Being computer savvy is both a blessing and a curse. While you're always on top of the latest tech trends and the center of attention at parties (so they say), you're also the first person that everyone bothers with their computer problems. Everybody has at least one friend or family member that is the go-to IT person you always call on whenever you have a problem with your laptop, day or night, 365 days a year. If you don't know of one, you're it, and we feel for you. Jumpshot hopes to make the lives of these unfortunate souls a little easier by automating the repair process for a lot of issues that their friends and family members might run across. Their idea was well-received by the Kickstarter crowd and the service began rolling out late last year. But how well does it work?
Dubbing itself "a new weapon to battle PC frustration," Jumpshot is a fully-automated solution to PC troubleshooting. Getting Jumpshot to run is easy: just download and run the setup file at Web site (Jumpshot.com). You can also get the file via USB stick, featuring three different Jumpshot mascots: Sir Jeffrey, Kobayashi, and Officer Pete. The USB is a nice touch with some space to spare (I got the 8GB model!) in case you want to back up a couple of vital files. Of course you can always use your own thumb drive. You will still be required to be connected to the Internet for Jumpshot's service to work. After the initial setup, your computer will need to be rebooted -- this is known as "Sedation." Essentially this will put your PC into Jumpshot's custom Linux environment where it can perform the next steps -- spotting issues and removing them.
Booting into an external environment is a surprisingly old-school technique in the DIY PC Tech handbook. It would be the same as pulling out the hard drive and sticking it in another computer. That said, this is a much more elegant solution. After connecting to the service, your part is done; just let Jumpshot run automatically while you focus on other things. Addicted to the Internet? No problem, Jumpshot has a basic Web browser built in for you to play with -- great for basic Web surfing such as reading text and doing e-mails, but it won't play most video or stream content (Sorry, no Netflix or YouTube yet). The idea is to have you go about your day and come back to a clean(er) PC.
But how does Jumpshot perform? I decided to put it to the test by running Jumpshot in an out-of-the-box system. Most new home computers are often bundled with manufacturer software and trialware, often used to offset the cost of selling the PC. Often, this "bloatware" will slow down or just interfere with daily usage. On my test case, a Windows 7 laptop, Jumpshot was able to deactivate almost 80 percent of these add-ons and performed some essential Windows update. The program was able to disable these startup services but at the same time left the files available on the machine. The things that it left untouched were the bundled anti-virus, manufacturer's recommended Internet search, and home page. This is understandable considering that not having an AV is a security risk while browser behaviors are built in to the internal settings and are harder to remove minus the user's direct input.
The second test case involves using the same laptop but now mimicking an average user's worst nightmare -- adware, and malware. This is software ranging from non-invasive ads displaying in your search to malicious hijackers that will take control of your computer. Our methods involve opening a lot of spam e-mails and trying to win a lot of free iPads by liking Facebook pages. It turns out that being the millionth visitor to a Web site is pretty easy to achieve once you put your mind to it. In this scenario, Jumpshot performed admirably but with some hard to ignore flaws. The good news is that Jumpshot removed an impressive 90 percent of adware and hijackers. The advertisement pop-ups and FBI warning that the new laptop is harboring illegal files were gone. The bad news is that the program still left traces and executable files of this malicious software on the laptop. This is no doubt for the purpose of restoration, in case you wanted to roll back your changes. Being a bit obsessive, however, I felt that these files should have been cleaned up for a true pristine computer experience. The browser's search and ad-bars were left unchanged, similar to the first test, unfortunately.
The final case involves what Jumpshot refers to as the "grandma test." Lacking direct contact to any onsite grandmothers, I opted to use my own personal grandfather instead. A man, whose knowledge of computers, despite his age, continues to be my source of inspiration and at the same time endless frustration. USB stick in hand, I asked him to run Jumpshot by himself on his personal desktop -- one I know is usually filled with ill-advised "Free movies" toolbars, "Music Download" add-ons, and the everyday trojans and Russian keyloggers. He proceeded to plug in the thumb drives while I watched, like a parrot on his shoulder. He had some issues plugging in the USB the wrong way, a pain many of us have shared. After that minor hurdle, however, Jumpshot proceeded to update itself and ran without issues. He also did not realize that you can browse the Web while it's working and proceeded to yell at me until I released said information. This knowledge brought him an unsurpassed amount of joy. After the cleanup, which was surprisingly fast, I questioned him about his thoughts on the process. He responded that it was easy and would use it again but would still prefer me to troubleshoot, given the choice. Then he told me to reinstall his Yahoo! Toolbar.
In conclusion, Jumpshot's performance exceeded my expectations. The service consistently removed 80-90 percent of adware, malware, and other PC annoyances I've thrown at it. The leftover files are still irksome, but could be overlooked as PC usability is restored. Although not yet capable of replacing a human IT, Jumpshot will continue to improve through its social/cloud-based network, learning from user feedback. With a $20 fee for one-time use, it can still be cheaper and easier than bringing your PC to a repair shop. The $60/yr deal is a much better call and a worthwhile investment if you're a dedicated home IT. It can save some time and get family members out of your hair for a while, too. Note: Jumpshot can diagnose software problems but will not assist you with hardware trouble. Grab Jumpshot below and tell us what you think.