By reading (and acting on) the advice in this article, you can conceivably save yourself a lot of money, time and frustration.|
If you are a professional or amateur astrologer, you can't help but have noticed that computers have made the calculation part of doing astrology a lot easier. I work with the software technical support group at Matrix Software, Inc., which develops and distributes various kinds of astrology software, and sells software made by other companies as well. As a result, I get to take or hear a lot of calls from customers, as they spend their money to call us up with their problems. Sometimes we are sorely tempted to tell the customer to just pack up their computer and send it back to the manufacturer!
Out of that experience, my fellow tech. support specialists and I have come up with a number of very basic, low-cost and easy to implement recommendations for anyone using astrology software on a computer. Any software, on any computer, anywhere, anytime.
Play With Your Computer
The first and most important recommendation is to play with your computer! Get to know it! Overcome any fear you have that by punching a few keystrokes you can ruin an expensive piece of equipment. It's really quite difficult to mess things up, and you have to be unusually creative and inventive to get to that point. In addition, you have to be very stubborn about treading in areas you know nothing about. That's why you need to learn your way around.
By playing, I mean clicking on anything you can click on to see what it does. The worst that can happen is that your computer might freeze up. That's what the "off" switch is for. No harm done. By all means, take the ten or so minutes to take the Windows tutorial that comes with the operating system. Learn such simple operations as drag-and-drop; double-clicking; right-clicking; minimizing, resizing and maximizing windows and so on. Learn how to navigate in Windows Explorer, or in the comparable features of your Mac.
You would be amazed at the number of people who can't copy files because they never learned to drag-and-drop, or right click, or drag the cursor to highlight things. Learn to copy and delete files, and learn to copy and delete words in a text file. Learn what to do when a program hangs up but your cursor still moves (ever hear of "Control+Alt+Delete"?).
Making friends with your computer is the single most important thing you can do for yourself. It doesn't take a lot of time, or genius-level skills, or the help of your teenaged daughter! There are plenty of tutorials for Windows (or the Mac operating system), and there are other tutorials that come automatically with programs such as Microsoft Word (usually included in the Microsoft Office suite of programs). It's not a waste of time to take these tutorials, even if you already know 90% of what's in them.
Think Before You Buy
It seems so obvious that it's good to investigate programs before you buy them that it's hardly worth mentioning, right? Wrong. A lot of people don't seem to realize that they can investigate software beforehand. Check and see if the software you want is sold by someone with a website. Often you can download a fully functional demonstration version of the program and check it out that way. If you do that, often you can solve compatability questions before you've spent a lot of money.
Take Your Time
Computers make a lot of people nervous. So many details, so little time, so many things to go wrong… So instead of reading, for instance, the installation instructions carefully, they sigh, figuratively close their eyes and do whatever they imagine might work to put the program in. Quickly. Without really knowing what the choices they are making mean. Amazingly, this sort-of works a lot of the time, because manufacturers have worked really hard to deal with this tendency on the part of customers. But it really helps to slow down, take your time, and read the instructions carefully before loading the program.
Play With Your Programs
My second big recommendation is to play with your astrology program before trying to do professional business with it. Poke around in it. Try things you never expect to do in "real" life. Look at the "help" files and try something really peculiar. See if you can get the program to really mess up! Try some ordinary things, too. Then try doing them a different way. (Remember about "Control+Alt+Delete"? Remember that you have an "off" button too!)
Making Astrology Software Is A Labor of Love
The big software manufacturers have as many as hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars behind their programs, and many thousands of people work on them. But think about the poor astrology software manufacturer: at best he has a few tens of thousands of customers. If you do the math, it soon becomes clear that he's doing an awful lot of programming with a lot fewer resources. Usually only one or two programmers worked on the program, and the company was not able to afford to own every form of hardware known to man in order to prevent compatibility conflicts. Considering those limitations, astrology programs are amazingly powerful and encounter a surprisingly few big problems. But I doubt if any of their owners has gotten rich: astrology programming is at least in part a labor of love. Every program out there has some limitations. Curiously, certain dates and places (different with each program) will reveal computation problems with most programs. You may be the lucky one to discover one of these!
Every Program is Different!
Astrologers are a diverse bunch with wildly differing personalities, for instance, as anyone who has ever been to an astrology conference can testify. They have widely diverging needs and interests, too. So it comes as no surprise that the style and content of astrology programs are also different. Nearly as different as astrologers themselves. Individual. No two do exactly the same things. Comparing your program to your friends' isn't really possible. They're apples and oranges. Maybe you like one better than another, or find one easier to use than another, or want the functions in one more than those in another. That's about all you can say.
Every Program is the Same
But wait! I thought you said astrology programs are all different. They are. The tasks they choose to perform and the ways they give to customers to accomplish those tasks differ greatly. However, they pretty much all deliver a reasonably accurate contemporary chart in seconds. If you learned to do charts the old-fashioned way (using atlases, tables of time changes, tables of houses, ephemerides and sets of equations), you know: that's no small potatoes!
So Now You Have A Tech Problem?
Sooner or later, if you use your program to its fullest extent, you'll encounter a glitch, or will find that something is throwing your calculations off. This will happen with every program (there are no exceptions to this rule). Then you may want to call that software company's technical support phone lines. Try the simple stuff before doing that: close and reopen the program, turn off and restart the computer, etc. Then you might see if your software company has an FAQ (frequently asked questions) on their website. If that doesn't solve your problem and you decide to call them, make sure you know exactly what you're doing that leads to the problem, and can describe step by step how you get there.
You'll save yourself lots of time, money and aggravation if, for instance, you write down the exact wording of all the error messages that appear. If your problem isn't a simple one (and you can't know before hand whether or not it is), be near your computer when you call, with the computer turned on! You'd be surprised how many people want to diagnose complicated problems without doing this. Occasionally a simple e-mail will do the trick. It's worth trying, especially if you can't get through to the tech people. And, above all, be sure you know how to drag-and-drop, copy and delete files, and drag-to-highlight things! You should also know what operating system you are using, and the model numbers of your computers and printers. You'll save yourself and your techie a lot of frustration that way.
Let me summarize what you need to do when you encounter a tech problem:
- Try to solve the problem yourself, if you can manage not to panic.
- close and reopen the program
- restart your computer
- Be sure you have worked to understand what your problem is and how you "arrived" at it. Record all the information about it that you can, error messages and the like.
- Look for the program's website for FAQs.
- E-mail if you can't reach a tech support person by phone, but don't expect to handle complex problems this way.
- Be at your computer, with the computer turned on when you call. Have your installation software and paperwork handy when you call.
- Know your basic computer skills. Take your operating system tutorials.
- Know your hardware and operating system, and be prepared to supply that information to your support person. (For instance, "I have a Gateway 2000 with a Pentium 3 chip, 64 MB (megabytes) of RAM, a 7.85 Gig. hard drive, an HP Laserjet III printer, and am running with the Windows 98 operating system."
Copyright: Matrix Software
Bio: Clarke Fountain
Clarke Fountain has been studying astrology with varying levels of intensity since the 1960s, is a U.S. Navy veteran, and gave his first professional reading in 1977 in San Francisco. After years of doing every kind of job under the sun, he earned an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the Naropa Institute (as it was then called) in 1989 and at that time became involved with aspects of publishing. Astrology has been one of the few consistent threads in his otherwise extremely varied life, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to serve the astrological community as the Editor for “Astro Talk Online Astrological Magazine.”