Date:         Sat, 29 Jul 2000 03:17:13 -0500
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
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Comments:     Originally-From: Patrick Douglas Crispen

From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 
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                         TOURBUS -- 29 July 2000
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    Virt Camp / Microsoft Personal Online Support
Howdy, y'all, and greetings from the Culver City campus of Pepperdine
University.  Veteran TOURBUS riders will remember that I was recently
admitted into Pepperdine's Online Masters in Educational Technology
program (what was Pepperdine thinking?!), and one of the requirements
of the program is that I have to attend a six-day, on-site lab class
called "Virt Camp" (otherwise known as ED 640).
Yes, your fearless bus driver has actually ventured out of the South.
Don't panic, though:
      1. I will be back in Alabama on Wednesday; and
      2. Remember, Los Angeles is in *SOUTHERN* California!  :)
One of the things I have been working on here at Virt Camp is a
problem-solving activity using Legos, sensors, and a programming
language called Logo.  Fortunately, my partners on this project,
Angela Harding and Roxanne Glaser, are even sillier than I am, so this
whole Lego/Logo project has been an absolute blast!  In fact, if you'd
like to check the status of my team's project over the next couple of
days -- we have to have it finished by Tuesday -- point your Web
browser to 
And, of course, if you have any tips or tricks on ways that we can
make our project even better (or sillier), please drop me a line at  As I am sure our other classmates will
tell you, Angela, Janice, and I need *ALL* the help we can get.  :P
TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors.  As
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On with the show ...
A few days ago, I wrote a piece for the TOURBUS Plus list that was so
popular that I decided to share it with you today.  [That, and I have
been so busy with my six-day class at Pepperdine that I haven't had
time to write a new post.  If you are a Plus Bus subscriber, I promise
I'll make this up to you by sending you two Plus Bus posts when I
return from LA next week.]  :)
Microsoft Personal Online Support
Chances are you have at least one Microsoft product on your computer,
be it Windows, Office, or (my personal favorite) Monster Truck
Madness.  And, chances are this Microsoft product doesn't always work
the way it should (GASP!).
The million dollar question is: where can you turn when one of your
Microsoft products doesn't work?  Well, Microsoft does have a support
page at 
that lets you search through tens of thousands of articles in
Microsoft's Knowledge Base.  Unfortunately, most of these 250,000+
articles are so user-unfriendly that they appear to have been written
by a non-human, extraterrestrial who only speaks in zeros and ones (Al
Gore?).  So Microsoft's Knowledge Base isn't going to be much help to
you and me.  :(
Microsoft also offers a "FAQs by Product" section at 
that is a little less user-hostile, but you still have to dig around
through the FAQs ("Frequently Asked Questions") to find what you are
looking for.  This is great if are a Net veteran longing to relive
what it was like back in the glory days of Gopher, but it probably
won't appeal to most of today's netizens.
So, Microsoft is zero for two.  In fact, I was ready to give up on
Microsoft's support system altogether when I stumbled upon an
absolutely WONDERFUL, helpful, and free personal technical support
resource buried DEEP in the Microsoft site: Microsoft's Personal
Online Support page at .
The Personal Online Support page takes the Knowledge Base and adds to
it two things that will really help people like you and me: 1) a
collection of  "troubleshooters," and 2) something called "Ask
The troubleshooters use an "advanced inference engine technology to
help you easily troubleshoot problems with selected Microsoft
products."  What does that mean in English?  Well, let's pretend that
you have a problem with a Microsoft product and you decide to call
Microsoft tech support (BIG MISTAKE!).  After you wait on hold for 263
days, a tech support rep will eventually answer the phone and ask you
a series of questions.  These questions help the tech support rep
diagnose and repair your problem.
You may never have thought much about this, but how on earth can
Microsoft's tech support reps know how to fix EVERY problem with EVERY
Microsoft product?  The answer is: they don't have to.  Microsoft's
tech support reps use "troubleshooters," a collection of questions and
answers that lead the support rep, step-by-step, through the process
of diagnosing and fixing your computer.  [By the way, Microsoft is not
unique in its use of troubleshooters.  Most major tech support
organizations now use them.]
What does this have to do with Microsoft's Personal Online Support
page?  Well, through the Personal Online Support page, you can access
many of Microsoft's most popular troubleshooters, troubleshooters that
YOU can use to help diagnose and fix your computer ... without having
to call Microsoft's tech support line!  Yay!  :)
To access Microsoft's online troubleshooters, click on the
"troubleshooters" link on the left hand side of the Personal Online
Support page or point your Web browser to
Pick the product with which you are having problems, click on the "Go"
button, and you are taken to a collection of troubleshooters for that
particular product.  Neat, huh?
The second neat feature on Microsoft's Personal Online Support page is
something called "Ask Maxwell."  Ask Maxwell is actually an Ask Jeeves
interface that lets you search through Microsoft's tech documents by
asking questions like "why does Pandora's Box keep giving me a fatal
exception error?"
Currently, Ask Maxwell lets you search for answers to questions about
      - Windows 98 and 98 SE
      - Internet Explorer
      - Outlook and Outlook Express
      - Most Microsoft Games
      - Most Microsoft Hardware and Multimedia Products
and the rumor is that Microsoft Office tech support files will be
added to Ask Maxwell's database in the not-too-distant future.  :)
To access Ask Maxwell, click on the picture of Maxwell in the *MIDDLE*
column of the Personal Online Support page or point your browser to .
Cool, huh?  Remember, if you need help with a Microsoft product that
isn't working, check out Microsoft's free Personal Online Support page
 From there, you can access Microsoft's Knowledge Base, many of
Microsoft's most popular troubleshooters, and even "Ask Maxwell,"
Microsoft's real-language tech support search engine.
That's it for today.  Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again
next week.
    Virt Camp / Microsoft Personal Online Support
SHURF (noun).  A law enforcement officer.
Usage: "If'n you don't put some clothes on, Bubba, tha shurfs' gonna
arrest ya!"
[Special thanks go to Cary Lowe for today's word]
You can find all of the old Southern Words of the day at 
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