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Home Computer Assistance Program
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

LiveWire Computer Services is a home/office computer assistance and diagnostic service that emerged out of questions asked by participants in what once was a computer-training program, Train2Click.

?In the beginning we thought we?d be doing a lot of teaching because in this neighborhood, there were so many people who hadn?t had the training yet,? said LiveWire Computer Services owner Brenda Sandoz, who founded the partnership together with her husband, Tommy Sandoz and Cathy Temples. ?Then what happened?every single client would say, my computer is broken, I need help or I have a virus, who do I call? I need to get a computer, what would you suggest? Your computers in the lab are different than mine at home; could one of your teachers show us at home? So, Train2Click evolved into LiveWire Computer Services because the demand became enormous for more service in the home and also in the office.? At first, the clientele came from business: now, about 60% of the service goes to the homes. ?The difference is with our businesses, we?ve got more computers. There are ten at a time verses one or two in the home.?

Assistance and training can begin at any stage although the computer set-up stage is particularly important.

?It?s from the beginning steps if you need us to help you figure out what your needs are for your family,? Sandoz said. Other circumstances calling for advice are the family?s moving into a new home or creating a home network of computers or upgrading the computers. The biggest demand, however, is adding DSL or cable.

?It can be a nightmare,? Sandoz said. ?DSL is of course a high speed Internet that?s digital. If you?re still dial up, your kids are going to force you to get something that?s faster. If you?re approved by Southwestern Bell, and your telephone line is OK, then they give you the option for a DSL installation kit. They tell you it?s easy.? But the reality is that DSL companies are difficult to work with. Here is where LiveWire technicians can help homeowners by instructing them first, to make the call ordering the service, and then to follow up frequently, even daily when necessary, until the hook-up is installed. LiveWire technicians can also advise the family about the location in the home for the DSL input site and the route of network connections.

?You always figure out where to put your TV,? Sandoz said. ?Now, it?s where am I going to put my home computer?? The key is to plan ahead because the first thing the DSL technician asks on arriving at the home is where to bring the DSL line into the house. Then, once the system gets up and going, LiveWire can handle all the problems that come up.

?This neighborhood is kind of unique,? Sandoz said. There?re a lot of old houses, where wireless networks can?t work?my house, for example. Forget it. I?ve got old plaster walls that have all that metal mesh and it (the computer) won?t work on a wireless system. We had to be completely hard wired. But most (houses) are not that way.?

?There are a lot of different options to go through with clients,? Sandoz said. ?It?s real critical that first meeting we have with them. What are their needs? What does your child do on the computer? Are they teenagers? Or are they four years old? Now what do you want to use the computer for?is it e-mail or business? Is there a third computer? What about a laptop? Do I use it anywhere in the house? You don?t want to have it just in one area. We have to go though everything that they really want. Then we have to figure out how proficient they are so that we know the steps of education to take them through. That?s the first meeting unless they call and say my computer won?t turn on, I want you to come over and fix it. Then we go over and perform the diagnostic?why won?t it turn on??

LiveWire employs a four person staff and calls on five technicians in different areas of proficiency to accommodate the different types of computers and their software. Once a technician becomes familiar with a client?s computer(s), that technician follows up on repeat calls. Charges are hourly.

?There are some people that were spending 8 to 10 hours in a given week, and its $95 an hour given rate,? Sandoz said. ?They?re spending $1000 in a week. We?re going to make sure that we start giving some discounts as they continue to use us. So, we have a stair-step program after you?ve used X amount of hours.?

Office hours are 9 am to 5 pm at 214-615-0800 week days. Or clients can send e-mail messages to Response time is often same day or next day. And when necessary, emergencies are handled immediately, even over weekends. Often, however, clients have trouble communicating their problems. So, built into the repair process is computer education.

?They say?you need to fix it and how long will it take and how much,? Sandoz said. ?Well, we don?t know. Once we get into the problem, then we know. But that?s probably the most frustrating thing with clients. They don?t know what the problem is. What might be 15 minutes for one (computer) may be 5 hours for another. There is no way to ever know. It might be the way it (computer) was wired. It might be a defect. It could be user: you can mess up your own stuff if you are too impatient.?

More complicated problems can occur when families want to upgrade their computers because upgrading isn?t always compatible with the old printers or printer drives and may necessitate the purchase of new equipment. Often, older computers don?t have the high-speed capabilities to handle new software.

?Because computers are worth nothing after awhile (it?s not like an appliance or furniture), after several years, it?s probably better for you to give the computer away and take the write off,? Sandoz said. ?They change so quickly. But if your computer is OK, and you?re using it for e-mail, then, there?s no need to make any changes.?

If, however, you plan to relocate to another residence, you should evaluate your current computer(s) and consider expanding or networking your system in the new home. What a great opportunity.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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