Fixing problem is easier if you ‘capture’ error message
A couple of weeks ago, the support desk received a very interesting request for help. The report came in via e-mail and said, "My new Vista virus filter tells me that the URL is full of viruses and completely unprotected." While we understand the gist of the message, it's pretty clear to any techie that this is not the exact text that the user received.
In this particular case, the reporting of a problem error in such a manner did not cause us any unnecessary heartburn. More often than not, however, an inaccurate description of a system message delays the resolution of the problem. Countless hours are spent chasing snipe, only to find out that the original message is nowhere near what was reported.
Most folks know to try and recount the exact instructions, commands, or routines that caused the anomaly. Understandably this can be very difficult. So what's a poor soul to do?
One of the most effective ways to report a problem is to "capture" exactly what was displayed on the screen. This can be done in Windows using the "print screen" function. Of course, in a stroke of logic decipherable only to true geeks, "print screen" doesn't actually print the screen. Instead, under Windows, print screen copies the screen display onto the clipboard where it can then be pasted into an application.
More simply, to obtain a screen capture under Windows, simply hit the "print screen" button. Then, open Word (or just about any other application), and use Edit->Paste (or ctrl-v) to paste the captured screen into your document. Save the file and e-mail it to your support desk.
If you are using Vista, it comes with a new feature known as the snipping tool. You can find it off the Start menu, under Accessories, or by typing "snip" into any search window. It's a pretty handy and intuitive tool that allows you to capture screens or portions of screens.
If you are using Mac OS X, you have several options to capture the screen. The easiest way is to hold down the command and shift keys and hit the number 3 on your keyboard. This will capture the screen to your desktop and you can do with it what you wish from there. To mimic the Windows behavior described above, hold down the command, shift, and control keys and hit the 3 on your keyboard. You can then paste the captured screen into your application of choice.
If you are using Linux, you're so advanced you don't need help capturing screens! Actually, "print screen" under most versions of Linux functions very similarly as it does under Windows. Furthermore, most every Linux distribution includes a screen-capture feature similar to what is provided by Vista.
Regardless of the platform, if you send a screen capture of any problem you come across, it will go a long ways toward resolving the issue.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org