and paste, adjust the time, change your desktop background, as well as create a strong password, make a blog and change your default homepage. And the videos aren’t just commercials for Google products either — the one on upgrading your browser shows a choice of several major browsers (although it doesn’t include Internet Explorer), and then illustrates how to do it with Firefox.

This has the feel of one of Google’s famous “20 percent” projects, but the videos are actually fairly helpful, although they don’t go into too much depth. Unfortunately for most of those providing tech support for family members, these video clips are only going to become useful once you show your parents or other relatives how to a) receive an email, b) open a link and c) play a video clip or upgrade Flash. Here’s one of the videos that Google created — this one shows how to change the time on a computer clock

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