Barry MacMaster

On-site Computer Technical Support Services

•  Get the help you need, when you need it, without a service contract

•  Get the best prices for the best hardware and software

•  PCs and Macs

 

The Basic Idea

The Objective

My Repair Philosophy

"What's wrong with my computer?"

"I'm not computer literate"

"My computer is trash" - Don't throw it out just yet

The Geek Factor

Other Services Offered

The Deal , The Warranty , The Promise , The Cost

 

The Basic Idea

To deliver real customer service to individuals and small businesses, using a persistent and creative problem-solving approach, in order to address issues concerning the entire computer (machine, operating system, applications, internet, network…).

To be the person you call when the various technology providers can't be reached, or are unable to solve the problem for you. When they start blaming you, your computer or each other, I will sort it all out for you.

To research, recommend, purchase and install hardware and software using my knowledge of the marketplace to find you the best prices.

To provide effective service - everything it takes to keep the technology running in top form, minimizing the amount of downtime, and reducing the vulnerability that arises from the dependency on integrated technologies that don't always behave together as expected.

To do all that's reasonable to extend the useful life of computer equipment, so that you derive the full value of your investment, while reducing the impact on the environment that results from disposing older technology prematurely.

 

The Objective

To build long-term trustworthy relationships with clients extending well beyond the useful life of hardware and software; to provide good value; and to help clients deal with the challenges presented by a constantly changing technological landscape.

 

My Repair Philosophy

I believe that most computers are worth repairing and maintaining rather than replacing. The growth of the small computer industry depends on continual replacement, enticing us with lofty upgrade specifications implying benefits that many of us don't need nor understand.

Most PCs that have been running for a while suffer from reduced performance which triggers that inclination to buy a new machine. However these performance issues can be remedied with basic maintenance, software tweaking, and updating device drivers (bits of software that Windows uses to connect with each component of the machine). Automatic updates by the operating system and software applications can create more chaos, but even that is not insurmountable.

Many repair services depend on hardware sales to be profitable and actively encourage replacing versus repairing. I seek out the best street prices in downtown Toronto for the parts you need. If you do need a new system, I can recommend suitable alternatives, install the software you need, tweak Windows to improve performance, and migrate your files and settings from your old computer. If you prefer, I can build you a custom PC from the ground up with top quality components tailored exactly to your computing requirements.

Some repair services offer flat rates to completely overhaul the software in your PC - that is, reformat your drive, reinstall Windows and all of the software that you have original CDs for, and as much of your data as they can salvage. Of course if you don't have the original CDs, do you really want to have to buy your software again? What about all of your personal settings and the environment that you're familiar with? I think it's preferable to debug the issues plaguing your computer and tweak the performance back to what it should be. With persistence, almost every type of computer glitch can be fixed without a complete overhaul..

 

"What's wrong with my computer?"

Hardware Failure (Blue screens, lock ups, etc.)

System failure messages, the machine not even starting, or continually restarting perhaps, usually make it seem like the sky truly has fallen. However, even these apparent catastrophes are often easily fixed.

Sometimes there may be data loss when a disk drive appears to have crashed, but you would be surprised how much data can be recovered without resorting to an expensive data recovery service. It should be noted that an event like this is usually an opportunity to replace a drive nearing the end of its useful life, and why not when disk space is so inexpensive now. Furthermore, a simple monitoring utility can be installed to detect when your disk drive is reporting signs of wear and warn you before it actually fails.

What About Viruses ("My computer is full of viruses")

The industry has done a great job of raising our awareness of the need to be vigilant in guarding against viruses and malware, and has sold a ton of software in the process.

There are viruses that can make a computer appear completely trashed. However, most often just one virus or two are wreaking havoc and can be eradicated with the appropriate tools and methodology. It is quite rare nowadays for a PC to be so infested with viruses that it needs to be completely overhauled.

Background Tasks

A significant percentage of problems which affect a computer's performance are not caused by hardware malfunction, viruses or spam - they are caused by tasks running in the background. These processes launch with Windows and compete with what you are trying to do with your computer. The trick to having a PC that runs smoothly is to know which background tasks are essential, which are not, and which ones only need to run sometimes. By managing these processes more intelligently your system can free up more memory, run more reliably and avoid crashes and lock ups.

 

"I'm not computer literate"

The first thing most people say to me is that they are not computer literate, and the fact is that most people aren't and they shouldn't have to be. I'm committed to helping people understand what's going on regardless of their age, gender, language or other factors that often limit the quality of service that all consumers are entitled to.

We all have a limit to what we know and understand about this technology. What do I need, why do I need it, what is RAM, how do you do this, where did my icon go, where are my files, I can't print, etc. How to set up a backup strategy that is easy to understand and use. How to download media from the net. Am I a loser if I don't have the latest version of Windows? (…absolutely not.) How to backup DVDs. How to convert a CD collection to MP3s for a portable player or to stream internet radio throughout the home. How to integrate home theatre with a PC and my sound system. What is elementary to some, may represent an insurmountable technological barrier to others.

 

"My computer is trash" - Don't throw it out just yet

When the time comes to buy a new system, an older computer can continue to be used for internet access, network storage, as a print server, for media streaming, doing kids' homework or be donated to a charitable organization. We all know there's a significant environmental cost to abandoning a computer before the end of its useful life. Why not reuse it if at all possible?

Whatever you do, make sure you've wiped all of your personal data from the hard drive - there are tools for this, just as there are tools that allow a thief to recover all of the files you thought were deleted, even if you formatted your old drive.

 

The Geek Factor

There's a lot of technology and information about it that is not hyped commercially but is circulated widely in techie circles. There's a lot of open source and free software (legitimate or otherwise) but you either have to be a bit of a geek or befriend one in order to find out about it and have it supported.

That applies as well to building a PC entirely from the ground up using only quality parts without cutting any corners (which is what system builders usually need to do in order to generate even a slim profit margin in this incredibly competitive industry). Here is your opportunity to participate in this marketplace without needing a pocket protector and an attitude.

 

Other Services Offered

•  Backup service including offsite storage

•  Convert your CD collection to MP3 or other formats for your iPod or other portable players

•  Microsoft Office programming - anything you can think of that can be done with Excel, Word, Access and Outlook. I've been developing applications for corporate clients since 1989.

•  Technology research - what where who when why etc.

•  How to use Usenet for access to high quality downloads

 

The Deal

You only pay for the actual labour for any of the services I provide... no flat fees, no annual support fees, no extended service contract.

Free phone and email support for the simple stuff (quick fixes, straightforward answers) whether you are an existing client or not. The clock starts only when we've come to the conclusion mutually that the issue is more substantial and we decide to pursue a solution. There is an answer for everything, a solution for every problem, or at the very least an acceptable workaround. In my experience, finding solutions has always been about research, problem solving, and persistence...like a dog with a bone, I always say.

On-site support available any day or evening of the week, including weekends. Some remedies can be accomplished remotely.

Best available parts at the best available street prices with minimal markup. You decide if you want best "value for the price" or "cost is no object" premium components. I can research and source whatever you have in mind.

At the end of the job, the total cost must be reasonable for what was accomplished. I provide a detailed worklog of what was done in order to account for and justify the amount billed. I strive to build an understanding of what it all means in order to demystify what is going on 'under the hood' of your computer, which over time will hopefully reduce the vulnerability that many people feel about this technology.

The Warranty

All of the parts that I recommend are well known name brand components covered by manufacturer warranties. I can take care of handling warranty claims on your behalf, requesting RMA (return merchandise authorization), receiving and installing the replacement parts, salvaging/transferring data, and reconfiguring your system if necessary. Depending on what hardware is involved, I am prepared to purchase replacement parts in the interim or provide parts temporarily from my own machines to keep you up and running. Of course, you would be charged what is reasonable under the circumstances for my labour.

The Promise

If a client is not satisfied with any service that I have provided then I promise to do everything in my power to remedy the situation, including a complete refund of the labour I have charged on that issue if that's what it will take. I cannot afford to have one dissatisfied client. Not even one.

The Cost

My rate is $75 per hour. If you live outside the GTA, a reasonable surcharge may be added to offset the cost of time and travel.

It is difficult to accurately estimate the cost of this work, because it can often take longer than anticipated to get at the root of a problem, and because there are usually compounding issues. When the symptom is "my computer is painfully slow", that can be a quick fix or one that is remedied with several hours of maintenance. If research or time-consuming diagnostics are required it can mean taking the machine away, or perhaps a return visit. However, once the job is completed, I do believe that it's possible to come to an understanding about the complexity of the work that was done, and agree on a price that is reasonable for what was accomplished.

Going along with this process requires a certain comfort level and a willingness to commit to the process of repairing a PC rather than abandoning it. I can help a client decide if a machine has reached the end of its useful life before any remedial work is done. If there's any doubt about that, then there's no point embarking on a full scale repair. On the other hand, I believe it's always worth repairing a machine that still meets your needs and that has not yet reached the end of its useful life. Car buffs may disagree, but I believe it's far easier to make this decision about a computer than it is a used car.

For these reasons, I realize my service will appeal to a certain type of consumer, one that is willing to pay equitably for the professional service being offered. I liken it to the home contractor trade - some say that it's ideal to find a contractor you can trust so that you can negotiate contracts based on actual cost of materials plus labour rather than a fixed price. This is what I'm striving for - to build trustworthy client relationships for the long run. This is my idea of value.

 

To find out more, please contact me.

 

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