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Google can fix your mom's PC, sort of

A goofy promo addressing a common holiday woe--showing up at your parents' house and being asked to solve computer problems--is also a way for to highlight niche uses for Google's search engine.

My hamster's been running an outdated version of Safari and he has no idea how to change it. Thanks, Google!

In what must have been some charitably-minded Googler's ambitious side project, the sprawling technology company has launched a sort of digital cheat sheet to solve the apparently ubiquitous problem of being asked to fix all variety of PC- and Web-related problems when visiting parents for the holidays.

The site, called TeachParentsTech, lets frustrated "kids" fill out a form that puts together a "virtual care package" to send to parents that will include links to Google video tutorials for all manner of basic tech support issues. In a post on the official Google blog, Googler Jason Toff explained the launch of the campaign.

"Don't get me wrong, I love teaching my dad how to do stuff on his computer--and he's fairly tech-savvy as far as dads go--but sometimes trudging through that to-do list gets tedious," Toff wrote. "Talking to fellow Googlers, I learned that I wasn't alone in my role as the one-man family tech support team. In fact, I was hard pressed to find anyone who didn't have a similar story about getting their parents up to speed."

It could be construed as a tad ageist to assume that the elder generations are universally tech-clueless, which is perhaps why Toff's post said that it's really applicable to "mom, dad, your old college roommate, your neighbor or anyone else who could use a little help with tech tasks."

A bonus for the company: recipients of these "care packages" are then exposed to all things Google, suggesting it for looking up things like movie times, currency conversions, restaurant reviews, and public transportation itineraries. Google rival Bing has done a lot to promote the niche uses for its search engine, whereas Google's devotion to ultra-simplicity in user interfaces means that explanations for these functions are often nowhere near its main search pages.

That said, there's a glaring omission: not one word about how to fix a printer.