Issues with tutoring seniors seem to run in bunches. This week I had a run of people who called me about various aspects of warning messages that appeared on their desktops alerting them a range of concerns from having their operating system automatically updated and needing a reboot (guess which operating system), to advertisements for continued security update services. Intermixed with these was a concern expressed by one senior who had sent out a series of emails and kept getting a warning of potential worm activity. My wife came down to her computer and was informed that it had recently rebooted itself in response to an update.

This flurry of calls about messages to alert users about real or imagined dangers and opportunities to spend more money started me thinking about just what is the function of such things and how can one easily block the ones that are unnecessary? For instance, I think it would be more civilized for a company soliciting additional business to send notice of security update service expiring via email rather then shouting it on the desktop. A user could be alerted to something that might have been overlooked, but without the mild trauma of seeing a scary red warning message appear on the desktop.

Why should an update trigger an automatic reboot? That is the default option, but most of my clients would rather have more control over the operation of their computers than that.

Alternatively, why should people be concerned about unexpected warning notices popping up on the desktop. The answer must be that the warnings are specifically designed to scare users into action. “Immediately renew your subscription or find you hard drive has been erased by the latest malware!” Only a fool would blow that one off.

Most of the pop ups my clients get are somehow related to security, but a few are just out and out advertisements for upgrades to software they already have, and I don’t just mean upgrades for the “free” trials versions of stuff that comes on a new computer. These are truly inexcusable. They remind me of the advertisements patrons are expected to sit through while waiting for a movie to start. I paid to see a movie. Watching previews is one thing. Being subjected to a slide show of local merchants is another.

A third class of announcement is the warning that you really should register your new product, and if you don’t do it now, you will be reminded again in X days. Sometimes these annoyances can be removed by a quick trip to the startup folder, but other times they are more difficult to excise. While I personally have no problem with registering things I bought or got rebates for, some of my clients prefer to remain as anonymous as they can. They avoid giving out personal information any more than necessary. Lacking the dedication and perseverance that anonymity requires in this day, I gave up on that fight long ago.

The bottom line is that I usually tell my clients to ignore the pop up warnings and press on. What do you to?

Click here to read about my new tutorial on helping seniors. The new version has grown considerably over the original. It has more topics and anecdotes, and fewer typos. While you’re at it, check out my expanded tutorial on decision theory.

[tags]alert, warn, reboot, scared to action, senior learning, senior computing, tutorial[/tags]