Solving problems the analytical way

We all have problems, and worst, we have problems all the time. Our life itself is a problems. However problems are not negative. Problems are challenges, they makes us think, and best of all, it keeps our lives interesting. However the word “problem” has unjustly being associated with a negative situation for a long time. Why is it that we think about problems only when we can’t solve them. We are taking decisions constantly, and these are problems. We are usually analyzing these decisions to take the best action, hence we are doing problem solving.

Computer seems to have a very bad rep with problems. People say, “I have a problem, my computer won’t start up!” I say, we have a challenge, we have a computer that is refusing to start up and we will find out WHY!

This is a little chart describing engineering problem solving

Please, don’t try to use WD-40 inside the computer, although I have used WD-40 to rejuvenate rollers in copier (we are talking $15K printers, where we fix paper jams with just WD-40).

However the flowchart does bring up an excellent point. When we take the analysis of the problem to the simplest term, it get easier. Here is were people get frustrated. Lets talk about the computer problem. And this is a real case that happen to me.

Phone call…..ring, ring

User: David, My computer is not working, I need you to come here and fix it.

David (me): I can’t come, you are 2 hours away, and unfortunately I have a lot of work today, what is the problem exactly?

User: The computer is not working! I told you already. I don’t understand computers (and I don’t want to deal with it) [the last part is what I heard “between the lines”]

David: Ok, give me a minute while I check some things.

At this point I was a little upset with the response that I received. I am helping the user, but I need him to help me help him. Think about this when you call for support Winking smile

I go and get a cup of coffee, and while I am doing that I am relaxing and thinking…Ok, so the user is frustrated, he probably won’t help unless I can calm him down, what can I do first?…….Lets check to see if the computer is really not online, and check the router remotely, and see if I can find anything in the log archive….Do I have a log archive for that PC?…

So, here I go back to my desk and check the computer to see if it is online (logmein) and sure it is. So I connect to it and it is working. So now I pick up the phone

David: Ok, I can see the computer online and working. Do you still don’t see anything on screen?


David: Ok, but it is possible the computer is working and something else is not working. Do you see the box that has the CD-ROM? Does it have LED lights on? probably green?

User: I don’t know, it is under the desk with a mess of cables papers and boxes.

David: I think it would be a good idea if after we get the computer working fine if you clean around the computer, this way you can access it faster in case you need to put a DVD in, or to turn it on. Also this way it is easier to clean, and when the computer is clean it runs faster (This is true BTW, dirt gets stuck in fans and vents, which causes the computer to overheat and then slow down)(also note how I pointed out that doing this will benefit the user, it is an option)

User:  Ok, give me a minute while I clean the area. I will put you on speaker phone

David: Great, I will wait. While you are doing that, could you also check if the monitor is on, the power cable to the monitor is connected, and that the cable to the monitor is secured in the back of the computer?

User: I will check, but the first thing I did was turn on the monitor, on and off a couple of times and always complained about no signal

At this point I already knew what was the problem…Do you?

About a minute later I hear, there are lights on this part of the computer. I will move it to see it better…..

I hear a couple of knocks, and about 5 minutes later …

User: Thanks for your help David. I am sorry to have bother you. I got it working

So, what was the problem? The monitor cable was not connected to the computer. Computer was working, Monitor was working. But there was no image. The problem was that the user had a predetermined attitude about computers “I don’t understand it, I don’t want to work on it

With computers or anything else in life, this attitude can lead to frustration. For example I am not a mechanic, but that does not mean I do not check the tire pressure, and fluids level in my car. You only need common sense for that. However I know a lot of people that don’t and won’t check the bare minimum in a car. The car is a tool, and you need to know how to use it. Same with the computer (except that most likely you won’t kill someone for not using it correctly)

Another analytical problem that amuses me what people say is when they tell you “I don’t know where to connect this cable to and what is a USB?”

Simplified but true. USB have a specific shape (then there is blue USB, which is USB 3), network cables (the blue cable here) has a specific shape, and the speakers, well it is another common and specific connector.

The issue here is that people get intimidated by the amount of connections, but you need to connect them the same way a professional does, grab one cable at a time and connect it where it fits well, unless you are OK with paying a minimum of $60, plus trip to a technician to come home and connect it.

The consortiums that set the shape of the connector actually do a lot of research to make sure the connectors are unique.

With that I leave you with this summary. Problems are there to be solved. Simplify it, analyze it, and most likely it will be something simple the solution that will save you time and money.

I know I joke a lot about it, but a lot of “issues” that reach me, could have been solved in less than 5 minutes if the user had simplified the problem. At the very minimum, this will help you to be in a better mod when you need to ask for help, either from IT, tech support, sales, or even customer service at the grocery store


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