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Notable Neighbors
home : features : notable neighbors
January 20, 2021

12/18/2020 4:20:00 PM
Notable Neighbors
Robotics expert Linda Crombie
Robotics expert Linda Crombie

Dean M. Laux

She Keeps Us Connected
Humans are social animals. We’re born into families, and they become integral to our lives. Those of us from the Greatest Generation may recall (if we can remember that far back) that in the Thirties families could be sizeable, with three or even four generations living in the same house, or at least in the same town, at the same time. As we grew up, we established friendships with others, played team sports, were schooled together, played together and worked together. By nature and experience we formed groups wherever we were.
That is, until the pandemic of 2020 struck. Now our social worlds have shrunk under the requirements of social distancing, quarantines, crowd limits, business closures and lockdowns.
But social interactions are still vital to us, and we have found ways to stay in touch without touching via Skype, Zoom, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Smartphone, texting and emailing … provided that we have at least a passing knowledge of all these new-fangled devices that our grandkids handle with ease. Through the wonders of technology we can remain connected to our kith and kin.
Aye, there’s the rub: That connection may be tenuous. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong with our connected world, and if we can get them fixed at all, it can cost an arm and a leg if we don’t know how to go about it.
What if you can’t get your somewhat antiquated computer to connect to the internet? What if your computer (or TV set) freezes, and you can’t access programs you want? Or what if it just goes on the blink, and you can’t get it going at all? When it’s working, how do you navigate on Zoom or Skype or Facebook or other social media? What if your computer gets hacked? How do you get rid of malware if it occurs? How can you avoid computer and cellphone scams that can gain access your credit cards and bank accounts?
Well, for one thing, talk to Linda Crombie. She’s a notable neighbor and a guardian angel who handles these kinds of problems and more. Every day. For all kinds of folks. At your place or her office or online. For a one-time payment of 35 bucks, or for free if she hasn’t solved your problem. Is she for real? Yes.
Linda was born and grew up in Ithaca, N.Y. She breezed through grade school and high school with straight A’s, taking advanced placement courses before going off to college, first at Alfred University in western New York and later at DePaul University in Chicago, where she took courses toward a bachelor of arts degree in computer science.
However, she first cut her teeth in the computer field by working her way up the chain of command from clerk and secretary to software programmer and analyst at Borg-Warner, a major supplier of parts in the automotive industry. “I’m a dinosaur,” she says. “I started with COBOL, and people don’t do COBOL anymore except businesses with big mainframe computers.” She was also a rarity in the computer industry, a woman among an almost exclusively male occupation at the time. Her boss sent her to IBM locations around the country to learn whatever new programming languages and techniques were under development. “It was a great opportunity for me,” she notes, and it gave her a level of expertise that would stand her in good stead in her career and beyond.
When Borg-Warner moved her to their Chicago office in 1986, she left to become a senior programmer/analyst for Encyclopedia Britannica, responsible for business system operations including research, design, documentation, marketing and implementation. “They had old programs and new computer equipment,” she says, so she had to train their people to use the new information technology available to them.
After three years with EB, Linda spent the next 12 years with Worldwide Chain Store Systems, an IBM subsidiary, leading a team that installed software in customer locations ranging from Arkansas and Los Angeles to Ontario, Canada and Tokyo, Japan. This involved training the customers in using the software, including non-IBM platforms as well. “We were road warriors,” she says, “staying in hotels, renting cars, flying from one locale to another or back home.” These were not weekend trips, though. Linda spent 18 months on one project in New York City and 14 months in Tokyo.
During this period her mom and stepdad had been spending their winters on Manasota Key and her dad had moved to Clearwater, so Linda spent much of her free time visiting with them in Florida. When she retired in 2003, she bought a house in Englewood to go along with the condo in Chicago and the house in Ithaca that she already owned. And with all this real estate, she decided it made sense to use her retiree time in the real estate business. Over the next five years she hooked on with various local real estate offices, acquiring her Florida real estate broker’s license in 2005.
But she recognized that she was wasting all the expertise she had acquired in the IT field, and she also saw a need that she could satisfy. Seniors, most of them living on a fixed income, either avoid the new technology or take it on tentatively, not fully understanding how to use it and how to fix a problem when they get into trouble. They often overpay for whatever troubleshooting is done, and they are susceptible to scams that could be costly.
In 2008 Linda started helping friends in Ithaca via long distance from Englewood. Her fee: one flat payment of $35 for whatever she does, “and if I don’t fix the problem, I don’t charge them anything.” By word of mouth, her client list in Ithaca grew to about 65 residents, and now she’s servicing people in the Englewood area who have heard about her. “A lot of people will call me up, tell me their problem and ask, ‘What do I do now?’ ” she says. Linda can often tell them by phone or email what to do, or she’ll go to their home and solve the problem there. Alternatively, they can bring their computer to her shop. Whether it’s a hardware or a software problem, Linda has the expertise to fix it. For $35. Period.
Here’s Linda’s account of her last two days: “Yesterday I examined an older computer for requirements to get it to connect to the internet. The computer needed a wi-fi adapter. I went to OfficeMax to purchase the hardware and then installed it.
“This morning I worked with a woman in Ithaca, who had forgotten her Yahoo email password. In order to gain access to her email we had to navigate through the security of Yahoo. It is not just a simple ‘Forgot email password’ option, and Yahoo does not provide tech support unless you pay for their premium support.
“This afternoon and early evening I helped a local woman set up a new laptop with her multiple email accounts on Microsoft Outlook application. This same woman has also asked for training in basic computer navigation. I created a sample Excel spreadsheet for her to use. We will continue to meet weekly until she is comfortable with the Windows 10 operating system.
“When I got home, I had another Ithaca woman call, asking advice about a tech support offer that she had signed up for that cost her over $500. The salesman showed her numerous incidents where unknown persons had logged into her computer. His support offer would have removed all unwanted access. The call was a scam. I helped her investigate residual damages done to her system.
“This weekend I will be testing software that will allow a woman access to her office computer files from a computer in her home.”
“I know I could be charging a lot more for what I do, but I don’t do this for the money,” she says. “I do this to help people.” She can help you to stay connected, too. For 35 bucks. Period.
Now that’s a nice neighbor to have.
Linda Crombie can be reached at (941) 406-6901, or by email at lcrombie@htva.net.
Dean Laux is exploring interesting folks living in our community. If you know of anyone with an interesting background please send an email to: tomnewton@englewodreview.com. Include the person’s name, contact info and give a brief description of the person’s background.

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