Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Computer voodoo

Martin has been engaging in some entertaining rituals with his problematic new Toshiba laptop.

"During the whole saga I became aware of two things:

i) The emotional state the rational machine induces in us. I ranged between violent swearing, sobbing, ennui, despair and hysteria as I wrestled over the course of three days with various start-up techniques.

ii) The superstition and irrationality you bring to these problems. At one stage I managed to get it all the way through the start-up process by continually moving the mouse. This became the first of many actions that came to constitute a start-up ritual that any religion would be proud of. Further rites included holding the laptop at an angle (and in one extreme fundamentalist sect even holding over one's head), closing and opening the lid three times and removing the power lead for ten minutes. I can't say these had any objective measure of success, but they had enough promise of success to be worth doing. And computers have become so complex that although I know they were mostly ridiculous, I couldn't be quite sure that they were redundant. They became the IT equivalent of sprinkling the dirt from a grave before midnight over the computer - sure it doesn't work, but hey, it's worth a try."

Hilarious but scary, especially since it brought back haunting memories of my own difficulties with my Toshiba laptop only a few years ago. The magic of the new toy disappeared in the quickly decelerating pace of operations on the machine, the causes of which I never got to the bottom of. In fairness to Toshiba, when the screen blew in the first few months, they quickly replaced it under warranty. If only Martin had videoed some of his more effective voodoo tricks, I might have been able to give them a try.

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