We had our community Computer Club meeting last night. The subject was "The Windows Control Panel" and it was presented by one of the members who offers free help to people in our community. The talk was non-technical and filled with regular admonishments of "Don't touch anything in here!" as he went through the various panels.
I was biting my tongue at a few points, not because I necessarily disagreed but more because I wasn't sure whether I disagreed or not. For example, while showing "Add/Remove Programs", he warned not to remove any programs because they might be needed by Windows. He did note that Windows itself will warn you if you try to remove anything critical, but left the impression that removing ANYTHING could have dire consequences.
Well, sure. If someone removes their A/V program or Microsoft Word because they don't understand why they are installed, I guess that could make for a bad day. But are people really that clueless?
I don't really know. I'd like to think that most people would have enough sense to understand what they see there and if not, they'd know enough to type what they see into Google to find out what a program is and does. I'd assume that just about anyone who bothers to show up at a Computer Club meeting could handle that much.
But I could be very wrong.
I sometimes see an astonishing amount of infantile helplessness exhibited by people. It's not just in using computers; it can be with anything. I've had people tell me that they can't balance their checkbook, calculate the miles per gallon of their car.. maybe it is too much to expect them to figure out what programs might be safe to remove?
I had written about being Jack of All Trades a few years ago. Certainly some of us have much more of an "I can do that" attitude than others. People with a mechanical or engineering background are much more likely to approach things with a positive expectation than others. On the flip side, today's technology can be daunting and can require tools and experience most of us don't have. However, to flip that yet again, there has never been a time in history when it has been so easy to find knowledge. If you want to learn how to change the keyboard on your laptop, you can probably find an illustrated tutorial on-line that will show you exactly what tools you need and how to use them. Certainly you can find information about a program you find installed on your computer!
But.. perhaps I assume too much. The information you find may be confusing or contradictory. It may require a fair amount of reading and studying to really understand what you have. It simply may be more effort than the person is willing to make. I needed a new keyboard for my laptop recently. I wimped out and had Apple fix it. My excuse? It's a moderately complicated procedure involving a lot of small parts and I just couldn't raise enough confidence to do it. I was never very "mechanical" anyway, so I turned the job over to someone who does it regularly. Is that substantially different from a computer user who is hesitant to delve into their Control Panel? I don't think it is.
We all have our comfort level. I think the presentation at our meeting aimed a little low - I know that at least some of the people there aren't that helpless and intimidated. But others are, so his "Don't touch" advice was appropriate for them.
I'll be doing a talk next month based on my Windows Performance article. My pitch will be more toward the "roll up your sleeves and learn how to do it" members, but I'll try to remember the fears and uncertainties of the others.
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