By Arwen Sommer
With all the tech repair places closed, many of us are living in fear of our laptops breaking. We wouldn’t be able to work, or even worse, we wouldn’t be able to watch Netflix.
When lockdown was announced, many of us took our work computers home, or fished old laptops out of cupboards and MacGyvered some sort of functioning set up. But what do we do if it all falls apart? We asked Connon Daly, general manager of the I.T. team, an IT support company based in Christchurch, Dunedin and Auckland. He says all may not be lost, and gave us five key pieces of advice.
1. Do your own troubleshooting
A lot of people who are working from home will have an IT person they usually go to, who would come to them or give advice over the phone. However, with most services seeing a rise in requests and prioritising essential businesses, it can be hard to get help when you need it. And they definitely can’t come to your house and fix it for you, unless you are one of the lucky people with a techie in your bubble.
Connon says it is a time where people will have to become more resourceful and start doing their own research. “A lot of what IT people like us do is a lot of research to try and fix things. We just are sometimes a bit quicker interpreting that and applying it. People are going to need to use Google and to try and match their issues with what they can find.”
Most people will be using the same technology as you - Microsoft, Adobe or Mac - so if you are having an issue it’s more than likely someone else has run into the same thing. Spend a while reading through forums - they’re super helpful for solving issues.
2. Video call an IT person
If research fails you, there are ways to get IT to help during a quarantine. Connon says the best thing about the modern IT world is remote access tools. Even if an IT person can’t come to your house, there’s a good chance they can fix your problem remotely.
There are tools like TeamViewer, which is a remote access software, or you could even use a free video calling program like Zoom and share your screen with the person you're working with.
Connon says he’s even been video calling people on WhatsApp and walking them through the issue as a workaround. He says “we are all having to adapt, not being able to get our hands on things. It's surprising what can be done when you can't get out there”.
3. Be extra careful with your stuff, because there’s no repairs
The biggest tech issue during lockdown will be if hardware breaks. This is not the time to drop your phone in the toilet or spill a glass of wine on your keyboard. Connon says the unfortunate reality is that warranties and repairs are effectively paused.
On Monday 30th March, the government expanded the definition of an essential service to include the online sale of things like fridges and laptops. This is great news for people who urgently need to buy one of those things, but for most people we can’t afford to buy a whole new computer.
So if something breaks, most of us will have to use other devices that we have in the house. Otherwise, it’s possibly going to be a long wait for repairs.
4. Check your internet service provider
Isolation takes on a whole new meaning if your internet craps out during lockdown. The good news is that broadband is an essential service and service providers can come out and fix it if it’s deemed essential.
Spark has said emergency distribution centres will remain closed to foot traffic, and will only provide essential services to existing customers with pre-booked appointments. Essential services include SIM swaps, and getting a new or replacement broadband modem. Chorus will continue with fibre connections and upgrades and have put controls in place for any visits to any home or business. Enable has also released a similar statement.
However, there might be some delays as fibre faults, medical services and new to broadband connections are being prioritised. If you are unsure whether you can get your internet to stop cutting out during your many video meetings, it would pay to check your broadband service provider’s website for their Covid-19 update.
5. Turn your camera on when you video call
This piece of advice is less about technology breaking, and more about feeling connected in these weird times. Connon says you should always video call for meetings.
His organisation has made it mandatory for people to turn the video on. “People just turn it off because of their hair, because they don't want people to see what's going on in the background, because they were a bit conscious about what they're wearing.”
“And what we're saying is it's not a meeting if you can't see the other person.” He says it helps massively because you can see body language and you can see how people are doing.
And if you’re finding it hard to hear people, get a headset with a microphone, Connon says. “The quality will drastically improve and your experience is going to improve. And you'll get less frustrated and you won't have the problem of your family being as noisy in the background.”
So, dig out your old gaming gear, or steal your little brother's headset while he’s not playing Fortnite because it will make your life much easier, and your coworker’s ears will thank you.
If you don’t have a headset at home, under the new expansion to essential services, you should be able to order a business headset online for personal use. This also means you’ll have a back up if your laptop speaker or mic break.
With our reliance on technology to stay connected in times of isolation, it’s important to take care of our tech as well as ourselves. Knowing some handy tips and tricks will help make tech challenges less frustrating in an already stressful time and will give us the skills to adjust to the new normal.