Autonomous Source

December 15, 2004

Technical difficulties

I'm an electrical engineer. In my career, I've been involved in the design and debug of complex digital computer systems. I'm also a pretty bright guy, and am able to usually solve technical problems in products I know nothing about with just some documentation and a little bit of time.

But Wintel computers consistently manage to baffle me.

Something's always going wrong. Usually they're little things that I manage to work around. A program that usually launches on start-up doesn't. The computer almost grinds to a halt because MS Explorer has for some reason sucked up all the memory and processor time. Blue screens of death. Random freezes.

But sometimes the problems are more serious. The other day the DVD drive on my desktop computer just stopped recognizing any disks. I'd normally think something like this was a hardware problem, but the icon for the drive changed too, so I'm guessing this is just another of those Windows XP surprises that are destined to drive me mad. I still haven't managed to fix it.

But today, when I woke my laptop from its evening slumber and I found that the network connection had disappeared, I nearly lost it. I need my network connection. I need the internet. It was fine yesterday, but wasn't working today -- nothing had happened to the machine! I hadn't even shut it down! Time to debug. I rebooted the modem, router and computer: no change. I uninstalled and reinstalled the network card adapter: nothing. I removed the card from the machine, removed all software traces that it had ever even existed on my computer, and reinstalled everything from scratch (finding the disk after only fifteeen minutes of digging through the disaster zone know as my 'office'): nope. Finally, sitting there in a daze and cursing the thought of buying a new wireless network card, I had the illogical idea to change the slot of the network card to slot 1. Bingo. I came upon this idea only because I remembered pulling my hair out in frustration installing the card the first time, because it absolutely refused to work in slot 1.

Do these things only happen to me? Have only I been cursed with these invisible computer gremlins that mess up my computers when my back is turned? Or is there hidden code in device drivers and the XP operating system that causes random, annoying gliches to keep us dependent on tech support and drive a demand for replacement equipment? I'm serious. I'm really starting to think this...

Posted by Bruce Gottfred at December 15, 2004 10:57 AM | TrackBack

I worked for a company called convergys for a while, they're this call centre that basically supports comcast and fedEX complains and problems. You wouldnt believe some of the things that i've heard from these people, especially the ones who know what they are talking about! Just random things crashing, exploding even! Your theory has been on the minds of me and my friends for a while now... Also, sometimes its just the dumbest thing that people forget to do, like plugging the modem in, for instance. Heh.

Posted by: Ian Baxter at December 15, 2004 04:23 PM
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