Fixing Computers

I feel moderately less guilty about getting a second undergraduate degree (which took a year longer than the first one… technically…) when I can fix something on a family member’s computer. It would be hella embarrassing if my family was like, “Hey, I’m getting a bunch of pop-up windows; can you fix it?” And I was like, “Em, actually, nooooo.” And they’re like, “OK, could you come over here and read what it says on your diploma from the first time? Cos I’m pretty sure somewhere on there there’s ‘computer’ and ‘science’ but maybe I’m confused could you clear that up KTHX!!!1!”

Unfortch, the things I’ve been able to do for them (remove spyware, fix registry errors, set up wireless networks, remove their hard drive while cannibalizing their old computer for parts HANG ON, MY FLOPPIES, MOMMA’S GOT A NEW DRIVE!) are things I totally did not learn at school.

I loved my first college, and it was inordinately kind to me and exactly where I needed to be. But I couldn’t identify the parts of a computer until two years ago. It may be that a computer science program felt no need to show us the guts of a computer — the same way they don’t teach you the alphabet in English Lit. But I graduated with a mnemonic knowledge of communications layers and the ability to do calculus without a calculator to the tenth decimal place by three different methods (AIIEEEE SEPPUKU!), and yet if you asked me to pick RAM out of a lineup I would have grinned and passed out.

This is all fixed now, and I can snap and screw with the rest of ’em. Mostly.

As for spyware and wireless — which I gleefully lump in the same category, although the resolution of the former proves uniformly less contentious than that of the latter — when I was going to school (the first time) we didn’t have no stinkin’ spyware or wireless. To deal with them I learned the two fundamentals of debugging that could have spared two semesters of study:

  • RTFM – a less nice way of saying “Read the Manual.” My success with wireless networks is completely down to disconnecting my brain and becoming a soft pink robot who knows nothing but what the manual instructs. YES the order of powering on is important. NO I don’t know why. Yet I have spent many hours toiling, swearing, growling in various applications before the thought even occurred to me to check the help file. WHY? I DON’T KNOW. Now I go there very quickly, and my ego is unbruised, and my blood pressure stays low.
  • Google it – Take the cost of your troublesome device. Multiply it by ten. This is the number of people with more experience than you who have encountered, discussed, and resolved your problem in online forums. Google and drink their wisdom like a little vampire of knowledge. I have gotten to the point where I will Google anything, from Miles Davis’ wife (Cicely Tyson) to my housemate’s upper GI pain.

My true secret weapon in working with computers is that I am absolutely freakin’ fearless. I am completely prepared to do a clean install and restore from backup at any time — and my computers know it. They are in a calm, submissive state, like dogs on The Dog Whisperer.

I have a story of an application that would only run if a certain person was in the room, but I will save it for another day.

In program they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. It’s also the definition of computer science.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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2 Responses

  1. timwashu says:

    I’d like to hear the story about the application that would only run if a certain person was in the room

  2. Random_Tangent says:

    Uh… Link layer?

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