A doctor I work with (who I have a little crush on) calls me today and tells me her new home printer won't print. I sold her on getting an iMac when she decided to replace her aged PC so I also had my reputation for good technical advice on the line. She lives out on Long Island (for those of you not familiar with New York City, that's an island, and a long one, that serves as a huge suburban community for New York City) so stopping by her house really wasn't practical. Going to see someone in Long Island, particularly without a car, is a day trip.
Sam and I had discussed a feature in iChat that mimics the Apple Remote Support app in many important ways, allowing you to "share your screen" with another iChat user. I was interested in it to solicit *his* help when I needed it, but today it dawned on me I might could use it to score points with this favored colleague of mine. I have no idea what I would do with those points, but that's not the point of points, is it?
So, I interrupted Sam's breakfast to check it out and I learned that it won't work over my corporate network (I was at work today). My corporate overlords block all the fun ports. But, it did work over a data connection with my (EvDO-enabled) Palm Treo 755p, and acceptably well. Once I established that it was "See ya Sam, have a great day" and I started e-mailing my favored colleague.
So, after introducing her to iChat and getting her .mac address, I connected my iBook to her iMac using my cell phone as an ISP. This absolutely blew her mind. She kept saying "I can't fucking believe this" until I turned up her volume so she could hear me talking and she realized that I could hear her. I tested the printer, the iMac couldn't detect the printer's presence for some reason, so I decided to delete the driver she had and install a new one.
I asked her to put in the CD that came with the machine. That installer was broken. When it asked you if you wanted to participate in the customer feedback program it stopped after you answered yes or no. Clicking "continue" would get you back to the feedback question. A buggy programming loop. Great.
I downloaded a driver disk image from HP. It worked. I printed a test page and she started screaming joyfully. She said "I have to buy you something."
I said "take me to lunch."
She said "How about Monday?" I checked my schedule and told her that was okay. "It's a date! You pick the place." she says, music to my ears even though I know well it's all professional and stuff.
So, here's the amazing part to me. The very first time that I ever used the iChat screen-sharing capability myself, I was able to remotely diagnose a problem, download and install a driver, over a mobile broadband connection (connected by bluetooth to the phone, no less), using native tools (just MacOSX, no third-party utilities) for a novice iMac user. And I scored a lunch date that I thought would never happen.