Okay, so I fix a lot of computers. Both professionally and on a friendly, just buy me a pizza or a starbucks card basis. I am very fortunate that I get paid to do something I love. But sometimes I get asked questions over the phone long distance, and it is hard to answer the technical questions when I can't always visualize what they are talking about. See this great 3 dead trolls in a baggie routine on youtube, for example.
This is classic. But there is an easier way. For those of us who have friends and family we need to help remotely, there is a way. Sure you can use the remote help feature in XP, but that is clunky and kind of a pain. Then there are free html based programs like Logmein.com (pretty good, but can be tricky for you to get them logged in to, because you need to install the program on their PC, and then leave it running until you need to connect. Now there is an easier way. There is a program called Crossloop. Okay, a site really, www.crossloop.com sign up for a free account, and install the software. Then have your remote person do the same. They call you and say, I have a problem, you say okay, get on the internet and start crossloop. They click the give access tab, and get an access code which they tell you (email, IM, text, call whatever), and you enter their accountname, and the code, and BLAMMO! they get a request to allow you to remote control their PC.
Okay what it is is VNC with a better encryption. This way they won't get hijacked by some script kiddie scanning for open VNC ports on the internet. They can start the program when they need your help, and you are available, you can connect to them with 128 bit encryption and rock on. Okay there is no file transfer or chat tools, but come on, it's free. Check it out.