To interfere - or not

Oct 17, 2005
3 minutes

A couple of months ago I was in the computer department of a national chain, let’s say it rhymes with “Mondon Drugs” (haha) to buy some computer equipment. As I was browsing, an elderly couple came in and were talking to a sales person about getting a bigger LCD monitor than what they currently have, a 17".

I was nearby and I couldn’t help overhear the rest of their conversation. The wife was talking to the clerk: apparently her husband had trouble seeing the small text on webpages and wanted to get a bigger monitor so he could see the text. The clerk had Firefox running on a demo computer and she proceeded to show the problem her husband was having, basically he couldn’t see the text clearly because it was too small. I figured, this clerk would surely know his stuff, and tell the couple that you can increase the default text size in the browser through the options, or just “ctrl+mousewheel-up” to increase the font size.

But no - the clerk proceeded to test webpages on a 19" monitor so the husband could “test” whether the 19" monitor was better for his eyes. Of course the text was “larger” (a 19" LCD has the same number of pixels as a 17", but the pixels are larger of course). I had a dilemma - should I step in and save this couple about four hundred plus dollars and show them how to increase the default text size (and interfere with the clerk’s sale) - or let them be. I chose the latter - I figured it was not my place to interfere with someone’s bread and butter (maybe he was on commission, who knows).

Well - two weeks ago I was in a similar situation, but this time there was no sale involved.

Someone had come in and was asking about sharing an external drive between Mac and Windows systems. It just so happened that I was having the same problem - my NTFS formatted external hard drive could only be read (but not written) by my Mac system. The answer was to re-format the drive to FAT32, that filesystem can be read and written by both Windows and Mac OS X.

I stepped in when the clerk had totally no clue how to help that man with his problem. I told the guy that all he had to do was re-format the drive to FAT32 to fix his problem. Of course, as soon as I helped the guy, the clerk conveniently added, “oh yeah, I forgot about that”, which may or may not have been true.

I didn’t have time to add however - that you will have to format the drive on Mac OS to have it all under one partition (choose “MS-DOS Partition” in Disk Utility); under Windows you are restricted to 32-GB FAT32 partitions.

Well - I guess I found my litmus test on whether to interfere or not.