I’ve spent the last half hour wrangling with a computer. Not my primary computer (thankfully), but one that I was setting up to use as a local web development environment. I had the operating system up and running, the web server up and running, and had downloaded the content managment system (CMS) I wanted to play with, but there was one little barrier: at about 20 minute intervals the computer would spontaneously shut down.
It’s a laptop, so at first my assumption was that the battery was inoperable, and every time the power cord jiggled loose or something, it was losing power. After the third time it happened, I tested that theory by unplugging the power cord. No dice…battery worked fine. So, for some reason, the computer was randomly choosing to shut down, as though it were losing power, every 20 minutes or so. Taking what is left of my sanity, I have beat a strategic retreat.
Now, I like computers, and technology, and bashing my head against computers and technology as well as the next person (and looking to my right, a great deal more than the next person in this case). I like the challenge, I like the sense of working on a soluble puzzle. I like expanding what I can force these machines to do. However, I have my limits. My limit, it turns out, is working on a machine that won’t let me make enough progress between reboots to figure out if I’m getting anywhere.
Laptops are the ultimate in black box technology. They are often literally, a black box, with limited indicators of what is going on inside. Sure there’s the data on the screen…but how much can you really tell from that. When things go wrong, they rarely tell you why…they just implode on you. And you can bring them in for repair, but repair people just aren’t that interested/capable in working on laptops. They are too miniaturized and specialized by manufacturer. So when they stop working, all too often, the right answer is to give up on them.
Today, however, I am taking a slightly saner path. Instead of simply writing off that machine which was deliberately causing me to lose my mind and moving onto the next machine–which tends to stay on, but needs an external mouse and keyboard because, left to its own devices has decided that silent x is the most common letter in the English language–I am calling a time out and blogging instead.
Ah WordPress (which, incidentally, was the app I was trying to install when everything went kaput), you work so reliably. I type, you give me the output I’ve typed. I may type the wrong thing, but at least it is an accurate representation of where my fingers went on the keyboard.
This afternoon, this is what I need. Simple, transparent technology I don’t have to think about. Thank you WordPress for restoring my confidence in computers. And thank you, my little laptop, for continuing to work while computers around die.