Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)
Edward Ortiz, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Hunter Greene may just be the closest thing to a country doctor. House calls are his bread and butter. But he’s no white-frocked MD with black bag and stethoscope in hand.
Rather, Greene’s world is filled with PCs and Macs and what ails them — infected hard drives, frazzled memory caches and virus-laden networks.
As the owner of the Williamstown-based Brainspiral Technologies, Greene has carved out a computer support and repair niche in Northern Berkshire County — a niche he believes dearly needed to be filled.
In his estimation there are few people who do house calls on computer or network repair issues in Williamstown, although calls to several computer repair services listed in the Berkshire telephone directory uncvovered several who do.
“Certainly not anyone who is devoting 100 percent to it,” he qualified.
To date Greene has more than 300 clients — with a fifth of those professors at Williams College, from which Greene graduated in 2001.
His clients range from teenagers to octogenarians. He also services network accounts for the Lanesborough and Hancock Elementary school system, as well as the Richmond Consolidated School district.
To hear Greene talk about what he does is to realize that he loves the house calls, if only because of the personal interaction they afford.
Since computers are clunky and not easily transported, most repairs take place at a client’s home. And because the repairs are often tricky and cannot be pigeonholed into a time frame, Greene only promises that he will be on time for his first call of the day.
Thereafter, all bets are off, and chances are he may be knocking on one of his client’s doors at mealtime.
“I tend to schedule appointments during meals with the eager anticipation of being invited to eat,” said Greene, with a naughty glint in his eye.
Although he admitted that his entrances into the many houses in Williamstown at mealtime are purely accidental, he confessed that many customers go out of their way to feed him.
“I have clients right now that invite me to dinner whether or not their computers need fixing,” he said, adding the quality of that food is almost always high.
How does a repairman ingratiate himself into the role of dinner guest?
“I have a lot of patience,” said Greene, who is so fond of his own computers that he has given them names like “Heidi” and “Hilda” and “Gwendolyn.” (And those are three of the 20 that he has sitting under his office desk.)
And, he added, “I’m quite personable and easy to get along with.”
More important, he listens to his clients.
Greene’s bedside manner has inspired such loyalty among his clientele that he has been flown to London twice by a former local customer to do computer and network installation and repair.
Running a computer and network repair company, as well as veering into Web site and graphic design is not the most obvious course for a classics major at Williams.
» If you need help SERVICES: Hunter Greene’s Brainspiral Technologies offers troubleshooting services for Apple Macintosh and Windows/PC as well as computer training, Web site creation, Web site hosting and Ebay auction management.
RATES: Average $55 an hour for residential customers; $65 to $100 an hour for corporate/educational customers.
CONTACT: Brainspiral Technologies; Box 709, Williamstown 01267. Tel. (413) 458-5755; Web site: www.brainspiral.com; e-mail: email@example.com.
But after working in the college’s Information Technology Department as a student, Greene became aware of two things that were to bode well for his business.
The first was his realization that professors have personal computer-repair issues that could not be serviced by the college, and second, that starting a computer and network repair business required little overhead — in Greene’s estimation close to zero.
And since he is a local — he grew up in Hancock and graduated from Mount Greylock Regional High School — he was already familiar with the community.
Among the most common reasons for a house visit is to treat a computer virus. For that, Greene has one age group to thank: Teenagers.
Teens, more than more than any other demographic, he said, are likely to download music, photos and movies. Embedded in those downloads are the dreaded spyware software that can turn a computer’s hard drive from a swift whir to a turtle-like crawl.
Greene cautions his clients on the hazards of downloads from peer-to-peer sites like Kazaa and e-mule. They invariably include hidden advertising software that will sit in a computer and do things like change the home page, create unwanted pop-ups or track every Web site visited.
He advises using open-source software like Aries Galaxy.
“Open-source software tends to be clean,” he said.
All told, the computer and network repair business is one that can overwhelm, he said.
“It’s very exhausting.” said Greene, who leaves his house early in the morning and finishes his rounds well into the evening.
Although doing such work has led him to feel he’s part of the community, he is looking to evolve his business into Web site and graphic design.
“Building Web sites is something I enjoy, it’s a great exercise for the mind,” Greene said.
And with the infiltration of Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” (the retailer’s computer-repair service arm), into the county, Greene thinks diversification is a wise move for him.
As a result it may very well be that Greene’s presence will become more and more scarce at the dinner tables and computer rooms of Williamstown.
This time, it seems, it may be he who offers the dinnertime invitations.
Photo: Hunter Greene maintains the computers at the Richmond Consolidated School as part of his routine of house calls. In photos below, he is installing updated computers in the school’s computer lab. Photos by Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff